Suppose you believe very strongly that you have the right to play non-stop loops of Irish dancing music to your workmates, or tell them thousands of bad jokes. Suppose you’re such a bore that you even pursue them to the canteen to drive them off their trolleys with your incessant babbling.
In other words, you are Father Noel Furlong. You are one annoying little git and you won’t shut up even when your workmates complain. Not even when the customers complain and your boss tells you to give it a rest.
No, because you’re convinced you have a right to bore the shit out of everyone else with your specialised subjects, Irish dancing and doctor-doctor jokes.
This guy walks into his doctor’s surgery, with a strawberry growing out of his head.
The doctor says, I’ll give you some cream for that.
We’ll have a little bit of the Siege of Ennis. All together now!
Well and good. Your employer gives you four stern warnings that you’ll be sacked if you don’t stop all this guff and let people alone, but you ignore him and buttonhole yet another hapless victim:
This guy walks into his doctor’s surgery. He has a parsnip shoved up his nose and a carrot stuck in his ear.
The doctor says, You’re not eating properly!
Right! What about the Walls of Limerick? Get up there, Bridie!
The boss has had enough. Sorry Noel, he says. This caravan isn’t big enough for all of us. You’re out.
What? But I was only tellin’ a few jokes and havin’ a bit of a dance. I have to do it. I’m entitled to do it.
Do it somewhere else, says the boss. You’re fired.
Well, I never … I never …
Shocked and rejected, you skip and jig your way to the Equality Tribunal.
I’ve been sacked for no reason. All I did was tell people jokes. It’s not my fault if they complained.
Did your employers ask you to stop?
They did, but —
How many times?
Four, but —
And you didn’t stop?
No, but I’m entitled to tell people jokes, even if they don’t want to hear them.
No you’re not. Fuck off and stop wasting my time.
God said I have to do it.
What? What did you say?
God told me to do it.
Well why didn’t you say so, Father Furlong? Why didn’t you tell me your actions are based on magic? That changes everything. How much compensation would you like?
I’d like about seventy grand, if that’s ok.
That’s fine, Father. For some reason, I just never thought of you as a believer.
What’s yellow and swings through the jungle?
I don’t know, Father. What?
Tarzipan!! Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!!! Let’s have a few bars of the Mason’s Apron. Round the court and mind the witness stand!
That’s not a million miles from the story of John McAteer, an engineer with South Tipperary County Council, who wouldn’t shut up about Jesus, no matter how much his employers begged him. He evangelised members of the public when he was supposed to be checking the progress of footpath repairs. He interrupted his colleagues’ lunch-breaks to tell them about Jesus. He even tried to convert a contractor working for the Council.
His excuse? It’s part of his beliefs.
To which most right thinking people would say So what if you believe in fairytales?
But not the equality officer, who gave great weight to the fact that this man’s actions were dictated by an incorporeal deity that ordered him to tell people about a Middle-eastern zombie.
Apparently, if you behave like an utter knob you can safely be sacked, but not if you have the delusion that an invisible spirit is telling you what to do.
That’s all right, then. I look forward to using the same argument if I’m ever arrested for driving at 120 mph with a half pound of cocaine on the dashboard and a quart of whiskey to my lips, firing an M16 while canoodling with four Latvian hookers.
You see, judge, it’s part of my religious beliefs.