Thursday, August 15, 2013

Phase One: "Tolerance", is Over. Phase Two: Persecution, Begins.

A UCD law lecturer writes out of the depths of his academic objectivity that religious freedom is OK inside a church but should be stomped on with hob-nailed boots once it tries to step into the real world.

While legislation cannot interfere in the inner sanctum of religious function, there can surely be no claim that legislation regulating various activities outside the religious context must accommodate doctrinal religious requirements. It is even questionable whether denominational autonomy could be invoked by a voluntary hospital...Thus the further a particular denominational body posits itself in the wider public world, the more it becomes subject to increasing levels of public regulation.

If this case, "religious freedom" is essentially meaningless, and all the sops of "exemptions" and "conscience clauses" which are thrown at the unconvinced every time some "liberalising" piece of legislation is being urged on society, are nothing but tricks. If they are honoured at all, they will be eroded in short measure.

For modern "liberalism", freedom of conscience operates within such narrow limits that it makes the legroom on an economy class flight look spacious.

My own view is that, if religious freedom means anything at all, it must mean (to put it bluntly) religious privilege, similar to the "ministerial exemption" which is granted to religious organizations in America (and which the law lecturer mentions in his piece). This protects churches from being sued under equality legislation for refusing to consider a female priest or a gay pastor. To say this is anything but a positive privilege is nonsense.

If religious freedom does not entail such positive exemptions, then it is not specifically religious freedom. A society either decides that religion is of such importance to its adherents that it deserves some special privileges and protections, or it has no right to talk about religious freedom at all. It is perfectly rational to say: "We won't give anybody any special rights or waivers because of their religion", but (as far as I can see) this is exactly what freedom of religion demands, if it is going to be in any way substantive and not simply a phrase. How far such privileges should extend is obviously a different matter.

I am not trying to argue jurisprudence with a law lecturer. This seems to me a logical and not a legal question.

What is surprising (to me) is the truly indecent haste with which the "Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy Bill" has been followed up by the very moves towards an abortion-on-demand culture that we were assured would not come about. The pro-life canmp were laughed at for warning about floodgates opening; the creaking can already be heard.

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