Questionable Motives

May 7, 2014

Are ‘honestly held beliefs’ reason enough to justify legal discrimination?

can of wormsWell, let’s look at the principle upon which all of us expect to be treated fairly and impartially before and by the law, namely, that

“All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” (Article 26, UN covenant on political and civil rights)

To support legal discrimination in a particular case means you must provide a reasonable justification to the benefit of all for that particular exemption against the general principle. This can be (and is) done when that justification can be shown to enhance the public good. For example, we can legally discriminate against all of us who have not achieved the age of majority or all of us who have been shown to be incapable of being responsible for our actions. Legal discrimination is permissible without breaking the principle of the covenant… but the justification must be the same FOR ALL.

Now let’s consider the idea of ‘honestly held beliefs’ to be the metric for varying what equality rights mean. The question can be formulated this way: does an ‘honestly held belief’ by another person constitute a reasonable justification to the benefit of all in your mind for the loss of your own equality before the law and the loss of its protection to guarantee them? Are you willing to have your legal rights be subject and hostage to the variability of another person’s honestly held beliefs?

There are a couple ways to come at answering this.

The straightforward answer here is either Yes or No. There is no middle ground. You are either willing to allow others (based on their ‘honestly held beliefs’) to determine the quality of your legal rights or you are not. The metric at work here is belief, and rests in the willingness to have your legal equality rights rights rest not with you, not empowered in and by the law, but in the belief-based opinion of others.  This breaks the principle that currently supports legal equality for all of us… not just against those whose legal rights and protection you wish to limit for whatever beliefs you may deem important enough but your own. Supporting the notion that ‘honestly held beliefs’ is sufficient to devalue equality rights to personal preference of beliefs means that you do not support the principle that upholds your own.

The extent of privilege our societies grant to religious belief and the institutions and speakers who represent them is truly astounding. For example, returning to the UN covenant on political and civil rights, we find the following:

“Discrimination is allowed if it is based on genuine religious beliefs or principles. This includes the actions of religious bodies or schools.”

Take a moment and think about that. What does it really mean?

Well, it means that the previous principle for all has been replaced in practice by the beliefs of some. It means all people are not equal before the law; our shared equality rights are in fact subject to the religious beliefs (and principles contained within them) of others, others who would deny them first for ‘honestly held beliefs… before any other grounds of justification are introduced! Where is the universal justification for this discrimination that demonstrates its fairness and impartiality to the good of all? It’s absent; what we have are lot of assumptions and attributions and arguments and conclusions unsupported by compelling evidence. This is faith-based belief in action… simply presumed to be justified because it is religious.  And that’s religious privilege in action and it undermines the very principle of YOUR legal rights, YOUR legal equality, YOUR legal protections. This religious privilege buolt on faith-based beliefs is incompatible with the very principle of equality law.

Another way to understand and appreciate the scope of craziness needed to sustain the argument of privileging ‘honestly held beliefs’ over and above and preceding equality rights for all is to apply the same reasoning, the same privilege, the same lack of independent justification to some other area of public interest. We have a host to choose from but let’s take a public water supply for our analogy and see how well the justification works.

The management of that public water supply is based on the principle of providing clean water for all… and we are all in agreement that this water should be safe for all to drink because all of us drink from it! But let’s say some people in the management team decide that certain privileged exemptions to that principle are justified by the ‘honestly held beliefs’ of those involved with providing this service, making the water supply safe for some but not for others. When people complain that their water supply is, in fact, contaminated – because some people honestly believe that the addition of industrial waste products containing toxins and carcinogenics to this part of the water supply but not that part at the request of certain industries to eliminate their waste is a net benefit to all, while reassuring the rest of us that we will continue to receive only a clean water supply – how is it a justification that doesn’t directly undermine the principle of clean water for all? Would the same exemption be allowed, for example, if the quality of everyone’s water supply – including the captains of these polluting industries and the management team themselves – were to be subject to the same vagaries of who received what quality of water when? Or would we as a municipality stand united and insist that the water supply be kept clean for all? Sure, the industrialists might complain that they have a real problem with their toxic wastes, but why should the quality of our water supply be their solution… any more than threatening our shared legal rights of equality be the solution to the demands of these religious for privilege to exercise their bias and discrimination in the name of the public good?

July 21, 2013

What does a Saudi Arabian Women’s Conference look like?

Filed under: discrimination,Gender — tildeb @ 8:08 am

Saudiwomenconference

 

Because women are strictly a male concern. Now move along. No gender discrimination here.

September 15, 2010

Religious discrimination or fraud? You be Da Judge!

Filed under: discrimination,Law,Religion,Witchcraft — tildeb @ 7:10 pm

For an atheist, this has got to be one the funniest and most ironic stories around these days (from the Brampton Guardian):

A Brampton man has been charged with fraud and “pretending to practice witchcraft” in his home. Yogendra Pathak, 44, was arrested Monday and will make his first appearance in court Oct. 7.
“He was offering to solve people’s problems, whether they were romantic or financial, through witchcraft, and we’re alleging that he wasn’t able to do that,” said Peel Sgt. Zahir Shah.

Don’t faith healers do the same schtick with the same results? And yet the police don’t arrest them. We’re talking blatant religious discrimination here, folks!

Shah said practicing witchcraft is not illegal, but police allege Pathak took advantage of people’s beliefs and trust for financial gain.

Sounds suspiciously like the catholic church… but without the child raping. Still, no charges for the roman catholic church. Good thing they didn’t charge money for raping kids or they’d be in REAL trouble with the Law!

Peel Regional Police investigators with 21 Division Criminal Investigation Bureau said they don’t know how many people went to Pathak’s home and paid for “witchcraft-related services”, but it is believed he has been offering the services for well over a year.

It’s new to the parish, I’ll grant you.

“We know there are more people out there,” Shah said. Police said he was advertising his services on the radio, and focusing on the South Asian community.

This what happens when you forget that you need to go big or go home. Or not… if the police are waiting there. He should of gone with cable TV.

It’s a rare charge to lay, Shah agreed. “It’s the first time I’ve come across it,” he said.

It’s religious discrimination against wiccanism, is what I think it may be. Down with The Man! Fight the system! Threaten to turn them into frogs and bats (but don’t charge them $$$) and eternal damnation in some Irish bog!

Now consider the following legal advice as it pertains to visiting your favourite church, synagogue, mosque, or stone circle:

Meanwhile, police are also warning residents to verify the accuracy and reliability of any type of service being offered:
• verify that you are being told the truth before you do anything. There is no need to make  an immediate decision when purchasing a service;
• get as much information from the service provider as possible;
• ask for references, and check them;
• try to get a written contract;
• if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Too funny!

April 30, 2010

Faith-based sexual ethics: special sensitivity or outright bigotry?

Let’s ask a British judge.

The case brought to us by the Guardian and indented by us:

A marriage guidance counsellor’s bid to challenge his sacking for refusing to give sex therapy to homosexuals has led to a serious clash between the Christian lobby and the judiciary.

I can understand why a christian marriage guidance counselor  would not want to give sex therapy to homosexuals. Gay sex is so… so… icky, not to mention an act worthy of death according to certain writings dictated by an all loving creator.

In a powerful dismissal of the application to appeal, Lord Justice Laws said legislation to protect views held purely on religious grounds could not be justified. He said it was an irrational idea “but it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary“.

Oh my. That’s hardly an appropriately apologetic position to take before dealing with actions based on religious intolerance. The nerve! What’s a good christian to do? Call in the theological Big Guns for support:

The former archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey had sent a statement to a judge hearing the appeal application by Gary McFarlane. The senior church figure called for a special panel of judges with a “proven sensitivity and understanding of religious issues” to hear the case.

Yes, let us stack the court with judicial religious supporters. Then we’ll be see what an unbiased judiciary appropriately sensitive might look like in action.

I can’t help but wonder who might determine what the qualifications of “proven sensitivity’ should be? Perhaps religious Big Guns themselves? What a grand (and sensitive, not to mention almost unbiased) idea.

Lord Carey said recent court decisions involving Christians had used “dangerous” reasoning and this could lead to civil unrest.

Oh yes, very dangerous indeed… to those who wish to establish religious favouritism by the State. But hey, if the threat of religious violence works so well for Muslims, then isn’t it high time we see the same tactic by christians? It’s all about results in service to the lord… the supernatural one, that is, and not the judicial one. Not that violence has to actually be done, mind you… just the threat to help the judiciary to be a little more… sensitive.

Lord Justice Laws’s ruling said: “We do not live in a society where all the people share uniform religious beliefs. The precepts of any one religion – any belief system – cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other. If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens and our constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic.

The law of a theocracy is dictated without option to the people, not made by their judges and governments. The individual conscience is free to accept such dictated law, but the state, if its people are to be free, has the burdensome duty of thinking for itself.”

What a remarkably clear and cogent argument. We cannot reduce the freedom of all citizens by using the state (through its laws) to make any one religious belief system ‘louder’ in a citizen’s life than any other.

Can we get this guy on the US Supreme Court? No? Oh well. He probably wouldn’t pass the religious test so heavily favoured by US senators in the vetting process anyway (shhh… not supposed to tell anyone about that).

Lord Carey said: “The description of religious faith in relation to sexual ethics as ‘discriminatory’ is crude and illuminates a lack of sensitivity to religious belief.

Well, it may seem crude and insensitive to a supporter who thinks sexual ethics is a branch of religious belief, but to the rest of us it’s still discrimination. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then calling it a duck isn’t really a question of sensitivity; it’s a question of accuracy and honesty.

The comparison of a Christian, in effect, with a ‘bigot’ (ie, a person with an irrational dislike to homosexuals) begs further questions. It is further evidence of a disparaging attitude to the Christian faith and its values.

Well, it begs no questions but may raise some.

Funny, isn’t it, how challenging a religiously inspired notion in the public domain is so easily characterized by religious supporters as some kind of attack – in this case a disparaging one – against religious belief in general rather than what it actually is: a legitimate public response to the threat against equal rights and freedoms of all from a religiously inspired  and biased imposition.

That any religion thinks itself justified to rule on what is and is not sexually ethical is itself merely an assumption of colossal arrogance and the obvious foundation for religious bigotry in this matter. Sure, anyone can have an opinion on the matter, but something more is required to elevate that opinion to a position of rule. Claiming favouritism by god may curry support from the devout for those religious leaders who would enunciate these rules on god’s behalf (He who always seems unable to speak for himself in these matters, somewhat surprisingly), but the assumption that religious leaders have any greater expertise than others offers us no reasonable justification of the unfounded claim. The medical expertise, the biological expertise, the social and philosophical expertise on sexual ethics may offer us some meaningful insight into the ethics of sex, but an Iron Age religious belief set unfettered by any need to justify and validate its assumptions? I don’t think so. Asserting as Lord Carey does that the belief set deserves special dispensation and sensitivity to have its rule on what is and is not sexually ethical be enforced by secular law in order to avoid violence by its adherents if that rule is denied, is a rationalization of the worst kind: it reveals a very disparaging attitude to the civil rights of all and does violence to reasoning itself.

That’s why faith-based sexual ethics is outright bigotry.

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