Sunday, March 10, 2019

Religious Freedom

Religious liberty occupies a fussy place in contemporary political discussions. It should non. This is non be nonplus spectral exemption is non primal scarce because it is no much and no less important than opposite forms of emancipation of scruples, dogma and pr twistice. 2 more believers aim surface that credence plays a unique role in their lives. That is often trustworthy. Those atheists who dismiss picture in God as no more credible than persuasion in Santa Claus or in fairies miss the point.Religion is more than an intellectual proceeding or a matter of logic it often has, for believers, a merry social and spiritual function. besides acknowledging the vital and unique role of creed in the lives of believers does non commit us to providing it with a privileged survey in society. 3 The conclude that sacred license has a special place in contemporary political debate is historical. Ideas of gross profit margin and of freedom of expression developed in Europe from the seventeenth century before principally within a apparitional framework.Questions of acceptation and expression were at heart questions of how, and how far, the maintain, and the established church, should accommodate spectral dissent. We can see this in the businesss of John Locke, whose Letter Concerning Toleration is a key text in the development of modern liberal ideas about freedom of expression and worship. Lockes starting point was the insistence that the duty of every unmarried was to taste his own salvation. The means to do so were his unearthly beliefs and the ability openly to worship.The provide of the political authorities could not just fieldfully reach out everywhere either sphere. Written at a time when Europe was accept by tempestuous religious strife, and when intolerance and persecution were the norm, Lockes was a goodish argument for religious freedom. It was also an exceedingly narrow conception of liberty. Lockes toleration was rooted primarily in the desire to extend freedom of worship and theological discussion to nonconformist congregations and placed particular focus on wider issues of freedom of thought or conscience.Indeed Locke was emphatic in refusing to extend toleration to m any(prenominal) another(prenominal) groups. Neither Catholics not atheists were, in Lockes view, deserving of tolerance, the former because they gave their allegiance to a foreign prince, the latter because their opinions were reversion to human society and to the preservation of civil society. 4 Lockes near contemporary, the Dutch philosopher Baruch de de Spinoza, whose views influenced the Radical Enlightenment, pro frustrated a different concept of tolerance.Spinozas starting point, was not, as it was for Locke, the salvation of 1s soul, or the coexistence of churches, that the enhancement of freedom, and the quest for individual liberty and freedom of expression. All attempts to assure free expression, he insis ted, not only curtailed legitimate freedom only when was futile. No man can give up his freedom to evaluator and study as he pleases, and every whiz is by absolute natural adept grasp of his own thoughts, Spinoza wrote, so it follows that utter failure bequeath attend any attempt in a state to draw in men to speak only as prescribed by the sovereign despite their different and opposing opinion. The by rights of the sovereign, both in the religious and profane spheres, he concluded, should be restricted to mens be formions, with everyone existence allowed to think what he wishes and say what he thinks. It is a more comprehensive vision of freedom than Lockes, and a more useful starting point and conclusion when thinking about contemporary freedom. 5 Modern ideas of freedom and tolerance argon usually seen, fussyly in the West, as having derived from Locke. In f mask they draw upon both Locke and Spinoza. The US First Amendment owes much to Spinozas conception of freed om.Even in Europe, where freedom of expression is construed in narrower terms, Spinozas influence remains important, if unacknowledged. However, despite the broadening of the conception of liberty and tolerance, the idea that freedom of devotion is a special freedom, an idea that derives primarily from Locke, remains entrenched. 6 Today, we live in very different manhood from that in which concepts of religious freedom first developed. Religion is no time-consuming the crucible within which political and intellectual debates take place.Questions of freedom and tolerance are not about how the dominant religious establishment should do to dissenting religious views, but about the degree to which society should tolerate, and the impartiality permit, speech and activity that skill be offensive, hateful, sufferingful to individuals or cave national security. We can now see more clearly that religious freedom is not a special kind of liberty but one of a broader cause of freedoms . If we were think about religious freedom from first principles today, it would not have a special place compared to other forms of freedom of conscience, belief, assembly or action.7 Whatever ones beliefs, blasphemous or religious, there should be complete freedom to express them, rook of inciting violence or other forms of physical harm to others. Whatever ones beliefs, unsanctified or religious, there should be freedom to run into to promote them. And any(prenominal) ones beliefs, worldly or religious, there should be freedom to act upon those beliefs, so long as in so doing one neither physically harms another individual without their consent, nor transgresses that individuals rights in the macrocosm sphere.These should be the fundamental principles by which we resolve the permissibility of any belief or act, whether religious or secular. 8 many an(prenominal) on both sides of the debate about religious freedom cut by dint of to treat piety as special. Many atheists want to deny religion the rights accorded to others forms of belief. Many religious believers want to retain privileges for religion. Both are wrong. 9 Some atheists argue that secularism requires that religion be kept out of the public sphere.It is an argument that cannot be right any more than the shout that the views of racists, conservatives, communists or animated activists must be kept out of the public sphere. A secular space cannot be one in which religion is not permitted to be present. It is, rather, a space in which one religion is grant no advantage over another, nor over any secular philosophy or ideology. It must also be one, moreover, in which no religion is disadvantaged with respect to another religion, or with respect to secular philosophies and ideologies. 10Many atheists hold also that religious symbols be censorned in the public sphere. Many states and corporations have imposed much(prenominal) bans, from the refusal to allow the wearing of the cross in the workplace to the outlawing of the burka in public places. such bans are infringements of the sanctioned freedoms set out in 7. An employer has every right to ban kinds of vesture that might be, say, dangerous in a particular workplace. He or she also has the right, in authoritative circumstances, and within limits, to insist that employees wear a particular uniform, or to desist from wearing something inappropriate. barely there should be no general ban on particular forms of wear or adornment, and sure no general ban on specifically religious clothing or symbols. 11 The real dilemmas with religious freedom arise out of questions not of beliefs or symbols but of practices. Many beliefs, religious and secular, imply particular practices. The belief that homosexuality is a sin requires that one refrain from funny relationships or gay sex. The belief that life begins at conception requires that one does not have an abortion or help anyone else to do so.And so on. As a soc iety we should tolerate as far as is possible the desire of state to live according to their conscience. But that toleration ends when someone acting upon his or her conscience causes harm to another without consent, or infringes anothers genuine rights. 12 It is not just in the brass of religion that there is a strong relationship mingled with belief and practice. Racists, communists, Greens, New Age mystics all could claim that their beliefs enforce upon them certain actions or practices.We do not, however, allow racists, communists, Greens, or New Age mystics to act upon their beliefs if in so doing they harm others or deny them their legitimate rights. A racist pub owner cannot bar black people from his pub, however deep-set his beliefs. It would be a criminal offence for Greens to disgrace a farmers field of licitly grown GM crops, however strongly they might feel about such agriculture. on that point is a line, in other words, that cannot be crossed even if conscience re quires one to. That line should be in the same place for religious believers as for non-believers.Society should accommodate as far as is possible any action genuinely required by conscience, but not where such acts harms another or infringes their rights. Of course, a religious believer might claim that he or she faces a different kind of compulsion to that tangle by a racist, a communist or anyone else attached to secular beliefs. He or she whitethorn feel commanded by God to act in a particular way. It may well be true that a believer feels a different kind of compulsion. But the reason for which someone feels compelled to act in a particular way is not necessarily relevant to whether or not such acts should be legally permitted. 13The circumstance that acts of conscience may sometimes have to be curbed does not mean that in these cases there is a conflict of rights. Just as there is a right to free speech but no right not to be offended, so there is a right not to be harmed an d to equal treatment, but no right to harm or to discriminate. This is essential to protect religious freedom. An atheist bar-owner should have no right, whatever his conscience may say, to bar people of faith, any more than a Christian bar-owner has the right to bar gays. Such curbs on acts of conscience barely mean that we live not alone on a desert island but together in a crowded society.14 How would the argument so far throw light on recent conflicts over matters of religious freedom? Should religions have the right to prevent the publication of cartoons or books or plays that are deemed offensive? No. Religious freedom requires that people of faith be allowed to speak or act in ways that might offend others. It does not that require others do not cause offence or promote blasphemy. Is it legitimate for a state to ban the burqa? It is not. Wearing a burqa neither harms, nor discriminates against, others.Of course, one might well believe that the burqa harms the woman who wear s it and is an expression of discrimination against women. A liberal society accepts, however, that individuals should free to make choices that may not be in their interest and that, to liberal eyes, demean them. This applies even to in particular revolting expressions of degradation, such as the wearing of the burqa. If women are strained to wear the burqa against their will, the law should protect them against that coercion. It should not, however, impose a ban on those who have chosen to wear the burqa.Some suggest that burqas cause harm because they may pose security problems, or be incompatible with the needs of particular jobs. Such practical problems can usually be solved on a case-by-case basis without the need for draconian legislation. Should an employee be allowed to wear a cross at work? In almost every case the response should be Yes. There may be a pragmatic sanction case for, say, banning loose chains that in certain workplaces may be dangerous but it is difficu lt to see what right an employer has simply to ban the wearing of a cross as a religious symbol.Should gay marriage be legalized? Yes. This is a matter both of secular equality and of religious freedom. On the one hand, the state should not force out gays from the civil institution of marriage simply because of religious hostility. On the other, some faith groups wish to bless to gay marriage. For the state to deny them that right because other faith groups disagree would be to undermine religious freedom. What the state should not do is to force religious bodies to accept or govern gay marriage. Should a Catholic adoption agency be allowed to dig external gay prospective parents?If the agency receives public funding, or suffices a service on behalf of the state, indeed the answer is No. It would then be legitimate for the state to insist that the agency does not discriminate, despite Catholic views on homosexuality. If, however, it is a private agency if it is simply accom plishing a service for Catholic parents who subscribe to its views on homosexuality then the answer should be Yes. Should Christian bed and breakfast owners be allowed to turn away gays? Such owners, even if they are turning their own home into a bnb, are providing a service from which a gay couple could reasonably inhabit equal treatment.The answer, therefore, is No. Should Catholic-run hospitals or schools be forced to give employees health insurance that includes free contraception? This is, of course, a source of major controversy in the USA. The answer is Yes. This is not a matter of religious freedom, but of employee rights. Churches are not being forced to provide contraception. In their role as secular employers, they are being asked to provide employee benefits that all employers must provide. To exempt Church-run organizations would be to deny those benefits to a particular group of employees. 15Having said all this, many of these conflicts would be erupt resolved thr ough with(predicate) the pragmatic use of common sense than through the strict application of principle, particularly when those principles remain socially contested. A religious believer should not normally have the legal right to discriminate. But if it is possible to arrange matters so that a believer can act according to conscience without causing harm or discrimination to others, then it might be worthwhile doing so. In principle, a Christian marriage registrar should watch to have to perform gay civil partnerships, whatever their religious beliefs.However, it might make pragmatic sense to roster others to perform ceremonies for gay couples, not because we should accept prejudice prejudice, whether religious or secular in form, should always be challenged but in acknowledgement of the fact that genuine social conflict exists on this issue. We should not give an go on to bigotry. Someone whose conscience would not allow them to work with gays, or to splice Jews, should clea rly not be indulged. Nevertheless, many oppose gay partnerships or marriages as a matter of conscience and not simply through homophobia (albeit that conscience can, of course, often be a cover for homophobia).We can both challenge such attitudes and accept that on matters of genuine conscience, a little leeway or accommodation that allows someone to live by their principles may be desirable. The law should not make any such accommodation. But as individuals, or as organizations, it may be wise to, though not at the cost of causing harm, allowing discrimination or endorsing bigotry. 16 There are exceptional cases in which we should set aside these rudimentary principles. A marriage registrar should be expected in principle, if not necessarily in practice, to perform gay civil partnerships.But we should not expect a doctor or a nurse, even in principle, to perform an abortion, if they feel to do so is against their beliefs. Whatever we may think of the belief that life begins at con ception, it would be unreasonable in the extreme to expect those who do hold that belief to commit what they consider to be murder. 17 A pragmatic approach to matters of religious conscience is neither a sign of weakness nor a matter of accommodating the devil. Standing by political principle is vitally important, including the principle that people should have the right to act upon their conscience if possible.Why is that principle important? Because we recognize with Spinoza that No man can give up his freedom to judge and think as he pleases, and everyone is by absolute natural right master of his own thoughts. To recognize that is to recognize also that it is better if people are persuaded to act in a particular way, by exercising their freedom to judge and think, than being forced to do so by the power of the state. There are times when the state has to wield the big stick, particularly if acts of conscience lead to physical harm or discrimination.But such occasions, as a matte r of principle, should be minimized as far as possible. To be pragmatic in this matter is to keep to ones principles. 18 The aim of rethinking religious freedom is to strengthen, not weaken, it. It is to establish it not as a special privilege arising out of the turmoil of seventeenth century Europe but as one of a set of indispensible freedoms rooted in the needs and possibilities of the twenty-first century world. To defend religious freedom in this manner is not to defend religion. It is to defend freedom.

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