Peaceful Tectonics


Superstition Trumps the Law
January 27, 2007, 8:50 am
Filed under: Philosophy, Politics, Religion
Ok, so the British Parliament is debating whether or not the Catholic Church needs to bow down to state law which allows gay parents to adopt children.  In the UK gays have also been given the same rights as their straight counter parts in regards to marriages etc.  Anyway, this is a sticky subject, first of all because it seems that in one instance  the church should be allowed to practice freely without pressure from the government to conform.  That allowing and supporting gay adoption would be in violation of their religious beliefs and practices.  This seems logical enough, but on the other hand it also seems very discriminatory to allow an organization to target a group of individuals and deliberately refuse them access because of a trivial fact of nature.  In this article AC Grayling clearly expresses the later sentiment, claiming that churches are given no rights which allow them to impose themselves on government or the rule of law.  I also tend to agree, despite my belief that religious institutions should be allowed to practice freely, this is an entirely different matter.  Religions should not be given special preference and exemptions from the law that other groups might not enjoy.  This is just an erosion of the supremacy of democratic law.  Anyway, this article was interesting and touched on a debate I was having just the other day.  Too bad we are so far from this kind of a discussion in the United States.

A law unto themselves

AC Grayling
January 24, 2007 04:00 PM

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/ac_grayling/2007/01/prelates_for_prejudice.html

So the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have writtento Tony Blair in support of Cardinal Murphy-O’Conner’s request for an exemption for the Roman Catholic church on gay adoption. What does it really ask? It asks the prime minister to grant the Roman Catholic church’s wish to continue being prejudiced and discriminatory in attitude and practice against a section of society whom texts 2000 and more years old instruct them to regard as abominations.

Prejudice and discrimination are abominations. So are those who actively seek to maintain them.

What have we learned today in light of the Archbishops’ letter? That Tony Blair has been actively campaigning in cabinet to have an exemption granted to the Roman Catholic church (let us keep things in very sharp and very relevant perspective here, and remember what this organisation might equally well be called: viz. the Roman Paedophile Protection Agency) to be exempted from the law of the land so that it can continue its discriminatory prejudices.

In passing let us note that Mrs Blair, the prime minister’s Catholic wife, reputedly earns more than a million a year as a human rights barrister. Here lie ironies indeed. It would be interesting to know her stand on this issue, as one who does so well financially out of protecting human rights. In their pillow talk does she urge her husband to respect principles of equality before the law, and the human rights of all British citizens, in the face of attacks from narrow-minded bigots? Or does she think that personal choice of superstition trumps the law?

The churches are making common cause in seeking exemptions from the law of the land. Grant one, and soon there will be another, and another; the self-selected coteries of believers will be islands of the exempted, as once they were in our history – above the law, protected by the law in doing what others will be punished for doing, because these latter do not have the modern analogue of “benefit of clergy“.

Notice this very central and salient fact. Even we who most robustly oppose the effect of superstition on public policy in society, and (separately but relatedly) combat the intellectual corruptions of superstitions belief systems, do not wish to stop cardinals, archbishops or their flocks from believing what they like and getting together in dark buildings to mumble and genuflect and roll their eyes up to heaven. Indeed we would act to protect their rights in this respect if others threatened them with laws to prevent them doing it, or ordering them to believe something else, even as we shake our heads over them or laugh outright at them for the absurdity of what they do. But we cannot accept that they should impose their beliefs and choices on the rest of society, or be immune from the law, or be allowed to perpetuate discrimination and bigotry, or be allowed to derail the progress that the rest of society is making towards fair, open, decent, and kindly dispensations of acceptance and inclusion.

The current brouhaha is only accidentally about adoption. If it were genuinely about the disgusting view of the churchmen that gay people cannot be good parents the situation would be every bit as bad. Parenting is about love, support, nurturing, not about what sex the carer happens to be; it is a complex of social skills; parturition is biological, parenting is social, a fact the churchmen characteristically confuse because their antediluvian mindset cannot permit the distinction.

Make no mistake: the pious fig leaves of faith cover suppurating noisome sores of reaction and bigotry, as this campaign of Prelates for Prejudice shows. This is a test case for whether we as a society are going to allow ancient superstition to dictate terms, or whether we are going to have to re-learn the lessons of the secularism – against which the churches fought and fought, spilling the blood of millions: never forget how hard they fought to stop progress in these as in all other fields – which has got us as far (not far enough) as we have got today. The churches are emphatically at fault here, and if their fifth column in Downing Street wins them the day by subversion of the principle of the rule of law, it will mean that the old culture war will have to be fought all over again.

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