Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Secularism, Gay Rights, Religious Freedom

There's been an interesting judicial finding in Britain:

In their ruling yesterday, the judges complained that it was not yet “well understood” that British society was largely secular and that the law has no place for Christianity.

“Although historically this country is part of the Christian West, and although it has an established church which is Christian, there have been enormous changes in the social and religious life of our country over the last century,” they said.

It was a “paradox” that society has become simultaneously both increasingly secular and increasingly diverse in religious affiliation, they said.

“We sit as secular judges serving a multicultural community of many faiths. We are sworn (we quote the judicial oath) to 'do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill will’.”
Did they really say the part I placed in bold, I wonder? If so, they should consult the OED and get clear on the meaning of the word secular. I don't have an OED handy, but of all the definitions fetched forth by the googling of define: secularism, I think this one has it best:
secularism - A position that religious belief should not influence public and governmental decisions; The related political belief in the separation of church and state
Secularism means per se religious tenets are not given the force of law, regardless of how many or how few individuals believe the religious tenet, whereas the British judges, or the reporter summarizing them, seem to be working from a definition of secularism that equates it with atheism. An increase in the diversity of religious beliefs and observances in a place would indicate that secularism is working properly, because it would suggest that no one religious community is using the law to suppress others.

There is no "paradox" here without this odd warping of the word. I'm not sure how the British judiciary works, but is there any chance Tony Blair appointed these judges on the advice of George W. Bush?


Regardless, the ruling sounds right to me. The justices are right to observe a tension: either the British state will shuttle gay kids to people who will diminish and demean them, or the British state will infringe the parents' right to proceed as though Christian scriptural teaching on homosexuality is binding. The god of the Bible indeed hates fags (Lev 18:22, Lev 20:13, 1 Timothy 1:9-10, Romans 1:26-27) but this only goes to show the profound shortcomings of the Bible. Secular jurisdictions like Britain are coming more and more to the realization the Bible and other holy writ make for unjust law.

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