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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Attacking The Faiths

I have written a lot about anti-Semitism, because it is a real and growing problem. But the problem seems to be larger than that. There is a general attack in our culture on all religions; the Timothy Shortells aren't really that rare any more. And it's not just people saying that certain religious beliefs are wrong - it's people advocating to take away the rights of people who believe in these religions or to outlaw the beliefs and moral mandates of particular churches. Earlier I wrote about a movement in Europe that was hoping to move under the new EU Constitution to prosecute the Catholic church for refusing to ordain women, for example.

Now in Canada the same theory emerges. The Anchoress wrote about a Canadian Public Radio program on which one Bob Ferguson, a retired engineering professor at the Royal Military College, advocated using Canadian law against the Catholic church. Here's an article on the program:
"Given the inertia of the Catholic Church, perhaps we could encourage reform by changing the environment in which all religions operate," Ferguson began his commentary in measured tones yesterday. "Couldn't we insist that human rights, employment and consumer legislation apply to them as it does other organizations? Then it would be illegal to require a particular marital status as a condition of employment or to exclude women from the priesthood. "
Get that? The church would have to ordain women and married people:
Continuing his comparison Ferguson stated, "I envisage a congress meeting to hammer out a code that would form the basis of legislation to regulate the practice of religion. Like the professional engineers' P.Eng designation, there would then be RRPs (or registered religious practitioners). To carry the analogy to its conclusion, no one could be a religious practitioner without this qualification."
I can just see the Canadian jails full of people nabbed for discussing Catholic creed without the proper license. And of course, if you deviate from the state-controlled creed, you would lose your license. I think the animus against Catholics arises from the Catholic refusal to accept politically correct mores. But if the Catholic church can't have its own morality, you can't have yours. Is that so difficult to understand? What this man is proposing is state control of moral codes, just like all the other totalitarian regimes that have arisen.

What an unattractive vision. I can no longer believe that any thinking person can deny that there is a fascist wing of the left. A while back the Hispanic Pundit advanced the proposition that gay marriage should be resisted because it will destroy religious freedom in this country:
I find the threat of religious intolerance and discrimination so obvious, so likely, that I find it hard to believe others don’t see it as clearly. Many proponents of gay marriage already (falsely) see gay marriage as a civil rights issue, so with that view in mind, it’s a small step to conclude that religions that teach against homosexuality or gay marriage, are just like a religion that would teach, say, racism or sexism.
Here's the post in which Hispanic Pundit explains why he sees a fundamental difference between discriminating on the basis of attributes and discriminating on the basis of behavior:
The minute you say homosexuality is a civil rights issue, you have moved from the free-will ethics (free-will is a basic fundamental criteria of ALL ethics, regardless of religion or non-religious views), to the view that actions are no different than non-action traits. This would be a radical departure from previous views on ethics, and frankly, would be a fundamental error. You can say that a ban on an action is good, or that it is bad, or that it is stupid, or that it is superstitious, but the minute you say that it is like a ban on a non-action characteristic (your gender, race and nationality), you have moved to a level that makes ALL ethic discussions moot. One can make ethical judgments on whether writing with your left hand is bad, or whether having sex before marriage is bad, or whether wearing a condom is bad, and whether having sex with someone of the same sex is bad, but it would be absurd in ethics to talk about whether it is bad to ‘be female’, or ‘be Mexican’, or ‘be Black’, ethics presupposes an action involved, an action that comes from, either by allowing or willing, the person.
To simplify, what Hispanic Pundit is saying is that all systems of ethics require people to control their behavior, even if their behavior is "natural". Which is true. I can get mad and want to punch someone else out, and that is purely natural. But part of growing up is learning that I am not allowed to express that impulse, because other people have the right not to get hit in the face because I am having a temper tantrum.

Now I was quite dubious about Hispanic Pundit's claim, but I have to look at Canada and Europe and acknowledge that this is at least a possibility. There is also considerable animus among the "womyn's" rights groups against the Catholic church. For example, see NARAL's coverage of what is essentially a religious issue within the Catholic church, not a matter of civil rights:
Did you know a member of Congress from Connecticut led efforts to protect Catholic politicians’ rights?

In response to a handful of vocal Catholic bishops denying communion to pro-choice politicians, pro-choice Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and 47 other Catholic members of Congress sent a letter to Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, warning him of the consequences of using the church for partisan purposes. The letter asserted that members of Congress have a duty to represent their constituents, which means separating public actions from personal beliefs.
Regardless of what you think about this particular issue (and if you aren't Catholic, what business is it of yours?), what right does NARAL have to attempt to pressure the Catholic church to modify its doctrines based on what NARAL believes is acceptable? What NARAL is advocating here is an utter perversion of our Constitution, which does not allow our government to regulate our churches. Catholic politicians don't have some "right" to immunity from religious judgements emanating from within their own church, any more than a NAMBLA activist does.

Any way, I am taking Hispanic Pundit's arguments more seriously. In our society, you can't gain rights at the expense of other people's rights. You gain rights by allowing other people their rights. It is reciprocal. Thus, NAMBLA must be allowed to express its particular point of view, but nonetheless we arrest men who have sex with young boys, because our society believes that's a crime. And it is a crime, which is why men are not allowed to have sex with young girls either. Or women with boys, etc.

In the service of their warped agenda, NAMBLA has discovered a new civil rights cause called "ageism":
Many who hear about ageism dismiss it simply as another attempt by "those young whippersnappers" to bully adults into letting them run about wild and do whatever they want. What these people fail to acknowledge is that the whole point of any kind of liberation movement is for its participants to gain the freedom to do "whatever they want." Youth liberation is no different in this respect from Women's Liberation, Gay Liberation, Third World Liberation, or any liberation movement. To dismiss youth as unworthy of this freedom because "they're just kids" is of course in itself the height (or should one say the nadir) of ageist acts.
And of course, freedom of sexual expression is just one of the rights the young are unfairly denied, right? Which is why it is brutal oppression for our country to have laws making it illegal for an 8 year-old to express his sexuality consensually with a 30 year-old, according to NAMBLA. NAMBLA is terribly, terribly concerned about the psychic damage this denial of their inherent human right to express their sexuality is causing these poor kids.

Let's snap out of our politically correct fog and get rational before we run over the cliff. For many people, a strict vegetarianism is a religious mandate. We should defend their right to live that way. For others it is not. If our society ever decided, en masse, that eating meat was an ethically harmful and indefensible practice, we would pass laws against it. It would be a moral and religious decision. Because the bulk of our population doesn't hold this view, we don't have laws against it. However, we do recognize the right of people who believe this to follow their moral consciences.

We will either live in an unfree tyranny or live in a relatively free society, and that is our only choice. Society doesn't survive without some moral rules, and one can't truly distinguish between "religious" ethical views and "non-religious" ethical views. What Bob Ferguson was ignoring was the freedom element. No one is forced by the Canadian government to belong to the Catholic church; therefore the Catholic church should be allowed to set its own rules. All of this talk about tolerance is masking a very real intolerance of other people's rights.

Ok, on the SSM issue, you have to break this down into two sub-sections. Civil and Religious.

Civil - it is most certainly a civil rights issue. You are denying equal protection under the laws to a group of Americans because you don't agree with who they are. You enjoy more rights under the law because you are heterosexual.

Religious - now, you claim that infringing on religious freedom is bad (I agree). But if a church (of any sect) finds it to be within their religious beliefs that the union of two people of the same sex, and you deny them that right to act within the purveys of their religious beliefs, then you are infringing on the freedom of religion.

With that said, let me gets this right. The left are fascists because they attack religion (I'll give no argument that prosecuting the Catholic church is wrong). Where does that put the right who wants to impose their beliefs on other religions who find SSM ok? how is that not intolorance of others?
Good review of how the move to quash religious expression is gaining some ground. We cannot sit by idly and watch this develop. I've linked at www.opiniontimes.com
Dingo - At least in the US, the US government can't ban church marriages between two people of the same sex or marriages between multiple partners, so your argument doesn't hold water there. A faith's rituals, as long as they don't incorporate actual crimes, are a thing that the government must stay out of. Post Lawrence, it is hard to see how a state can constitutionally regulate private sexual behavior between adults, no matter how many adults are involved.

As for the rights issue, that rests upon definitions. How you look at this issue depends upon what you believe the civil institution of marriage, which carries both rights and responsibilities, really involves.

If you accept the idea that marriage is fundamentally an institution designed to insure the personal satisfication and security of the individuals who are married, I suppose you can see it as a civil right. (The security and mutual support of marriage is a strong component of marriage to most Americans.)

However society has traditionally regarded the civil institution of marriage as recognizing and accommodating a socially beneficial institution. (On average. We all know that some marriages are not beneficial to the individuals involved or society).

And so society bans certain types of marriage that are not considered beneficial or appropriate on average, such as those between juveniles, those between juveniles and adults, closely related individuals, group marriages etc. Under this definition, civil marriage is regarded as a contract not just between two individuals, but between those two individuals and society. You take on a burden, and you get some help with it. (This element of marriage is also a strong component of marriage in the eyes of most Americans.)

Now Ginsberg supported same sex marriage because she sees it as a civil rights issue. However, she also believes that group marriages must be allowed. I can't fault her logic. If one accepts the personal satisfaction definition of marriage, there can be no reason to bar marriages between multiple partners or same sex partners, etc.

Our society is really arguing over the definition of marriage. And there is another possibility here, which is that the increased visibility and social options available to same-sex couples will result in society observing stable and longterm same-sex relationships. If enough of them are visible, society may decide that those relationships are indeed beneficial to society and offer the benefits of civil marriage to those relationships. In that case, society still might not approve of multiple partner marriages, because it would not have adopted the personal gratification theory of marriage and thus the idea that society is obligated to extend financial benefits to all people who engage in sexual relationships and wish them recognized by the state.

Rights rhetoric doesn't apply well to all social institutions, Dingo. Any one who is married knows quite well that the state imposes definite burdens and dissatisfactions as well. At some point parent/child, worker/employer, spouse/spouse relationships are not just a matter of personal satisfaction but a matter of societal duty. This appears to be a universal understanding throughout all societies, so I personally can't accept the personal gratification theory of marriage.

But if society observes same-sex couples and decides that these relationships are indeed beneficial, then I personally would not oppose the legal recognition of same-sex marriage, provided that society also preserved freedom of speech and religion/association etc.

This is always going to be a somewhat divisive issue because same-sex sexual activity runs the gamut between pure adventurism and sexual license to the purely instinctive mating drives of gender-blurred individuals. It is not one thing, and those who think it is are not observing very well.
I do not understand why we subvert the rights of community to the rights of the individual, in these matters.

Surely society is better off without group marriage and other expressions of anything goes type behavior.
SC&A - at some point, it is suicide to subvert the rights of the community to the rights of the individual. That tipping point arises when assuring the rights of the individual begins to do deep damage to the community, because it is the community itself which gives (in the instance of marriage) the benefit to the individual. Injure the society too extensively and it won't be able to extend any meaningful benefits to the individual.

No society can afford to subsidize disfunctional behavior past a certain point. The question is where that point is and which behavior is truly disfunctional. Every society has some norms and every society has the right to establish some norms.

Rights rhetoric ignores some basic realities of communal living. No society allows people to pee in the common well because everyone must drink from it.
but you already have ensured the rights of the individuals in heterosexual marriage.

You talk about the rights as well as the responsibilities of marriage. But a heterosexual couple has the option to enter into those responsibilities. A homosexual couple does not. You have taken away the choice of gays to freely enter into the same duties to ones spouse as heterosexuals. How does this build a stronger community? And, what are the benefits that the community receives from a heterosexual union that it would not receive from a homosexual union.

BTW, in many states, a minor can marry an adult with the permission of the parents.

BTBTW, it was a common practice for adults to marry minors until only recently (150 years or so).
Dingo - no, any two people can privately express the same degree of commitment to each other as those legally required of married couples. There are plenty of straights who have some degree of dislike of the institution of marriage who do live as married couples but have not assumed the civil burden of it. Marital relationships have existed as long as people have. The legalities have varied in different societies.

In short, at this point our society doesn't legally constrain the action of adults cohabiting (even if it is more than two adults), but it does not extend recognition to those relationships. So no behavior is being affected, but the legal structure that het couples can use is not there (in most states) for same-sex couples.

As for the definition of minors, those also are defined by the states and the age of statutory rape and legal marriage with or without the consent of the parent has changed in the various states. But then so have the expectations of society with regard to married couples. Marital rape, for instance, is no longer legal, but it used to be.

Society does change these things based on what it thinks will work best.

As for what same-sex marriage will or will not do to society, it is not up to me to answer. The experiment is underfoot and really has been ever since most GL's got the right to have custody of their kids.

You can't answer that question any better than I can. It will become obvious over time and basically by the choice of the individuals involved. They will figure out what works and doesn't work. Social institutions do evolve based on circumstance and behavior.
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