Sunday, October 28, 2007

Freedom of religion should never be an amendment to any democratic constitution

Most Western democratic societies have in their respective constitutions, apart from paragraphs ensuring the freedom of speech and the freedom of congregation, an additional paragraph or amendment regarding the freedom of religion or the free exercise thereof. From a historical point of view these additions are quite understandable since most European countries have had their share of religious feuds. Adding a ‘freedom of religion’ clause was deemed necessary to expedite the forming of secular nation states where all denominations were granted equal rights. But this seemingly superfluous addition to the constitution started leading a life of its own, and is now eroding that same constitution by allowing religious denominations to take hold of the public domain again.

The way they do this is by reversing the intention of the amendment. The amendment is no longer interpreted as a mere safety to ensure both catholics and protestants a space within the public domain, it is instead presented as the right to influence the shape of the public domain should one’s religion require this. It’s reasoned that “if the current state of the public domain prevents me to (fully) profess my religion, than the amendment would be nothing more than a hollow phrase” and “surely that cannot be what the legislators had in mind”.

By allowing ‘freedom of religion’ to be interpreted this way, we will very soon find ourselfs to be on the slipperiest of slopes. Already we’re familiar with appeals like:

- my belief regards homosexuality as a sin therefore I, civil servant, have the right to refuse marrying a homosexual couple even when national law allows it.
- my belief has strict food laws therefore I demand food prepared according to those laws to be available in all public establishments
- my belief forbids picturing living beings and especially prophets, therefore I demand the state to ensure this does not happen
- my belief forbids the use of alcohol, therefore I demand not to be confronted with it in public buildings

… otherwise I feel hindered when exercising my right to religious freedom. In most of the above cases European society and legislative bodies have ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, paving the way for a next generation of claims:

- all homosexuals working as public servants are required to make themselves known as such in order to avoid believers to accidentally come in contact with the unclean
- hospitals failing to have sufficient qualified female doctors on their staff to treat female patients will be held accountable for the consequences thereof
- all financial instruments based on interest bearing products will be replaced by commission based products
- religious communities are allowed their own legislation should they desire that

It are claims like these the ‘legislative founding fathers’ were trying hard to avoid when they wrote: all are equal for the law. Unfortunately they didn’t foresee the consequences of this church-imposed addition.

It’s a well known fact that over the centuries, bible-based exceptions have found their way into state laws, denying equal rights to women and homosexuals. Still the political correct elite in Europe, frustrated over their failure to integrate the Muslim community, see in this ‘freedom of religion’ act a means of giving the Muslims ‘what they’ve been denied in the past’. They reckon “if we bend and shape society in such a way that Islam will fit into it, then Muslims will feel at home and integration will be a fact”.

This idea will prove to be a miscalculation of biblical proportions. Not only isn’t Islam the sort of religion that can be satisfied with just one finger, it will demand the whole hand. But also: what if the pending invasion of Hindu knowledge workers takes place? Are we then obliged to let are cows roam freely on the highways just to make them feel at home?

Even a blind man will see it’s impossible to establish a public domain compliant with all beliefs and more importantly, never in history was there a time or place in which the various religions coexisted peacefully and on a basis of equality. If there’s one sure way of preventing cultures to integrate within the borders of a nation state, it’s by allowing them to shape the public domain according to their respective scriptures.

Basically there are three ways to reconcile religion and state:

1) by instituting a theocracy and denying all other religions the right to have influence on the public domain. This works very well in Iran and Saudi-Arabia where bibles, churches and all non-Muslim congregations are forbidden

2) by instituting a totalitarian regime and suppressing all religious outings ensuring equal misery for all. Worked like a charm in the former USSR and Eastern-Europe. The only setback here is that when the regime falls, all denominations will immediately flock together and the nation will seize to exist (Balkan)
3) by instituting a democratic constitution allowing freedom of speech and congregation without any reference to religion. This way the public domain will be neutral grounds and all religions will be equally priviliged or handicapped. Also this relieves the legislator from the daunting task of deciding whether a specific belief is to be considered a religion or not (scientology, wicca, forefather cults?).

If European politicians persist in allowing the public domain to be a religious playground, then eventually Europe will seize to exist as an economic community of democratic nation states. It will instead become a patchwork of religious comunities focussing mainly on their co-religionists in either the USA or the Arab world.

To avoid this, a democratic constitution explicitely allowing for ‘freedom of speech’, ‘freedom of congregation’ and treating all of her subjects as ‘equal for the law’, should never allow ‘freedom of religion’ to be an additional paragraph or amendment to it.

Gratis web site teller.