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Stuart Cameron

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If/when same-sex marriage is legalised, should ALL religious bodies be required by law to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies?

So, some people may know that here in Scotland there has been a public consultation on same-sex marriage (and it's looking extremely promising!). One of the questions in the consultation was as follows:

"Do you agree that religious bodies should not be required to conduct same-sex marriages or civil partnerships if it is against their wishes?"

So what are your thoughts? As an abstract idea, should religion be able to have its own say? In the context of Scotland, should religion have its own say? Bearing in mind that our government is supposed to be separate from church/religion. Why?


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  • Dec 14 2011: Hi Stuart,

    It is very bad policy for the State to dictate the actions of a Church. And vice versa. You can prove this to yourself by imagining that your government's actions (and your own) is the one that is being held to a religous doctrine that you do not agree with.

    There must be a very compelling reason to break this boundary. I do not see that here.

    Best wishes,
    Doug Bell
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      Dec 15 2011: Hi Doug,

      I see your point but...

      1. I think your analogy is faulty. State laws cannot be compared to religious doctrine in any way; they're rules that have been designed and agreed upon as part of a democracy. These aren't regulations that have been dictated to us from a greater authority, they're what we, as a society, have collectively agreed on to be right/wrong, acceptable/unacceptable, and it is required that everyone abide by them...without exception. Ultimately, you can't chose to opt-out of state laws, but you can however chose to opt-out of religious laws.

      2. We already dictate the actions of churches. If you see the comment I posted below, in 2007 we outlawed religious adoption agencies who refused to serve same-sex couples. And we do it in more extreme cases as well, for instance, if you look at certain scriptures, they call for the stoning of blasphemers and adulterers and disobedient sons etc. Obviously, we cannot allow religious bodies to do this simply because we cant "dictate" their actions.
      • Dec 15 2011: Regarding the comment you have up there on adoption: adoption is a state related matter, the government has to agree on one hand before it gives away a child (since the child is protected by rights). The church here is acting like an agent and it has to agree to the terms of its supplier. But the church is independent of the government and can choose not to foster adoptions. If the church wants to engage in adoption, it has to abide by rules of the state.
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        Dec 15 2011: Good points Stuart,
        Laws are "rules that have been designed and agreed upon as part of a democracy...they're what we, as a society have collectively agreed on to be right/wrong, acceptable/unacceptable, and it is required that everyone abide by them...without exception". By saying/believing that people who belong to a specific group ( a church) are exempt from the law of the society is ridiculous!

        Let's look at another example of church members being "exempt" from the law. There were thousands of kids sexually assaulted by representatives of the catholic church over a period of many many years. Sexual assault is a crime, which is against the law, and should have been dealt with legally. However, the church leaders chose to cover up the crimes over and over again because the criminals were representatives of the church. Is this ok? Is it acceptable? Why do we have a law that punishes those who sexually assault a victim? It is to protect people, and assure all people that s/he has the right to live free from harm. Why do we pass a law allowing same-sex marriage? To protect people, and assure him/her that s/he has the right to live with the same rights everyone else has. If a church representative refuses to perform a marriage for same sex partners, when there is a law requiring it, he is telling us a lot about his church, his beliefs, himself, and this person should be held accountable to the law that governs the society.
      • Dec 15 2011: Hi Stuart,

        I did not mean anything as an analogy. Religous bodies often have, and still do, dictate the actions of a government and individuals. You and I are lucky enough to live in a place and time where this is not the case.

        My understanding (of American law) is that no one is exempt from a law simply because they claim religous freedom. You cannot, for instance, claim that child abuse is a protected religous right. The fact that the church leaders choose to cover it up only makes them accomplices in the eyes of the law.

        However, and without claiming to be a constitutional scholar my understanding is that our constitution prohibits creation of a law based solely on religion, or treats any religion preferentially. That includes those who choose not to have a religous affiliation. So unless our government has a compelling need to protect other people's rights (for instance, a minor), it will not interfere with your choice of worship. In fact, ideally, it will take pains to insure that you can worship in the manner you choose.

        Best wishes,
      • Dec 15 2011: Hey Stuart, I would like to add a few stuff.

        Ultimately, I'd rather get out of the country than choose to opt-out of my creator's laws. Meaning, this point is very relative just to be clear.

        Well as it is not illegal to not perform these same-sex marriages, then the solution should be easy, we don't do them. But if a certain party within the religion decides to do it then the solution is even easier. We cannot punish them because they are not of our religion. They have ultimately made a new religion. :D

        Also, with regards to stoning and the like, I would like to say that in Islam, there's a long list of requirements before you can stone someone to death. So it practically shouldn't happen.
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        Dec 15 2011: Kathy K,
        Sorry I cannot get this close to your comment I am reasponding to.

        Here is my statement again...looks like you missed part of it.
        "If a church representative refuses to perform a marriage for same sex partners, when there is a law requiring it, he is telling us a lot about his church, his beliefs, himself, and this person should be held accountable to the law that governs the society".

        The point is, that in the state where I live, and many other states, there are laws guarenteeing the right to same sex marriage. In this area, I am observing representatives of the same church group making different choices as to whether or not s/he wants to perform same sex marriages. If a church leader is performing heterosexual marrages, and refuses to perform same sex marriages, that is discrimination, and I believe there are state and federal laws protecting people from that offence. The chruch groups seem to be unclear regarding what their "Holy Doctrine" actually is!!!

        You say..."it goes against the law of nature...". You might want to explore that information.

        You also write..."The government can legalize same sex marriage; religion will never sanction it".
        Some religions already ARE sanctioning it, and they are the groups who are gaining followers:>)
        It appears that many people in our world may be ready for "Holy Doctrine" that makes some sense, and offers all people the right to choose their own life partners.
        • Dec 16 2011: Colleen
          Sorry it is not discrimination. Please do not make it out to be. Any clergy can refuse to officiate a marriage ceremony any time he pleases. As I said in another post, he is acting as an agent of the state, not the state. The state has a right to choose to recognize these marriages and grant a license. The clergy does no granting and (it happens all the time actually) can refuse to officiate any marriage.

          Different denominations in the US hold differing views on this issue. Some are choosing to officiate and others are not. That is why it is called freedom of religion. Hiding behind the smokescreen of discrimination is just to muddle the issue more.

          Alas again, the state cannot and should not force religious groups to perform any marriage.
        • Dec 16 2011: Michael,
          Of course it is discrimination. But if you believe in religious freedom, you believe that religious groups have a right to discriminate according to their doctrines. (For example, many religious groups have discriminatory ideas about what men and women are supposed to do). The state shouldn't adopt those religious ideas -- the state should not discriminate. Religious bodies do have that right, at least in my understanding of religious freedom.

          I happen to think religious groups that discriminate in this way are wrong (and un-Christian, among other things.) So I wouldn't choose to go to churches that discriminate in this way, any more than I would choose to go to churches that discriminate racially. But that's one of the rights we have if religious freedom is real. Churches should NOT have the right to impose their doctrines on non-members, and the non-members and the state should not have the right to force churches to act against their own doctrines -- unless we are talking about active abuse, like child abuse, rather than simply refusing to provide religious sanction for a voluntary action.
        • Dec 17 2011: Laura
          It is interesting you said imposing. How is it that the refusal of someone to perform a wedding service, again what is done oftentimes, is imposing anything on anyone? There is no imposition. The imposition would come if the government at any level "required" them to perform a duty where they now act as agents, not enforcers or legislators.

          The very fact you are free to choose to worship where ever you do choose; (And I one hundred percent support that right) is there because of separation of church and state and religious liberty we enjoy in the US. Gays are free to choose a clergyman who will, if the state recognizes such marriages, perform such marriages. Clergy are also free to do the same thing. That is in point of fact Laura the very same freedom you enjoy to not worship at a church you choose.
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          Dec 17 2011: Once again Micheal, I feel you need to reread what was written.

          Laura was arguing that churches should not be required to perform a ceremony for same-sex couples because she doesn't think it's right that society should force them to act against their own doctrines. She was arguing that by making a law which requires them to do so, we are "imposing" our values on them. Not vice versa.

          And out of respect, can we please use the term 'gay' as an adjective and not a noun. I am not "a gay", I am a human being who happens to be gay.
        • Dec 17 2011: Stuart and Michael --
          I'm new to the TED forum and don't see a way to respond directly to Michael's comment, so I'm responding here.
          Stuart, you're right -- Michael misread my post. I agree with him -- the state should not require any church to perform any particular marriage ceremony.
          I think it's silly to argue, however, that a church that refuses to perform same-sex marriages isn't discriminating. Of course it is. I'm just saying it has a right to, if you believe in religious freedom.
          When religious beliefs get turned into civil laws, however, such as when the state outlaws marriage between two people of the same sex, then the church IS imposing on others. I've yet to see an argument against legalizing same-sex marriage that doesn't amount to trying to impose someone's concept of religious "truth" on others. People believe that God shares their prejudice against homosexuality, and that therefore it is right to outlaw it. Religious freedom includes the right to be free of religion -- and to enjoy the civil advantages of marriage without regard to gender.
          And Stuart, thanks for the post -- it's interesting to find out about this debate with regard to Scotland. I'm from the U.S. and strongly believe in the concept of a separation of church and state. I don't think we've achieved it yet, obviously, but I like it as an ideal. It's interesting to have to ask the question "why"?
        • Dec 17 2011: Laura
          I do apologize for having misread.
      • Comment deleted

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        Dec 16 2011: Hi Michael,
        Discriminate: "to distinguish by discerning or exposing differences; to make a difference in treatment or favor on a basis other than individual merit; the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually; prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment".

        Do you honestly think that a representative of a church who performs heterosexual marriages and refuses to perform same sex marriages because of his/her prejudice is not discriminating?

        Of course "Any clergy can refuse to officiate a marriage ceremony any time he please", and it is discrimination if/when that clergy/person is performing heterosexual marriages and refuses to perform same sex marriages. That is very clearly discrimination, and for you to call discrimination a smokescreen looks silly!

        To call clear discrimination a smokescreen? Interesting
        • Dec 16 2011: Oh it is Colleen. And it is not unconstitutional. Please look. Clergy can refuse anytime to perform a marriage. As I said it happens all the time. It is called freedom of religion Colleen that includes freedom or belief practice and worship.

          Please read my other posts about the 16th century, because obviously you would return to that time period also.
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        Dec 16 2011: Michael,
        You say..."oh it is Colleen". Apparently we agree that it is discrimination. I agree that clergy can refuse anytime to perform a marriage, and some continue to do so, as I clearly stated in an earlier post on this site. This topic asks about legality, not preferences or prejudices.

        I've read all your posts carefully Michael, and perhaps you will read all of mine as well. As a person living in a state that has legalized same sex marriage, I observe that same sex partners who would like to get married in a church, are flocking to those churches who accept, respect and honor EVERYONE who makes a committment to engage in a marriage partnership.

        No Michael, it is not at all obvious that I would like to return to the 16th century. It is very obvious that I want to move forward with beliefs, RATHER than stay in the worldview that kept some people oppressed and rejected because of religious beliefs.
        • Dec 16 2011: Nope. The one that oppressed is the one who allowed government to encroach and demand of the church what it wished. Again see History, 16th Century. Exactly which worldview am I stuck in Colleen. I am dying to hear.

          And I have said nothing about my own feelings on gay marriage in any post. That is another issue. The original question, and the one debated here is whether or not government should force religious groups to do so. The question of legality however hangs not on whether or not clergy will perform the service, but whether or not a state (here in the US) recognizes those marriages as legal. Again, it is the state, not the clergy that make the marriage legal. That is the legal issue and the legal issue hangs around separation of church and state not the question of gay marriage. You and Stuart are arguing for one thing while crying out that what clergy do or not do is illegal, which it is not. Nor Colleen is it discrimination under any interpretation of Civil Rights laws. If, at some time in the future the Supreme Court wishes to make that ruling, the discussion will change. Up until this moment it has not chosen to do so.

          Gay couples who wish to go to those clergy who will officiate those services are fine. They are free to do so.
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        Dec 16 2011: Thanks Michael, I understand the topic pretty well, and I'm going to pass on investigating "History, 16th centruy" at the moment because that is not the topic here.
        • Dec 16 2011: I can understand why you wish to do so, since the "forcing" issue would become so very horribly clear.
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          Dec 16 2011: Micheal, did you happen to read the definition of discrimination? I'm going to post it again, just in case you didn't...

          "to distinguish by discerning or exposing differences; to make a difference in treatment or favor on a basis other than individual merit; the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually; prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment"

          Yes, the clergy can refuse to perform ceremonies based on individual merit...but for them to refuse to perform them for ALL same-sex couples is blatant discrimination. I don't even see how that can be up for debate!

          And let me be quite clear, I'm not saying that religion is a bad thing, or that I wish for people to stop practicing their religion. I think it can be a really beautiful thing....but there are people among us who have concerns over the implication of a religion being exempt from laws. Can I ask a hypothetical question...it is quite clear in the bible that the stoning of adulterers, blasphemers, disobedient sons (and a whole host of other "sinners") is seen as a positive thing. If the Christian church decide tomorrow that they want to start enforcing this law, should the state allow them?

          And Colleen, I just want to say thanks for your contribution to this debate. Obviously I'm thankful for everyone's contribution because it's great for establishing perspective, and it's beautiful to see respectful discussions, but it was particularly pleasant for me to read your perspective. Thanks :-)
        • Dec 16 2011: This is really hilarious. Clergy can choose period. The state is the one who makes marriage legal. Geez. This is really funny. Because yes Stuart they can choose not to do that on the basis of their freedom. And come Colleen, required/forced, you have to split hairs when the argument is weak.One more time. The state, (and in the US I mean the individual states) which actually sanctions marriage, may or may not choose to recognize same-sex marriages. Even if they do, clergy are free to not perform marriages of whomever they choose. That applies to any and all criteria the individual clergyman might apply. They are breaking no law whenever they choose to do that. Even in a state that allows gay marriage. Clergy are not breaking the law by not marrying someone. They only act as an agent for the state, it is the state that makes the marriage legal or illegal. That is such simple jurisprudence. If it were not so, then clergy in several states would have already been arrested.To "require" them to do so by whatever governmental action is still, foremost, destroying the separation of church and state. And yes, that right, guaranteed in the Constitution, would and should take precedence over the laws of any state. Again Federal law, the Bill of Rights in this case, trumps any state law. See the 14th and 15 amendments. To be a member of a community Colleen is a wonderful thing. But again you seem confused. Clergy who do not choose to perform ceremonies are actually following the law. There is no law to require them to marry anyone, it is an agency granted by the state to the clergy. As an agent, not the lawmaking or enforcing body, they are in total liberty to not act as an agent.But then again, what you wish is for the state to require them to do something that is against their religious belief. It is called, "excessive entanglement." And oh dear would it be.
        • Dec 21 2011: Absolutely not Pierre. Religion and legal structure are tow different separate things in the US. It is guaranteed in the first Amendment to the US Constitution. Laws do affect religious groups obviously. However, there is a wall of spearation metaphor used by the courts. The other is "unecessary entanglement." there should not be eithe rone.
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        Dec 16 2011: Michael,
        The word Stuart used in the topic heading is "required", not forced. I agree that whether or not one is a member of a church group, or any other group, that individual is still a member of the community who passes the laws, and should be required to follow the societal laws as everyone is required to follow the laws. Religious dogma should not exempt anyone from following the laws of the society.
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        Dec 16 2011: Michael,
        I am not at all confused. That label is not necessary, and it is recognized as a common practice, when one has no other argument for a debate.
        • Dec 17 2011: Colleen it is you who have no argument. I have argued cogently and correctly about the law. Not what you wish the law to be but the law. It seems on TED at times when cannot or has no further argument, that censoring of ideas comes out. I see someone, I wonder who, has had Kathy's posts deleted. Hmmm. If you can show me with reason, why my arguments, sighting state or constitutional law are wrong,I will admit it to be so. If you can show me where, either in state statutues or Federal law, where it says a clergyman must or is "required" to perform marriages under any and all circumstances or any and all situations, I would love to be enlightened by you. But you cannot. You cannot argue that such requiring of clergy would not be counter to separation of church and state, the wall of separation metaphor or the excessive entanglement metaphor used by the courts. Just as above you could not show me where under current law as interpreted by the US Supreme Court it is discrimination for them not to do so. You cannot because those rulings have never been made. So I stand behind my arguments and your lack of them. Show me with reasoned speech and law Colleen.
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          Dec 17 2011: Hi Michael,

          I think you need to read Colleen's comments again...you'll note that she uses the word "should be" and not "are". As far as I understood it, we were talking about what the law should be, not what the law currently is. Hopefully, Colleen will correct me if I'm wrong.

          And with regards to what you're saying about the requirement; the law which allows them to be exempt from performing same sex marriage goes against the "wall of separation" metaphor.
        • Dec 17 2011: The law Stuart which allows them to not be "required" by government is in guaranteed by the amendment. It falls under the section of protection for the free exercise of religion, which it would not be if they are required to perform an act counter to their beliefs.
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          Dec 17 2011: Michael, once again that's specific to America, which I didn't ask about.

          Surely this topic illustrates how undemocratic the constitution is though?
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        Dec 17 2011: Michael,

        1) I am familier with the laws in question in the state where I live, and have stated my thoughts and feelings regarding such law.

        2). Re: "Kathy's posts deleted"
        I believe TED has a terms of use agreement, and when one is not in complience, his/her comments may be removed. That is something you can address with the TED administration.
        I am also aware, that Kathy K often removes all of her own comments.

        3) I have not, in any way, tried to show you why your arguments are "wrong". I have simply stated information I have, regarding the law in the state where I reside, and my personal beliefs regarding this topic

        4) Yes, I can argue that any church or other organization should comply with laws which are passed by the majority of people in a community/state/country. I have presented my argument respectfully, Michael, and I will not be intimidated by you, because that is exactly what you are trying to do.
        • Dec 17 2011: No. Colleen I am trying to speak to the law and to the question raised.
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        Dec 17 2011: Michael,
        Repeatedly telling those who disagree with you that s/he is confused and does not understand the topic or the law, is not a productive way to share your perceptions, beliefs and ideas. Put your own beliefs regarding the topic "out there" without trying to undermine other people's ideas. I know you can do it... thanks:>)
        • Dec 21 2011: No, it is counterproductive when presented with facts, people do not repsond with facts. I am putting my ideas out there Colleen and have stated them repeatedly in all of my posts. The question should religions be required by government is simply no. I have stated reasons why, separation of church and state and the US Constitution. Geez. Why don't you please stay with the topic in questin rather than plying the "shift the question" game in order to to blur the real issue. The real issue is that government has no rigth or necessity to require clergy to perform a ceremony they wish not to perform. And please Colleen, forget the discrimination thing. Clergy decide all the time not to perform weddings. Oh yeah Collen, that was another one of my ideas.
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        Dec 21 2011: I respect your beliefs as your beliefs Michael. No Michael, I will never "forget the discrimination thing".
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      Dec 15 2011: Me too. I am not a gay basher but since when does the government have the right to infringe on and mandate what religions should do..We have too much government (federal) interference here in the US now.
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        Dec 15 2011: Hi Helen,

        The government has every right to infringe on and mandate what religions should do. For various reasons;

        1. This isn't the rules of "government", it's the rules of a democracy (one in which the views of religious people are taken into account when they vote)
        2. Everyone who lives in a certain country has to abide by the rules of that countries government. Since we all have to live under the law of man, and not the law of religion....the law of man should take precedence.
        3. And finally, government's already do mandate what religions can and cannot do. If they didn't, then they wouldn't be able to hold anyone accountable for things such as 9/11, which was the actions of religious fundamentalists (horrible actions I know, but still based on religion).
        • Dec 15 2011: Stuart,

          "...has to abide by the rules of that coutries government...:

          In Uganda homosexuality is punishable by death. Knowing of a homosexual and not reporting them, even your own child, is punishable by life inprisonment. That is not a law I feel we should endorse and obey simply because it was formulated by a secular authority.

          I know, this is kind of a reducto ad absurbum, and if Uganda was the only place where this was true I might think it some horrible abberation. Sadly it is one of many lands who makes such laws.

          Living under the umbrealla of the mutually agreed upon fictions of modern rights we forget the brutal realities these sexual issues can generate. The refusal to endorse marraige by a religion is small potatoes compared to this secular attrocity.

          Best Regards.
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          Dec 16 2011: Stuart,

          I am not answering to the main topic here but to your 3rd point.

          Regarding terror acts or any type of actions that the actors do in the name of a doctrine, religious or belief: you cannot assume that is a will of religions!
          As a democrat, you should be aware that they are not entitled to speak in the name of any communities. It is not because they say and believe so that they are!
          I have been living in a Muslim country for two years and never heard of anyone agreeing on any terror acts. Terrorist are not elected or representative of any religious community. Come on, 911 as nothing to do with a religious act!

          Come on Stuart!

          In the same logic using word such as “War against Terror” leads to the same false idea? It is not an army or any organization representing a community. It is just a small group of extremist that are criminals. Nothing more!
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          Dec 16 2011: Stuart,

          There is a vast an important difference between what the state (governent) recognizes as marriage and what a given religion and its doctrine recognizes as marriage. The state has no business in internal religuous doctrine unless that doctrine , or teachings incites hate speech or other criminal activity.

          You raise a question really of where that boundary is.

          If the State says polygamy is a crime and a sect values and sanctions polygamous marriage that comes into conflict with law and does not allow the excercise of polygamy.

          Are you really asking the inverse? If the state upholds a freedom ( e.g to marry a person of the same sex) is a religious organization in violation of the law if it refuses to sanction a same sex marraige.?

          I still say no. Because the law applies to all of us and for every freedom granted by law there are remedies inlaw to defend and uphold those freedoms. If same sex maraige is recognized by law, in all matters where law governs, there may be no actions which fail to recognize that as marriage ( insurance, health benefits, next of kin or sposual rights at hospitals when the beloved cannot speak for themselves)

          Religion is a matter of choice.. a free choice protected by law. In choosing a religion we also choose the doctrine of that religion which may include a narrowing of rights and priveleges granted in law. We choose that narrowing. We elect to undertake a life that is narrower than the freedoms allowed by law voluntarily, as a personal act of faith and commitment..

          When there is a conflict between the doctrine of the reiligion we have chosen and the freedoms the state alows, it is binding on us to work that out within ourselves. It is not the states business to mandate that all religious doctrine comply to and recognize the freedoms granted by the state.

          I do think though it is important in religious community to stand up for what you believe and to ask those in your community to work this through in community.
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        Dec 16 2011: Hi Ian, sorry I cant respond to your argument directly. the reply button doesn't seem to be working.

        Whilst I see your argument, and I think it's essential for maintaining a healthy perspective, it is still pretty weak. Unless I interpreted it incorrectly; you are basically arguing that people shouldn't fight for equality because there are other countries where people are discriminated against worse than here?

        Ultimately, society should stop progressing until.....what? Every other country catches up?

        And if I could participate in the creation and enforcement of laws in these other countries then, believe me, I would.
        • Dec 17 2011: Stuart,

          I do not contend we should wait for the world to catch up, nothing like that.perhaps I am picking nits but your comment that...

          "2. Everyone who lives in a certain country has to abide by the rules of that countries government. Since we all have to live under the law of man, and not the law of religion....the law of man should take precedence."

          ...was dangerous in ways. Yes, I agree that the final authority should be secular, if that secular system can be trusted to make moral law. Secular endorsement alone cannot and should not dictate what morality itself is.

          More important I think, than either the religious or secular positions on this issue is the ethical one. Unethical laws should be contested, no matter thier source, as with Ghandi and the salt march, Rosa Parks and the segregation of public transit, etc... Ethics is, in my mind, the highest court of behaviour.
          Now, as I said, I am kind of picking at details, but debate is in the details. And I did point out earlier that it was a kind of reducto ad absrubum.

          As I have stated elsewhere, the ethics of forcing a religious practicioner to perform a ceremony is ambiguous at best. If secular alternatives for union exist in a country, who are we to force another to act against thier own conscience? Refusal to act should be allowed to anyone in this sort of dispute. You have the right not to vote, not to be religious, etc.. as this does not trammel the rights of others, you do not have the right to force another to vote, or to be religious.

          Religious practicioners, and orginizations, should have this right of refusal. I have detailed my argument on this in other posts here.

          Note, that this right to refuse does not apply where the rights of others are influenced, as in the mandatory adoption issue.

          Best Regards
        • Dec 17 2011: Stuart,

          As to participating in the laws of brutal nations, don't write off your ability to do so. Amnesty international is a rewarding place to spend some effort.

          Best Regards
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        Dec 16 2011: Hi Louis,

        If these people are doing something under the name of religion, then the idea is perfectly acceptable that they believe their creator has instructed them to do so. And just to clarify, I am in no way stating that Islam is encouraging people to commit hideous acts of mass murder, what I am saying is that there are alternative branches and interpretations of holy texts (in fact, I daresay with the nature of religion, people could argue that God has spoken to the person directly, which of course, we could neither prove nor disprove).

        I could use the Westboro Baptist Church as an argument; it's not every day you see people so heartless as to picket the funerals of gay people and dead soldiers etc. but they act under the doctrine of a specific religion and they're just as much entitled to their opinion as other people.

        And on your last statement; everyone has the right to their personal religion, including those people who interpret it in an extreme way. And given that the bible actually states that adulterers and blasphemers etc. should be stoned...I don't understand why more religious bodies aren't extremists! Oh wait, it's because they have to live under the law of the land.
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        Dec 17 2011: Hi Ian,

        I wasn't contending that religious views shouldn't have a say in the law making process. But what you are arguing goes against democracy, or states that religion should exist outwith a democracy, and it's that which I don't agree with.

        Surely if any law gets made in a legitimate democratic process then it should have a say over any religion (given that those religious members have just as much of a say in the democratic process)?
        • Dec 19 2011: Hi Stuart,

          The point of the US bill of rights is that there are fundamental rights which the government cannot take away. It is precisely to protect individual rights from the tyranny of the majority.

          Another way of looking at this is to state that there is no legitimate democratic process that infringes on an individual's right to practice his religon as he sees fit. Our courts can, and often do, rule a law invalid because in infringes on rights enumerated in our constitution.


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