In an article in the Australian, “Julia Gillard reaches out to Christian Leaders“, I saw yet again the oft-repeated religious cry – this time from someone I wouldn’t piss on if he were on fire, Cardinal George Pell:
Cardinal Pell said the leaders told Ms Gillard: “We are very keen to ensure that the right to practise religion in public life continues to be protected in law. It is not ideal that religious freedom is protected by so called ‘exemptions and exceptions’ in anti-discrimination law, almost like reluctant concessions, crumbs from the secularists’ table. What is needed is legislation that embodies and recognises these basic religious freedoms as a human right.”
I want to claim that this creates a fundamental paradox, and I’ll suggest it necessitates the “freedom rule”, that is:
Your right to religious freedom should not come at the expense of another’s personal freedom.
This should be – this must be a guiding principle in determining rights and freedoms in the modern age. I personally have no time for religion myself, but I would not, under any circumstance, suggest that someone else has no right to believe in what they choose to believe in.
But the reverse must be equally required. No religious person, on the basis of their belief, should be able to dictate to society what should or should not happen within that society. This means that religious groups should not have the permission to discriminate enshrined in law – see “The immoral discrimination litmus test” – when they receive public money, or receive exemption from contributing to public coffers.
In short – if you want to discriminate, then you become a fully fledged member of society, pay full taxes like any other organisation, and apply for special consideration to discriminate.
If you want to talk about human rights (yes, I’m looking at you, George Pell), then you need to start thinking about the freedom rule, not the right to be a bigoted jerk.