"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"

Greta Christina

Friday, 17 February 2012

This time the EHRC get it right

Trevor Phillips of the the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has been speaking at a debate in London on diverse societies and has weighed in on the right side of the argument against allowing religious privilage in respect of the equality laws in this country. This is ecouraging because as I pointed out back in July 2011 the EHRC is also capable of some very muddy and confused thinking about this issue. However I won’t rehearse these arguments again as I’ve posted a lot on this subject recently but Phillips’ main point is this:
“You can’t say because we decide we’re different then we need a different set of laws […] To me there’s nothing different in principle with a Catholic adoption agency, or indeed Methodist adoption agency, saying the rules in our community are different and therefore the law shouldn’t apply to us. Why not then say sharia can be applied to different parts of the country? It doesn’t work.”
Which seems fair enough to me. The reference to sharia has resulted in a number of puerile (and one or two racist) comments in the Telegraph about how we are a “Christian nation” so Christians can get a free shout but Muslims shouldn’t; but the fact is that no religion should. Even if it were true that people in this country generally accepted that modern society is built on Christian principles that is not a case for religious majoritarianism. We also have well established democratic systems in place which gives elected governments the mandate to enact laws on our behalf. If there really is a religious majority in this country who want our equality laws to be less equal, they must field candidates on that manifesto and vote for them at the ballot box. In the meantime, and until such time as they have convinced enough people to vote the same way they are as obliged as the rest of us to respect the laws as they stand.

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