November 16, 2010
Does freedom to sin violate religious freedom?
I get very tired of discussing the, um, "social issues." Fortunately for me, M. Simon always seems to have plenty of stamina at about the same time I run out of steam.
Anyway, right now there is a very determined effort in some quarters to make the social issues Tea Party issues. This is problematic, because the Tea Party movement is a coalition, so individual Tea Partyers have a wide variety of positions on social issues. Notwithstanding those differences, the Tea Party movement as a whole agrees on the following principles:
Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets.
The Constitution is silent on most of what what could be considered the social issues, just as it is silent on things like murder, rape, incest, marriage, drugs, speeding, and the dumping of sewage. These and other things are properly left to the states. A notable exception is slavery, which is expressly forbidden by the Thirteenth Amendment. Many people forget that it took more than just the Civil War to end slavery; the Constitution also had to be amended. And in the old days, it was considered a no-brainer that the federal government lacked the power to prohibit alcohol; hence the 18th Amendment. (Which I am fond of calling the "Telltale Amendment.")
The pressing social issues of today of course touch on the First Amendment, and not just because there is a right to debate them and take any position on them. They are also debated on religious grounds, with many opponents of abortion saying that allowing it violates their freedom of conscience, and many opponents of gay rights say that allowing gay rights negates religious freedom too. I think most readers know that I defend the right to oppose abortion and/or gay rights, on both free speech and freedom of religion grounds.
But as I get tired of the debates over abortion and gay rights, I thought I would look at another social issue which is also a religious issue.
It is forbidden to Catholics, and that makes a lot of sense if you consider that Jesus himself condemned divorce repeatedly and very specifically, saying that remarriage after divorce was a form of adultery. Which means that divorce would certainly fall within the rubric of social issues which are religious in nature.
So it would seem to me that divorce is every bit as much of a matter of religious conscience as homosexuality or abortion. (And if we consider that Jesus did not specifically condemn homosexuality or abortion, divorce arguably deserves a higher ranking on the religious conscience scale.)
I can't remember the last time I heard anyone claim that being forced to hire or rent housing to divorced people or provide their spouses with benefits violated his religious conscience, that he had a religious right not to have his children taught by a divorcee, etc.
In fact, I don't think I have ever have heard that argument at all.
Perhaps that means times have changed, or perhaps that there has been a sort of consensus that the words of Jesus should not be taken so literally that they must become the basis of law.
But let's assume you oppose divorce on religious grounds, you run a business, and you have a child who attends public school. Under what theory can it be argued that having to hire or serve divorced people (who are, by your and Jesus's estimation, living in sin) violates your religious conscience? Or that forcing your child to attend classes taught by a divorced teacher who even goes so far as to claim that divorced people have the same rights as non-divorced people and should not be discriminated against violates your religious conscience?
Don't you still have the right to believe divorce is sinful and was condemned by Jesus? Don't you still have the right to teach your kids that? How does the fact that you are forced to serve, hire, and tolerate people who do what you oppose violate your religious conscience?
Whose sins are they, anyway? As usual I am not getting it.
If I eat pork, it's not as if I am making anyone else eat it, even if I eat it in the public square and proclaim that everyone should eat it. And if I teach children that pork is just another meat like beef, whose freedom and whose consciences am I violating?
UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and for adding some parable-like wisdom. Is it possible to have a coalition between the fists and the noses? Can we agree that it is not a good idea to hit people on the nose, and also not a good idea to put your nose in front of people? That's basic civility, right?
OTOH, If I promise not to put my nose if your face, and also promise not to hit your nose even if you put it in my face, am I giving up too much? And what about those at the opposite extreme, who believe in putting their nose in front of others and also hitting them on the nose?
(As I explained here, I have never liked the idea of getting in people's faces, or having them get in mine, but isn't it cowardice to avoid potential confrontations? Isn't this why so many people stay home?)
A warm welcome to all. Comments are always appreciated, agree or disagree.
posted by Eric on 11.16.10 at 11:12 AM
Search the Site
Classics To Go
See more archives here
Old (Blogspot) archives
A knee sock jihad might be premature at this time
People Are Not Rational
No Biorobots For Japan
The Thorium Solution
Radiation Detector From A Digital Camera
This war of attrition is driving me bananas!
Attacking Christianity is one thing, but must they butcher geometry?
Are there trashy distinctions in freedom of expression?
Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood