Thursday, May 13, 2010

Can You Deny Others Rights if You Believe in God?

This story is disturbing:

Saskatchewan Rights Case

Again, the reporting might be inaccurate, but if it is not, the basic premise is odd.  According to the story a public official is arguing he has the right to deny a marriage to a couple if he believes marrying them contravenes his religious beliefs. I blogged on this before (years ago) and I see no reason to alter my views. I’ll recap my points:

1. Religious freedom is the right to practice your own religion; not to impose it on others. For instance, a church can pick and choose who is allowed to be married in that church. They cannot impose their will on other churches or the state. Doing so contravenes others religious freedom. It is an odd definition of freedom that defines it as the right to deprive others of freedom. 

2. The issue here is this: should public officials -- whose salaries are paid for by the taxpayers have the right to deny service to  those taxpayers services because of their personal convictions, however deeply held? I argued “no.” There may be means cases that test this theory and write in if you know one, but in general, I find the idea worrying that a public official can deny a service on the basis of their personal beliefs. 

Consider a counter example: imagine this official was Jewish and decided that their religious freedom allowed them to deny marriage to non-Jews. We would not be having this ... well ... it is a court case, not a conversation so ... we would not be having this court case. The issue before us, then, is whether a particular group of people can deny others rights -- affirmed by the constitution and in court decisions and supported by the majority of Canadians, btw -- because they believe strongly in X, Y, or Z. 

I argue no and I argue that if we open this up and permit this type of action, we are opening up a can of worms. Public servants are supposed to be ... public servants.

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