Same-Sex Marriage. Ethical, Moral and Religious Opt-Outs

The nonsense of religious conscience clauses

Conscientious objection has a long, honourable and courageous history.  A conscientious objector is a person who refuses to wage war against another human being because of some  ethical, moral or religious stance, and such objectors have suffered all manner of pain over the years for their principled stance.

Conscientious objectors are people who refuse to inflict pain or injury on their fellow man or woman, but this principle is not reversible.

It does not follow that anyone is free to inflict pain on their fellow man or woman because of their moral, ethical or religious beliefs.  That sort of thing went out with the Inquisition in the Western world, though sadly we see similar attitudes surviving today in Islamic State, the Taliban and Boko Haram.  And the ludicrous Iona Institute who pervert the concept of conscientious objection to include bigots, shame on them.

Of course, we would never speak today of oppression, and that’s why Archbishop Diarmuid Martin instead chose to talk about a conscience clause to protect Christians’ right to hold religious beliefs concerning same-sex marriage.  Such a law would allow business people to refuse to print wedding invitations for same-sex couples, refuse to make a  wedding cake for them and refuse to supply them with flowers or limousines.

This conscience clause would be based on the ultimate escape strategy that same-sex marriage is repugnant to their  religious beliefs.

What an interesting idea.

All you need to do is adhere to a set of unproven, irrational, supernatural beliefs and you automatically have carte blanche to behave in any way you wish towards your fellow citizens, no matter how obnoxious your views might be.

Why would we exempt people from the law of the land simply because they have chosen to adopt a set of unsubstantiated beliefs?  As Professor John Crown pointed out this morning on a radio discussion, there was a time when some American Baptist churches expressed an objection to black people marrying white people on religious  grounds.   If we accept that religious beliefs permit some people to discriminate against their fellow citizens, then how do we decide which religious beliefs are valid and which are not?

If we permit some bigots, like the ridiculous Iona Institute, to discriminate against same-sex couples, then surely we have to let all other bigots do the same, since their objections are all based on the same religious beliefs?

If a baker can refuse to supply a cake to a same-sex couple then he should be equally entitled to refuse an inter-racial couple, or a disabled couple, or whatever kind of couple his batty religion happens to hate.

If a Muslim  printer can refuse a Jew because he thinks Jews are destroying the world, should we respect his religious convictions?

If a Hindu doctor refuses to treat  a lower-caste Indian, should that be permitted?

What is this religious imperative that allows people to be bigoted?

Now, personally, I have to say that I don”t understand why anyone would buy a cake, a wedding invitation or a limo-ride from some drooling homophobe, but that’s not the point.  The point is what we as a society are willing to accept.

We wouldn’t accept bigotry against multi-racial couples, so why would we accept it when it’s directed against people of the same sex, also known as our sons, our daughters, our brothers, our sisters and our friends?

Imagine the outcry if a baker refused to make a cake for people because they were African.

Did that outcry happen when a same-sex couple were refused?

7 thoughts on “Same-Sex Marriage. Ethical, Moral and Religious Opt-Outs

  1. It all started when I went to buy a present for my kid’s birthday.

    I picked out a smashing toy spaceship that made VROOM noises and had blinking lights. There were lots of happy little spacepeople to lose under the sofa and a spring-loaded missile launcher to give the dog something to choke on.

    The cashier was about to ring it up when she turned the box over and recoiled in horror. She said she was a Scientologist and it clearly was a blasphemous satire on Xenu’s fleet. She went into the corner, plugged in a strange device and began talking about her past life as a clam while holding two cans in her hands. The needle on the machine seemed to twitch into the red zone a lot.

    Eventually I caught the eye of the manager. She was sympathetic but explained that the Iona Act 2015 made this sort of thing inevitable. As I was handing over the money I tried to laugh it off, saying that it wasn’t the first time that politicians had made a pig’s ear of a new law. “Some laws are rash, but that one is even rasher!” At that, she sat up so quickly that her headscarf nearly came off. Next thing I knew, she was calling the Guards and the whole thing was turning into a Major Incident.

    I suppose I brought the next bit on myself. Garda Murphy was polite and efficient. He wasn’t looking to escalate the situation. Nothing more would have come of it if I hadn’t said “This is what happens when people get cross”. I only saw the sodality badge he was wearing after I’d opened my big gob…

    Anyway, down to the barracks we went. They left me in a cell for a while, the better to examine my conscience, I suppose. About an hour later I found myself at the front desk and they asked me if I had anything to say. I muttered something about being a tiny bit more circumspect the next time.

    Sergeant Goldberg was not amused.

  2. The sooner this referendum is passed the sooner we don’t have to listen to this sort of bigoted nonsense.

    Get out and Vote

  3. You know, my initial emotional reaction to these bigots is to say “fuck them”. But then I think to myself, you know what, fuck them, why not let them have their stupid little “conscience” clause.

    The reason I say this is because I think part of the problem comes from giving these fools a voice; as soon as an “issue” is made of this kind of thing then you have to have “balance” and you have to have both sides “fairly represented” which means that for example if someone goes on the telly and complains that so-and-so refused to bake a cake for them because they were gay or black or too tall or whatever, then you immediately grant the TalibanIona Institute and their ilk some air time to spread their prejudices.

    Anyway, would you really want a cake or invitations for the greatest most happiest day of your life printed by someone who was cursing you under their breath? Given that this is a minority fringe lunatic group of people (I hope) then it’s not like anyone in this country should experience anything other than the most minor of inconveniences** (“Oh you won’t take my money because I am a dirty gay foreign jew loving protestant? It’s OK, I forgive you. Let me just pop on over here and give this person my money instead”) then I think the best way to deal with them is just to feel a little sad for them and move on, just don’t give them your custom ever again and let their businesses die a slow, well-deserved death.

    And then, they will be gone. Otherwise I fear we *will* have to listen to their bigoted nonsense for a long time yet…

    **I realise this is of course a gross simplification

  4. I think the only practical problem that may arise is when dealing with a monopoly, or a government official, and such situations need to be regulated.

    But how would you deal with a pub that won’t serve inter-racial couples, for instance?

  5. @Bock – I had not considered government officials, nor monopolies. I suppose there does need to be something there.

    As for the pub example – Personally, if that happened in my earshot I would walk out and not return. I would be sure to let whoever was behind the bar know why.

    Maybe I am being naive. Probably am. But I’d like to think that this might tend to occur in a majority of pubs because I think we’ve been reasonably lucky in that whilst we have a lot of diversity we also have a lot of integration so it’s not unusual to have social groups that contain all kinds of open-minded sinners that might take offense to any kind of bigotry. Therefore whilst initially there might be some inconvenience and frustration, over a relatively short period of time, natural selection will occur and places like that will go the way of the dodo.

    But then again I could well be wrong….I just have a feeling that the only way to finally end these kinds of evil attitudes in this country is not to fight them directly but to to smother them with love, (and vote with our wallets)

  6. We can’t go redefining cakes and invitations and shit surely?
    Cakes as we knew um will cease to exist! Kapput, finished, no more.
    I say, cake should stay as it is.

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