Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Rights, privilege and the legislation of morality

The key element of danger in the legislation of morality, particularly when religion is allowed to dictate (even in the smallest degree) the creation of and the enforcement of civil laws, lies in the distinction between a right and a privilege.

A right must apply to everyone, without exception, or it is no longer a right, it is a privilege. The legal state of marriage, as it stands in the US at present, is not a right, it is a privilege -- because it bestows benefit and/or advantage to some but not to others. Health care is not a right, it is a privilege because without the position of having money, it is not obtainable.

The right to freely practice and express my religion is predicated on the necessity that the exercise of that right does not result in my obtaining any privilege along with it. A case in point is the tax-exempt status of churches -- in the US, any place of worship of any religion, so long as it complies with the regulations involved, may be tax-exempt. The moment a place of worship is denied tax-exemption solely on the basis of what religion it is, this right becomes a privilege.
At no time is any importance placed on whether a given religion is in the majority, whether it be locally, regionally or nationally. The principle of distinction between right and privilege remains the same.

I'm sure some of you will notice that I've apparently ignored some things, like what is (and should be) the legal definition of a religion (or a place of worship for that matter). However, that question is critical to the whole structure, and the apocryphal "wall of separation between church and state", while not codified in our laws, remains the fundamental requirement if the right of religious freedom has any chance of surviving in the US. I hope this last point serves to explain to some why any governmentally-sanctioned display of Christian religion in this Christian-majority society is an alarm bell for non-Christians.

Like it or not, my Christian fellow citizens, the reputation of your religion's history precedes you, and visions of Crusades, Inquisitions and coercion of belief are impossible to avoid.

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