Freedom of belief – What does it actually mean?

7 April 2015
Glyn Carpenter

Freedom of belief – What does it actually mean?

by | Apr 7, 2015

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R). (Darron Cummings/Associated Press)

Last week I emailed an article to a group set up by NZ Christian Network to engage on the topic of secularism.

The article concerned a bill which was about to be signed into law by the Governor of Indiana in America protecting certain religious freedoms. The bill is apparently in line with the legal standard protecting religious liberty in all U.S. federal courts as well as 31 state courts.

So what’s the problem you might ask?

Well, the bill is being opposed by groups which say that if the bill becomes law it would effectively allow bigotry and discrimination. Specifically, they say it would allow people to discriminate against gays exercising their right to marry and receive services they are legally entitled to under law. Those in favour of the bill say it is necessary in order to protect their religious liberty and safeguard against being forced to support something they don’t believe in.

Over the weekend the story – described as a ‘national firestorm’ – was picked up in an op ed piece in the Washington Post (see Religious-liberty protections promote tolerance – The Washington Post).

Now you might say, that’s just the way things roll in America. Culture Wars quickly come to the surface on all sorts of issues – sexuality featuring high on the list. And they often seem to pitch Christian conservatives against secular liberals in a battle-type scenario where it seems there are no clear winners.

Others would say, well there is a point to be made – religious freedom is a right, and we need to speak out to defend it, otherwise we will lose it, and then people will be forced to act in ways contrary to their religious convictions.

Then there are others who would say, the point that needs to be made is already well known – nothing further is gained from engaging in prolonged public debate, the state knows or should know the importance of protecting religious freedom, if the state removes such protection, let matters take their course.

We would really like to hear your thoughts on this. Without the chance to hear other people’s ideas, if the issue ever crops up in New Zealand, there’s a good chance that any public response will be divided and therefore more easily discounted.

What do you think?

 

 

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