In an historic, landmark decision the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that an individual’s religious beliefs do not trump the rights of an LGBT person and may not be used to discriminate against them. [...]
Two of the cases involved professionals who were dismissed by their employers because they refused to offer services to same sex couples. They protested their dismissals in court, claiming they were victims of religious discrimination and eventually lost. We’re seeing similar things happening in the United States, where business owners are being sued for violating their state’s human rights acts or non-discrimination laws because of the same refusal of service.
Commenting this landmark ruling, Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP, Vice-President of the European Parliament’s LGBT Intergroup, said: “With this ruling, the court has established that freedom of religion is an individual right. It is emphatically not a collective right to discriminate against LGBT people, women, or people of another faith or life stance.”
“Religious freedom is no ground for exemption from the law. The court showed conclusively that the principle of equality and equal treatment cannot be circumvented with a simple reference to religion.”
Not only should this apply to issues of discrimination, but to matters of public health as well. I don’t care if your religion says that modern medicine gives God a mega frowny grumpy face. Refusal to vaccinate your child should not be allowed if any non-medical reason is given. Other parents’ children will suffer the ill effects of your personal beliefs as a result. Additionally, if your own child’s health is in clear and present danger and modern medicine is the only thing standing in between them and the abyss, then the law should not protect you if you don’t do something about it.
(See also my post about the ultra-Orthodox take on circumcision. A couple of signatures on a piece of paper, and your 7-day old infant can be whisked off to 1st century Judea! Hope you like herpes.)
Far too often in this country we hear stories in the news about lawmakers pushing for religious exemptions (aka “conscience clauses“) that will allow doctors and pharmacists to refuse treatment on the basis of their personal religious doctrines, with no regard for the patient in question. In addition, laws are being written that usurp the authority of the scientific and the medical communities with nothing more than opinions based on the religious beliefs of their sponsors. (Take the “fetal pain” bill, for example … or pretty much anything about climate change submitted in recent years by the GOP.)
This makes the issue all the more complicated. What do you do when the law itself enshrines special treatment by invocation of religion? You’re no longer exempt from the law … you’re protected by it … and that makes me wonder how this issue is going to get resolved here. The only lip service given to the First Amendment and “religious liberty” appears to be only to protect those who want to use it for discrimination against people whose morals they don’t agree with – mainly homosexuals (same sex marriage) and women (contraception). That’s hardly sustainable, nor do I think it’s constitutional; however, I think that in time we will get to the point where a sufficient percentage of the American population will feel strongly enough about equal rights that support for any religion that opposes it will be marginalized. We may get there a decade or so after Europe does, but we have a little more resistance over on this side of the Pond. I’m still confident it will happen.