Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Times: Religious beliefs have no standing at law

In April this year, an appeal was heard in the British courts regarding the case of Gary McFarlane, who claimed he had been unfairly dismissed from his job as a relationship counsellor because he had refused to provide therapy to gay couples. Lord Justice Laws dismissed the appeal ruling that while everyone had the right to hold religious beliefs, those beliefs themselves had no standing under the law. In dismissing the appeal he also had this to say:

"In the eye of everyone save the believer, religious faith is necessarily subjective, being incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence.

"The promulgation of law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified. It is irrational, as preferring the subjective over the objective. But it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary.

"We do not live in a society where all the people share uniform religious beliefs. The precepts of any one religion – any belief system – cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other. If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens and our Constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic.

"The law of a theocracy is dictated without option to the people, not made by their judges and governments.

"The individual conscience is free to accept such dictated law but the state, if its people are to be free, has the burdensome duty of thinking for itself."

It is hoped that our parliamentarians and Maltese citizens at large will heed the wise words of the Lord Justice particularly in the ongoing debate on divorce legislation and the issue of other civil rights.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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