‘Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon.’ Fodor, J. ‘Why Pigs don’t have wings,’ London Review of Books, 18th Oct 2007

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Law and Religion - Jonathan Chaplin offers his insights

Jonathan Chaplin offers his insights into the recent legal case against the Bulls and legal opinion established by the Lord Justice Laws Law can be influenced by religion - We need a lot more clarity on the subtle relationship between law and religion

Chaplin recognises two problems with Laws' opinion "One is that the state can only justify a law on the grounds that it can be seen rationally and objectively to advance the general good (I paraphrase)." Chaplin believes rightly that this is subjective and therefore not a proper foundation, and that "Laws' other claim is that religious belief is, for all except the holder, "incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence", and that the truth of it "lies only in the heart of the believer"."

Quite clearly many religious believers hold their faith publicly and not only in their hearts, and therefore seek to work it out in the public square exercised with a deep seated conscience. But Laws opinion will lead to the privatisation of faith, where Christians will be barred from certain occupations because of their conscience. The Bulls B&B is closed and the news reports suggest will be sold. So Christians now face discrimination in the work place because of their faith with no legal right to conscientiously uphold their faith. The justification for legal rights within a secular system is one based on democratic legitimacy, but as we know the last government held onto power with less than 40% of the vote and exercised an antipathy or indifference towards the Christian conscience. There is confusion today over the difference between traditionally understood inherent rights and Epicurean pleasure seeking that is justified on the basis of a claimed genetic disposition. Today we have Hume'an Rights not necessarily Human Rights.

It is also evident that there is less legal scrutiny of Islamic conscience in these matters. Lady Warsi claims that there is anti-Muslim discrimination in Britain, and perhaps there is to some extent, but discrimination against Christians is more open in law. Has any Muslim hotelier been brought to book for these same matters for instance? What is needed is a way of balancing the freedom of the individual with the rights of traditional faith communities to practice their faith without the fear of discrimination and persecution at the hands of an increasingly secular state legal apparatus.

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