Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Papal visit inspires conference on equality and religious freedom

A conference on the tension between equality and religious freedom organised by the Iona Institute in Dublin has been inspired by Pope Benedict's call for Catholics in the UK to take a stand against "aggressive secularism". The Irish Times reports:
FREEDOM OF conscience and religion is meaningless if we do not allow freedom for beliefs and practices we do not share, a conference in Dublin was told yesterday.

“That is the foundation of democracy,” the conference organised by the Iona Institute in Dublin was told.

Prof Roger Trigg [photo] of Kellogg College, Oxford also described as “nonsense” the idea “that religious freedom is at odds with human rights”.

Religious freedom was “one of the most basic of human rights. It cannot be simply trumped by other rights,” he told the conference on freedom of conscience and religion.

When rights clash “the solution is not for one to override the other but for ‘reasonable accommodation’ of both”, he said.

He said that in Ireland “the recent debate about civil partnerships has exposed an unwillingness on the part of Government to allow any legal exceptions to cater for freedom of conscience or manifestation of religious belief”.

Similar attitudes were gaining ground in Britain, he said. “Because every exception cannot be allowed, it is assumed that none can be. Yet allowing conscientious objection in time of war provides a ready example of existing tolerance, in the face of deep principle. . .” he said.

In Europe “the pursuit of equality, non-discrimination and ‘human rights’ is seen as overriding any claim to freedom of conscience, or of religion”. An example of this in Britain was that Catholic adoption agencies had “recently been forced to give up rather than give children to homosexual couples”, he said.

Barrister Neil Addison, director of the Thomas More Legal Centre in England, told the conference that “religion is often subconsciously seen in Britain as not merely a harmless eccentricity but as a potentially dangerous eccentricity”.

The Irish Independent report is here. Neil Addison's speech is here.