Thursday, January 26, 2012

When religious freedom conflicts with civil law

 I bet you think I"m going to talk about same sex marriage here. I'm not, much. I'm going to give you some examples where devout religious belief conflicts with the standards of public life, and have you consider how these conflicts are treated. The analogy to same sex marriage is obvious.

 In New York, ultra-orthodox Jews believe in strict separation of the sexes. Women are expected to dress very conservatively . A firestorm erupted last fall when it turned out that a bus company with a franchise on a public route was enforcing a segregated bus, and sending women to sit in the back. Since the bus company was functioning as a contractor to the city, it is not allowed to discriminate.

 So, does the desire of the ultra-orthodox to be separated from women require that women not of their faith must sit in the back of the bus, wear long skirts, or step aside in front of men, in a public space?

A letter to the ultra-orthodox community in Crown Heights New York asks landlords to rent only to fellow Jews and not to "yuppies" or "goyim" who do not cover themselves properly. Yet housing law clearly dictates one may not discriminate in renting on the basis of race or religion.

 So, does the desire not to be exposed to people of another faith and belief justify ignoring non-discrimination laws?

 In Roman Catholic doctrine, marriage is viewed as indissoluble, and remarriage after civil divorce is not allowed. As it says on the website of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, unless there is an annulment, "no person is free to enter into another marriage without the appearance or occasion of serious sin." Indeed, should a divorced person remarry without an annulment, they are in an "adulterous union" and grave moral sin, and should not expect to participate in the sacraments of the church. (my emphases)
One final situation is that of those who have repented of their illicit union, but remain together for a serious reason, such as for the sake of their children. Catholic pastoral practice allows that IF their pastor judges that scandal can be avoided (meaning most people are unaware of their remarriage and consider them a married couple), then they may live together as "brother and sister" (without any sexual relations), and be admitted to the sacraments. If scandal can not be avoided, then they must either separate or refrain from the sacraments.
So, do you think that the Roman Catholic hospitals and charities check the marital status of their employees? 

 Do they provide insurance for the spouses of employees who are civilly divorced and remarried?

Those marriages are considered invalid by Catholic doctrine--just like marriages between same sex couples.

 And why aren't they advocating to prevent civil divorce? Could it be (gasp) because so many straight Catholics are divorced, and have managed to obtain an annulment?

What do we owe religious tolerance and freedom in the public square?

1 comment:

Erp said...

The Catholic church does advocate against civil divorce in countries where it thinks it has a chance (e.g., Malta last year, Ireland from 1937-1995, ...)