Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Spark of Wisdom: A Right Does Not Grant You The Freedom To Oppress

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 This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.

Thought, Conscience and Religion - Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights

One of the increasing memes I've seen, especially as a member of the gay community, are religious groups claiming to be brutally oppressed because,  well, because they can't make me not exist. However that is hardly the first or only way in which the Right to Religion is grossly abused and twisted. From destroying the scourge of evolution, ramming gays back in the closet, to abstinence only education, to having the screaming meemies if anyone DARES say "happy holidays," to demanding that crosses and 10 commandments be plastered on every flat surface - there is a common theme.

That their Right to Religion is somehow being violated when they are prevented from imposing the tenets of their faith on other people. That they are being somehow oppressed because they cannot force others to conform.

And this is grossly wrong. First of all, even invoking the language of oppression in these circumstances is not only wrong but it's positively indecent. Seriously, when you make up not only the majority, but also the majority of the people in power, in all branches of government, in all branches of the judiciary, in the police forces, in the army, in the civil service, the health service - in just about every profession and every segment of power then there is a REALLY good chance that you're not oppressed.

It is OFFENSIVE for a dominant and powerful group to claim to be marginalised and oppressed. It shows a level of privilege and cluelessness that boggles to an extreme. It also shows a gross level of entitlement as invariably such claims are actually someone whining because they can't impose their belief on other people. It's also pretty damn comic.

Let's make this abundantly clear:

YOUR RIGHT TO RELIGION DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE A "RIGHT" TO FORCE OTHERS TO CONFORM WITH YOUR FAITH.

That means you cannot/should not demand public bodies and institution endorse your faith and its symbols on public buildings, court rooms and in public decorations. Put up what decorations you want - but why should others decorate to your taste and faith?

That means you cannot/should not demand schools force your religion on students. You should not pressure schools to present religious belief as fact. You should not try to use schools as tools for enforcing conformity and dogma. If you wish to impose on your kids then do so (though I don't agree) but you don't set the standard for education.

That means you cannot/should not force IGNORANCE on those students because of the doctrines of your faith. You should not be presenting religious dogma as science. You should not be trying discard science in favour of beliefs. You should not be hurting those children, their education and their future chances by replacing learning with scripture.

That means you cannot/should not force schools to deny an entire segment of the population exists (guess what? A generation of kids not knowing a damn thing about homosexuality won't make us disappear).

That means you should not put lives at risk by denying essential medical knowledge (and what is abstinence only education if not that? Or the oppression of contraception and abortion services). It means you shouldn't be making people's life and medical choices for them. Your right to religion doesn't give you the right to control their lives, their bodies, their health or their choices.

That means you cannot/should not force people to follow YOUR winter holiday in YOUR way. People celebrate their holidays as they choose. You are not oppressed by your neighbour celebrating Hanukah or Kwanzaa. You have no right to force everyone to have a Christmas tree. You should not have a heart attack because someone presumed to say "happy holidays"

That means you cannot make religious choices for others - preventing them having medication, medical procedures, access to products, services, employment, education, housing and even other rights just because your faith disagrees. It's their choice, not yours. You have no Right to make their decisions for them. You have no right to deny their agency, their needs or their existence.

Your right to Religion doesn't mean you can violate other people's rights. Your religion doesn't justify or excuse attacking, harming, persecuting or generally screwing over other people. Shockingly, they have Rights to. And no, you don't get special privileged Rights that are worth more.

Applying your religion to yourself and I will fight alongside you to protect your right to do so and I will demand the law protect your right to your faith. But your religion stops where I begin and you have no Right to infringe on me with your faith.

I am a religious man. My religion is important to me but, amazingly, someone else's religion is not. The tenets of someone's religion applies to them and (maybe) their co-religionists. When you start applying them to others it's not about rights any more - it's about privilege, dominance and power. And you have no Right to those.