August 13, 2008

Equal Opportunity Bill Only Threatening To Religious Extremists

Voltaire used to say: "I don't like what you are saying, but I will fight strongly to let you tell you opinion". Those of us who want to build non-violent, modern societies that respect the civil rights and civil liberties of a diverse population are beginning to feel the weight of this challenge. Free speech must be protected but at the same time, so must the respect and freedom afforded to those from a wide variety of religious/non religious backgrounds.

The only religious groups who cannot abide by laws that ensure all people are respected are extremist religious groups. Why? Such sects have assumed a position of superiority and expect special dispensation to be made for them to assert what they see as their God-given mandate to convert and control how the entire society lives. As such, it must be made clear that Dr. Gaynor Dick-Forde does not speak for all Christians. Many Christians I know think the Equal Opportunities Bill is a wonderful reflection of the kind of God they serve, one who lovingly blesses everyone with rain and sun, no matter their beliefs, culture, race, creed or lifestyle. They do not discriminate against non-Christians because they consider all to be their neighbours and so follow the Golden Rule. They believe it is blatantly un-Christian to deliberately set out to demean, discriminate or otherwise make life difficult for a non-Christian. In my opinion, more of these Christians need to speak up and demonstrate that the fundamentalists do not represent for them.


It is not persecution if government law does not bend over backwards to coddle your faith in all its public policies. The expectation of that kind of special treatment, betrays a ridiculous kind of religious arrogance.



There are fundamentalist Christian sects in our country for whom, active discrimination and denouncement of other religions, beliefs, lifestyles and cultures is integral to their campaigning for converts. The Equal Opportunities Bill puts a spoke in their wheel. Of course, when they tell someone of another faith that they are misguided; do not really have the TRUE God or exclude others because of assumed moral superiority, they do not consider it disrespectful or threatening because “their bible tells them to do so”. Yet, Christians of that ilk admittedly do not like to have their treatment of others meted out to them, proving they are in violation of their own biblical Golden Rule.

Dr. Gaynor claims Christians in the USA are being persecuted and those Trinidad and Tobago will suffer a similar fate if the Equal Opportunities Bill is passed. Last time I checked, over 80% of America is Christian and they have freedom to worship. Their churches and corporations are some of the wealthiest in the world, wielding tremendous political power and boast of millions of new members every year. Does that sound like persecution to you? Does the Dr. even know what Burmese monks are experiencing right now? Unrelenting and sanctioned imprisonment, torture, rape, execution, exile, that is persecution. It is not persecution if government law does not bend over backwards to coddle your faith in all its public policies. The expectation of that kind of special treatment, betrays a ridiculous kind of religious arrogance.


We are very fortunate to live in a society where we can worship freely, openly share our beliefs respectfully with our neighbours, investigate and change our spiritual beliefs at will, make profit through religious endeavors, raise our children in our respective faiths and choose our lifestyles based on our beliefs. However, we do not exist in colonial times where Christianity enjoys assumed superiority over other faiths.



As a writer and artist, I will defend "free speech" to the end but I will also hasten to add that free exercise of free speech is patently absurd. As adults we don’t get to say everything we want, anytime old time we want. Within a work or school environment, chaos would ensue if people were given the green light to debase others based on their beliefs. There is reasonable expectation that employees, students, colleagues make the effort to create a harmonious working environment. Religious condemnation – in whatever form for whatever reason, results in a hostile environment that lowers morale and production.


We are very fortunate to live in a society where we can worship freely, openly share our beliefs respectfully with our neighbours, investigate and change our spiritual beliefs at will, make profit through religious endeavors, raise our children in our respective faiths and choose our lifestyles based on our beliefs. However, we do not exist in colonial times where Christianity enjoys assumed superiority over other faiths. Everyone must learn to be tolerant and respectful. Even the most prolific Christian proselytizer, Paul said, “Above all else, live peaceably with all men,” not just the ones in your faith.

3 comments:

oliver hunter said...

Religious people tend to have this idea that they are in possession of this "higher truth"that must be conveyed at the expense of all else.
This of course is anti-intellectual behaviour, which getting an education and the ability to reason should correct.
Re-free speech.I believe I should be able to tell my religious co-worker his views are illogical, if he takes offense it is unfair to blame it on me.

Guanaguanare said...

Excellent post! I am with you 500% on this.
Blessings

Jessica said...

olive,

I am all for respectful religious debate once it's the right time and place. If a co-worker insists on preaching within the work environment, they have opened the door to have their beliefs criticized. So you are quite right to say you should be able to tell a religious co-worker their beliefs are illogical, if and when they open the door to that discussion.


What the Equal Opportunities Bill will do is the same thing Sexual Harrassment Laws have done.

Employers and Public Service Offices, Schools etc will start to insist on a no-religion policy at work PERIOD to avoid any such incidents. In that way, the religious co-worker who insists on telling others they are not God's children or are blind and doomed etc. cannot then go whining that someone rejected or even insulted their beliefs and try to sue under the Bill. They violated the "no-religion" policy and must live with the consequences.


This above all else is what fundamentalist Christians who actively engage in soliciting new members anywhere and everywhere fear. This is part of the "persecution" Dr. Dick to which Dr. Dick was referring.