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Switch to Forum Live View Is Protection from Defamation of Religion a Human Right?
5 years ago  ::  Apr 24, 2009 - 7:26AM #1
CreakyHedgewitch
Posts: 1,244

 


There has been an ongoing debate right now at the Conference on Racisim about including defamation of religion as one of the human rights that should be protected.


As a frequent theme over the last years with regards to paganism has been defamation of this broad religious spectrum, any thoughts on the validity of this? Or does it negate freedom of speech?


C.H.
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5 years ago  ::  May 19, 2009 - 9:17PM #2
Ursyl
Posts: 462

That would be a mighty fine line to walk between freedom of speech, the right to have an opinion, and calling any criticism of a religion (which is what I read the concept as becoming) "defamation."


Nobody should be immune from being critiqued, not Islam, not Christianity, not Hinduism, not Judaism, not us. Nobody.

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5 years ago  ::  May 20, 2009 - 2:05PM #3
itty
Posts: 2,949

May 19, 2009 -- 9:17PM, Ursyl wrote:


That would be a mighty fine line to walk between freedom of speech, the right to have an opinion, and calling any criticism of a religion (which is what I read the concept as becoming) "defamation."


Nobody should be immune from being critiqued, not Islam, not Christianity, not Hinduism, not Judaism, not us. Nobody.




I agree, Ursyl. When we start calling defamation of religion a crime then we aren't sliding down a slipppery slope. We have slid down the slope and are hanging over the cliff while hanging over the edge clinging to a bush as the roots are pulling out of the earth.


Each individual should come to conclusions agout religous thought and practice. At least this should be true on a religious site like this one.  Each of us is going to have distinct thought, feelings and criticisms of various sorts of religious practice and spirituality. None of us should have to be looking over our shouolder wondering when the religious 'defamation' police is going to round us up simply because we differ from another person's feelings with regard to religion.  Making religious defamation a criminal offnese is beyond what I would be unwanted and uncessary governmental intrusion.  I hope I never live to see the day when it does come to that.


 


 


 

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5 years ago  ::  Oct 14, 2009 - 10:29PM #4
Soylentpurple
Posts: 7

People deserve rights and protections.  Ideas/philosophies/beliefs/things don't.   While people hold their religious beliefs very dear they don't deserve the same rights and protections that people do.  Furthermore the way our society puts religion/faith on a pedestal above other ideas/philosophies and deems it untouchable, unquestionable and beyond criticism is problematic at best, dangerous at worst.   Nobody would dream of giving "human rights protections" to a person's choice of political party or their career path.  In that vein, a person's religion shouldn't get it either. 

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4 years ago  ::  Oct 21, 2009 - 4:09PM #5
gorm-sionnach
Posts: 1,663
I think a religion should recieve as much protection from defamation as any other ideology or association which influences someones identity. But what then is the scope of defamation? Does it constitue critique or disagreement with, or does it only extend to protecting religious individuals from discrimination because of their beliefs?

I would certainly argue that religions should be open to critique, even perhaps derision (though just because one can does not mean one should), but not open to hatered, be it individual or systemic. Of course, this would also require a rather nuanced approach, because what it persecution to one person is protecting the rights of someone else to another. If religion Y instructs an adherant to act in a way and speak out against X, which is then deemed by X to be hateful, in which case religion Y claims persecution for their beliefs, who is in the right? The issue extends to what limit individuals and religious groups have rights, and how far those rights extend.
Truth in our hearts, Strength in our arms, Fulfillment in our tongues.
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4 years ago  ::  Nov 13, 2009 - 5:59PM #6
CreakyHedgewitch
Posts: 1,244


Gorm,


It raises some interesting questions, doesn’t it?


For starters, what is a religion or what isn’t? What does recognition of what should receive protection consist of? There are those who don’t consider some of the faiths identified as Pagan to be valid religions for example. (I won’t add in Paganism itself here because even I as a long-time Pagan ‘don’t’ consider Paganism to be a faith in itself).


Is critiquing something you don’t consider to be a religion qualify as religious discrimination? Or can that only be valid in itself if what you are critiquing is agreed upon as being a religion in the first place?


Certain sects of Christianity instruct their followers to speak out against anything labelled as witchcraft even if most of what they define as such has no relevance to modern Pagan Witchcraft. So do religious Pagan Witches then claim persecution of their faith(s) and call these types of Christians hateful? Do these Christians then also claim persecution of their beliefs within their faith regarding witchcraft because of this disagreement with their right to label anything witchcraft this way? Who indeed is in the right and where does this faith-based yo-yo effect end?


Seeing things within context I do find helpful and realising that nothing is valid in all contexts even more so. However, that leaves us at the scenario that within certain contexts, critique or disagreement might validly be considered as religious discrimination. Maybe it comes around to, ‘not in my living room you don’t’ ?


Universal claims for example are one area that I find discrimination to be used as a catch-all accusation. If you don’t believe in ‘one way for all’ or ‘one truth for everyone’ or ‘one god for all people’ or ‘one faith that is the true faith’, then are you discriminating? Or are you simply not buying into the rhetoric?


And as started this thread, when is something critical or a disagreement considered over the line by impinging on a faith’s honor (or whatever it is that is seen to being attacked)? Is it certain claims? Well for every religious claim, there can always be disagreement on some level. Is it a symbol? No symbol is really ever copyrighted to one faith though specific interpretations certainly are. Is it certain words? Again, how do you copyright a word from being used for other things? Is it certain names (a more specific type of word usage)? Is it certain places? Easier to claim though successive claims from competing religions can have the opposite effect. Perhaps it comes back to what validates a faith for said individuals, groups or en masse? Buying into certain claims? Believing oneself to be one of the few, the right, the ones who know while others don't? (a path well-paved with fear, hatred and prejudice I might add...) Control over certain symbols, words, names, places? These things in themselves? The use of these things? And if one doesn’t participate in such consensus, is one being discriminatory or simply reflecting a different source of validation?


No real answers here, just some thoughts your post inspired. Always good exercise for my brain to exchange ideas with you.


C.H.


No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
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4 years ago  ::  Nov 14, 2009 - 1:19PM #7
gorm-sionnach
Posts: 1,663
And I with you CH.

At the most basic level, it all comes down to semantics (it usually does). I suppose the first order of business would be defining what constitutes a valid/ recognized religion, which in and of itself is considerably problematic, especially in the case of the US where there is a general hands off approach to institutionalizing/ recognition of religions (with the exception of the military). Does the basis then become census or survery data? Does one need belong to a religion which makes up more than .01% of the population to have that religion recognized? Should any posistion which is held to be religious automatically qualify? Business generally take the appraoch that one is considered observant (i.e. they are not just claiming to belong to a particular religion for personal gain/ fraud) when they can show they are so (so repeatedly asking for specific days off, having conversations, etc.) though again issues arise all the time about religion in the work place, after all it is one of the two things not to be spoken of in "polite company". I doubt there will ever be anything other than a vauge concensus on the establishment of religions. I'd favour a broader, rather than a narrower definition, within reason.

This idea, of religious protection, is one of the facets of the general free speech/ expression debate and where it extends to and where it ends. What constitutes religious freedom to one group, can appear as discrimination by another. Recently, a politician in the US recorded a campaign commercial in which he decried what amounted to an "uppity Wiccan" winning a lawsuit against a town for engaging in sectarian prayer. The politician appealed to the "freedom of religious expression" guaranteed by the US constitution, which at the same time guarantees that there ought to be a state/church seperation, which such a prayer was clearly in violation of. All too often when people speak about "freedom of religious expression" they mean "the freedom to express my (often majority) faith in public, and the freedom for other religions to shut up." It is hypocricy of the worst sort, but it the most common strain of thought found in such legal disputes, MY religion needs protection, but your religion is not entitled to the same. It is a two way street, more would be accomplished if people realized this.
Truth in our hearts, Strength in our arms, Fulfillment in our tongues.
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4 years ago  ::  Nov 15, 2009 - 11:28AM #8
CreakyHedgewitch
Posts: 1,244

Gorm,


For the purposes of defining religions, a broader rather than narrower definition might be more useful. For actually enacting, practising or living a faith, the broader the definition, broader IMO tends to be less useful and certainly might be less practical.


For example, for a shared religion, one must have consensus sufficient to...well share as well as be recognisable as that specific faith. Therefore, I define a shared religion as first having a non-negotiable core definition of the Divine from which a structure of that specific practice evolves. This structure, the part that is enacted, practised, lived as well as shared usually evolves some kind of annual celebratory calendar, life passage rites (birth, marriage, death), moral tenets, spiritual principles and often a mythological backdrop from which to explain the relationship of humans to the universe. In order to be recognisable as an established (and shared) religion, a faith IMO must be able to be passed down intact and coherent (teacher to student, parent to child) and has been so transmitted for at least 2-3 generations. It is that structure evolved from that core which is enacted into living practice that makes a set of beliefs etc into a faith and it is being used within the context of that structure that makes the individual components (a belief, practise, symbol) part of that specific religion. This is, for me anyway, valid for both shared revealed and experiential faiths. Now for unique individual 'religions' that might fall into that broader definition, I still think one needs to have a core and structure in order for there to be a meaningful enactment within that individual's life. Consensus however is not required with others and individual faiths tend to be wisdom walks that evolve over time. So the core definition of the Divine might not be unique to that individual or non-negotiable although for there to be a 'religion', the Divine and therefore a core definition should be. That individual's actual practices will form whatever structure evolves. These tend to include some kind of a celebratory calendar however loosely enacted. The individual's ethics tend to form the moral tenet framework and spiritual principles are often cobbled together from many sources that hopefully provides a structure stable enough to withstand life's dramas and traumas. Life passage rites may not be required although recognition in some form for that individual's life thresholds may be. The mythological backdrop tends to always be unique, sometimes even beyond the ability to articulate this to anyone else. Which is not a problem usually as an individual 'religion' is not meant to be passed to others or down generations. Such 'religions' begin and pass with the individual who embodies them.


So for myself anyway, recognising a valid shared religion tends to be far easier than an individual's 'religion'. Not that I am going to invalidate an individual's 'religion' because I don't recognise what its nuts and bolts are. Rather with what is out there and articulated, shared religions are easier to share to some degree. Consensus is dependant on semantics. Sharing also is but sharing is optional when consensus is not required for validation. Another question, which you addressed was who gets to recognise a religion? Who is invested with the authority to decide what is valid and what isn't? I know that the Wiccan Church of Canada for example has been working to qualify for the Canadian legal definition of a religion to secure legal and tax privileges. Not sure if they have made it as yet but governmental recognition in order to extend legal/economic privileges is one form of recognition.


Your business example brought to mind firms where Jewish holidays are observed for all employees regardless of whether they are Jewish or not. For an experiential faith such as are found within Paganism, how does one demonstrate being observant? Especially if religious beliefs are not part of the culture or considered to be discriminatory (there is that word again!) to co-workers if brought to anyone's attention. Should managers or HR be put in the position of having to validate a religion period or an individual's commitment to that religion?


And there are situations where you have weigh the cost of demonstration not just to yourself but to others as well. Some years ago, I (a Pagan Witch) had six women reporting to me, all from thoroughly Christianised (non-American) cultures where witchcraft was unquestioningly viewed as being of Satan. This was their culture(s), their background, their context of reality, their validity and I respected that. We were all there to work together in a corporate culture that mitigated religious disputes by advocating tolerance and non-demonstration of faith on work premises/business hours. Now none of their cultural/religious definitions of witchcraft I overheard had any relevance to who I was as a Witch or what I believed in. That was their familiarity however and taking them out that, especially as I was in a position of authority over their workdays I felt and still feel would have been discriminatory on my part. I might have been, ironically perhaps, extending a form of religious protection to these women in that situation. Now does this religious freedom for them constitute discrimination for me? I didn't think so. Witchcraft has many definitions and is found in many contexts. So unlike some newbie Witches I have run across who think that any use of the term witch by anyone anywhere is about them personally, I didn't take the beliefs of my then Team about witchcraft personally. I also had no need to demonstrate to anyone what my faith was or prove to that upper management so I could request Sabbats and Esbats off.


So perhaps religious protection is more relevant to public demonstration of faith, that brings up again the question of whom is one proving oneself to by such demonstrations and why? As you put it with editing by myself, "the freedom to express my (often majority) faith in PUBLIC, and the freedom for other religions to shut up (IN PUBLIC)." So maybe it is freedom of forming religious consensus itself that has legal, social, economic etc impacts that are being debated?


C.H.

No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
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4 years ago  ::  Nov 15, 2009 - 3:59PM #9
gorm-sionnach
Posts: 1,663

CH,


I would certainly agree, noting that the difficulty with "broad" is that it can lead to a loss of meaning in the specific, but in terms of defining it outside a particular group I do favour such an appoach.


I would think that the public arena is where religious descrimination would be the most apparent and the most damaging. Obviouisly people are free to discriminate in private (i.e. can dislike or despise a particular religious group in their own head, home, etc.) as policing thoughts is impossible outside an Orwellian universe (or one woudl hope). That said, in places like the work place, there has to be a level of tolerance to not interfere with productivity, work environments, workers rights, etc. Tolerance, of course does not mean acceptance, but it is the minimal requirement for interfaith interactions.

Truth in our hearts, Strength in our arms, Fulfillment in our tongues.
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