Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cardinal Pell on Religion, Human Rights, and Policy

Here's Australia's Cardinal George Pell, speaking at a recent conference in Sydney.  Cardinal Pell is concerned (with good reason, it appears) about an ongoing investigation by that country's Human Rights Commission into the freedom of religion and, more specifically, "the compatibility of religious freedom with human rights[.]"  Cardinal Pell writes:

. . .  The tone was set when the inquiry was announced in September 2008. The ABC reported the Commission’s Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tom Calma, expressing concern (in the ABC’s words) “at evidence of a growing fundamentalist religious lobby, in areas such as same-sex relationships, stem-cell research and abortion”.[1] I am not a fundamentalist religiously, politically or morally.  But I was not aware that being a fundamentalist was against any Australian law; nor am I aware why this should be of any concern to a Race Discrimination Commissioner. This alleged fundamentalism is apparently one of the main reasons for the inquiry, and this attitude — that religious opinion and religious people in the public square are somehow a problem, perhaps even a danger — runs through the discussion paper the Commission issued to commence the inquiry.

In case there was any doubt about the matter, in August Mr Calma and Conrad Gershevitch delivered a conference paper on the inquiry which opened with these words:

"The compatibility of religious freedom with human rights is the subject of the most comprehensive study ever undertaken in Australia in this area. ..." [2] (emphasis added).

Let us spell this out: the clear meaning of these words is that religious freedom is not a human right and may not be compatible with human rights. This is an astonishing claim from a senior officer of the body responsible for the protection and advancement of human rights in Australia. Mr Calma announced the inquiry in a similar vein, comparing religion and human rights to oil and water – substances that do not mix.[3] . . .


Garnett, Rick | Permalink

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