quarta-feira, 13 de agosto de 2008

Nick Cohen: «A cast-iron case for a secular society»

  • «Anti-discrimination legislation once aimed to ensure that society treated citizens equally. By removing irrelevant criteria, the law allowed the victims of prejudice to receive the same rights as everyone else. (...) Last week, Mr Justice Silber ruled that Aberdare Girls' School in South Wales had been guilty of racial discrimination when it excluded Sarika Watkins-Singh for insisting on wearing a religious bracelet. It was a trivial case, which made you wonder about the dogmatism of both sides and the quality of their lawyers. The school could have given way - the bracelet was little more than a slim band. Watkins-Singh's parents could have accepted that they had a duty to uphold the authority of the teachers. Still, for all the pettiness, Mr Justice Silber's judgment was remarkable for his inability to recognise that a just society should treat people equally. He didn't rule that all the girls at Aberdare had the right to wear bracelets, just Watkins-Singh, because she was its only Sikh pupil. (...) Lillian Ladele persuaded an employment tribunal that it was discriminatory for Islington Council to require her to perform her duties in a register office. She objected to organising gay civil partnerships solely on the religious grounds that she was an evangelical Christian who regarded homosexuality as a sin. When the tribunal found for her, it not only endorsed homophobia and ruled that religion took priority in a register office - where gay and straight couples go to escape religion - but failed to see a glaring inconsistency. If Ms Ladele thought homosexuality sinful, she should not have wanted to work for an institution that organised 'gay weddings'. The same objection applied to the Muslim checkout staff at Sainsbury's who refused to scan alcohol. If the sale of alcohol was as offensive to their religious principles as they claimed, they would no more want to work for a company that sold wine than a pacifist would want to join the SAS. (...) The way out of the mess is for the state to commit itself to secularism; to offer full religious freedom, while striving to keep religion out of the public sphere. Leaving all considerations of principle aside, secularism is the only ideology that can make a multifaith society work. The alternative is a future of competitive religious grievance and unremitting vexatious litigation.» (Nick Cohen no The Guardian.)