Comments: more commentaries on the European Court hearing

Rosalind English wrote: "But this is a non-sequitur. You can choose your religion. Race, gender, sexual orientation and disability are immutable."

And surely this reply is specious: the reason we don't allow discrimination based on race is not that race "can't be helped," and therefor must be tolerated, is it? Rather, we don't allow racial prejudice because there is no difference in worth or ability between the various races. I put it to Ms English that even if it became possible easily to switch races or genders or sexual orientations, it would still be incumbent on society to insist that people bearing any manifestation of these personal traits be protected from discrimination.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 3:25pm BST

In same breath as eshewing the idea that actions arising from religious belief should be accorded *greater* exemption than those arising from non-theistic values, Rosalind English accords religion a *lesser* status with respect to other characteristics because (she claims) it differs by involving choice.

So, first she oppose a hierarchy that privileges religious belief above secular values, but then she privileges race, gender, sexual orientation and disability above religion: 'You can choose your religion. Race, gender, sexual orientation and disability are immutable'.

In fact, our society accepts that even a person's birth gender is not immutable, but that it may be altered through gender reassignment. Clearly, immutability cannot be a rational basis for according a characteristic, like religion, a lower threshold than gender for establishing interference with Article 9 rights. In fact, Rosalind has employed a flimsy rationale for undermining the status of religion.

What she misses is the fact that the protections accorded equally to religion, race, gender, sexual orientation and disability have more to do with respect for fundamental aspects of person's identity, than demonstrable immutability.

Article 9 rights aim to balance respect for *responsible* personhood (hence the need for “a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance”) with respect for the broader needs of society.

Posted by David Shepherd at Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 11:24pm BST

Saying that religion deserves less protection because mutable is looking at it in the wrong way and is quite muddled thinking.

I think that's the wrong way to analyse the issues. It's the employment that's mutable not the religion and that's the key point.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 2:16pm BST

"but then she privileges race, gender, sexual orientation and disability above religion: 'You can choose your religion. Race, gender, sexual orientation and disability are immutable'."

Rosalind's only mistake here is that 'gender' can be modifed - in cases of marginal gender identity. for all the other factors; they have, indeed, been present in humanity before the emergence of any religious affiliation.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 13 September 2012 at 10:37pm BST

"In fact, our society accepts that even a person's birth gender is not immutable, but that it may be altered through gender reassignment."

So I take you're an activist for transgender equality then, DavidS? That's the only reason I can think of that you would cite this.

Posted by JCF at Saturday, 15 September 2012 at 4:02am BST

JCF:
It makes sense to consider Ms. English's views on immutable characteristics from standpoint of the existing legislative framework, rather than religious standpoint, hence my phrasing: 'our society accepts...' . To reason with a secularist from an orthodox theological position on the relative status of religious identity would appear to beg the question somewhat.

Liberty rights can and should be accorded to all without regard to religion, race, gender or sexual orientation. Claim-rights should be accorded to those who qualify for them, so I won't be campaigning for men to be granted maternity leave equality. They are entitled to the male equivalent: paternity leave.

Posted by David Shepherd at Saturday, 15 September 2012 at 2:41pm BST
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