Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Found: One true looney

I have to give Kathy a royal shoutout for discovering this piece of sheer lunacy that aired on CBC. You really have to read the whole thing to appreciate the illogic that permeates this gentleman's thoughts:
INTRODUCTION: Bob Ferguson is a retired professor from the Royal Military College. He believes that Catholics are unlikely ever to see changes in policy on birth control or on the question of married or female priests. In fact, he says change won't come until the churches are forced to comply with the same human rights legislation that affects the rest of society.
MR. FERGUSON: Given the inertia of the Catholic Church, perhaps we could encourage reform by changing the environment in which all religions operate. Couldn't we insist that human rights, employment and consumer legislation apply to them as it does other organizations? Then it would be illegal to require a particular marital status as a condition of employment or to exclude women from the priesthood.

Of course the Vatican wouldn't like the changes, but they would come to accept them in time as a fact of life in Canada. Indeed I suspect many clergy would welcome the external pressure.
We could also help the general cause of religious freedom by introducing a code of moral practice for religions. They will never achieve unity so why not try for compatibility? Can't religious leaders agree to adjust doctrine so all religions can operate within the code?
I am an engineer so the model I am thinking about is rather like the provincial acts regulating the practice of engineering. For example, engineers must have an engineering degree from a recognized university or pass qualification exams. They must have a number of years of practical experience and pass an ethics exam. The different branches: mechanical, electrical, civil and the like have a code of practice that applies to everyone.
Why can't religious groups do the same? I envisage a congress meeting to hammer out a code that would form the basis of legislation to regulate the practice of religion. Like the professional engineers' P.Eng designation, there would then be RRPs (or registered religious practitioners).
To carry the analogy to its conclusion, no one could be a religious practitioner without this qualification. I won't try to propose what might be in the new code except for a few obvious things: A key item would have to be a ban on claims of exclusivity. It should be unethical for any RRP to claim that theirs was the one true religion and believers in anything else or nothing were doomed to fire and brimstone. One might also expect prohibition of ritual circumcisions, bans on preaching hate or violence, the regulation of faith healers, protocols for missionary work, etc.
Now what is the point of proposing this? I do it because I am worried that the separation between church and state is under threat. Religion is important in our lives, but it can become a danger to society when people claim that the unalterable will of God is the basis for their opinions and actions.
Yes religion can be a comfort and a guide, but we cannot take rules from our holy books and apply them to the modern world without democratic debate and due regard for the law. For Commentary, I'm Bob Ferguson in Marysville, Ontario.
Whoa. He's worried that the separation of church and state is under threat. So he's going to put the state full-bore into running the affairs of the church by a licensing of ministers/rabbis/priests/imams/etc. And he's going to require that they all hold compatible values.
So we preserve the separation of church and state by placing the operation of the churches under the control of the state, thereby destroying any separation at all.
Mr. Ferguson, wherever you are, you are a looney.