Monday, 26 January 2015

What human rights?


"To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity." - Nelson Mandela.

If you believe in basic human rights, you'd be scratching your head at the news from both the US and Sydney this past week. 

Firstly, on Tuesday in the US, the Supreme Court decided not to hear a case involving a basic human right, one enshrined in its own Constitution.

Secondly, a group of 800 Muslims gathered in Western Sydney on Friday night, ironically and publicly protesting in part against another basic right. 

To the US where  the Supreme Court, the highest judicial court in the country, last Tuesday refused to hear a case based on religious freedom (a freedom which is enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution).

The facts were mentioned in Catholic Talk's article on 22 January:
"Previously on Catholic Talk, we spoke about a court case involving Louisiana priest Father Jeff Bayhi. It is alleged that Rebecca Mayeux, a parishioner, was sexually abused at the age of 14 by an older parishioner. It was further alleged Father Bayhi advised her to “sweep the matter under the carpet” each of the three times she took this matter to confession. 
Father Bayhi and his diocese, the Diocese of Baton Rouge are being sued by Rebecca’s parents, Robert and Lisa Mayeux, for damage caused to them by his alleged advice.Father Bayhi cannot put on a proper legal defence, because to do so would involve breaking the Seal of Confession (which he obviously will not do). 
This means the only source of information as to what was said in confession will come from Rebecca. Her evidence will go unchallenged, resulting in an almost guaranteed adverse finding against Father Bayhi and the Diocese, simply because Father Bayhi is upholding the Seal of Confession. 
The intention of the court to make a ruling as to what constituted a confession was the subject of an appeal by the Diocese to the US Supreme Court (the highest court in the country). The Diocese argued that the Louisiana court purporting to decide what constituted confession infringed upon the freedom of religion. It asked the US Supreme Court to intervene. 
Six other Catholic dioceses and 28 organisations (Catholic and non-Catholic) filed or joined “friend of the court” (amicus curiae) briefs with the US Supreme Court in support of the Diocese. 
On Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court made their decision, refusing to hear the appeal. The case will now return to the Louisiana court to proceed as planned."
The hearing is scheduled for July and will almost certainly rule against Father Bayhi, who, under his religious oath, cannot divulge what has been discussed in a confession.
Without entering into the well debated discussion regarding whether or not Catholic Priests should be forced legally to divulge a confession, the confusing aspect is how the Supreme Court refused to hear a case lodged on a basic human right as sated in the First Amendment. 
I googled "Freedom of religion and the US constitution" and found the following on Wikipedia:
"In the United States, freedom of religion is a constitutionally guaranteed right provided in the religion clauses of the First Amendment."
Is it the case that Wikipedia knows more than the US Supreme Court? 
Crossing the world where on Friday night in Western Sydney, a group of circa 800 Muslim people rallied against the often tasteless French magazine, Charlie Hebdo. The rally, organised by controversial Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir not only targeted Charlie Hebdo, it rallied against the western world it comfortably lives in as well as launching a blatant attack on freedom of speech. 
According to ABC News one speaker at the rally, Sufyan Badar, took aim at what he called the arrogant West.
"They force their world view onto us: 'We are the the arrogant West and you Muslims have to accept our world view, you have to accept our freedoms...
 We rejected your freedom yesterday, we rejected freedom today and reject your freedom tomorrow."
I'm sure I wasn't the only one shaking my head at the irony of the rally; gathering freely in numbers to target free speech via, you guessed it, free speech!

What amazes me is the way these people accept the benefits of a western culture, including the right to free speech, then gather in numbers to condemn the the very culture it benefits from. Sure, have a different opinion, follow a different religion, express yourself differently, but don't utlise a culture and then blatantly target it's very foundations.

As Christopher Hitchens once said:

"My own opinion is enough for me, and I claim the right to have it defended against any consensus, any majority, anywhere, any place, any time. And anyone who disagrees with this can pick a number, get in line, and kiss my ass.” 
We must ensure basic human rights such as free speech and freedom of religion are protected, otherwise we will find ourselves living in a culture that stands for nothing, and one, as Nelson Mandela stated, that challenges humanity itself.

All the best,
Dom Meese

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