Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sir Trevor Phillips: Christians, and only Christians, should be denied religious freedom and conscience rights

Saint Thomas Aquinas explains that a law is just if it corresponds to the divine law.  If civil law does conform to the divine law, then it has the power to bind us in conscience and to disobey such a law would be a sin.  But human law cannot exceed the power of its human authors.  Aquinas teaches that the law which is promulgated must correspond to the divine law.  No human authority can declare what is morally evil to be morally good.  For this reason, laws permitting slavery, abortion, euthanasia, divorce and "marriages" between persons of the same gender are immoral, and therefore unjust (Summa theologiae, I-II, q. 96, a.5).

In his Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, Nos. 72-74, Pope John Paul II teaches that, "The doctrine on the necessary conformity of civil law with the moral law is in continuity with the whole tradition of the Church. This is clear once more from John XXIII’s Encyclical: 'Authority is a postulate of the moral order and derives from God. Consequently,laws and decrees enacted in contravention of the moral order,and hence of the divine will,can have no binding force in conscience…;indeed,the passing of such laws undermines the very nature of authority and results in shameful abuse'. This is the clear teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas,who writes that 'human law is law inasmuch as it is in conformity with right reason and thus derives from the eternal law. But when a law is contrary to reason,it is called an unjust law; but in this case it ceases to be a law and becomes instead an act of violence'. And again: 'Every law made by man can be called a law insofar as it derives from the natural law. But if it is somehow opposed to the natural law, then it is not really a law but rather a corruption of the law'.

Now the first and most immediate application of this teaching concerns a human law which disregards the fundamental right and source of all other rights which is the right to life, a right belonging to every individual. Consequently, laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion or euthanasia are in complete opposition to the inviolable right to life proper to every individual; they thus deny the equality of everyone before the law. It might be objected that such is not the case in euthanasia, when it is requested with full awareness by the person involved. But any State which made such a request legitimate and authorized it to be carried out would be legalizing a case of suicide-murder, contrary to the fundamental principles of absolute respect for life and of the protection of every innocent life. In this way the State contributes to lessening respect for life and opens the door to ways of acting which are destructive of trust in relations between people. Laws which authorize and promote abortion and euthanasia are therefore radically opposed not only to the good of the individual but also to the common good ;as such they are completely lacking in authentic juridical validity. Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good. Consequently, a civil law authorizing abortion or euthanasia ceases by that very fact to be a true, morally binding civil law.

Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. From the very beginnings of the Church, the apostolic preaching reminded Christians of their duty to obey legitimately constituted public authorities (cf. Rom 13:1-7;1 Pet 2:13-14), but at the same time it firmly warned that 'we must obey God rather than men'(Acts 5:29). In the Old Testament, precisely in regard to threats against life, we find a significant example of resistance to the unjust command of those in authority. After Pharaoh ordered the killing of all newborn males, the Hebrew midwives refused. 'They did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live'(Ex 1:17). But the ultimate reason for their action should be noted: 'the midwives feared God' (ibid.). It is precisely from obedience to God-to whom alone is due that fear which is acknowledgment of his absolute sovereignty-that the strength and the courage to resist unjust human laws are born. It is the strength and the courage of those prepared even to be imprisoned or put to the sword, in the certainty that this is what makes for 'the endurance and faith of the saints' (Rev 13:10).

In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to 'take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it'.

A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions,in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favouring abortion,often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations-particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation-there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned,when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official,whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.

The passing of unjust laws often raises difficult problems of conscience for morally upright people with regard to the issue of cooperation, since they have a right to demand not to be forced to take part in morally evil actions. Sometimes the choices which have to be made are difficult; they may require the sacrifice of prestigious professional positions or the relinquishing of reasonable hopes of career advancement. In other cases, it can happen that carrying out certain actions,which are provided for by legislation that overall is unjust, but which in themselves are indifferent, or even positive,can serve to protect human lives under threat. There may be reason to fear, however, that willingness to carry out such actions will not only cause scandal and weaken the necessary opposition to attacks on life, but will gradually lead to further capitulation to a mentality of permissiveness.

In order to shed light on this difficult question,it is necessary to recall the general principles concerning cooperation in evil actions. Christians, like all people of good will, are called upon under grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint,it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. Such cooperation occurs when an action, either by its very nature or by the form it takes in a concrete situation, can be defined as a direct participation in an act against innocent human life or a sharing in the immoral intention of the person committing it. This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it. Each individual in fact has moral responsibility for the acts which he personally performs;no one can be exempted from this responsibility, and on the basis of it everyone will be judged by God himself (cf. Rom 2:6;14:12).

To refuse to take part in committing an injustice is not only a moral duty; it is also a basic human right. Were this not so, the human person would be forced to perform an action intrinsically incompatible with human dignity, and in this way human freedom itself, the authentic meaning and purpose of which are found in its orientation to the true and the good, would be radically compromised. What is at stake therefore is an essential right which, precisely as such, should be acknowledged and protected by civil law. In this sense,the opportunity to refuse to take part in the phases of consultation, preparation and execution of these acts against life should be guaranteed to physicians, health-care personnel, and directors of hospitals, clinics and convalescent facilities. Those who have recourse to conscientious objection must be protected not only from legal penalties but also from any negative effects on the legal, disciplinary,financial and professional plane."

Deacon Nick Donnelly over at Protect the Pope is reporting that Sir Trevor Phillips, the Head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has stated categorically that freedom of religion and freedom of conscience is restricted to within the confines of church buildings if they conflict with secular law.  Sir Phillips has been quoted as having said that, "the law stops at the door of the temple as far as I am concerned."  He has accused Christians who insist upon following the teachings of Christ and their consciences of wanting to impose "sharia law"on the UK.

Deacon Nick comments, "The Equality Commissioner, like the Obama administration, is attempting to re-define freedom of religion as freedom to worship. It’s a verbal slight of hand that seeks to strip away our basic human rights as religious believers in public life and wider society. Basically he’s saying we’re free to practice our faith within our church buildings but nowhere else in society.

Trevor Phillips has already removed our right to practice the moral teachings of the faith within our own homes, because, for example, if we run a bed and breakfast we have to allow homosexuals to sleep together in rooms in our houses, or else be taken to court and fined.

Trevor Phillips, and his like, have removed the rights of parents to bring their children up in the faith, because if our children, as young as 13, want contraception or abortion the State will provide it without parental knowledge or consent.

Trevor Phillips trivializes Catholic moral teaching on sexuality and parenthood by saying that we just 'decided we’re different’and that we need a different set of laws'. Catholics didn’t decide we’re different when parliament changed the law, we remained steadfast in upholding the moral law...
Trevor Phillips is also hypocritical by saying Christian demands to follow their teachings and consciences are equivalent to wanting to impose sharia law. Sharia law is being exercised in the UK, creating a parallel legal system with the support of the liberal establishment in this country as an expression of 'diversity'. Here’s the BBC’s support for sharia law in the UK:

Deacon Nick raises an excellent point here.  When the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said that it "seems unavoidable" that the UK will have to "face up to the fact" that millions of Muslims do not relate to the British legal system and implied that British law should accommodate Sharia law, where was Sir Phillips?  When the Archbishop said that, "There's a place for finding what would be a constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law," ("Sharia Law for UK is 'Unavoidable,'" BBC News, Feb 7, 2008), Sir Phillips was strangely silent.
It's obvious that Sir Phillip is anxious to strip Christians of their religious freedoms and to deny them - and apparently only them - of the right to follow their conscience.

Interesting no?


Jonathan said...

Yet another example of Christianophobia in the UK. Sad. Truly sad.

Eric Levan said...

Notice what The Telegraph article says: "Trevor Phillips is standing by his claim that Christian groups seeking exemptions from equality laws are like Muslims who want sharia rule in parts of Britain, despite criticism that his comments were 'strange and ridiculous.'"

Obviously, Phillips has an inability to exercise common sense and good judgment. There is question as to his mental health in my mind.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday (February 23rd) Catholic World News had a piece which exemplifies Sir Trevor's remark:

An English employment tribunal has dismissed a complaint from a Christian woman who said that she was dismissed from her job at a nursing facility because she declined to work on Sundays.

* * *

In a separate case last year, an English employment tribunal upheld a complaint by a Muslim man who was not allowed to leave his post as a security guard in order to attend mosque services on Fridays. The tribunal ruled that his employer was obliged to accommodate the man’s religious beliefs.

Additional sources for this story: Disappointment as children’s worker forced to resign job over Sunday working loses case (Christian Concern)’s-worker-who-was-forced-to-resign-loses-case

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

That is disturbing anonymous. Thank you for sharing this item with us. God bless you!

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