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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Protecting Ideas

In a comment to yesterday's post, 'Race and Religion', Robert Jubb asked, "would it be more acceptable to have a law banning those holding certain religious beliefs, or not holding any religious beliefs, from holding public office, than a law banning those of particular race or gender?" For what it's worth, I don't think it is acceptable to have laws that ban people from public office based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Although my original post was mostly about my own personal distinctions between the two concepts of race/ethnicity and religion, and the relative seriousness of abuse based on the two, this got me thinking about legal/public policy approaches to resolving such matters.

I think that the key distinction that I make on the topic is between ideas and people. Idealogical frameworks of all types (including religion) deserve, in my opinion, no special protection from the state. They should live, die, thrive, decline on their own depending on their appeal to the population at large. I am very uncomfortable with the idea of government deciding that certain ideas deserve protection, as in the case of legislation to ban incitement of religious hatred. If someone wants to say that Mohammed was a paedophile for his marriage to Aisha that is their business, and the state should not step in to protect the feelings of Muslims, because it is not, and never should it be, the state's job to hold hands and offer a consoling pat on the back.

On the other hand, I believe that people deserve protection, and the right to hold their ideas. This is why I have no particular problem with anti-discrimination legislation. There should be no barriers to employment or housing by race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin etc. and I think that it is legitimate in such cases for the state to ensure equal access.

|| RPH || 5:05 PM || |