Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Can freedom of religion survive?

Yesterday presented two news stories that, at first glance, could almost bookend each other.

The first story concerned a ruling in the Sangamon (Ill.) County Circuit Court — ironically, Abraham Lincoln’s old stomping grounds — that the State of Illinois could refuse to renew its child foster care and adoption contracts with Catholic Charities over the latter’s refusal to place children with homosexual couples. The second concerns the proliferation of “no-go” zones in Europe as a growing Islamic minority starts flexing its muscles and imposing Shariah in Moslem neighborhoods.

On the surface, both appear to be issues of religious liberty. For on the one hand, a person might argue, the Islamic communities of Europe want no more and no less than what the Catholic Church wants — to obey the moral dictates of their religion. Isn’t Catholic Charities claiming an exemption from anti-discrimination laws on the basis of religion? Well, then, what relevant difference could there be?

Very simple: Catholic organizations are mostly content to work within the framework of the relevant community, state and national laws. If Catholic Charities can’t afford to run without the state contract and they lose all relevant legal action, why, then their state adoption services will simply shut up shop … which may or may not be a loss, depending on what perspective you come from.

But Catholic Charities won’t simply ignore the law. Nor will the Church.

“A Muslim can only abide by Sharia and is not allowed to obey any man-made law.” So declares Islamic Prevent 2011: Preventing Secular Fundamentalism and the Occupation of Muslim Land, a strategy document of Muslims Against Crusades’ “The Islamic Emirates Project,” which seeks to convert twelve British cities into Islamic “emirates”. While one can be skeptical as to the actual support such a notion receives, other reports of increased harassment of non-Muslims and attempts to create “Sharia-controlled zones” make it clear that Britain may soon face the quagmire that threatens to drown much of Europe.

Canon law, by contrast, is not a replacement for civil or criminal law of the state; the best comparison would be either the bylaws of a fraternal organization or the human-resource policies of a business enterprise. Catholics may seek community laws that conform with Catholic moral teaching; however, they seek such laws within the framework of democratic government, and with the consent of non-Catholics where they don’t form a majority.

Let’s assume, for example, that radical liberal wingnuts took charge of the federal government and imposed a China-style one-child limit. A practicing Catholic couple in communion with the Holy Father would first seek out all permissible means of avoiding a second pregnancy. If, in spite of their precautions and self-restrictions a second child were conceived, they would seek every legal means of evading the law, even if it became necessary to move to another country. If no other legal recourse were available or practical, only then would they knowingly violate the law by trying to hide the second child. Ideally, the faithful Catholic only breaks the law when the only alternative is breaking God’s law.

Now, one thing Islam and Catholicism have in common is the unremitting hostility of certain secularists. While the main focus of Richard Dawkins’ Secular Europe Campaign is the “extremely powerful” and “extremely wealthy” Vatican City (must … contain … hysterical … laughter …), they too are starting to look at the rise of the Crescent in Europe and wonder if their “inclusive liberal society” can include Islam.

Better late than never, right?

The problem Dawkins et al. may have with throwing their shindig is that they have it planned for just barely a month after massive riots rocked six major English cities … riots that, while sparked by racial incident, very quickly shed all pretense of social protest and became an exercise of uninhibited anarchy. Fred Bloggs and Lord Backwater got a good look at what Britain’s “inclusive liberal society” hath wrought, and they didn’t like it one little bit. As Ches at The Sensible Bond put it:

All the usual suspects have lined up for the identity parade. What was it then that we saw rioting through the streets of London? Was it family breakdown? Absent fathers? The failure of state education? Moral relativism? Sheer criminality? Opportunism? The vacuity of the political system? The structural deprivation in our council estates?
In my view it was all of these and more. Another interesting feature of the events of this past week is that those responsible come from a whole range of backgrounds. Yes, there are the gangs, the career criminals and those ‘known to the police’. But there are also the educated, the professionals and the daughters of wealthy businessmen. Whatever ills we put in the dock, somehow we have to recognise that our problem crosses all class divides.
Diseases have a way of joining forces to create a symbiotic tsunami: obesity leads to a strain on the heart which leads to blood pressure which triggers, etc., etc. So I imagine it is with the riots. One crisis simply led to another, while the latter was ready to burst like a boil and provide a catalyst for the next crisis.

So on one side of the Atlantic, we have a progressivist ascendency now beginning to use the legal machinery to pressure the unwilling into accepting the New World Order and to punish conservative heretics without regard to freedom of religion. On the other, we have far older progressivist cultures falling apart, unable (or unwilling) to enforce their own laws as a nakedly intolerant religion executes an “occupation without tanks or soldiers” … an occupation that may be in early stages over here.

Where Shariah reigns, religious tolerance disappears. But religious freedom is already disappearing, fracturing under the golden hammers of the multiculturalists and social progressives. Between the battering rams above and the sappers and miners below, can the bulwark of religious freedom remain standing?