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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Religious freedom versus equal opportinity

There shouldn't be a conflict, but people seem to be whipping it up. Hugh de Kretser states his case for equal opportunity at the expense of religious freedom to some degree, stating good intentions but missing the point, I think. There is a misunderstanding of what religion is, with secular mindsets looking at it as a private matter. Being spiritual or faith matters, they may well contend that they should not affect the real world. But that is not what religions is to Catholics. Faith is not faith if action does not match it. Religion is more than good words: it is about good deeds. When we send our kids to Catholic schools, not only should they hear about the Catholic faith, they should also see it in the community they are in. If we will hire as members of the community people whose lives contradict the faith we are imparting, how shall we explain that to our children? Will we stigmatize the employee and declare to our kids "oh he's living in sin" in order to remain honest while affirming our convictions? Or shall we bury our heads in the sand and let our kids interpret that as ambivalence about what is right and what is wrong? Removing the exemptions for hiring in religious communities puts us in an impossible situation. We shall either end up stigmatizing other- or non-believing employees or compromising the religious education of our children. Secularists will not understand, but religious education is at the core of the education we want for our kids.

It is reasonable to allow discriminatory hiring on religious grounds, just as it would be in a for-profit organization to do the same in order to protect its interests. In a recent scandal, a TV network took out a popular media personality because a stunt he pulled on-air would compromise the family-friendly perception of one of their most popular shows. How is this reasonable and that of religious groups unreasonable? The only difference is that their interests are distinct: one is sbout profit while the other is about eternal happiness. Perhaps it isn't discriminatory hiring that bugs the secular-minded, but religion itself.

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