Don Arthur has had an interesting series of posts on religion and politics, including reference to Rocco Buttiglione, a candidate for the EU commission who has come under fire for his anti-gay views, which reflect his Catholic religious faith.
As I’ve said previously, I have no problem with people taking political stands based on their religious views. As far as I can see, almost no-one consistently objects to this. Most people who complain about mixing religion and politics do so only when they don’t like the religious views being expressed. Here for example is Gerard Henderson on Archbishop Peter Carnley, saying
on-elected religious leaders appear all too anxious to get involved with that which pertains to Caesar. It’s a pity, really. For the evidence suggests that clerical types perform at their best in the sacristy.
A couple of years later, he’s busy defending Pell and Jensen, and saying criticism of them is “a new form of sectarianism”. Henderson complains that there are leftwingers who welcome Carnley’s comments but expect conservative Christians to remain silent – this is about as fine a case of the pot calling the kettle black as I’ve ever seen.
But my main point in this post is a simple one. If you can’t take the heat, keep out of the kitchen. In modern pluralist societies, we have a general agreement that everyone has a right to their own religious views. Discrimination on grounds of religious faith is unlawful and even vigorous criticism of religious beliefs is generally considered distasteful. But a lot of religious people seem to expect the same convention to be extended into the political sphere, and to have their views treated with deference because they are religiously based. Consider this,
The Avvenire newspaper of the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference complained that the decision of the European Rights Commission to rule Buttiglione unfit for public office ‘because of what he thinks’ is ‘a sad sign for civilisation – not for religion.’
‘They have discriminated against a person on the basis of his faith and his ideas,’ the paper said.
This would be funny, if it weren’t put forward seriously. If we’re not supposed to discriminate between candidates for public office on the basis of their ideas, what should we do – choose them by lot?