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Opinions contained in The Iona Blog are not necessarily those of The Iona Institute. The Iona Blog is open to anyone who broadly shares the views of The Iona Institute. If you wish to post a comment on a relevant topic please email 200 – 400 words to email@example.com and it will be considered for inclusion in the blog.
Freedom of religion used to be understood by one and all as the freedom to worship privately, and the freedom, within reason, to manifest that faith in the public square. It was taken for granted that one's work should not compromise one’s deeply held religious convictions. In recent times, this notion of religious freedom has become more and more contested.
One of the best blogs around is the Public Discourse by the Witherspoon Institute in the US. Its latest entry deals with the often very murky world of surrogate motherhood. It cites the case of a couple who had commissioned a woman to have a child for them, but who divorced and then told the woman, who was 27 months pregnant at the time, that they had no more need for the child. It also cites the case of a couple who, having taking delivery of their child from the surrogate mother, left her to foot a medical bill of over $200,000 back in Austria.
At this stage I have read quite a few books and innumerable articles about the same-sex marriage debate. One of the best of the books is a new one called simply, Debating Same-Sex Marriage. It is co-authored by John Corvino, a lecturer in philosophy at Wayne State University in America, and Maggie Gallagher of the National Organisation for Marriage. Corvino argues in favour of same-sex marriage and Gallagher against and both authors put their case well.
The new poll by Gallup/Red C suggesting that Ireland is now less religious than Iceland certainly generated lots of headlines, but what did it really tell us about how religious we are? After all, as David Quinn pointed out in his Irish Independent analysis piece on the matter, roughly a third of Irish people still go to Mass weekly, and a further 15 percent go every month.
Robert Oscar Lopez has written a very heart-felt account of being raised by two mothers and no father and the consequences of this in his life. Obviously the account of one person is purely anecdotal and some of the unfortunate twists and turns that occurred in his life would not have happened to others who were raised by two mothers, and would have happened to some who were raised by a mother and a father.
Is our Government as pro-child as it claims? Irish Independent reporter Thomas Molloy has dug up a few figures to suggest it might not be. He writes: “As a society, we have made a conscious decision to favour the elderly (who vote) and discriminate against children (who don't). There is no other country in Europe that allows old people to travel for free while forcing children to pay for school buses and other forms of public transport."
A row of sorts has broken out in The Irish Times between two of its contributors over the endlessly controversial question, ‘what do women want?’ It’s an immensely clichéd question, of course, but in respect of the proper balance between work and home, there is no one right answer, anymore than there is for men. What prompted the exchange between columnist Breda O’Brien (one of our patrons) and Irish Times journalist Judith Crosbie was a widely-read piece by former Hilary Clinton advisor Anne Marie Slaughter.
It is scarcely believable that there is a growing threat to the practice of religiously motivated male circumcision in Europe. A fierce debate has erupted over the practice, chiefly in Germany following a court decision there against it. However, curbs have also been placed on it in certain Swiss and Austrian hospitals. In addition, we have today in the Irish Times an article condemning it as ‘male genital mutilation’ and comparing it with female genital mutilation.
A major new report on Britain's most dysfunctional families commissioned by the British Government in the aftermath of last year’s riots makes for disturbing reading but much of it is depressingly familiar. Quite apart from the accounts of serial physical and sexual abuse, it's the casual neglect of children and the failure of mothers to protect their children from such abuse, for fear of losing their new “boyfriends” that is shocking. To cite just one particularly dramatic example, one mother mentioned in the study “reported that her son slept with a knife under his pillow for fear of his stepfather”.
When we made the morning-after-pill available from pharmacists without the need for a doctor’s prescription the change took place without any debate. We never asked whether the number of unwanted pregnancies would come down as a result, or what effect it would have on women’s health, or the effect it would have on sexual behaviour.
Even The New York Times is starting to cotton on to the fact that the high number of births that take place outside marriage is a problem. Last week it ran a big feature examining how lone parenthood, which is already very common in the lowest income groups, is becoming increasingly common among middle income groups. It correctly observed that this development is serving to widen inequality between the various social classes in America.
Sometimes, in a culture which often seems to be overwhelmingly anti-religious, parents of faith must feel that raising their children in their religion is an uphill climb. So it's encouraging to see that there is evidence that the struggle is worth it. This piece, from Family Edge, an Australian website, shows that children raised by religious parents fare better on a range of measures. It links to an article by Andrew Whitehouse, Associate Professor, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research at the University of Western Australia.
Let’s dispel a key myth about this current “debate” about same-sex marriage. Should such a time comes for a referendum, there will be no debate, not a rational one at any rate. Briefly, a debate is when two parties present their arguments for and against a motion respectively, and the motion is voted upon by an objective audience. This system gives us curious yet refreshing outcomes, such as when patently unpopular motions are carried.
David Quinn and Moninne Griffith of Marriage Equality debate the issue of same-sex marriage on RTE's Prime Time.
Iona Institute director, David Quinn, and Senator Ivana Bacik debated the issue of same-sex marriage on Today with Pat Kenny yesterday. The debate quickly centred on whether or not children should ideally be raised by their own mother and father.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore's (pictured) speech on Sunday, as well as distorting the true meaning of religious freedom also used another theme to advance his socially radical agenda. Issues like same-sex marriage, embryonic stem cell research and the rollback of religious education were part of a mission to complete “the separation of Church and State” he said. Mr Gilmore told us: “But it is my strong view that the best - and indeed the only - means of guaranteeing religious freedom for all, is the full separation of Church and State.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore's speech on Sunday got many headlines for coming out in support of same-sex marriage. But his remarks about personal freedom also deserve some attention. Mr Gilmore said that his party parted company from the European liberal tradition “on matters of economics, and in particular on the freedom of markets but had “always been of similar mind on matters of personal freedom”. He cited famous liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill and said that it was this committment to “personal freedom” that led Labour “to take up the banners of the liberal agenda - for divorce, for contraception; for gay rights and for women's rights”.
The decision of a German court to attack circumcision is yet another example of state encroachment on religious liberty. The rationale of the court appears to be based on the notion that children should be allowed to choose religions and tradition for themselves, rather than having their parents choose their faith. Superficially, this seems to respect the freedom of the child. This is a mirage however.
A recent poll in the UK found that, while most homosexuals believe that the Government should redefine marriage to allow same-sex couples to tie the knot, a significant number 25pc, don't think it's needed, and 39pc don't think it's a priority. Atheist historian David Starkey (pictured) seems to be part of that 25pc. In this piece for the Daily Telegraph, he laments the possibility that legalising same-sex marriage could lead to the disestablishment of the Church of England.
The news that David Blankenhorn, a leading defender of marriage, has decided to stop arguing against same-sex marriage, is very disappointing. In a column in the New York Times, he said he took the decision “in the interest of comity”, and with a view to creating alliances with people interested in building stronger families. He writes: “So my intention is to try something new. Instead of fighting gay marriage, I’d like to help build new coalitions bringing together gays who want to strengthen marriage with straight people who want to do the same.
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