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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 protected] and it will be considered for inclusion in the blog.
Two Catholic midwives in Scotland have been told by a court that they must supervise and support staff in the labour ward of their hospital who perform abortions irrespective of their religious convictions. As reported by Catholic News Agency, Scotland’s highest civil court ruled that the women’s religious liberties were not being infringed because “the nature of their duties does not in fact require them to provide treatment to terminate pregnancies directly”. However, as senior staff, they are also expected to be on standby to help in abortion procedures in certain medical situations. In other words, their duties might include assisting directly in abortions after all.
The finding of an ESRI study that most cohabiting couples get married shortly after they have their first child confirms what we in the Iona Institute have repeated many times: marriage is mainly about children and even today most people believe this as the actions of cohabiting couples with children testify. The study showed that, while “childless couples under 45 are now more likely to cohabit than be married “ couples with children “are much more likely to be married and the likelihood that a cohabiting couple gets married increases sharply after the birth of a first child”.
The guidelines published earlier this week by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter (pictured) on surrogacy utterly failed to flag the fact that the whole area is an ethical minefield. Surrogacy is problematic, involving as it does gestating one woman’s baby in another woman’s womb. There are some very serious concerns connected with it, but Minister Shatter's document alluded to none of these, preferring to treat the issue as a series of legal hurdles to be overcome.
Last weekend The Irish Times ran an editorial which essentially denied the existence of militant secularism and criticised people like UK Cabinet Minister, Baroness Warsi who say it is trying to push religion to the margins of society. The editorial was fantastical in the extreme, a complete and total denial of reality
The head of the UK's Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Philips', has compared Christians who want to protect their conscience rights with Muslims who want to impose Sharia law This is gravely offensive to British Christians, and borderline disgraceful, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the Christians in question are merely trying to reach an accomodation with a legislative regime which violates their deeply held beliefs. They are manifestly not trying to impose those beliefs upon anyone else.
A leader in The Irish Times last Saturday took to task those, including British Cabinet Minister Baroness Warsi, who are concerned about the growth of a militant secularism that seeks to push religion to the margins of society. The Irish Times believes there is nothing to worry about, that such concerns are grossly exaggerated.
One of the biggest con jobs ever foisted upon us is the notion that secularism is neutral and therefore a secular public square is a fair public square. In fact, a secular public square operates by wiping itself clean of virtually all traces of religion. This is predicated for the most part on the less-than-neutral view that religion is inherently irrational and divisive. In fact, a fair public square allows a religious viewpoint the same opportunity as any other viewpoint to have its say and to try and influence public opinion.
Richard Dawkins' outfit, the Foundation for Reason and Science (UK), published the results of a poll into the attitudes of British Christians towards politics, science and morality as well as their knowledge of their own faith. Professor Dawkins (pictured) reckons the result buttress his secular agenda, showing as they do the waning influence of religion on British public life. But there is a sense in which the results undercut one of his main theses, namely that religion is something dangerous to society.
With his back to the wall over his proposal to force religious organisations to cover abortifacients, contraception and sterilisation in their insurance plans, President Barack Obama offered a compromise last Friday that wasn’t really a compromise. He told religious organisations, primarily though not exclusively Catholic, that while their insurance plans would still have to cover such services, they will not have to pay for them. Instead, the insurance company will provide them for ‘free’.
The story about 13 year old girls being given contraceptive implants without their parents' knowledge drew the usual justifications from the usual suspects. Natika Halil of the Family Planning Association said the provision of contraception to young people was “a vital part of the Government’s strategy to reduce teenage pregnancy rates in the UK which are amongst the highest in Europe”. There is only one problem with that argument: the British Government's strategy of making contraception more widely available to teenagers has been a colossal failure.
For the last few weeks we have been following the developing row between the Obama Administration and Catholic bishops there over Administration proposals to force Catholic and other religious organisations to extend their insurance cover to contraception, the Morning-After-Pill (an abortifacient) and sterilisation. This is a very big religious freedom issue and even liberal Catholics opposed to their Church’s teaching on contraception are angry at Obama over it.
A case has come to light in Britain that is eerily reminiscent of an Irish case a few years back called McD v L in which a sperm donor father took a legal case against the two women raising his child for more access rights. It illustrates the perils of sperm and egg donation.
Last month,a study was published purporting to show that the health and welfare benefits of marriage have been oversold. However, Dr. Scott Yenor says there are serious flaws in the study. not least the fact that it uses the "self-assessment of individual happiness" as the standard by which to judge the value of a social institution that is more about children than adults and their feelings of wellbeing.
Last month saw a potentially very significant ruling by the Supreme Court on adoption, Nottinghamshire County Council v B, but in the course of the ruling Justice Donal O’Donnell gave a justification for the Constitutional position on marriage which is well worth noting. Most importantly, his justification puts children at the centre of marriage, not adults.
So, it seems that the French are going to make a stab at reducing their very high divorce rate. The French Government has announced plans to introduce marriage preparation kits and longer civil ceremonies which currently can be as short as five minutes. But François de Singly, a sociology professor at Paris Descartes University, has other ideas. He appears to thinks marriage only exists where there is love and that the State has no right intruding in people’s private lives.
A new study out this week has been well covered in many media outlets because it purports to overturn the findings of many other studies which show that marriage confers various health and welfare benefits on married people compared with cohabitees or single people. The study is published in the current issue of the prestigious Journal of Marriage and Family and we await the response of other sociologists to it.
The Civil Partnership Act is now in existence for over a year. In his column in last Friday’s Irish Times John Waters drew attention to an aspect of this law that was little noticed at the time, namely the provisions that force many of the legal responsibilities of marriage on cohabiting couples unless they opt out through legal agreement.
On Wednesday the US Supreme Court issued its most important religious freedom ruling in years. Religious freedom is under increasing pressure in the US, Ireland and elsewhere, and the question was whether the court in this particular case would rule in favour of religious freedom or against it. It ruled in favour.
A few months back British Prime Minister David Cameron declared himself in favour of same-sex marriage because encouraging commitment is a conservative thing to do in his view. Around the time he said that, Douglas Murray writing in The Spectator agreed. But his article was most noteworthy for what it left out.
A court in Florida has ruled that the birth mother and the genetic mother of a child are both the parents of that child, legally speaking. The court described the case as “unique” saying that it had “never before considered a case quite like it”. But this is happens when you deliberately ‘split’ motherhood. Reproductive technology is creating whole new types of parenting for courts to consider. But the real question before them should not be who is and who isn’t the parent of a given child, but in what way the reproductive technology industry should be regulated.
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