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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 firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be considered for inclusion in the blog.
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.
Shortly before Christmas, The Irish Times published an article that took a crack at yours truly over my support for the special status of marriage. But nowhere in the article does its author, Anthea McTiernan, consider the evidence in favour of the family based on marriage, nor does she come up with a working definition of family breakdown.
New figures show that more than one in five abortions in the UK (22.1 percent) is carried out on girls under the age of 20. Dominique Jackson, writing in The Daily Mail, reckons the answer to this is more sex ed. But her conclusion is flatly contradicted by figures she quotes in her own article.
The UK's deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has attacked in rather odd terms proposals to give a modest tax break to married couples. In a speech a few days ago he said: “We should not take a particular version of the family institution, such as the 1950s model of suit-wearing, breadwinning dad and aproned, homemaking mother, and try and preserve it in aspic.” Mr Clegg also opined that couples married for love, not to “get some cash back from the state”.
The findings of the recent Pew survey showing the low level of marriage in the US aren't really all that surprising to those who are familiar with the issue. Just over half (51pc) of US adults are now married says Pew, based on US census data. The figure here is the same.
Two major reports on the family have been issued in the last few days, one on attitudes to the family in Ireland, one on family structure in Ireland. The first shows that there is a lot of wishful thinking going on about the changes to family life that are taking place, the other confirms that the traditional family is in decline in Ireland. The report on attitudes to the family is called ‘Attitudes to Family Formation in Ireland’ and is by Margret Fine-Davis of Trinity College Dublin. It is based on a survey of 1,400 people aged 20-49.
Earlier this year, Labour Senator Ivana Bacik and her colleague in the Dáil, Labour TD Aodhan O Riordán proposed ending the prayers said in the Oireachtas before each session, supposedly to promote greater “pluralism”. Both Senator Bacik and Mr O'Riordán placed this issue on the agenda of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP) in both Houses of the Oireachtas.
Family law scholar Helen Alvare, an associate professor at George Mason University, has written a thoughtful two part series for the Witherspoon Institute's blog, Public Discourse, on how family law has evolved over the decades from being child and marriage-centred to being freedom and adult-centred. This trend is very much present in Irish law as well which increasingly sees the family, and especially marriage, as a potential obstacle to person freedom and therefore has made it easier and easier to break up the family unit.
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