Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Civil Rights, Civil Unions, Religion and the State from an Muslim Activist's Eyes

By Pamela K. Taylor

I want to point readers to an article written by a Muslim activist who was in Wisconsin recently canvassing against that state's ammendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, and denying legal status to civil unions and common law marriages.

The amendment to the state constitution reads:
That marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state and that a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state.

The article is a beautiful explanation of how civil rights must be applied across the board, and how the encroachment of religious traditions into politics must be challenged. It's a sincere and heartfelt demonstration of how an individual can support another human being's right to self-determination in every matter, including marriage, even though that individual believes his religion prohibits same-sex and common law marriages.

To me, it is clear that all human beings should have the right to make their own moral decisions, that freedom of religion should apply even to those whose religious choices you don't agree with.

Of course, the matter is complicated because religious freedom is not absolute. It is tempered by other freedoms and social needs. A society's need for security may justify laws which require those who veil their faces to reveal their identity under certain circumstances. Similarly, religious traditions which inflict bodily harm on their participants (say suicide cults or practices such as fgm) may be outlawed by society.

But in instances where no one is being physically harmed, and security is not endangered, then we have no moral authority to insist that any one religious interpretation can be imposed upon the entirety of society.

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