Natural Law

Raphael_School_of_Athens

“Est quidem vera lex recta ratio naturae congruens, diffusa in omnes, constans, sempiterna, quae vocet ad officium iubendo, vetando a fraude deterreat; quae tamen neque probos frustra iubet aut vetat nec improbos iubendo aut vetando movet. Huic legi nec obrogari fas est neque derogari ex hac aliquid licet neque tota abrogari potest, nec vero aut per senatum aut per populum solvi hac lege possumus, neque est quaerendus explanator aut interpres eius S. Aelius, nec erit alia lex Romae, alia Athenis, alia nunc, alia posthac, sed et omnes gentes et omni tempore una lex et sempiterna et immutabilis continebit, unusque erit communis quasi magister et imperator omnium deus, ille legis huius inventor, disceptator, lator; cui qui non parebit, ipse se fugiet ac naturam hominis aspernatus hoc ipso luet maximas poenas, etiamsi cetera supplicia, quae putantur, effugerit.”

(M. T. Cicero, De re publica III, 22)


Our work is based on the assumption that law is not a mere emanation of the human will (be it the will of a tyrannical individual or, in the case of a democratically constituted society, of the majority of the electorate or the its elected representatives), but that, in a higher sense, it has an independent existence of its own. There is a Natural Law, which human reason can discern and understand, but which human will cannot alter. This Natural Law remains the same at all times and in all places, and it is pre-existent to all written legislation. Indeed, it is the task and purpose of all positive legislation to transpose and enforce Natural Law in a way that adapts to the specific needs and circumstances of a given society at a given time. A positive law that stands in contradiction to the precepts of Natural Law has no legitimacy, and nobody is morally bound by it.

Although some want to dismiss this as some kind of ‘religious belief’, Natural Law is in actual fact not the tenet of a particular religion. It is true that Christianity, which has formed and impregnated Western culture, has always asserted the existence of a Natural Law – but the same is true of Islam and other religions. That the age of enlightenment believed in Natural Law becomes apparent when one reads the Virginia Bill of rights of 1776, or the Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen (adopted by the French National Assembly in 1789).[1] More importantly, it is easy to demonstrate that already in antiquity, at a time that predates Christianity by several centuries, the existence of Natural Law was generally recognized.

Today Natural Law is in a paradoxical situation. On the one hand, there is an increasing awareness among the sanior pars of politicians and scholars that Natural Law exists, and that respect for it is the pre-condition for a just social order. At the same time, many supporters of the Cultural Revolution aggressively deny the existence of such a Natural Law: they assert, for example, that it is not possible for the human mind to discern any objectively “correct” way of living one’s sexuality, or that it is not possible to determine the exact moment in which a human being becomes a “person” that is entitled to human rights. In other words, the new legal order that they promote is based on subjectivism, on a rejection of rational discourse, and on the replacement of reason by will. But while this abandonment of reason has become the trademark of contemporary law-making in general, reaching far beyond the issues discussed in this paper, it can nevertheless be observed that even the supporters of the Cultural Revolution will not fail, whenever it seems suitable to them, to bring forward arguments that imply the existence of Natural Law (albeit, as we contend, of a distorted and falsified Natural Law). Wherever positive law provides no support for their claims, they seek to convince the public that the “self-determination” of women wishing to abort their children or the “equality” of gay couples wishing to “marry” are innate natural rights that must, at last, be recognized by law-makers and society at large. Without implying the existence of some kind of Natural Law, such arguments would not be possible.

Despite some innovators’ aggressive denial of Natural Law, the existence of that Natural Law appears thus less controversial than it might seem on some occasions. The real issue of the controversy is what that Natural Law contains.

Human Rights or Natural Law?

Human rights are today viewed as some kind of a supreme moral instance to which anyone who so wishes can turn to demonstrate the legitimacy of his political project, or the illegitimacy of policies and laws he opposes. It is said that human rights are “pre-positive” laws – a higher form of law with which all positive laws must comply. This seems very similar to the Natural Law that has been described above, and one can observe, as a consequence, that there is nowadays some confusion whether human rights and Natural Law are not the same thing.

They are not. In fact, every assertion that human rights are pre-existing to, and supersede, positive law must be wrong. What is generally understood by the term ‘human rights’ is a compound of international treaties defining a variety of rights that are generally recognized. There is no doubt about the importance and value of such documents, yet it is clear that they are themselves positive laws, superseded by the Natural Law they are meant to transpose and implement.

The most important differences between Natural Law and human rights are:

  • Human rights have been codified in a number of legal instruments, whereas Natural Law cannot be codified. Human rights therefore are positive law, whereas Natural Law isn’t.
  • Human rights consist of isolated rights that are presented as ‘absolutes’, but between which contradictions can arise. In Natural Law, by contrast, there are hardly any absolutes, but there is an appropriate solution for every problem.
  • Human rights are the result of a political process (at the UN, the Council of Europe, or elsewhere), whereas Natural Law is independent of politics, or of the human will.

Given the high importance that is nowadays attached to international human rights treaties, it is no wonder that those treaties have become a primary target for politically motivated manipulation and distortion. However, it is unlikely that those documents could be changed to explicitly include references to a ‘right to abortion’, ‘a right to euthanasia’, a ‘right to same-sex marriage’, or similar desiderata, because such changes would require unanimity of all signatory states. After some failed attempts to engineer such changes, the pressure groups seeking to turn those desiderata into ‘rights’ have therefore cleverly adjusted their strategy, focussing on a re-interpretation of existing documents, be it through academic writing or through the activities of treaty monitoring bodies (such as the different UN Committees or the European Court of Human Rights). Over the last years, a considerable number of key positions in the UN, at the European Human Rights Court, at the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, and in various academic institutions have been occupied by people who pursue a consistent agenda of judicial activism, ‘discovering’ new abortion and LGBT rights in internationally agreed texts that, such as the CEDAW or the European Human rights convention, in fact do not contain them. Their hope is that the more often their temerarious interpretations of human rights texts will be repeated, the more they will seem credible to the wider public.

Political Ideologies Undermining Natural Law

In order to understand these manipulations, it is necessary to look at the political ideologies that inform them. With regard to contemporary attitudes towards life, marriage, and the family, the following ideologies merit particular attention:

Marxism

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the Marxist ideology has proven its devastating consequences for society wherever it has, in part or as a whole, been put into practice. It is for this reason that even today, at the time of a severe and worldwide economic crisis, hardly any political movement would openly declare itself to be Marxist. Yet some of the central tenets of that ideology still infest the minds of a considerable number of people, and have practical implications for their social and political action.

  • Class struggle: Marxists theory interprets history as a series of class fights, pitting oppressed groups against their oppressors. Whereas previously the oppressed were called ‘proletarians’ and their oppressors ‘capitalists’, the class fights of today pits women against men, “gays” against “straights”, etc. Feminism and Homosexualism (see below) thus must be seen as novel versions of Marxist class struggle. The Marxist approach to politics, consisting in pitting social groups against each other, has remained the same.
  • Big State: whereas liberals believe in individual self-determination, Marxists tend that all should be controlled and organized by the State. It is for this reason that Marxism has a generally hostile attitude against the natural family: it is a space of self-determination, where citizens enjoy a high degree of autonomy. In particular, parents educating their children themselves are viewed as a source of elitism inequality, and there is a strong preference for state control of education, which facilitates indoctrination.

Darwinism

Charles Darwin’s evolution theory is a scientific theory and deserves respect as such. Unfortunately, however, it also has inspired political ideologies, and in most cases this inspiration has been utterly nefarious.

The most obvious example is the way in which Darwin’s theory has been used by the Nazis as a source of inspiration for their race theory. Whereas racism may have been rampant at all times, Darwinism seemed to provide a ‘scientific’ justification for it. If the universal history is understood as a process of selection of the fittest, or as a struggle for survival between different species and/or races in which only the fittest will survive, then it may seem to be a perfectly logical behaviour for one nation to attack and annihilate its neighbouring nations, or for one race to eradicate other races. If survival of the selection process is the quintessence of our existence, then it is our task to ensure that we and our offspring, rather than any competitors, are those survivors. And if science proves that only the fittest are destined to survive, then there can be nothing wrong in removing the unfit – this is just accelerating the evolutionary process.

It is no wonder, then, that at a time where evolution theory became increasingly popular, Nazi Germany was far from being alone in pursuing eugenicist policies. Indeed, the Law to Prevent Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, enacted by the Nazis in 1933, closely followed the model of equivalent legislation in America.

In the US, beginning with Connecticut in 1896, many states enacted marriage laws with eugenic criteria, prohibiting anyone who was “epileptic, imbecile or feeble-minded” from marrying. In 1907 Indiana became the first of more than thirty states to adopt legislation providing for compulsory sterilization of certain individuals. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a Virginia law allowing for the compulsory sterilization of patients of state mental institutions in 1927. In many states, such legislation remained in force for the greater part of the 20th century.

Similarly, countries like Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Estonia and Iceland adopted eugenics programs including forced sterilization. In many cases, governments responsible for those policies were not right-wing, but led by liberal or social democrat parties. And while in Germany such policies were utterly discredited after the Nazi experience, they continued in the Nordic countries and the US for many more years after WWII, as if nothing had ever happened. The last forcible sterilization in the US occurred in Oregon as late as 1981. In Switzerland, coercive sterilisations took place until the 1980s, and in Sweden relevant legislation was abrogated only in 1976. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia there appear to have been coercive sterilizations of Roma women even in the 1990s.

The close entanglement of the international pro-abortion lobby with eugenicist, or indeed racist, ideas is a well-known fact that, however, seldom receives the public awareness it would deserve. Margaret Sanger, the founder of the American Birth Control League (which later was re-baptized into ‘Planned Parenthood’), whose book Women and the New Race greatly contributed to popularizing the idea that genetically ‘inferior’ persons should be prevented from procreating, broke the ground for the aforementioned marriage restrictions and enforced sterilizations. She collaborated closely with Ernst Rüdin, the man who had drafted eugenicist legislation for the Nazis, and who also published articles in her Birth Control Review. Sanger is reported to have said that “we do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population”, and even if that quote is open for different interpretations her strong commitment to racist ideas is highlighted by the fact that she participated in, and spoke at, gatherings of the Ku-Klux-Klan. Planned Parenthood, the organization she has founded, continues promoting abortion as part of development aid programs, thus turning the fight against poverty into a fight against the poor.

A leading contemporary “Darwinist” (at least according to his self-perception) is Richard Dawkins, a British evolution biologist. He pretends to fight “in the name of science” against religion and has (inter alia) made statements according which it were “a moral duty” to abort children with Down Syndrome. Such statements do great injustice not only to children with a handicap, but also to Charles Darwin’s rigorously scientific theory. What they reveal is that those who invoke evolution theory as a counter-proof against all kinds of metaphysical thought (be it religious or not) are simply unwilling or incapable of understanding the inherent limitations of empirical science. What they call “science” is in fact a dangerously nihilistic and anti-human ideology.

Feminism

Following the decline of Marxism, Feminism has established itself as a new secular ideology of worldwide outreach. But, as we have already noted, Feminism is in fact Marxism in new clothing. It identifies women as a new class of “victims of oppression”, pitting them against their male “oppressors” in a new class struggle.

Just as Marxism wanted wealth (rather than poverty) for everyone, Feminism aims at masculinity for everyone. Despite its name, it depreciates and holds in contempt all that is considered typically feminine, especially the role model of a married wife and mother caring for her husband and children. By contrast, it highly valorises male role models, and seeks to make women dress up and behave like men. In actual fact, therefore, Feminism is anti-feminism.

At the same time, feminism promotes “emancipation”, i.e. it rejects the idea that, in a marriage, partners should have different tasks and be economically (or otherwise) dependent on each other. According to the feminist agenda, wives should be economically independent of their husbands (and vice versa) – an idea that in a certain sense contradicts the fundamental idea of a marriage (which consists in pooling resources, and thus accepting mutual dependence). Obviously the loss of synergies that results from this individualistic approach to marriage means that the state has to step in: it must subsidize day care for children (so that women are free to pursue their own professional careers), provide extra social benefits for single mothers, etc. In other words, the feminist agenda requires a highly developed welfare state – it cannot function without that. It implies the inefficient use of social resources, thus giving to the ideology of some priority over the interest of all.

The Marxist heritage of Feminism becomes apparent when considering the ideology’s quasi-totalitarian penchant for policies based on the concept of planned economy, reaching from imposing gender quotas and providing state subsidies to nursery schools to detailed instructions on how married couples should share their housekeeping work. While it is self-evident that such regulatory approaches curtail freedom and have negative impacts on economy, Feminism has never been hesitant to use them, thus implying that ‘gender equality’ were a policy objective of higher rank than freedom and economic well-being.

It appears that in the political climate of today the main ideas and objectives of the Feminist ideology are hardly challenged by anyone, and that they are at least partially shared even by many who consider themselves as conservatives. It is high time for Western society to understand that Feminism is a highly destructive ideology that will undermine and destroy any society that commits the error of embracing it.

Homosexualism

Very similar to Feminism, the Homosexualist ideology seeks to incite yet another novel variant of class struggle, this time between homosexual “victims of heteronormativity” and their heterosexual “oppressors”.

The narrative of this ideology is that homosexuals are born as such, and that their (allegedly) innate and inalterable “sexual orientation” should be regarded as “normal”. (Suggestions that the homosexual proclivity might be a mental disorder, or that it might be transient rather than permanent, or overcome through therapy, are therefore viewed as a grave insult.) As a matter of consequence, homosexuals should not be “discriminated against” on the grounds of their “sexual orientation”. From this right to “non-discrimination” Homosexualist ideologues conclude that a gay or lesbian relationship is essentially the same thing as a marriage between a man and a woman, and demand that it should be treated in exactly the same way.

Whereas Feminism rejects and depreciates femininity, Homosexualism glorifies and adulates sodomy. Special ‘Gay Pride’ events are organised to collectively display and celebrate sodomy, as if it were something to be proud of. By necessity, this implies a distorted view of sexuality: the procreative purpose of sexuality is downplayed and excluded; instead, the gratification of the sexual urge is seen as the one and only purpose of the sexual act. Yet if the gratification of the urge is an end in itself, then it does not matter whether that urge is directed at a person of the other sex, or a person of the same sex, or an animal, or any other object.

The most important objections against the Homosexualist ideology are that:

  • its fundamental assumptions are completely unproven. While it might be true that homosexual proclivities are to a certain extent due to an innate pre-disposition, there also is considerable scientific evidence suggesting that they are also caused by social influences and that they might be overcome. In any case, neither of the two theories would prove the “normality” of homosexual proclivities or the moral acceptability of the homosexual act.
  • the assumption of homosexuality being normal implies a peculiar naturalistic understanding of “normality”, according which everything must be considered “normal” if only it can be encountered in nature. But in the same way, any and every disease could be described as “normal”, and it could be argued that, because of this ‘normality, diseases should not be treated. By the same token, paedophilia, alcoholism, drug addiction, etc. could all be termed as “normal”, and it could thus be argued that they should not be restricted by any law.
  • it is based on a distorted concept of “discrimination”. In reality, discrimination is the arbitrary unequal treatment of persons in an equal situation. But even if homosexuality were to be considered “normal”, sodomy would not be “equal” to a marital relationship between a man and a woman. Even in the absence of any moral opprobrium against homosexuality/sodomy, differences of treatment between the marriage of (different-sex) spouses and a same-sex relationship would thus still remain legitimate, because both situations are relevantly different. What Homosexualism demands, by contrast, is the equal treatment of unequal situations.

Gender Theory

Gender Theory is a recent spin-off from Feminism and Homosexualism. While it pursues similar objectives, it widely differs from the two aforementioned ideologies in regards of its doctrinal aspects.

Feminism recognizes the existence of two different sexes, alleging that one oppresses the other. Homosexualism asserts that sexual orientations are innate and unalterable, and thus de-responsibilizes the person affected by it for with regard to the sexual behaviour it indulges in. Gender Theory, by contrast, assumes that sexual preferences and orientations are, or should be, freely chosen, and that they may change over time. While Gender Theory still accepts that there are physiological differences between men and women, it negates their importance. Instead, it views male and female identity as the result of a mere social convention that, in the name of liberty, must be overcome. “Gender identity” is thus defined as “each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms”.

In other words, a person’s “gender identity” is claimed to be independent of the biological sex, and based on subjective sentiments and choices rather than on verifiable facts. This has led to a veritable mushrooming of newly discovered “gender identities” – according to a policy recently adopted by the social network “Facebook”, it is now possible to choose between 60 possible variants!

While Feminism and Homosexualism can be traced back to Marxist origins, Gender Theory is rooted in a radical liberalism, which exalts subjective emotions and personal choices to such an extent that finally they supersede every objective reality.

Quite obviously, such a theory must be hopelessly unscientific (or even anti-scientific), given that personal sentiments are the only source of insight it accepts.

Relativism

Relativism is a philosophical stance asserting that there is no truth, only points of view. Those points of view, it is asserted, are informed by personal experiences and preference, but have no claim on universal validity and should therefore not be imposed on others.

It seems obvious that such an approach to truth could not be applied in the field of empirical science, where a lot of work and money is spent precisely to find insights that are, to the greatest possible extent, objective and verifiable. For natural science, therefore, the generally accepted approach is that a scientific theory is never a definitive truth, but that it can be considered a “preliminary truth” – until it is replaced by a better theory. The approach is thus not that absolute truth does not exist, but that it can never be reached; instead, it only can be approached in incremental steps.[2]

Relativism, by contrast, negates the very existence of truth, in particular with regard to metaphysics and morality. It denies the existence of a Natural Law, thus adopting a stance of legal positivism: law is what is read in the statute books.

While the supporters of Relativism tend to believe that their stance is an expression of their tolerance, in actual fact it breaks the ground for the worst forms of totalitarianism. If all links between law and the outward reality are severed, then whoever holds political power will be allowed to impose laws that are completely arbitrary. This is a temptation not only for dictatorships, but also for democracies.

Relativism is therefore, despite its roots in liberal thought, by nature not a liberal, but an intrinsically totalitarian ideology. At the same time, it also is not an expression of rationality, but of the rejection of rationality. By negating the existence of truth, it also radically negates human dignity, which precisely is grounded in the fact that man is capable of rational self-reflection, i.e. that he has the capability and aspiration to discern good from evil, and to act accordingly.

The Anti-Discrimination Ideology

The most recent of contemporary intellectual aberrations is reflected in the recent proliferation of new policies that seek to promote “equality” through “anti-discrimination laws”. These policies, which even seek to turn “equality” into a new human right that supplants and supersedes all the others, are the expression of a flawed concept of justice:

  • They overstate the value of “equality” over freedom, radically curtailing personal and economic freedoms (in particular the freedom of expression and the freedom of contract) in order to achieve “equality”;
  • They tend to understand by “equality” neither the equality of all before the law nor a situation where all have equal opportunities, but an equality of result, i.e. a situation where, irrespective of talent or merit, all live under equal conditions; this dissociation between merit and reward turns ‘equality’ into a concept of injustice rather than justice;
  • They tend to base their concept of “equality” on comparisons that are drawn on the basis of arbitrarily selected criteria. This turns “equality” itself into an arbitrary concept. Because of its apparent arbitrariness, it only aggrandizes the institutional power of those tasked with enforcing the law, at the expense of citizens’ liberty.
  • As a result, “equality legislation” often imposes equal treatment of what in fact is unequal, and unequal treatment of what in fact is equal. While some of these measures pretend to be “anti-discrimination” laws, others, such as the recent proposal by the European Commission to provide for fixed quotas of women on corporate boards, in an unprecedented manner openly impose discrimination, thereby laying bare the absurdity and self-contradiction of the underlying ideology.
  • It results that “equality” is an extremely fluid concept with uncertain meaning that can be twisted and tweaked in any direction. “Anti-discrimination laws” thus risk being turned into an institutionalized sophism, thus favouring misuse of power rather than liberation.

Which Solutions Must We Seek?

A Legal Order in Conformity with Natural Law

In view of these dangerous and destructive Ideologies, one may legitimately ask whether contemporary “Pluralism” must be interpreted as implying that they must be accorded a place in society. Is the best we can aim for a status of co-existence, where Natural Law is at least not decried as “injustice” and where the righteous man will at least not be punished for his righteousness? Or should it not be our aim to strive for a legal order that is in every aspect guided by Natural Law, and where false and dangerous ideologies such as those mentioned above will be prevented from spreading?

This question must be given a differentiated answer.

In the first place, there can be no doubt that our aim, and indeed the aim of every decent man, must be establish a legal order that fully corresponds to Natural Law, which by necessity implies that actions that stand in contradiction to Natural Law must be duly prohibited and, where necessary and appropriate, placed under dissuasive sanctions. This precisely is the purpose of positive legislation: it should implement and enforce Natural Law. It is thus, for example, perfectly legitimate to strive for legislation that criminalizes abortion, euthanasia, or sodomy, or that rules out the legal recognition of “same-sex marriages”, even if there be some citizens who believe abortion, euthanasia, or sodomy, to be morally acceptable. In the ideal situation, Natural Law and positive legislation converge.

However, a certain amount of tolerance may have to be applied in cases where intolerance might lead to greater evils. Such tolerance is never a value in itself, but it can be seen as a prudential strategy to avert the evil of social unrest.

If it is for political reasons impossible to ensure that the legal order complies with Natural Law, then one must at least seek to come to the best attainable solution. However, this should never lead us to give up the ultimate objective, i.e. to attain full compliance with Natural Law at a later stage.

Freedom of Conscience

In countries and at times where the positive legislation is in contradiction to Natural Law, there may be situations where righteous persons come under pressure to act against their conscience. In such situations the only possible solution for them may be to contravene the law and undergo the undesirable consequences.

To avoid such situations, many jurisdictions have legislated for so-called “conscience clauses”, which, for example, provide that no doctor or nurse can be forced to partake in abortions or euthanasia.

It could be argued that such conscience clauses should be considered a minimal human rights standard, but in actual reality this assumption does not hold true. Many countries that have legalized abortion, euthanasia, and other abominable practices, do not provide for such conscience clauses. It remains to be seen whether international human rights legislation such as Art 9 ECHR (freedom of conscience) affords appropriate protection to conscientious objectors and, if so, under which circumstances.

From a Natural Law point of view, the moral obligation to abstain from an evil action exists irrespective of whether or not there is a legal provision to protect freedom of conscience. It is better to suffer injustice than to commit it. Thus, there may even be a moral obligation to contravene the positive law, and a person’s readiness to do so should then even be seen as a particularly valuable testimony for a moral truth.

At the same time, conscience clauses are insufficient to make evil laws human rights compliant. Indeed, it would seem absurd to accept living in a society where murder or theft are legal, as long as nobody is obliged to steal or kill. Every reasonable person will understand that it is legitimate and necessary to work for a society in which murder and theft are illegal for everyone. Such a prohibition does not mean to impose the beliefs and values of a small group on the rest of society, but they are a simple necessity for the well-being of all.

The real sense of conscience clauses is to exceptionally allow people to abstain from doing what is objectively right (because they think it is wrong), or to allow them to do what is wrong (because they think it is right). But this is not our case: instead, we are fighting for a legal order that corresponds to the objective moral truth. This is why our point of view should not be the object of mere toleration.

This notwithstanding, it is a legitimate political objective to work towards the adoption of such conscience clauses in relation to abortion etc. in jurisdictions where they do not exist, always provided it is understood that such clauses do not provide any legitimacy to a law that legalizes what should in fact be prohibited. A “conscience clause” is therefore not an acceptable solution to regulate inherently evil practices, but it is a solution of last resort to provide a minimum of protection for those not wishing to collaborate in evil. The existence of such conscience clauses does not cancel out the obligation to work towards the abrogation of the law by which the inherently evil action is legalized.

Invoking Religious Freedom

Very similar to freedom of conscience, an argument that is frequently used to protect those wishing to resist the impositions of the Cultural Revolution is that they enjoy religious freedom, and that this includes the right to act according to one’s deeply held religious beliefs. For this reason, it would be a violation of a human right if somebody were to be forced to partake in abortion, euthanasia, or similar.

While this argument is per se correct, it nevertheless has the serious disadvantage of relativising a moral stance that is founded in objective truth rather than in a subjective belief. Indirectly, it provides some legitimacy to those who argue in favour of what we oppose (e.g. by saying that abortion is ok if one believes that the foetus is not a human being). Indeed, invoking religious liberty in the context of abortion, euthanasia, or sodomy, is tantamount to framing all possible points of view as “beliefs” and putting them on one and the same level, or, even worse, to accept that only the view that opposes abortion/euthanasia/etc. is based on “belief” (whereas, as may be inferred, the view that those practices are acceptable is “objective” or “scientific”).

Moreover, the religious freedom argument could be easily used by certain groups to promote inacceptable practices (such as, for example, polygamy, genital mutilation, and many more). It is thus a two-edged sword and should, if at all, be used only with the greatest caution. Within the context of the issues covered by this paper it does not seem necessary or recommendable to invoke religious freedom, given that there are sufficient arguments available to demonstrate that the points of views we are promoting are based on objective truth.

Reasonable Accommodation

Another concept frequently used in the wider context of the exercise of religious liberty is “reasonable accommodation”. It means that reasonable efforts must be made for example by employers to allow their employees to reconcile their work life with their religious belief. For example, a public transport company would be well advised to ask Muslim bus drivers to work on Sundays rather than Fridays, whereas Christian bus drivers will work on Fridays rather than Sundays. In this way, the religious belief is easily accommodated, and there is the additional advantage that it is possible to find drivers willing to be on duty on weekends. Similarly, it might be argued that in a country that has freshly introduced controversial same-sex “marriage” laws should provide reasonable accommodation for civil registry officials who do not want to preside over such ceremonies. This should in most cases be easily possible, given that the demand for same-sex “marriages” appears to be limited and the number of conscientious objectors not great.

However, it should be noted that “reasonable accommodation” is an approach that is suitable to address situations arising from the fact that different people have different cultural backgrounds. Fundamental moral questions, by contrast, have nothing to do with a particular religious or cultural background. Repudiating practices like abortion, euthanasia, or homosexuality, is not the expression of a particular culture or religious creed, but of a Natural Law that has universal validity and should be respected by everyone.

Reasonable accommodation of dissenters will therefore not suffice to render legitimate a law that is seriously at odds with Natural Law.

Conclusion

The debates on marriage and the family, the right to life, etc. are underpinned by a more fundamental conflict. That conflict concerns the question whether what makes laws just is merely the procedure that has been followed in adopting them, or whether they must be grounded in reason. The latter point of view excludes irrationality and arbitrariness, but it also means that we cannot simply pick and choose our points of view as we like. Once we have decided that positive laws must comply with Natural Law, we must follow that approach consistently. In the areas discussed in this paper, everything is intertwined with everything: accepting one single law that disrespects Natural Law means accepting a principle that will ultimately undermine the entire legal order.


[1]       The Declaration begins thus: « Les Représentants du Peuple Français, constitués en Assemblée Nationale, considérant que l’ignorance, l’oubli ou le mépris des droits de l’Homme sont les seules causes des malheurs publics et de la corruption des Gouvernements, ont résolu d’exposer, dans une Déclaration solennelle, les droits naturels, inaliénables et sacrés de l’Homme… »

[2]       This view has found its most widely known expression in Karl Popper’s study “Logik der Forschung” (The Logic of Scientific Discovery).

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