Grand Chamber hits a home run for families

Honesty in the Marketplace of Ideas

If you and I were shopping for a car, dear reader, we would take umbrage at any dealer that told us what we had to buy. Even more emphatically would we vote with our wallets against any dealership that told us we could not buy a model or one equipped with certain options because a vanishingly small minority, at times even a single individual, had objected to such choices being available.

Our grandparents taught these and thousands of other common sense lessons to our parents and the world as a whole prospered. Why has common sense become so UNcommon? Part of the reason lies in the origin of modern-day class warfare, documented by historian and social commenter Amity Shlaes. Her enlightening depiction of Franklin Roosevelt’s spending spree in 1936 is documented both in The Forgotten Man and in The Legacy of the 1936 Election.

In my post on beauty right before the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I revisited the topic of multi-cultural advocates (MCA) who define themselves by knowing better for us than we know for ourselves. The educational establishment is rife with people who are ready, willing and able to subject other people’s children to nonsense they would never put up with either themselves or for their own children. Thankfully we have good news on the education front. While I typically would not support the idea of looking to the EU for legal guidance, it turns out that the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has much more common sense that most of the US Circuit Courts. It seems that the Grand Chamber understands that the rights of the many are at least equal to the rights of the one.

Reason for Hope

We can celebrate the fact that the Grand Chamber has affirmed the rights of parents to be free from secular oppressors in the case of Lautsi and others v. Italy. This decision is final and not subject to appeal. Put bluntly: well done! It’s high time someone gave the smackdown to MCA incessant meddling in the state of affairs that have enabled our civilization to flourish for centuries.

p. 20 para 47 …the [lower] Chamber’s reasoning had been based on a misunderstanding of the concept of “neutrality”, which the Chamber had confused with “secularism”. They pointed out that there was a huge diversity of Church-State arrangements in Europe and that more than half the population of Europe lived in non-secular States. They added that State symbols inevitably had a place in state education and that many of these had a religious origin, the Cross – which was both a national and a religious symbol – being the most visible example. In their view, in non-secular European States the presence of religious symbols in the public space was widely tolerated by the secular population as part of national identity. States should not have to divest themselves of part of their cultural identity simply because that identity was of religious origin. The position adopted by the Chamber was not an expression of the pluralism manifest in the Convention system, but an expression of the values of a secular State.…

In their submission, favouring secularism was a political position that, whilst respectable, was not neutral. Accordingly, in the educational sphere a State that supported the secular as opposed to the religious was not being neutral. Similarly, removing crucifixes from classrooms where they had always been would not be devoid of educational consequences.

Removing crucifixes from classrooms in such circumstances would amount to “abuse of a minority position” and would be in contradiction with the State’s duty to help individuals satisfy their religious needs.…

p. 28 para 62 In particular, the second sentence of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 does not prevent States from imparting through teaching or education information or knowledge of a directly or indirectly religious or philosophical kind. It does not even permit parents to object to the integration of such teaching or education in the school curriculum.

What is even more heartening is that in a separate, concurring opinion, Judge Bonello pulls up by the roots the disproportionate power that “offended” groups seem to wield in America.

3.5 All the parents of all the thirty pupils in an Italian classroom enjoy equally the fundamental Convention right to have their children receive teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions, at least analogous to that of the Lautsi children. The parents of one pupil want that to be “non-crucifix” schooling, and the parents of the other twenty-nine, exercising their equally fundamental freedom of decision, want that schooling to be “crucifix” schooling. No one has so far suggested any reason why the will of the parents of one pupil should prevail, and that of the parents of the other twenty-nine pupils should founder. The parents of the twenty-nine have the fundamental right, equivalent in force and commensurate in intensity, to have their children receive teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions, be they crucifix-friendly or merely crucifix-indifferent. Ms Lautsi cannot award herself a licence to overrule the right of all the other parents of all the other pupils in that classroom, who want to exercise the same right she has asked this Court to inhibit others from exercising.

3.6 The crucifix purge promoted by Ms Lautsi would not in any way be a measure to ensure neutrality in the classroom. It would be an imposition of the crucifix-hostile philosophy of the parents of one pupil, over the crucifix-receptive philosophy of the parents of all the other twenty-nine. If the parents of one pupil claim the right to have their child raised in the absence of a crucifix, the parents of the other twenty-nine should well be able to claim an equal right to its presence, whether as a traditional Christian emblem or even solely as a cultural souvenir.

Even more directly, the concurring opinion of Judge Power speaks directly to those MCA who have appointed themselves as defacto arbiters of what you and I are allowed to consider beautiful:

p. 46 …In reversing the Chamber’s judgment, the Grand Chamber does no more than confirm a body of settled jurisprudence (notably under Article 10) which recognises that mere ‘offence’ is not something against which an individual may be immunized by law.

A preference for secularism over alternative world views—whether religious, philosophical or otherwise—is not a neutral option. The Convention requires that respect be given to the first applicant’s convictions insofar as the education and teaching of her children was concerned. It does not require a preferential option for and endorsement of those convictions over and above all others.

p. 47 In his separate opinion, Judge Bonello has pointed to the fact that within the European tradition, education (and, to my mind, the values of human dignity, tolerance and respect for the individual, without which there can be no lasting basis for human rights protection) is rooted, historically, inter alia, within the Christian tradition. To prohibit in public schools, regardless of the wishes of the body politic, the display of a symbol representative of that (or indeed any other religious) tradition and to require of the State that it pursues not a pluralist but a secularist agenda, risks venturing towards the territory of intolerance – a concept that is contrary to the values of the Convention.

The applicants complain of an alleged violation of their rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. I can find no interference with their freedom to manifest their personal beliefs. The test of a violation under Article 9 is not “offence” but “coercion”. That article does not create a right not to be offended by the manifestation of the religious beliefs of others even where those beliefs are given ‘preponderant visibility’ by the State. The display of a religious symbol does not compel or coerce an individual to do or to refrain from doing anything. It does not require engagement in any activity though it may, conceivably, invite or stimulate discussion and an open exchange of views. It does not prevent an individual from following his or her own conscience nor does it make it unfeasible for such a person to manifest his or her own religious beliefs and ideas. [emphasis added]

  

Now what can we do this week, the next and the week after that, to see that this judicial clarity gets widely known and has the chance to take root in our own legal system? Share your comments or write me directly at systhink at systemkey dot net.

As ever, Carpe Diem!

Matt

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