In this lively well-written and excellent book Roger Twigg looks at the difficult field of religious freedom and equality.
He asks some hard and pertinent questions. Whilst acknowledging that equality and human rights are of vital importance he wonders if the religious freedom of some people are being curtailed in the pursuit of equality?
If enough is being dome to maker accommodations for those in society who are motivated by their religious beliefs and their religious conscience?
He notes that in some societies the right to exercise religious beliefs -enshrined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the U.S. Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights amongst other such formal and legal espousals of human rights- are increasingly becoming subordinated or even set aside in the pursuit of other priorities such as social policy, etc.
He examines several very knotty issues. He gives examples of a number of cases in which there is what could be viewed as an erosion of freedom of religion.
He points out that some efforts to promote human rights by attempting to control what religious people are allowed to do can have unforeseen and negative consequences. He gives as an example the decision in Britain to repeal the Blasphemy Law which protected the rights of followers of the Christian faith to be protected from "scurrilous attack."
Trigg points out that the aim of that law was not to prevent "rational debate and trenchant criticism on the one hand, and attempts to denigrate religious beliefs in ways that are shocking, and often obscene, on the other."
He went on to suggest that there was no suggestion that the blasphemy law curtailed debate (the law, as Trigg notes was rarely invoked) but that the main objection to the law that seemed to be only intended to place a "thin veneer" of civility upon the discussion of religion was that it gave special protection to the beliefs of Christians.
Rather than decide to extend this protection to cover all religious beliefs, the decision to remove it from Christian faiths was taken. This, then, points out Trigg, was equality of a sort. All religions were, apparently, to be equal in that all could be subject to abuse or intolerance!
As Trigg notes this form of equality is not favoured by most people of other faiths, although their feelings was a reason (excuse?) for this action in the first place.
He looks at historical examples of tolerance and intolerance (the works of John Locke and what they helped to create) and how his support for the so-called Glorious Revolution changed religious freedom in Britain.
He takes an interesting look at those who apparently feel that there should be a theocratic government and those who feel that religion should have no place in public life whatsoever.
It is a very interesting book and will be of great value to students of human rights and religious tolerance all over the world.
It is published by the Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-957685-2.
It costs £25.00 in hardback, but is available at the discounted price of £23.75 at this location:-