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Abuse, fraud and segregation: a religious round up

Two very different official warnings have recently been issued to religious bodies.  By far the more serious of the two is the UN’s damning message to the Vatican over its alleged multiple failures to hold child abusers to account:

In grimly worded findings released by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the watchdog urged the Holy See to “immediately remove all known and suspected child sexual abusers” from their posts in the church and hand over the cases to law enforcement authorities in the countries concerned.

The other is a more quirky story. The leader of the Mormon Church has received a summons from a British Magistrate requiring him to answer charges of fraud:

In one of the most unusual documents ever issued by a British court, it lists seven teachings of the church, including that Native Americans are descended from a family of ancient Israelites as possible evidence of fraud.

It also cites the belief that the Book of Mormon was translated from ancient gold plates revealed to the church’s founder Joseph Smith by angels and that Adam and Eve lived around 6,000 years ago.

The document suggests that asking members of the church to make contributions while promoting theological doctrines which “might be untrue or misleading” could be a breach of the Fraud Act 2006.

Although the claim about Native Americans seems obviously silly, it could be argued that is a lot less bizarre than many other religious teachings.  For this reason it is, I assume, more easily disproved than claims about, say, transubstantiation or Mohammed’s night journey.

You don’t have to be anti-religious to experience irritation at the Vatican’s assumption that it should be able to impose its dogma on contraception, abortion and homosexuality on those who may not wish to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church:

As part of its wide-ranging remit, the UN committee also expressed concern about how the Holy See’s stance on contraception, abortion and homosexuality was affecting minors.

It’s still more annoying when secular bodies join in with this idea that religious teachings should trump other strongly held beliefs.   As Butterflies and Wheels reports:

The Student Association of Edinburgh University (EUSA) had a meeting a few hours ago. There were many items on the agenda. One item was a motion by the Humanist Society (a subgroup of the Student Association) to

Commit to disallowing imposed or directed segregation, based on any characteristic, in EUSA buildings or at EUSA events.

The motion was heavily defeated.

Two things stood out for me about this regrettable result.  The first was the moderate and accommodationist nature of the motion – it explicitly permitted voluntary segregation. The second was the fact that opposing speeches ‘stated or implied that the society’s motivations were racist and Islamophobic.’

The Mormon ‘fraud’ seems the least worrying instance.  If adults decide they want to spend their money propping up the Mormon church, that’s their business. It’s more worrying when religion starts to interfere with the rights of those who choose not to follow it, or prefer to practise it in a way not considered ‘normative’.