Monday, July 17, 2006

A Logical Extension of Pluralistic Secularism?

Dutch Court OKs 'Pedophile' Political Party

In this story we learn that a Dutch court refused to ban a political party from registering whose platform is to lower the age of sexual consent from 16 to 12. Of the three known members, one was convicted of sexually molesting an 11-year-old 20 years ago. The reasons for this ruling sound very American.

"Freedom of expression, freedom ... of association, including the freedom to set up a political party, can be seen as the basis for a democratic society," Judge H. Hofhuis said in his ruling. "These freedoms give citizens the opportunity to, for example, use a political party to appeal for change to the constitution, law, or policy."

According to the judge, voters are the final moral authority when it comes to political parties and the laws of the land.

"It is the right of the voter to judge the appeal of political parties," he said.

There were dissenters to the ruling to be sure, and their objections ranged from their view that children had the right not to be presented with this political view to the further harm the very existence of this party could do to past victims of pedophilia and sexual abuse.

Noteably missing from the story's presentation of the opposing opinion is the moral evil of pedophilia. The legal stance was about rights and harm (and certainly rightly so), but not about inherent morality.

This appeal to rights is ubiquitous in our own culture as well, and though it may or may not lead to the establishment of the 'Americans United For The Sexual Liberation of Minors' political party, it does not have the power to prevent it either. We have come to a point in our cultural psyche in which 'rights' are the last word on any contested legal issue, and all one needs to do in order to have their way is to claim a 'right'. For some reason, that appeal seems to have the force of divine utterance for us. It is more powerful than moral arguments, but as we see in this Dutch case, it cannot settle an inherently moral issue.

The opponents to the Dutch ruling are right that children have some kind of right to be protected from pedophiliac political propoganda, but in a world comprised of nothing more than competing claims to 'rights', children have no more right to not be raped than rapist have to rape children. So who decides? Well, judges do. And it is not surprising that in cultures that value pluralism and tolerance, judges will tend to rule on the side of more tolerance and not less-we are multiplying rights instead of limiting them, no matter what they are.

That reality, however, leades to inherently absurd realities. Because our Western European cultures are becoming more and more relativitstic and natrualistic all the time, we end up living in cultures that believe on some level that pedophiles have a 'right' to be a political presence and that children have the right to not be subjected to their message. Think of San Francisco during the NAMBLA parades. The absurdity is we believe that two contradictory 'rights' should be public realities at the same time when one of them is clearly morally abhorrent. Oftentimes the way we release this mental and moral pressure cooker is we claim that NAMBLA has the 'right' to march and that parents have the option, if they so desire, to keep their kids inside during the parade of depravity. "Just decide not to watch," "Change the channel," we argue believing that that absolves us from our moral namby pambyism.

What needs to be regained is a public square that is not afraid of drawing moral distinctions. Pedophilia is evil, and it is a moral good to protect our children from the actions and messages of its proponents. Hence, in a morally centered pluralistic society, the rights of the children outweigh the rights of the molesters and they should be refused the right to form public politicial parties.

Dostoyevsy was right. Despite every complicated and extended attempt to prove him wrong, he was right when he put these words in the mouth of Ivan, "When God is dead, everything is permitted."

A culture built on nothing but a pluralism of rights is literally absurd. A culture built on rights adjuicated by a supernatural, objective, and enduring source is reasonable, healthy, moral, wise, and utterly necessary.

3 comments:

John-Michael said...

"The opponents to the Dutch ruling are right that children have some kind of right to be protected from pedophiliac political propoganda, but in a world comprised of nothing more than competing claims to 'rights', children have no more right to not be raped than rapist have to rape children. So who decides? Well, judges do. And it is not surprising that in cultures that value pluralism and tolerance, judges will tend to rule on the side of more tolerance and not less-we are multiplying rights instead of limiting them, no matter what they are."

Judges interpret the law. Their personal moral convictions absolutely cannot overide the law. It ius the legislature's job to create laws that protect our society, and it is our job as citizens to elect a legislature capable of doing so.

I am sure that every judge that ruled on that case feels that pedophilia is indeed evil. Thank goodness though that that is not their decision making criteria. The absolute rule of law is part of the genius of our system that allows our people to prosper. Current charges of legislating from the bench would pale in comparison to what would happen if judges decided the law based on their own views of right and wrong.

The judges also ruled that the sick idividuals in question ad a right to form a political party. You said: "in a world comprised of nothing more than competing claims to 'rights', children have no more right to not be raped than rapist have to rape children." That is simply not true. We have laws against rape and for good reason. We also have laws guaranteeing political expression. Whether that expression is repugnant or not is thankfully irrelevant. Once we start deciding what voices can be silenced we are on a very slippery slope and all the rights that we celebrate and are able to take for granted become a matter of interpretation for a future that we cannot predict.

Phil Steiger said...

John-Michael-

Thanks for your thoughts, and though I agree in principle with much of what you have to say, where we diverge is in your last paragraph.

My point about a culture ruled by 'rights language' is not refuted by your point. The fact that we currently have laws on the books regarding the evil of rape does not necessitate that always being the case. Why do we legislate against rape? Because we believe it is inherently evil, not because I have a right not to be raped. Why do I have a right not to be raped? Because rape is an inherent evil.

The illegality of rape and the 'right' not to be raped are properly grounded on the inherent and absolute morality of the action. When that basis for the law is removed, all we are left with are 'rights' considered as the basis of morality, but which are only properly understood as the social consequences of moral laws.

Hence, 'rights' multipy every time enough people claim them. I am sure the Dutch have laws on the books against pedophilia. But the point of all this is that a political group wants to change those laws. Analogously, though we legislate against rape, what if a political party arose to change those laws? If our laws were merely a matter of 'rights' there would be very little to keep them from organizing. If our laws have their footing in something more substanial and enduring, there would be plenty of reasons to keep them from organizing.

We decide all the time which voices should be silenced-and its a good thing, too. Do you believe NAMBLA should hold seats in Congress? Do you believe Nazis should be allowed to prosper again in Germany? Freedom of expression has never been understood as an unqualified good. Even the freedom of religious expression is limited while the freedom to believe anything is not.

Phil Steiger said...

Ohio Man Claims Civil Right To Have Sex With Boys