Contra Mozilla

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Freedom For Some Religions

The Supreme Court has decided two religious freedom cases this week. Neither one was the big case, and one is a de facto decision (for now) via refusing to hear a case, but:

  1. The Court ruled that a Muslim prisoner had the right to grow a beard in accordance with his beliefs
  2. The Court decided not to hear an appeal against a Louisiana court's decision that Catholic priests may be ordered to violate the seal of confession (thereby automatically excommunicating themselves).

The former case is a relatively minor decision, since Muslims don't actually have to grow beards (I've met a few who were beardless, and they weren't recent converts, and for that matter I think we have Muslims in our armed forces, which generally don't allow beards). Nevertheless, I think this is a generally correct decision, since the ban against the beard could violate this particular Muslim's interpretation of what Islam requires of him and since the ban doesn't really accomplish much in the way of maintaining control of the prison (beards must be kept short, so a to not alter appearance suddenly if cut off).

The second decision, or non-decision (it more-or-less amounts to the same thing, but without really setting any kind of lasting precedent) is clearly wrong. Priests are basically not going to be testifying about what they hear in confession, regardless of the law, and so this is just a convenient way of creating a vehicle for jailing priests. Even if priests could testify about what has been said in confessions, I doubt that such testimony would in principle be used to actually put away the "bad guys," at least not long-term. People who know that their secrets aren't the least bit safe will tend not to share those secrets. So this will mostly just cause people to stay away from confession--score one for Satan.

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