My brother Jason sent me a couple of emails with links to and article about religious freedom that was published on the LDS church website, as well as a link to another article reporting about a Christian couple in Derby, England that was denied the opportunity to become foster parents because they would teach the children that homosexual relationships were not appropriate. They are two very thought-provoking articles, so I'll take them one at a time:
The idea that freedom of religion includes freedoms for private worship is well known. I would say that most people see the basic right of "religious freedom" to mean that they can have whatever private religious beliefs that they please and can be expected to be treated like everyone else and suffer no discrimination. They are also free to worship in whatever place and with whatever group that they choose. However, groups that seek to diminish the role of religion in the public square are quick to acknowledge these rights as the only rights guaranteed. Groups like the previously mentioned humanism.com emphasize the idea of "freedom from religion", where individuals have a right to complain against all publicly displayed religious symbols, etc, that they are forced to see that, they claim, is disrespectful of their choice not to believe. On the other hand, this article goes further to assert that "freedom of religion" includes the freedom for individuals to be publicly religious, and to allow their religious beliefs to be grounds for their public actions. Indeed, it would be impossible to insist that private religious belief is a freely granted liberty while barring all religious grounds for decision making in public positions. After all, if religion does have an affect on people, it will affect both their private and public lives.
Looking at the second article, the decision of both the local City Council and the High Court on the issue of the foster parents with traditional views was a clear denial of the "freedom of religion" as it is described above. The couple, basing their attitudes on their religious beliefs, were barred from becoming foster parents specifically for their views on homosexuality that stemmed from their private beliefs. Interestingly, this was not just a restriction made on the public display of belief; it was legal reprimand for private moral code founded upon religious principles that the couple would teach the foster children. The judgement sets a precedent for a moral test for civic privileges. The judge makes the point that it is not the "religion" that disqualified the couple from becoming respite carers, it was their moral beliefs about homosexuality that did so. Therefore, according to this seat of judges, it is alright to be religious as long as long as the the religion's traditional moral code does not contradict popular social values.
So, are all city councils and High Court's in England like that? Would many support this kind of ruling, or was this just an exception? That would be good to know.