Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Slippery Slope

To say that I don't support official Catholic Church views about many social issues would be an understatement. To say that I'm not happy about huge political influence Catholic Church has in my country is even greater understatement. For me separation of church and state is indistinguishable from modern civil democracy – and that condition is, sadly, not met in Croatia, where Church enjoys status of "state within the state", spared of criticism and other troubles experienced in other countries.

Then, when I see this, I feel the strange urge to become a staunch defender of Church.

Again, I don't like Vatican views on the social issues, including alternative lifestyles. Some of them are offending, and the call to Catholic legislators to vote the Vatican line is an attack on the church and state separation principle. Those views are reactionary and have little to do with modern democracy.

But to try to suppress those views with legislation is even greater attack on democratic principles. If separation of church and state is indistinguishable from modern democracy, so is free speech.

If someone wants to be reactionary Taleban-like bigot and wants to inform the world about this, he or she should be completely free to do it.

It might seem strange for me to oppose "hate speech" legislation, especially considering my nation's traumatic past, but this past is exactly the reason why I consider it the dangerous thing.

First of all, such legislations simply don't work. You can't make bigotry and chauvinism go away through legislation just like you can't make alcoholism and drug abuse go away through legislation. Even the strictest enforcement of such legislation would hardly produce any desired results; it would only serve as a pretext for all kinds of abuse and create resentment.

Many people who feel nostalgia towards Tito's Yugoslavia usually justify its totalitarian one-party regime with its efforts to stamp out "regressive nationalism" through repression. Those efforts backfired with spectacular results in 1980s and 1990s. The very same pretext of "fighting nationalism and preserving brotherhood and unity" was abused by those wanting to eliminate any threat to establishment. In case of Croatia not only moderate nationalists, but even the most secular and non-sectarian opposition to the regime was put in the same basket with the creeps who had worshipped Pavelić (Pavelic). Needless to say, when the tables turned, those who were most demonised by the old regime were those who were most hailed by the new.

Similar developments might very easily occur if the modern Western democracies adopt new dogmas of "brotherhood and unity" and some forms of political views become banned. In case of Ireland, successful prosecution of Church for opposing gay marriages might lead to dangerous precedents. Those precedents, for examples, might be abused by European Union authorities – any demand to restore more rights for member-state could very easily branded as "chauvinist", "nationalist" and treated as "hate speech". Would that suppress or inflame French, German, Italian and any other European chauvinism?

Let's hope that we should never find that out.


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