If there’s one thing most Libertarians can agree upon is that people have the right to practice their faith peacefully, and those who aren’t believers have every right to disagree with or criticise the teachings of that faith. Hence why most reasonable religious people don’t take theological or political debate around religion as hate speech or discrimination.
Indeed, even within the religious communities themselves there are debates about interpretation and critics of understood dogmas and teachings, which are often thrashed out in Synods and Vatican Councils as a normal part of healthy hermeneutic debate.
However, in the Western world it has become increasingly difficult to criticise or have negative opinions of parts of a faith, their practices and the actions of their followers without being called a racist, xenophobe or a hatemonger. Indeed, there are even laws in many countries like the UK where derogatory speech or actions towards someone because of their faith are illegal, and can in some cases, lead to prosecution and a custodial sentence. But the most concerning situation we are seeing today with these laws in existence, is the lack of parity when applying the law.
The past week has highlighted the wildly differing reactions to accusations of hate and bigotry by different groups. On the British Left there’s been a series of shambolic statements made by the Labour Party about accusations of antisemitism, the U.S has seen wildly racist Tweets by Journalist Sarah Jeong, towards White people go unpunished, and in regards to purely religious beliefs, Conservative Party MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has had his property vandalised with sex toys and has had condoms draped over a crucifix in his garden, amongst various other pieces of graffiti stating he was “scum” and should “shut up and die”.
While the public were disgusted with the likes of The Labour Party and Sarah Jeong, nothing has been done to penalise them in any way with the loss of their jobs or, as of yet, prosecutions of individual party members about alleged antisemitic statements or Tweets. The reaction to the Jacob Rees-Mogg incident however, has not only seen inaction and a lack of condemnation from legal and state institutions, but a total absence of concern and indifference from the public and press, who, if anything, view it as something wildly hilarious.
Yes, the idea of a quite conservative and buttoned up chap with a giant purple dildo and a ‘French Letter’ on their car might be quite funny in its initial image, the underlying message this act communicates is one of outright anti-Christian sentiment and is arguably an attack on the personal choices Mr Rees-Mogg makes as a Catholic.
Indeed, this is not the first time he has been subjected to ridicule and uneven criticisms of his faith. Whenever he appears in the news you will be hard pressed to not find a bank of tweets or articles relentlessly criticising him for his beliefs, when others in a similar position aren’t subjected to the same level of questioning about the teachings of their own faiths.
It is hard not to double take at the hypocrisy displayed in the reaction to Catholicism in the public sphere, particularly when its bought up in matters where faith isn’t even relevant.
Probably the most similar case to Rees-Mogg’s that has been seen in the UK was an incident where bacon was left outside of a Mosque. Within this case, the perpetrators received prison sentences for what was viewed, by the public and the law, as a despicable attack on Muslims, Islam and in the words of the presiding Judge on the case “an attack on England”.
When deconstructed, these two cases are incredibly similar. Pork is commonly understood to be forbidden or Haram within the Islamic faith; just as contraception is forbidden for Catholics.
Couple this with the fact the Cross, a symbol of his faith, was desecrated and that graffiti left behind willed his death, it is difficult to not view both attacks as one in the same and worthy of equal contempt. Yet the Avon and Somerset Police Force have said they are perusing a case of Criminal Damage and, so far, have not mentioned the possibility of investigating this incident as a suspected Hate Crime or indeed Hate Speech – as was done with the ‘bacon sandwich’ cases that targeted Muslims.
What is the use of laws that govern hatred when they are selectively applied and used to protect one group over another? It simply perpetuates the cycle of discrimination and places differing values on the comfort, safety and respect due to different races and faiths. Far from making a difference to society, the implementation of these laws has only created an even more visible cleft between the respect the State believes differing groups should be afforded.
In Scotland for example, according to government reports, Catholics are the victims of 57% of all religiously aggravated offences yet in the press and from our politicians very little, if anything, is done about it, which is deeply concerning considering the history of the UK. Catholics were often hunted down, imprisoned, tortured and murdered for their faith throughout our history. It wasn’t until 1829 with the introduction of the Roman Catholic relief Act that Catholics received anything near to what would be considered as equal civil rights.
Dare it be said that the (incorrectly) perceived ‘Whiteness’ of Christianity is another reason why such cases of anti-Christian bigotry aren’t treated with parity of esteem; which only goes further to highlighting the extreme double standards operating within society and the State.
If we as a nation are intent on crushing discrimination and promoting equality for all, we need to start applying the law, and indeed our outrage, evenly. Racism against all races should be viewed as intolerable, BAME only jobs should be made illegal, and identical cases of religious intolerance and bigotry should be treated the same, regardless of what faith an individual may practice. It is only then we can say that we are truly crushing racism and religious bigotry rather than just shifting it onto others.