23rd June 2010

“Liberty in a free and democratic society does not require the State to approve the personal decisions made by its citizens; it does, however, require the State to respect them.”

Justice Bertha Wilson1923 – 2007

9 Responses to “23rd June 2010”

  1. The Heretic Says:

    Depends on what those personal decisions are, I expect. Some personal decisions don’t deserve respect, by the state or anyone else.

  2. solomon Says:

    True.Like Gay rights for example.

  3. Grumpy Old Git Says:

    Agreed. But it seems to me that it requires an open minded, free thinking State machine to know the difference between approval and respect and uphold that difference, just as it does a citizen. Some of the language used by State bodies, organisations and individuals appears to blunt the distinction in just the same way as the blurring of the difference between opinion and logically deduced fact appears regularly in the media, most blatantly used in advertising and by religious publications. I am quite entitled to believe in fairies, but I am not entitled to sack someone who works for me because they do not believe in fairies.

  4. PEB Says:

    Also grumpy old git, I doubt you would be offended if someone questioned your belief in fairies (or indeed drew pictures of them).
    I doubt you would be prepared to kill for your fairy beliefs.
    Religious (and fairy) beliefs should be humoured and tolerated to a point but never respected.

  5. Atheist MC Says:

    This quote strikes me as nonsense. Does the state have to respect my decision to murder someone?
    Personal belief is one thing, but decisions imply actions and actions effect other people.

  6. CaptainZero1969 Says:

    Oh come now A-MC. A Supreme Court Justice (Canada) would certainly not be advocating a position that allows murder so I think it safe to say she’s talking about situations that exclude obvious crimes. Indeed, the context of the quote appears to be referring to abortion law. On that topic, I rather like President Clinton’s standard – abortion should be “safe, legal and rare”. Unfortunately due to the prurient fascination with sex by the religious right when it comes to education, we have a long way to go before we get to ‘rare’.

    When it comes to ‘moral’ questions, I think Jefferson had a healthy attitude about whether one ought to get involved: “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” I think we could extend this to other areas. If your neighbor’s activities injure no one you should be circumspect about involving yourself in his affairs.

    But the religious have a hard time doing this don’t they? They are VERY concerned with who their neighbor is having sex with and how. And they are VERY VERY concerned that some dirt poor single woman carry unplanned pregnancies to term even if doing so consigns her and her offspring to poverty and crime for life while at the same time fighting tooth and nail to prevent her from knowing all she should know about birth control.

    And, it’s worth noting, the same people that complain the loudest about ‘big government’ are the very same people whose ‘morality’ exacerbates the problem and makes social programs like AFDC and food stamps necessary. Their ‘morality’ creates poverty.

    Anyone else notice that Sol brought up homosexuality again? I’ve never met a person that thinks about gays more than Sol does. Curious.

  7. Atheist MC Says:

    Ah! well context is everything I suppose. Insofar as the “decisions” are only about yourself and the consequences to yourself I agree. The decision to take drugs, have abortions, act on homosexual predisposition, eat pork, masturbate all of which attract the ire of the religious and many the disapproval of the socially conservative should not require the approval of anyone, least of all the state. The state should indeed respect the right of its citizens to make such decisions.

  8. YourSkepticalGuy Says:

    I respectfully dissent to those who disagree with the quote (well, except for Solomon with whom I disrespectfully dissent…) – because for me, the definition of personal decision/belief encompasses those decisions/beliefs that do not impact/harm others. Once it does, it becomes something other than a personal decision/belief. I believe that may help to reconcile some of the different thoughts expressed herein.


  9. Chloe Anderson Says:

    Food Stamps are nice and handy if you want some fast meals.:-‘