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Content for Religious threats to Human Rights

The Rights of Man reach an Ivorian village

How can people come to see as a problem those parts of their own traditions which trample on human rights? An appeal to something more important than cultural or religious tradition is a revolutionary idea. This account captures people's excitement on first hearing about human rights. The women of the Côte d'Ivoire today show what it must have felt like to people in Europe two centuries ago, as they made the thrilling discovery: "We have rights, too!"

Canon Law in action: Were the Papal States a “perfect society”?

One night in 1859 in the pope's kingdom his police raided a Jewish home. In accordance with one of the “sacred canons” and at the pope's behest, they kidnapped the family's six-year-old. Almost a century later, at the end of WWII, in accordance with the same Church law, the Vatican refused to return baptised Jewish children to surviving relatives. Canon law still gives the final say to the bishop, not the parents, and to its own rules, not civil law.

How secrecy shielded the Legion of Christ from the law

The secrecy vow removes Legion of Christ members from the protection of secular law. The Vatican did not intervene, despite more than 50 years of warnings about its founder Fr. Marcial Maciel (1920-2008). The Legion is too useful, because it goes “where the priest can’t”, bringing money, influence and new priests. Cardinal Ratzinger was shown on ABC TV in 2002 refusing to discuss the scandal. Yet the Vatican claimed in 2010 that even the priests in the Legion didn’t know what was going on....

French law makes cult’s brainwashing a crime (2001)

The murder-suicides of the Solar Temple cult shocked France and presented a legal conundrum. How could a cult leader be prosecuted if he got his followers to give him their life savings and commit suicide “voluntarily”? To hold such leaders accountable, in 2001 France passed the About-Picard Law, making it a crime to mentally manipulate the vulnerable. Leaders convicted of this or other offences can have their groups closed down.

A biologist sets the pro-lifers straight

Prof Guttman calls arguments about “life” a red herring. The “pro-lifers” misrepresent the very concept of “life”, because eggs and sperm are just as much “alive” as people are. “All the talk about how human life begins at the moment of conception is sheer nonsense” — which doesn't stop it from being enshrined in the law of places like Kansas. The pro-lifers’ real aim appears to be to keep women “subservient” and deny them their human rights.  

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