Religious beliefs/practices override government laws

Last updated: June 29, 2016

Should religious groups be able to use their own rules instead of the laws of the country they live in? Should exceptions to the national law be made to make room for religious practices?

Religious beliefs/practices override government laws
Yes because...

Religious people have a right to follow their religious beliefs without interference from the govern...

Religious people have a right to follow their religious beliefs without interference from the government. Governments should not interfere in people’s private lives unless there is a need to protect people from serious harm. Lots of religious practices such as slaughter of animals, religious family law and male circumcision do not harm people and so should be permitted.
No because...
Governments should treat everyone equally whatever their faith. As a result, no special treatment should be granted to religions. It is unfair to non-religious people to create exceptions in the law for religious people but not for others who believe that the law is wrong or should be changed. There is no difference between believers and those who hold strong political beliefs about what the law should be or how it should be enforced (e.g. pacifists).

Religious beliefs/practices override government laws
Yes because...

Freedom of religion means more than just freedom to worship in a church, mosque or synagogue. It is...

Freedom of religion means more than just freedom to worship in a church, mosque or synagogue. It is also the freedom to follow beliefs and practices. It is not enough that religious people are allowed to attend a place of worship. Religion is part of all areas of life and cannot be separated from everyday things such as eating or relationships. In order to fully protect people’s right to freedom of religion, all of the practices and beliefs of that religion have to be respected.
No because...
Many religious practices are biased against women. Some readings of Islamic divorce law always grant custody of children to male family members. Women are only allowed to ask for divorce under certain circumstances. There is no reason why the rights of religions should be placed above over the rights of women and children.\
Another problem is that some cultural groups have traditional ways that may not be linked directly to their religious faith. Examples of this include female circumcision or special ways to dress. Often these traditions are very important to ethnic groups, but where they clash with the laws of the state it can be very hard to draw clear lines between what is and what isn’t a valid religious ritual.\

Religious beliefs/practices override government laws
Yes because...

There is no way of knowing that secular, government laws are any better than religious laws. Making...

There is no way of knowing that secular, government laws are any better than religious laws. Making religious people follow government laws forces them to go against their beliefs. Religious people are faced with the hard choice of being good citizens and obeying government law, or committing a sin and acting against the laws of their faith. There is no good reason why a religious person should be forced to break the law just to follow their religion.
No because...
If a government allows religious beliefs and practices to ignore national law, they must be consistent. This means that all religious practices would have to be permitted. The government would also have to respect all the sub-groups of different religions, not just the ones that are mainstream or that the government approves of. This would lead to confusion and make national laws difficult to enforce. Having national laws that apply equally to everyone, without exception, is the only way to ensure that the government protects all religious believers.

Religious beliefs/practices override government laws
Yes because...

Permitting people to practice all parts of their religion sends a message from the government that t...

Permitting people to practice all parts of their religion sends a message from the government that their beliefs are valued by society. After all, religious faith promotes stable families, traditional marriage, respect for the law and hard work. If religious people feel included they will be less likely to resent the state or feel picked on. This will encourage good relations between religions and governments.
No because...
Granting religious groups exemptions from the law will only encourage them to become more isolated. The more a religious group is allowed to follow their own ways, the more likely it is that they will turn away from the rest of society and refuse to mix with other groups. This will lead to a divided society where members of one religion will not work alongside members of other religions or non-believers.

Religious beliefs/practices override government laws
Yes because...

The only way that society can become more tolerant of minority religions is by seeing their practice...

The only way that society can become more tolerant of minority religions is by seeing their practices being respected by the government. If the government labels religious beliefs as ‘illegal’, it gives intolerant people an excuse to discriminate against religious people. If people see other religious practices and beliefs as ‘legal’ and part of everyday life, they are more likely to accept them and, in turn, make an effort to understand religions and their beliefs.
No because...
Governments cannot make every religious practice legal because some of them are harmful to individuals. They may also go against basic values such as equality and human rights. Under this policy, governments will have to select which practices they allow to override general laws. This means that many religious practices will still be thought of as ‘wrong’ and will not lead to tolerance and understanding.


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M. Worden

I would like to see U.S. Government Law override Religious beliefs/practices. Religious beliefs/practices are mostly archaic with men having rule over women, etc. But religions are protected. Switzerland may be an option for me at some point.