'Basic rights for all' - Macleans.ca

‘Basic rights for all’

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Foreign Affairs has posted the text of John Baird’s speech in Washington yesterday on the topic of religious freedom.

Canada has a tradition that some in our country seemed to forget during the latter half of the last century: a tradition of standing for freedom and fundamental rights, a tradition of standing against oppression. We did so in the earliest days of World War II … And yet, after the Second World War, some decision makers lost sight of our proud tradition to do what is right and just. Some decided it would be better to paint Canada as a so-called honest broker. I call it being afraid to take a clear position… even when that’s what’s needed.

So I’m proud to say Canada no longer simply “goes along to get along” in the conduct of its foreign policy. We will stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is popular, convenient or expedient. We do so as part of our commitment to basic rights for all.

Laura Payton notes that the event was sponsored by a church that opposes same-sex marriage and “homosexual practices.” Four months ago, Mr. Baird championed gay rights in a speech in London.

However much the ideas of religious freedom and gay rights are actually in conflict, here is how Hillary Clinton reconciled the two in a speech last December.

The third, and perhaps most challenging, issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens. This is not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation. Some people still defend those practices as part of a cultural tradition.But violence toward women isn’t cultural; it’s criminal. Likewise with slavery, what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights.

In each of these cases, we came to learn that no practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us. And this holds true for inflicting violence on LGBT people, criminalizing their status or behavior, expelling them from their families and communities, or tacitly or explicitly accepting their killing.

Of course, it bears noting that rarely are cultural and religious traditions and teachings actually in conflict with the protection of human rights. Indeed, our religion and our culture are sources of compassion and inspiration toward our fellow human beings. Itwas not only those who’ve justified slavery who leaned on religion, it was also those who sought to abolish it. And let us keep inmind that our commitments to protect the freedom of religion and to defend the dignity of LGBT people emanate from a commonsource. For many of us, religious belief and practice is a vital source of meaning and identity, and fundamental to who we are as people. And likewise, for most of us, the bonds of love and family that we forge are also vital sources of meaning and identity. Andcaring for others is an expression of what it means to be fully human. It is because the human experience is universal that humanrights are universal and cut across all religions and cultures.

The full text of Ms. Clinton’s speech is here.