A ban on black magic in India- free speech vs religious intolerance
An interesting story has popped up in India regarding the banning of cultish acts, particularly those that are running ‘cons’ on people:
“Chanting to cure snake bites, claiming to be a reincarnated spouse to obtain sex, and charging for miracles could soon be banned by an Indian state seeking to stop charlatans preying on the vulnerable”
Obviously to an American audience this brings up immediate free speech issues, and to us in Australia with less strictly defined laws on such, well, we are left to ask the question: “should we enforce laws that restrict the rights of the religious/supernaturalists to exercise their practices?” It’s a tricky one, I personally don’t like the idea that people are being preyed on by these spiritual ‘snake oil salesmen’, but I also respect the fact that freedom is fundamental, and that every time we impose a law, we remove just a little more freedom from the individual.
Of course the obvious old clichés have come out by the right-wing opponents of this law:
“… the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, called it “a draconian law targeting faith”, denounced its proponents as “atheists” and called for supporters to lobby assembly members to oppose it and demand amendments.”
Why exactly calling someone an atheist is an insult I do not know, but regardless, this is not addressing the issue, it is a misdirection, whether the people attempting to ban the law are atheists or not is irrelevant, and anyone opposing this law (which they may have good grounds to do so) would be well advised to target the issue, instead of issuing labels, which avoid the very issue they’re attempting to address, particularly when:
“Dabholkar rejects the charge that the bill is anti-religion.
“In the whole of the bill, there’s not a single word about God or religion. Nothing like that. The Indian constitution allows freedom of worship and nobody can take that away,” he said.
“This is about fraudulent and exploitative practices.”
For Edamaruku, whose organisation seeks to debunk superstition and promote scientific reasoning, a new India-wide law against charlatans is vital to build on the great strides made by the country in recent years.”
The problem for me, is this is a seemingly, unnecessary law. They have laws that police illegal activities, that, by this articles own admission, appear to work, for example, police had already stopped
“an alleged attempt to abduct and kill a seven-year-old girl in a village near Nashik, northwest of Mumbai, as part of a ritual to find hidden treasure.”
“a childless couple in a remote village some 675 kilometres (420 miles) east of Mumbai were arrested for allegedly killing five young boys because a religious mystic told them it would help the woman to conceive.”
They have laws, that already regulate, successfully it seems, illegal activities, when they cause harm, do they need to create new laws that target:
“Practices to be banned by the proposed law include beating a person to exorcise ghosts or making money by claiming to work miracles.
Treating a dog, snake or scorpion bite with chants instead of medicine, and seeking sexual favours by claiming to be an incarnation of a holy spirit or the client’s wife or husband in a past life would also be proscribed.”
As silly as these things are, as antithetical to reason, logic evidence and good epistemology, and as dangerous as they can be, are these good enough reasons to restrict people’s freedoms, when they have laws already that cover witchcraft, and that seem to protect people from serious harm? If people want to willfully expose themselves to these practices, do we have the right to take that away? I would vote for education over legislation, but, it’s not a simple issue for sure. Thoughts?
Indian state mulls ban on black magic, witchcraft. News.com, retrieved 04/09/2011-http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/indian-state-mulls-ban-on-black-magic/story-e6frfku0-1226129099576
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