Thursday, February 04, 2010

Papal Visit Controversy Redux

Wanda: Red-headed people cannot be cauldron polishers. If my cauldron is polished by a person with red hair, than my broom stick may fail to fly properly.

Harriet: As of next Tuesday, it shall be against the law to discriminate on the grounds of hair colour.

Wanda: But that's NOT FAIR. That means my cauldron can NEVER BE POLISHED and my boom stick will NEVER FLY.

Harriet: Hmm.... I'm not at all sure I believe in all this flying broomstick stuff, but I guess the same logic which says that you shouldn't discriminate against red heads also says that the state shouldn't stop you from performing your ceremonies... So: "As of next Tuesday, it shall be against the law to discriminate on the grounds of hair colour, without a very, very good reason." That covers cauldron polishers, and also for example theatres who might not want to hire a red headed actor to play a character who everyone knew was blonde.

Wanda: By the way, did I mention that only fully certified cauldron polishers can sweep up after the ceremony? And obviously, the coven canteen has to be staffed by qualified cauldron polishers. And lots of our members run crystal shops, macrobiotic restaurants and book shops. Obviously, it would be unreasonable to expect them to hire anyone who wasn't a cauldron polisher.

Harriet: No, hang on, that's going much too far. I'll make an exception for your ceremonies, which are none of my business, frankly, but everywhere else the same employment rules which apply to everyone else apply to you too.

Wanda: But that's NOT FAIR. Refusing to employ red-heads is an IMPORTANT PART OF BEING A WITCH! Discrimination! Human rights!

Several Hon. Members: We never liked witches in the first place, they made my granny impotent, they turned me into a frog, witches are worse than child molesters, send them back where they came from, why can't we burn them like in the good old days, etc, etc, etc


Arthur said...

There is an angle you're leaving out here:

CHIEF WITCH: Harriet is being mean to Wanda. Therefore, as the sovereign of an independent state, I am going to address a deputation of witches from Harriet's neck of the woods, and tell them to do their utmost to oppose legislation being passed in another independent state.

HON. MEMBERS: You're going to do that and expect us to get out the best china when you come to visit? Who do you think we are?

RED-HEADED PEOPLE, AND FOLK WHO SUPPORT THEM: And don't forget, we pay taxes too! Why should we pay money to support a visit from someone who's declared themselves morally opposed to our goals?

PS: Of course, one would expect the Pope to object to laws that, by the measure of the Church, are deeply immoral. He's free to do that, and he bloody well should do it. But nobody should be surprised that when he does do it, people who don't agree with him get annoyed at his intervention.

PPS: Of course, the UK taxpayer has paid for the visits of far more objectionable heads of state. I personally don't think that is correct either. At the end of the day, even when you're dealing with the poorest countries, heads of state aren't known for lacking personal funds or a government travel budget, perhaps it's best if they all paid their own way. This would be mildly onerous on the leaders of poor countries when they go to visit, but it's only fair when the leaders of rich countries visit poor lands. And arguably, if your country is so desperately poor that it can't pay for an air ticket and a security detail for you, you have no business running around all over the world in the first place.

PPPS: I know that the Pope is more than a head of state. But the problem with being a head of state is that you're never really off-duty; your statements are always going to have a political dimension to them. Comes with the territory.

Phil Masters said...

Surely the problem is that, once you grant that the witches have the right to decide what's ceremonially correct, you have sold the pass. It's all very well saying that they can decide what's theologically correct for them, but society has the right to determine what's correct in the secular world, but that's drawing a distinction that many - perhaps most - extant religions will tell you is totally spurious and downright offensive. Religions are full of detailed commandments which are supposed to govern every aspect of life, or complicated and fetishistic hang-ups about "purity".

You could try asking the courts to get into each group's detailed theology and rule on the internal logic, but that wouldn't really solve the problem even if it worked in places. (Shame - I love the way that a regional court in British India ended up ruling who was the rightful heir to the mantle of Hasan-i-Sabah.) The ruling would too often have to be "they can do whatever they damn well like", on the internal logic.

(And is this distinction, umm, rather Anglican?)

It's probably a fundamental paradox of liberalism. Or something. Me, I think I'm with General Napier on the application of customs. But I would be.