Religious Exemption Example In QLD News

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Discussion by: Dawnrazor

Hi all,

Long time reader first time poster. I've just seen this situation play out in Australia and I'm frankly a bit annoyed by it, and unsure where to take this. I want to somehow get this to the point where the stupidity is clear for all to see.

The story is here http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/bike-helmet-laws-will-change-to-allow-religious-exemptions-20130423-2ibaq.html and to save the effort the long and short of it is this.

Cycle helmets are law in Queensland, a Sikh guy was busted due to turban affliction and successfully fought the case which led to an exemption due to religious grounds. On the face of it it appears trivial but I'm looking at the wider implications of religious exemption from the law.

Our transport minister says "it's a common sense approach to this issue" then goes on to say,

"Just because someone is going to come out there and claim they don’t want to wear a helmet for religious reasons, they have to do more than that, they have to demonstrate there is a real, long standing religious belief there."

So how do I go about this ?

Do I ask for clarification of the words "real", what denotes "real" belief.

"Long standing" how long does one have to have been a follower ?

"Religious belief" Is there a list of accepted religions that the law can be suspended for ?

What are your thoughts on this ? I notice that the comments sections for each story are full of people objecting to this, they all are now closed, which is heart warming to say the least.

Thanks,

Eddie

20 COMMENTS

  1. I too was very annoyed to see this on our news in Australia. I have concluded that we are never going to see the end of this type of pandering to religion until we change our constitution. The big 2 political parties were not founded on the principles of secularism and humanism, all they will ever do is to go where the votes and money are.
    The only answer is to always vote for The Secular Party of Australia. Eventually they will gain some stronger influence, and one day I hope to see them in power here. We need a bill of rights and REAL separation of church from state, real compliance with secular law, and to diminish the role of religions in society and around the world. That will never happen with us every 4 years playing 1 anti-secular party off against the other.
    We rational and reasonable people have to get involved in all levels of politics in this country.

    If you look back 5 or so news items on this site, you’ll see I had posted the Sean Faircloth speech he made in Victoria very recently – please take note of all the valuable points as to what we need to do here in Australia – many of which were made clearer during questions after his talk but made it onto the video. I hope you remind your local branch of The Secular Party not to waste the momentum Sean’s visit gave us.

  2. Dawnrazor, politics is not about consistency and objective fairness, it is about appeasing people, and religious organisations are large bodies that require appeasing in order to secure votes.

  3. There were two acceptable ways to view the law in this case:

    (1) Say, “Since the choice to not wear a helmet is one that puts your own person at risk and nobody else, you should be allowed to make the decision that other factors are more important to you than your own safety and if you have strong convictions about them you might not want to wear the helmet. Therefore there shouldn’t be a helmet law. Regardless of whether the reason you don’t want to wear a helmet is religious or not.”

    (2) Say, “Since we’re not letting anyone make exceptions to the helmet law for reasons that are secular, we won’t let anyone make exceptions for reasons that are religious either. The helmet law stays as it is.”

    Either of those two approaches would have been fine.

    Every time an exception is carved out for religious personal convictions that is not allowed to also be used for secular personal convictions, the incentive for mixing religion with politics is increased. You can get your way easier if you have a religious argument for your political view than if you have a secular one.

    • In reply to #3 by Steven Mading:

      There were two acceptable ways to view the law in this case:

      (1) Say, “Since the choice to not wear a helmet is one that puts your own person at risk and nobody else, you should be allowed to make the decision that other factors are more important to you than your own safety and if you have strong…

      Yes but in Australia you get free public health care so if you end up smashing your head open and permanently brain damaged it costs the tax payers huge amounts of money so it is sensible to have some restrictions on basic safety equipment, helmets, seat belts etc.

  4. Helmet laws are an example of how my opinions have evolved as I’ve gotten older. Up until 5 or so years ago I was more of a hard core Libertarian. And while I think anyone who gets on a cycle without a helmet is an idiot I would have said that one of the principles of a free people is that government doesn’t write laws designed to stop us from being stupid if our stupidity only harms us and not others. It is why I was also against all drug laws. But when you look at it rationally, there are clearly lives that will be saved with helmet laws and is it really worth some extra deaths and disabilities just so some macho idiots can look cooler on their bikes? Also, since serious accidents do end up costing society as a whole I think you can make the case that even though its your right to act like an idiot society also has a right to step in at times and say if you want to ride a cycle you have to do it in a certain way or just ride in circles in your back yard.

    But anyway after saying all that, that is why I wouldn’t care about a religious exemption for helmet laws. I take it as a given that religion will eventually go away, but also that it won’t happen soon and that in the process its reasonable to continue to accomodate people on certain issues. So just as I support a woman’s right to wear a hijab if she wants to I don’t care about a religious adult who gets to wear his turban or whatever rather than a helmet.

    • I’m starting to think it’s very hard to find examples of personal choices that effect no one but the chooser. Choice of food? But then I’m one of the influences of food product availability and market forces that others read and act upon. Choice of hobby? Someone has to fund the facilities, and we might get no funding if I’m in a small minority. Personal views on science, philosophy, and religion? I act on those views, and that effects how they fare in popular culture and the mainstream, which is available for all to see, which inevitably means someone’s choice of media will be limited. Basically, the demand in many cases outweighs the supply, and the supply caters to the bigger demands instead, so a current open society is at the whim of the largest demographics. Freedom of choice, paradoxically, enables the marginalization of minority choices in favour of majority ones.

      This issue over freedom of choice leading to bad decisions is one of the reasons I wonder if democracy will be superseded by a government meritocracy that gets things done, or if the public will become educated to the point where it wouldn’t matter either way.

      In any case, doesn’t the second half of your post contradict the conclusion of your argument from the first half? The fact that religion is disappearing does not mean it’s already gone.

      In reply to #4 by Red Dog:

      Helmet laws are an example of how my opinions have evolved as I’ve gotten older. Up until 5 or so years ago I was more of a hard core Libertarian. And while I think anyone who gets on a cycle without a helmet is an idiot I would have said that one of the principles of a free people is that government doesn’t write laws designed to stop us from being stupid if our stupidity only harms us and not others. It is why I was also against all drug laws. But when you look at it rationally, there are clearly lives that will be saved with helmet laws and is it really worth some extra deaths and disabilities just so some macho idiots can look cooler on their bikes? Also, since serious accidents do end up costing society as a whole I think you can make the case that even though its your right to act like an idiot society also has a right to step in at times and say if you want to ride a cycle you have to do it in a certain way or just ride in circles in your back yard.

      But anyway after saying all that, that is why I wouldn’t care about a religious exemption for helmet laws. I take it as a given that religion will eventually go away, but also that it won’t happen soon and that in the process its reasonable to continue to accomodate people on certain issues. So just as I support a woman’s right to wear a hijab if she wants to I don’t care about a religious adult who gets to wear his turban or whatever rather than a helmet.

      • In reply to #6 by Zeuglodon:

        I’m starting to think it’s very hard to find examples of personal choices that effect no one but the chooser. Choice of food?…

        I agree but if you are implying that the conclusion is its impossible to evaluate when a choice should be left up to the individual and when society has a right to interfere I don’t agree and I would say that is an example of what Dawkins calls the tyranny of the discontinuous mind:

        http://www.richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2013/1/28/the-tyranny-of-the-discontinuous-mind

        Just because all choices impact society in some ways doesn’t mean we can’t make rational decisions about which choices should remain private and which can be influenced by the government. I think the guidelines for those choices would be the extent and certainty of the potential harmful impact. So if — as with the helmet law — there is very strong data that demonstrates helmet laws lead to reduced death and injury and the only argument that people have against them is “I don’t look cool in a helmet” then society has a right to tell them that they have to sacrifice their machismo for the good of society if they want to ride on public streets.

        On the other hand laws against say sodas over a certain size (which they actually tried to pass in NY city) I think are clearly over the line. First its doubtful that limiting the size of any one serving is going to make a change in people’s habits anyway and second the harm is so long term (and also the extra government regulation enforcement is costly with very questionable return). In that sense I still am a Libertarian, I think if the evidence isn’t conclusive then ties should always go to less regulation rather than more.

        In any case, doesn’t the second half of your post contradict the conclusion of your argument from the first half? The fact that religion is disappearing does not mean it’s already gone.

        I never meant to imply that religion was already gone. I think it will almost certainly be gone eventually but not in my life time and probably not in the life time of anyone alive today. The question is how to deal with it in the mean time? One approach (which I think is what most of the New Atheists seem to advocate) is to be as hard nosed against any religious exemptions as the religious fundamentalists. Never to compromise because compromising once means you might eventually compromise again (actually another example of the discontinuous mind) That’s not my approach. You can look at the US and see the mess we are in because one party has taken the never compromise approach. So in this case a compromise that lets people not wear helmets doesn’t seem that intolerable as long as it only effects religious adults who willingly make that choice.

    • I’m glad you ave rethought your position on this….
      The problem is 3 fold… Reckless, unrequired deaths – although this can be argued both positively and negatively….ie Darwin Awards…
      Secondly and most importantly – the unfortunate person who may be part or the cause of the accident…having to live with the knowledge that they have killed someone. The reality is that cyclists and bikers are far more likely to be killed in any accident vs a motor car – than the driver or passenger of said car. The trauma of the knowledge cannot be under-stated. And lastly, should the victim not be killed, statiscally they have a far greater chance of sustaining permanent head injuries – this is a significant cost on the health system. In reply to #4 by Red Dog:

      Helmet laws are an example of how my opinions have evolved as I’ve gotten older. Up until 5 or so years ago I was more of a hard core Libertarian. And while I think anyone who gets on a cycle without a helmet is an idiot I would have said that one of the principles of a free people is that governm…

  5. Maybe there’s a market for a SIkh bicycle helmet.

    A little bit more seriously, I’m not keen on cycle helmets myself. Especially when not on public roads (and even then on the road, it won’t help you much).

    The third point is insurance. Since this is law, I’m guessing there are legal issues associated with that. Muddling religion exemption, health and safety, law and insurance, that can be a whole new can of worms!

  6. We have had similar incidents in Canada. The RCMP (federal police force) have official headwear for men, women, and Sikhs to accommodate their turbans. Sikhs are also allowed to wear their kirpans (ceremonial dagger) in court where all weapons are normally banned. The court sheriff must be informed and can rule that the kirpan cannot be worn if the sheriff has any security concerns. A recent decision of the Supreme Court allows individual judges to decide if Muslim women have to remove their veil to testify in court. There is an ongoing rape trial of a Muslim woman who wants to wear her veil to testify, while the defence wants to be able to see her face to better judge her testimony. The veil question in this case hasn’t been settled.

    Canada does allow some accommodation for religious beliefs, but we do not allow sharia courts in Canada. Rulings made by sharia courts are null and void in the eyes of the law here.

    So where to draw the line? Do Jedi’s get to wear a light sabre into court? Do pastafarians get to wear the holy colander when getting their driver license picture taken? Do Christians get to wear a cross in a sterile operating room? What is a “real” religion? How long must it exist? How many adherents must it have? How do we tell the follower is sincere or just wants to be exempt from some annoying rule?

    My first impulse as an atheist is that no religious belief should be taken into account, but on longer reflection I think some of the harmless outward practices should be accommodated. We should accommodate them because we should always allow people the maximum freedom that doesn’t directly infringe another’s rights.

    We have good reasons, security, to ban weapons from court, but a kirpan, sheathed, and worn under clothing by a devout Sikh is likely harmless. On the other hand the person who insists on wearing visible religious articles should not take a job that involves wearing a uniform, or dress code banning them. If you are against gay marriage you shouldn’t become a justice of the peace who is expected to perform secular marriages for all citizens. Sharia courts should not be allowed as they are not harmless, undermine justice, and are known to discriminate against women.

    Not everything is black and white.

  7. One concern with this is it appears that it can be imposed on children, since it applies to any baptised member of the Sikh community. (Anyone know at what age this happens?) I do not think religious practices are an adequate reason to put children at increased risk. It must be a decision taken voluntarily by a competent adult.

    Secondly, if I were in an accident with a Sikh not wearing a helmet in compliance with the law, his injury might be more severe and I might be legally or financially liable for that. Not to mention the additional medical costs paid for by the entire community.

    On the whole a very bad precedent. If it is not necessary for motorbikes why must it be done for bicycles.

  8. The underlying dilemma here is a conflict between personal freedom and responsibility to society, which is a continuously shifting front, not something clearly obviously right or wrong.

    Helmet and seatbelt laws benefit society, by lessening the overall costs associated with the injuries and deaths caused by crashes. So, for an exemption from such laws, on any grounds at all, to be “fair”, the person seeking exemption would need to take responsibility for any extra costs that might be involved in his decision. That would have to mean insurance. Currently driving without insurance for at least third-party liabilities is an offence in some countries. Likewise, being a Sikh or whatever, not wearing proper safety headgear, and not having current “no helmet insurance” would be an offence. Not a religious discrimination, just a civil offence of failing to have the insurance, like failing to pay taxes, or comply with other civic duties.

    The religious, or other principled individuals who feel that helmet laws should not apply to them, have the freedom to choose – don’t cycle, cycle with a helmet, or cycle with an insurance policy.

    In the case of children,however, it must remain an offence for any adult responsible who fails to take all reasonable steps to ensure their safety – so, no religious exemption for kids.

    I do like the idea of a line of Sikh-compatible cycle helmets.

    That these are likely to cost more than ordinary helmets would be offset by the insurance savings. And insurance companies might find careful Sikh cyclists a new source of profits. Not that I think they should be gouging Sikhs any more than they already gouge the rest of us.

    • In reply to #12 by Deako:

      Red Dog, can you provide evidence that cycle helmets reduce injury – ta.

      “> These guys (whoever they are) suggest the evidence is weak at best”

      Well Greg- only a personal experience. Somersaulting over the bars of my MTB, landing flat on my back on the bitumen resulted in my cycle helmet split wide open. No injury to my nut, only my ego.
      Evidence not all that weak, for me.

  9. Yeah I live in QLD also and it is annoying. Apparently his particular religious group have been working on this issue for some time. While we’ve been busy getting with living.
    Well the next thing we can expect to see in the news here is. “Turban wearing cyclist receives head injuries or “Turban fails to protect cyclist from head injuries. Cyclist seeeks damages from local govt.”
    For the commercially minded this is surely an opportunity to make a turban with an integrated bike helmut.
    Call it a “notahelmut”

  10. there shall be no exception for people evading common laws on ground of religion..

    if no, what if my “religion” tells me I am allergic to human ?? you guys should all disappear from this plannet earth then :)

  11. Eddie; Dont know if you are prepared for this but this is the way it goes. If I may direct you to the Concordat between the Fascist Vatican and Nazi Germany, July 1933rd, article 10 (ten, as in the law-10 Commandments) you will findreligionis, in effect, a war with Catholicism at war with the world. Looking at article 10 we find the priests habit is a military uniform. Other articles of interest include the commercial activities of the church, including holding of chapters (know of any groups involved in chapters and I dont mean the bookstore) and the contract can only be broken with mutual concent. From such works of Avro Manhattan you can gain a better perspective of the inner workings of the papacy and Vatican. You see, there are three (so-calledtrinity) players here. Elizabeth Windsor, with lineage to David, henceJudah, pope, whose apparent mandate is toJeZeusthe world via; peace and love, forgive and forget, boys; grab your ankles when the priest is present etc. The Messiah preached peace and love; repent and atone BUT if you dont, the full extent of the Law prevails. Then there is Vatican cuira, the Vatican court. My research leads me in the direction Vatican represents the remnants of Cain. Cain, in case you dont know, is out to destroy the planet, and is operating under its own private Canaan law sometimes referred to as Canon law, disguised as what ever law you want or it has usurped. What Lizzy does is run interferrance and lets pope slowly dummy-down the population. Once this is achieved Vatican moves in with their Lateran Pacts-Diplomatic relations. In the land of Canaanada October 1969. In the 13 Colonies 1985(?). From the unum sanctum of 1302 we find pope claiming ownership over governments and their armies as well, at the last sentence, owership overhue-man creatures(parens patrae). This is substantiated in the fact Auz, as with Canaanada have ministers. View the prime minister as an arch bishop. In the 13 Colonies we find Secretaries. If you know about secretaries, you would have to agree they perform clerical work and,removing two letters we arrive at; cleric. Do you know what a cleric is? So, when relating the united States of America with Canada we easily conclude the tail wags the dog. Because of the Royal Proclamation 1763 (I have the map fyi) we find there are but 13 Colonies as the Proclamation has yet to be spent or amended. If you know anything about boxing or four cornering from journalism, you will find wihat ever is in the box disappears. Therefore, when one views god, sometimes referred to oleglory`, or the American flag, we see the stars within the box but the 13 stripes still valid. Worthy of note, one look at the PROVINCIAL flag of the 50th STATE leaves more questions.

    Insofar as you are concerned with the fine, it is, in reality, a tax. Since Lizzy is the head of state, in proxy or not, she is bound to the Laws set out in the Scripture. Even though she has delegated the authority to create; HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH THE SECOND, over to the Lord Privy Seal, a papal creation post 1,066, the Lord Privy Seals, and corresponding Privy Councils, are responsible to adhere to the Laws attached to Lizzy. However, we know they are working under direction of pope. In failing to abide to the Laws attached to Lizzy renders the poly tick ian gulity of heresy for pope is the main trustee therefore his good name, reputation and dignity has been challenged. A catch-22 for certain. There are two passages which come to mind. One involves making one law for the countryman and one for the stranger ergo, if pope-clergy aint taxed neither are we. Another passage commands her not to deviate from the law, not to add or diminish from the Law. If you look to 2Kings25 v 21-28 we find Judah being bribed and pensioned then relieased. I assume the Babylonians proceeded to put their own people into power, probably under the scheme ofDemocracy. Before I sign off, if you read Deuteronomy 15:15(?) is says something about Judah not allowed to amass gold, silver, horses, etc. How wealthy is Lizzy? Can you see how the validity of the tax fails if properly addressed? However, if youvoteyou areenjoying the franchise. If you are franchised your only option is at the ballot box nextround. The reason for the franchise is to access the Indian Trusts sitting in the Consolidated Revenue Funds. It is a rape, loot, pillage of the Tribes and lands of the planet. We are all tribal.

    Definition of Insanity: DEMOCRACY; voting over and over and over expecting different results. How many years has it been since George Washington was president and how many presidents have done something lasting for the good of the people as a whole?

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