Trinidad and Tobago Humanist Association

tt.humanist :: forum :: commentary :: religion

There is no correlation between religion and ethics

10 May 2009 • 391 words
Published in Express

The appointment of Father Henry Charles as Chairman of the Integrity Commission drew widespread support. In a May 4 letter to the President, Chairman of the Indo-Trinbago Equality Council, Devant Maharaj, welcomed the “different perspective” Charles would bring. He further called for “suitably qualified pundits and imams” to be offered positions. The assumption at work is that religious leaders, by the very fact of their faith, would enhance the Integrity Commission’s integrity.

By May 7, however, there were revelations that Charles, man of the cloth and academic, had committed the intellectual sin of plagiarism. This was no blip. Over three years and in three columns (so far; there may be others as yet undiscovered) from 2006 to last month, he borrowed arguments, lifted language verbatim and even recycled headlines from the New York Times and National Catholic Weekly with nary a source, credit or quotation mark. Blaming “deadline pressure”, Charles submitted that no one was infallible.

Maybe so. But not only do many people behave in accordance with standards of professional conduct, but those who don’t have no place policing others. This debacle is a reminder that religiosity is neither a precondition nor an amplifier of ethics.

It is in our collective interest not to conflate religion with the exercise of civil power. Data from the World Values Survey show that the most religious nations are often the least ethical. There is no logical reason to prioritise the representation of religion on any state commission, board of enquiry or board of censors. A secular society, by definition, excludes religion from governance and justice.

Of course Charles said that he wrote his resignation letter the night before these revelations surfaced and that it was Canon law which prevented him from assuming public office rather than honour or embarrassment. For its own part—and in spite of its interference on public policy issues such as sex education and abortion law reform—the Catholic Church itself trumpets separation of church and state. We agree.

T&T Humanist Association

See A dose of Darwin (Charles Darwin 200, Origin of Species 150)

See Myth, not history, from UWI academics

See Statement on TT Humanist Day 2008

See Should a leader impose belief over reason?

See TT Humanist : News : Launch : The Virtues of Secularism (PDF)



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