Your Rights Versus My Freedom: Is A Peaceable Pluralism Possible?

Monday, 8th November 2021
7:30-9:00pm @ Head of the River

It is a fundamental human right, a privilege of nature, that every man should worship according to his own convictions … It is assuredly no part of religion to compel religion.
Tertullian, Letter to Scapula

The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
Thomas Jefferson

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.
The European Convention on Human Rights, Article 9

I appeal to all governments and societies to promote the values of tolerance and respect for diversity, and to build a world where no one has to be afraid because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
UN Secretary-General António Guterre

Society today seems to be strained almost to the point of breaking by people’s quarrels over conflicting claims to natural and legal rights. Do employers have a right to demand that employees be vaccinated or do workers have a right to refuse vaccination? Do sexual minorities have a right to the services of religious organizations (e.g., Catholic adoption agencies) or religious businesspeople (e.g., evangelical bakers) or do people have a right to decide the terms of their services in accordance with their consciences and religious convictions? Do you have the right to speak freely even if your speech offends me, or do I have a right to expect public spaces to be inoffensive “safe spaces”? What are we to make of all these conflicting “rights” claims? Are all natural rights just “nonsense on stilts,” as Jeremy Bentham thought? Is a peaceable pluralism even possible within a society racked by incompatible “rights” and clashing “freedoms”?

These are questions that any intellectually informed person needs wrestle with sooner or later, and we will take them up at our second Socratic Happy Hour of Michaelmas Term 2021. We hope you’ll join us.

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