I am not entirely convinced by the religious freedom arguments put forward by the Strasbourg 4, it could be that I am not entirely familiar these arguments and should read further but it strikes me that a Christian doesn't work in a brothel or a Jew work in bacon factory.
Because we are Christians some jobs are closed to us. More interestingly is the Cologne courts ruling that bans Jewish parents from circumcising their boys, I am not sure even Hitler forbade this. It is going to mean the expulsion, albeit a "voluntary" one of Jews from this part of Germany. On a rational level cutting skin off of a child's body is totally irrational, obviously it is objectionable for black adolescent Sudanese girls, even if they consent, even if it happens under a compliant matriarchy, of course western girls of a similar age can choose contraceptive implants or to have an abortion, but that is a different issue, isn't it?
But back to German Jews and circumcision, because it is Germany and because of the holocaust and because it is the Jews there is something deeply distasteful in a court or a government forbidding it and yet rationality tells us the courts are right. And yet..., and yet because it is Germany and it is the Jews etc...
The problem is that human behaviour cannot be reduced to the merely rational, religion is always the X factor, humanity cannot be constrained by law or rationality. At the most basic level it is a reminder that mankind is not entirely rational, we are more than our DNA. The law cannot be used to codify every human action, we cannot reduce mankind to a machine where every human peculiarity is reduced to the average, the mean man. Diversity is important, it is about the richness of humanity. In our religion, in our politics, in our sexuality, in our values we are diverse, and diversity produces a society in which ideas challenge one another and is creative, ultimately we learn to live alongside one another.
The exclusion of religion from the public sphere is a worrying sign of a growing totalitarianism, and though on the one hand we acclaim diversity there is the growing tendency to outlaw the diverse, rendering it perverse. The first step is to exclude Christians from the caring professions, but what comes after that. The Cologne court ruling gives us a clue, it is about the restriction of the rights of parents over their children, making the state a child's ultimate guardian. Hitler introduced introduced compulsory state schooling and outlawed home schooling, to ensure that only state approved values were passed on to the nations offspring. In most western countries the introduction of same-sex marriage is going make a significant change to what a child may or may not be taught about human relationships. The values of the state will take precedence over the values of Faith groups or of individual parents. Already strong Christian views on sexuality bar prospective foster parents from fostering, how long until they bar parents from parenting?
Giving the state such a role is indeed worrying, again returning to Germany, here the 1930s/40s a perverse scientific rationality rendered some people less than human, it was the irrationality and unscientific nature of religion that was the feint that voice challenged that totalitarianism.
Already Christians feel uneasy about involvement with many areas of medicine, of social work, how long before they excluded from other areas of public life. And after Christians and members of other faiths are excluded, which other groups will be pushed to the sidelines?