Religious leaders removed from the board of the National Advisory Council on Ethics

January 27, 2014

 

In nominating the new board of the Comité Consultatif National d’Ethique (CCNE) or National Advisory Council on Ethics in September 2013, President Francois Hollande chose not to include any religious leaders, and replaced them with secular figures.

This Council, created in 1983, is in charge of providing advisory guidelines on bioethical questions raised by medical, scientific and health research. The CCNE may have an advisory purpose but remains nonetheless influential.  Under its influence, the abortion limit went from 10 to 12 weeks in 2000. The Council opposed medically assisted reproduction in 2005, surrogate motherhood in 2010, and assisted suicide by euthanasia in 2013.

The 1983 founding decree states that the interdisciplinary board must be composed of forty members including ‘five belonging to the main philosophical and spiritual families’. Until 2013, two clerics had been chairing: Pastor Louis Schweitzer and Rabbi Michael Azoulay. Islam wasn’t represented by an Imam but by a Muslim thinker, Ali Benmakhlouf. Likewise, Catholicism wasn’t represented by an ecclesial figure but by a professor of theology, Xavier Lacroix. All four have now been replaced with more secular figures.

In theory, Francois Hollande respected the founding decree, which implied that the five religious board members could be secular but not necessarily clerics. However, the President changed a tradition. ‘We want to return to the founding principals of the Council in 1983, and to call on secular figures to represent the religious communities’, said the Elysée.

According to a former president of the CCNE, ‘nominating civilian figures over clerics is a good thing, because they always end up deploying religion in the debates.’ Mohammed Moussaoui, former president of the CFCM (Conseil Francais du Culte Musulman) deplores the eviction of Rabbi Azoulay and the other religious members. To him, it reflects Hollande’s changing vision of state secularism.

 

Source: http://www.zamanfrance.fr/article/pourquoi-religieux-ont-ete-ecartes-comite-consultatif-national-dethique-7505.html?utm_source=newsletter-karisik-liste&utm_campaign=08cb84806d-Zamanfrance+28_01_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_2d6e3a9a0e-08cb84806d-315948881

Religious Leaders’ Views on Radical Life Extension

No religious group in the United States has released an official statement on radical life extension. However, here are brief summaries of how some clergy, bioethicists and other scholars from 18 major American religious groups say their traditions might approach this evolving issue. (For an in-depth look at public opinion on radical life extension and related issues, see “Living to 120 and Beyond: Americans’ Views on Aging, Medical Advances and Radical Life Extension.” And for an overview of the scientific research and emerging ethical debate, see “To Count Our Days: The Scientific and Ethical Dimensions of Radical Life Extension.”)

Islam

Radically extending life “probably wouldn’t be a problem for most” Muslims, according to Aisha Musa, a professor of religion at Colgate University who has written about the issue from a Muslim perspective. According to Musa and others, Muslims believe Allah (God) knows the exact life span of each person  from birth to death, or what the Quran calls one’s “term appointed” (Sura 40:67). “Since you can’t really violate God’s plan for you, life extension is alright because it’s part of God’s will,” Musa says.

 

Given this outlook, many Muslims would likely see life-extending technologies as in accordance with God’s plan for humanity. “Whenever there is something new, Muslims believe that it has happened with God’s endorsement,” says Abdulaziz Sachedina, chair of Islamic studies at George Mason University and the author of “Islamic Biomedical Ethics.” “Whatever we do, God has a hand in it.”

 

Neither major branch of Islam (Sunni and Shia) has a central authority that would issue a decree on life extension. But Shia Muslims do follow religious leaders known as grand ayatollahs, who issue religious edicts, called fatwas, that are binding on their followers.

 

According to Mohsen Kadivar, a Shia theologian and philosopher based in Iran but currently teaching at Duke University in Durham, N.C., many Shia ayatollahs would likely sanction life-extension therapies as long as their object was not to extend life indefinitely. “There is a difference between life extension and immortality,” Kadivar says, adding, “The first is acceptable and the second is not acceptable, according to Islam and the Quran.”

 

Musa and Sachedina, who are Sunni, agree that striving for immortality would go against Islamic teachings because it would keep Muslims from heaven. “There is a deep-seated belief that death is a blessing,” Sachedina says. “We look forward to dying.”

 

New Study Finds that Arabs and Blacks Face Biases from Paris Police

An investigative study has found that police in the French capital use racial and ethnic profiling against Arabs and blacks, triggering warnings from officials and experts on the risk of creating a sense of injustice among minorities. The Open Society Justice Initiative carried out the study from November 2007 to May 2008, analyzing police records to find that young Arab and black men are stopped for identity checks far more often than young whites. Nathalie Duhamel, general secretary of the National Commission on Security Ethics, which investigates complaints against the police, says the problem with police profiling is that identity checks leave no trail to call officers to account.

Ethics-religion debate: Berlin referendum fails at the polls

Berliners voted Sunday on whether students can take religion instead of compulsory ethics classes. In the end, the referendum failed to attract either enough voters or a majority of those who did vote. Now the proposal’s backers are saying Berlin’s mayor hasn’t been playing fair. It was a referendum that dominated discussion in Berlin for weeks: Should school students have a choice between ethics and religion classes, or should ethics continue to be compulsory and religion an optional extra course?

But after the streets had been plastered with posters and the radio waves full of ads, after all the workshops, discussion panels and street-level campaigning, after all the special newspaper sections and all the lining-up of supporters drawn from the world of politics, sports and television, in the end, not enough people showed up at the polls to push the referendum through. “I’d been hoping for a different result,” said Christoph Lehmann, the lawyer who led the “Pro Reli” campaign, which was backed by the Chancellor Angela Merkel and her ruling center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the churches. Archbishop Robert Zollitch, the head of the Catholic German Bishops Conference, viewed it as a “painful outcome.”

If passed, the proposal would have allowed students to choose between ethics and religion courses, which would have seen Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism taught separately. In the end, only 14.2 percent of all eligible voters in Berlin cast their ballots on Sunday in support of the “Pro Reli” proposal, which was well short of the 25 percent — or 611,422 votes — needed to effect the change. A total of 713,228 (29.2 percent) of Berlin’s 2.45 million eligible voters cast their ballot, 51.3 percent of which opposed and 48.5 percent of which supported the proposal. Berlin has a long secular tradition, and 60 percent of Berliners are not members of any church. In 2006, ethics classes became a compulsory subject for Berlin students between grade 7 and grade 10, with religion being an optional extra class, after the “honor killing” of a Turkish woman murdered by her brother. The proposal was opposed by Berlin’s ruling left-wing parties, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Left Party. The city-state’s government argues that all students, regardless of their cultural or ethnic background, should learn a common set of values. Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit pronounced himself pleased with the results of the referendum, telling Reuters: “This shows that those in ‘Pro Reli’ who were portraying this as a ‘freedom’ issue — as if the Russians were about to invade — are out of touch with the real situation in Berlin.”

The Muslim Girl

A magazine for American Muslim teenage girls, The Muslim Girl features include “Muslim Girl of the Month,” fashion tips such as “cool hijabs” and “long dresses for the long days of the summer,” expert advise on issues such as health, relationships, and ethics, profiles of young female athletes, and celebrity interviews. Readers can view partial articles online or subscribe by mail.

City of Gonesse Proposes Charter to Help Balance Secularism and Religious Freedom

Mayors across France struggle to respect French laicite and satisfy the freedoms of fellow-countrymen of different confessions, without being accused of pandering for votes. John Rock Blazy, mayor of Gonesse, has proposed the creation of a Committee of Ethics devoted solely to these questions of religion and secularism.