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The Best Interest of Children – a Core Battleground of the Secular Society Christian Munthe Department of Philosophy

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1 The Best Interest of Children – a Core Battleground of the Secular Society Christian Munthe Department of Philosophy

2 A ’Down-up’ Strategy for Research on Secularisation and Secularism Avoid to base analyses and arguments on general positions under debate (i.e., avoid begging the question) Identify particular contested issues that seem to be important parts of the ’battle’ over what a secular society is supposed to be Analyse what opposing views and arguments boil down to in terms of underlying key issues (mostly of an evaluative or normative sort). Sort the thus identified key areas into groups. Analyse implied opinions, underlying values and norms, conceptual frameworks, argumentative structures of each such group of key areas. Investigate the possibilities of finding ’hidden common grounds’ from which the wider issue of what a secular society should be can be approached

3 Why? Top-down strategies are intellectually inferior Beg the questions (by assuming a preconceived allocation of power and authority between religious and other institutions, communities and discourses). Void of Capacity to Solve the Issues Impregnated by Epistemological Problems Top-down strategies lack sustainable practical leverage Shuffle the basic problems in front while they continue to grow Globalisation and the ’inner logic’ of liberal societies will continue to produce new, ever more demanding challenges. Risks of violent confrontation and societal unrest

4 Three Debates Neonatal male circumcision No health benefits, several health risks + risk of autonomy infringement Interests of an existential, psychological, communitarian etc. nature. What types of interests do children have, how should they be balanced, who is in a position to identify and weigh them, manage them, etc.? Religion in Basic Education Information vs. Preaching, Science vs. Faith, Disciplining Practice Dito regarding the interests of children The Homosexual Family The Mosaic family ideal and hostility towards homosexuality traditionally embedded in liberal societies Given this backdrop children may suffer harm, but changing the backdrop may save children from harm Changing the backdrop may require some intermediate harm to children Something has to be used as a backdrop for assessment of the best interest of children, but what?

5 The Best Interest of Children No surprise that this theme is central in the debates: shared interests of religions and wordly powers. Procreation of the population Procreation of culture Formal frameworks (CRC, UDHR) Formal frameworks (CRC, UDHR) create both the room for basic conflict and a hope for a common ground that remains to be created A non-question begging scheme for ’picking apart’ different versions of the concern for the best interest of children is needed (i.e. analysis should not side with any position that implies a particular view on the secularism issue) The resulting ’parts’ must be possible to combine in various new ways, thus crossing the borderlines of established ideas

6 A Basic Distinction BIC-1 There is something about the interests of children that make these interests extra morally important BIC-2 Some group(s) are especially suitable for judging what the best interest of children are in particular contexts, how well they would be observed, how they should be balanced, etc. Tricky conceptual issues that have to be analysed in relation to a (varying) normative context BIC-2 can, but need not, be based on BIC-1 First step: an initial map of how important constituents of BIC-1 and BIC-2 may be varied

7 The Nature of the Child… … as incompetent or immature …as vulnerable and needy …as growing into adulthood …as a resource for the family …as a resource for community and society The Interest… …of being respected …of being provided for and not being harmed …of being adequately prepared for adulthood …of being a part of a well-functioning family …of being a part of a well-functioning community and society The Role of a Group in Society to Handle a Matter… …on the basis of delegation …on the basis of authority …on the basis of efficiency …on the basis of ’constitution’ …on the basis of an adequate scheme for the division of social labour All of these have constituents that need to be further analysed!

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