The ongoing internecine strife in Syria again raises the question of whether there should be intervention by foreigners using force if necessary to save civilian lives. That Russia and China have used their UN Security Council vetoes means that any such intervention by force however well intentioned would be a breach of international law - irrespective of the Russian and Chinese motivations for applying their vetoes. The motives of Western nations for armed intervention are anyway hardly always entirely altruistic either.
I have already blogged before about this dilemma and concluded that one country should not forcefully interfere in another country's internal affairs. Sir Ivor Roberts president of Trinity College Oxford and former British ambassador to Yugoslavia Ireland and Italy makes this point in a much more erudite way in his article in this weeks Tablet entitled: Wrong Road to Damascus - Tablet 25th February 2012
The learned professor's article raises points of principle which are perhaps though not equally still applicable to other issues where one group seek to impose their moral code or ideology on others. Marriage in England and elsewhere in Europe for example has theologically and historically been a sacramental union between a man and a woman inter alia with a view to the procreation of children. The civil authorities are proposing amendments to the secular laws the effect of which will be to raise questions about if not purport to impose changes to such custom, practice and belief.
There is much to commend civil law developments in recent times of outlawing discrimination against anyone because of his or her race gender creed colour age or sexual leanings not least because of huge handicaps say in gaining employment; or vilification or worse that might otherwise affect members of minority groups.
Futhermore giving individuals who choose not to marry sacramentally, the same property and inheritance rights as those who do, is well within prerogative of Caesar's civil legislature but what Caesar, Parliament and Government should not do, in my view, is seek to impose on the religious adherents/authorities their civil re-definition of sacramental marriage. Quite what the UK government intend at present is not clear but requiring upon penalty of eg fines for failure to do so, church premises to be made available for use by those intending to 'marry' in a non-sacramental way, would seem akin to a forceful attempt by civil authorities to interfere in the long established customs practices and rights of religious adherents and their authorities.
As it happens it is arguable that the failure by the civil authorities to nurture the traditional concept of the nuclear family has led to many young children having fewer family role models now to guide and inspire them on the hard road of life than they may have had previously though that is not to say that parents in nuclear families are always the best of role models.
An objective analysis free of political bias into the causes of the consumer riots of summer 2011 might provide food for further thought about this for the civil authorities. The lack of enthusiasm so far for such an Inquiry speaks volumes about our politicians' moral compass or lack of it.