5. Self-determination

Individual self-determination plays an important role amongst IBKA's aims in accordance with its by-laws. Such self-determination is limited by the rights of others and by our responsibility to future generations.

The term "individual" self-determination is not an expression of disdain for interpersonal contacts and solidarity. Rather, the addition of "individual" shall make it clear that IBKA distances itself from the concept of a "collective right of self-determination" for cultural groups, i.e. a "right" to impose the cultural norms of the group on all group members, thus disregarding the individual rights of individual group members. IBKA makes a stand for the individual: his/her individual self-determination must be asserted even against tradition and religious or philosophical norms.

Free choice regarding philosophical issues is an essential element of self-determination. It gos without saying that, to IBKA this is of special significance. Self-determination also includes the freedom to design one's own life according to one's own views and wishes. This freedom shall not be put in jeopardy by churches and other religious communities aiming to bind the entire society to their values based on religion.

Children and parents

Human rights apply to children, too. Children, however, are not able to exercise their human rights just from the beginning of their lives. Later in life, children might do harm to themselves or others by unconsidered exercise of their rights; for example, a child might waste his or her property, thus in the long term depriving him/herself of the opportunity to utilize such property in his/her own interest. For such reasons, the rights of children to make legally valid decisions may be restricted to some extent and conferred on others. In particular to parents who, in many constitutions and documents on human rights, are granted far-reaching rights to decide on the way to raise their children.

The parents' right to bring up a child is no excuse for an arbitrary use of power. On the contrary, parents have a duty to consider their children's concerns. This includes the following: "While looking after, and raising, a child, the parents shall take into account the child's growing ability and growing needs to act independently and responsibly. As far as such is advisable considering the stage of development of the child, they shall discuss with the child issues of parental care, and strive for agreement, with the child." This is a how German law correctly defines the duty of parents (Section 1626 para. 2 German Civil Code).

In a philosophically-religiously neutral state parents are entitled to decide on the philosophical or religious concept which their children are to be familiarized with from their early age. Parents have the right to introduce their children to these concepts themselves or to use the facilities provided by philosophical or religious communities, i.e. the respective philosophical or religious education.

However, parents do not have the right to raise their children in an artificially created intellectual mono-culture keeping away from them everything that does not correspond with their religious or philosophical views. Children and adolescents have the right to develop their ability to make their own decisions with regard to philosophy and religion. They have the right to be provided a variety of stimuli (2. Youth and education).

With regard to the philosophical education of their child, parents are not entitled to ignore the child's wishes and convictions as they please. They do not have the right to impose religious acts on their children. If the parents' and child's opinions differ, the parents are obliged to search for a solution together with the child that takes into account the child's interest.

Religious acts claiming to be valid throughout the entire life of the child, such as the christening of infants and children, represent a problem. They are performed on babies who have never expressed the desire to be christened and on children whose agreement is not based on an independent decision but on the trusting adoption of their parents' religious views.

The philosophically-religiously neutral state cannot refuse parents the right to perform such religious acts on their children. This does not excuse parents from asking themselves whether they can justify to their children that they have anticipated his/her decisions and authorized an irrevocable religious act before the child has had the opportunity to give serious thought to the pros and cons of such in order to reach an independent decision. One day their child might come to adopt views that are diametrically opposed to such religious act. He/she might then see it as a burden that he/she was christened as a baby without having been asked first. Or perhaps he/she was asked first but far too early in life to be able to counter the parents' influence with an independent view.

What IBKA demands:

Health and freedom from bodily harm

All human beings have a right to health. The right to freedom from bodily harm is the logical consequence of this human right. Unfortunately, this right is violated far too often on religious grounds.

One of the worst violations of this right is the genital mutilation of girls and women that is quite common in some areas of Africa. This "circumcision" is often performed without the use of anaesthetics and without taking even the most basic measures of hygiene. It can lead to death or to serious health problems. All of the "circumcized" girls and women are to a great extent deprived of their ability to enjoy sexual pleasure.

By contrast, the effect of circumcision of the foreskin of boys, as practiced in Islam, Judaism and countries with Christian-Puritan character (for example: the USA) has a rather limited effect. However: If this type of circumcision is not necessary or advisable for medical reasons (phimosis), but is performed merely on religious grounds, it constitutes a violation of the rights of children: of children who are circumcized without giving their consent; of children who were forced to give their consent; and of children who, through massive religious influence were made give their consent.

Parents who deny their children necessary, even vital medical measures (for example: exchange transfusion) disregard their children's right to life and health.

Religious education can have devastating effects on the psychic health of children and young people. It can lead to the development of anxieties, such as fear of divine punishment or excessive fear of even the slightest failure. Religious education can lead to feelings of inferiority and guilt for no reason at all or not in proportion to the cause. Much damage results from religious taboos with regard to sexuality, such as the banning of masturbation.

Religion-induced psychic illness may result in physical illness. Children and adolescents need to be protected against psychic and psycho-somatic damage whether caused by religious or by profane circumstances.

But although modern societies generally have instruments in place to fairly protect children against being harmed by their parents' wrong educational measures, detrimental practices of religious education are generally tolerated owing to a misguided interpretation of religious freedom. The courts even shrink back from uncompromisingly applying the relevant laws inasmuch as religious practices are concerned.

What IBKA demands:

Sexual self-determination

Each human being has the right to arrange his/her sexual behaviour according to his/her wishes, as far as this does not violate other people's rights. This should be a matter of course. However, the view that certain forms of sexuality are morally inferior even if they do not violate anybody else's rights, still exists.

Christian religion supports such views: The Old Testament calls homosexual intercourse between men an "abomination" that requires the death penalty (Leviticus = 3 Moses 20:13). In the New Testament, Paul calls homosexual intercourse ""unnatural", "shameful" and a "perversion" (Romans 1:26-27). The Roman-Catholic church still holds the view that a homosexual act is "in itself not in order", preaching "chastity" to the homosexual (Catechism of the Roman-Catholic church, paragraph 2357-2359).

IBKA opposes such views. They must not influence either public opinion or legislation.

Frequently, discrimination shows by homosexual couples being denied the opportunity to acquire the rights of married couples. To some couples, these rights are very important, because they want to put into practice their desire to live together. One example from Germany: Only if married can an employee terminate his/her employment in order to follow their partner without losing their claim to unemployment benefits for twelve weeks. For people who want to follow their partner to another country, this option of "following a spouse" is often the only way to make authorities to fulfill their wish.

The right to live with a loved one is an important element of self-determination. It is therefore important that no couple be wilfully denied this right.

What IBKA demands:

Prostitution

Prostitutes still suffer from a society that is partly characterized by Christian moral values who take out their aversion to prostitution on prostitutes. Prostitutes are held in contempt, they are denied rights and social security. This inflicts an injustice on prostitutes they have not deserved.

Adults practising prostitution on their own accord are exercising their right to self-determination. Any coercion of a prostitute on the other hand constitutes a serious restriction of self-determination.

What IBKA demands:

Family planning

If and when a child should be born is one of the most important questions in the life of every woman and her family. Therefore, self-determination in family planning is one of the most important aspects of self-determination.

Whilst family planning is successfully practiced in richer countries, there is a serious lack of it in poorer countries. In these countries, even today many children are born, although their parents would have preferred not to have a child or not to have another child at that time. But there is a lack of education and of effective contraception, not least owing to the ominous influence of churches and other religious communities.

In pursuing their objectives, churches and religions readily accept the mass impoverishment resulting from this prevention of family planning. An impoverished, uneducated population makes it much easier for the churches to anchor religious and ecclesiastical hierarchies in people's minds.

What IBKA demands:

Termination of pregnancy

Even the best contraception cannot prevent every unwanted pregnancy. Therefore it is important that pregnant women be able to determine whether they want to continue their pregnancy or terminate it.

The situation in Germany:

Counselling of pregnant women in conflict situations may be a welcome and useful service for women with unwanted pregnancies. In Germany this was made compulsory: If a woman wants to terminate her pregnancy she has to previously attend counselling session at a recognized advice center for unwanted pregnancies (Schwangerschaftskonfliktberatungsstelle). Without a certificate issued by this counselling center, legal termination of the pregnancy is not possible.

What IBKA demands for Germany:

Conscientious objection

IBKA opposes any compulsory service whatsoever. This particularly means that no one shall be forced into compulsory service that goes against his/her conscience.

Objecting to military service for reasons of conscience is a human right. The Human Rights Committee of the United Nations has recognized the right of each individual to object to military service for reasons of conscience (source: Document of the conference meeting of the Human Dimension CSCE in Copenhagen, no. 18).

The right to follow one's own conscience in such vital question applies to atheists and Christians alike, to the non-religious as well as the religious.

What IBKA demands:

Death

Modern medicine is able to keep people alive for a very long time, even in cases of the most serious impairments to health. This is not always cause of joy. People are often frightened by the idea of having to lay helplessly in bed for many months, leading a life that has become totally meaningless to them. They are afraid of pain and other tormenting physical problems.

The same modern medicine can ease pain and physical problems. It can also help people who no longer want to live, to die in a humane manner.

Through the options available in modern medicine, self-determination in the last phase of life has become more important than ever.

However, these options are not always used in the patient's interest. All too often, people wanting to die because their life has become a burden to them, are left to their own devices by medicine. Active help in dying is refused, as sometimes is so-called "passive help in dying", i.e. the termination or omission of life-preserving measures. People who want to terminate their own life do not find any medical support and are sometimes even prevented from doing so.

This compulsion to live is caused by people trying to force their own values onto others with the support of the state; be it their own panic fear of death, or their Christian views, according to which all suffering is ordained by god and human life is unimpeachable. These views are still supported by a number of powerful members of the Christian church.

The ban on active help in dying is often supported by the argument that the murders performed on the physically and mentally disabled in the Third Reich - euphemistically called "euthanasia" - must never happen again. This disregards the fact that to help somebody who has chosen to die on his/her own accord cannot be compared with the killing of human beings who want to live.

What IBKA demands:

The situation in Germany:

Deficiencies in the fight against pain constitute a problem, especially in Germany. Excessive fears of drug abuse have resulted in laws that make use of highly effective painkillers very difficult. This particularly applies to opiates, although morphine, in properly measured doses, is not addictive. The use of cannabis products to ease the pain of the seriously ill has also encountered legal impediments.

What IBKA demands for Germany: