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On Religion-Based Exemptions

I started thinking more seriously on the matter of religion-based exemptions yesterday, after publishing the article on the Canadian province of Ontario denying an exemption from the helmet law to the members of the Sikh community. The key word behind this is usually “freedom,” but there are so many aspects to this problem which can be discussed… much like the very “freedom” concept is a rather much too relative one.
Now, when it comes to carrying a gun or killing the enemy, I might understand the guys who use their religious beliefs for motivating the refusal to comply. However, the discussion about motorcycle safety is a completely different thing, a situation which blends in freedom and choice, rights and choice, with each individual’ choice playing a key role in the whole affair.

I will not even try to hide the fact that I oppose religion-based exemptions, so you might even see this editorial as an argument against these waivers. The main idea behind my position is that the situation which leads to demanding such an exemption is based on a personal choice and demanding that the rules be changed or bent in favor of a certain group of individuals in such conditions is immoral, on a theoretical level.

Let me explain. First of all, each individual’s religion is a choice. While kids grown in religious families definitely can’t make a choice, when they grow up and become educated, they are quite able to do so. A discussion of apostasy or what renouncing religion means is irrelevant in this case, especially as we’re talking about CHOICE.

Likewise, deciding to get a motorcycle license is a choice: nobody can force one to ride, at least, not in normal conditions. When a guy decides he or she will ride a bike, they MUST also accept all that “comes with the job”, including dangers on the road, the dangers deriving from rider errors, the fact that riding gear is not at all cheap, the fact that gas prices go ever upwards and you name what else.

Among all the things that “come with the job” we can find “laws and road regulations,” which – you guessed it – are generic terms which apply to all road users. Certain waivers make a lot of sense, such as pregnant women who may drive without a seat belt, and so on. But asking for an exemption from one of the basic safety-focused regulations of motorcycling because you made two choices which are incompatible and you don’t want to accept reality sounds wrong, and IS wrong.

Like the apostasy issue I mentioned before, a discussion on helmet laws is also irrelevant. Obviously, I am a helmet law supporter, and this is a very personal editorial so there’s no way I will try to be impartial. Even riding without a helmet in countries and states where this is legal is an individual choice, derived from the very freedom some claim they’re being deprived in helmet law areas.

Like a lot of riders to whom I’ve talked over the years, I also say that those injured or killed while not wearing a helmet, and who might have been saved by one, are literally stealing from their peers. Yep, stealing money in the form of medical care, and all.

I know a lot of guys who just say that they don’t like the idea that their money be spent on deliberately reckless riders. And with certain insurance companies adding to the rates riders must pay simply because the chances of serious injuries and/or fatalities among ALL riders are growing, things become even more obvious. Nobody cares to verify how many of the injured or killed were wearing a helmet when their luck ran out. They’re statistics, and that’s about all that matters: “oh, you’re riding? Great, you’re so much deeper in the risk zone, here’s a bigger rate for you… you rider!”

Do you believe that someone, insurance broker or medic, would ever consider a person’s religious views when it comes to risks or the severity of injuries? “Oh, you’re a rider, but your religion, which prohibits wearing protective gear, is of course more than enough assurance that you’ll be just fine!” Or maybe the ER doctor who receives you in quite critical condition, instead of hurrying to save your life after a bike crash, will just patiently finish his or her coffee, and say to the team: “don’t worry, look at the signs. The guy is an adept of Religion X, he’s most likely fine, of course. Chill!”

Just how mad would those in favor of such exemptions get when faced with such a scenario in the ER? I can almost hear the lawyer armies readying themselves for yet another lawsuit based on religious discrimination. So, if I get things straight, in the first place, the rider uses religion for positively discriminating in a direction he or she finds to his or her liking.

Then, when the same dish is being served, things are all of a sudden no longer okay. It doesn’t seem particularly fair to me. Nor to other riders, and not even to the otherwise very decent fellows about whom I am speaking. And that is because such things as religious-based law exemptions are, in most of the cases, wrong.

Funny or not, (though I know it’s only for fun), some guys are using the same weapons to prove me right, and folks like the adepts of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster are only few of them. An Austrian “pastafarian” has won in the court of law the right to wear a spaghetti strainer on his head as religious headgear for is driving license photo. Of, this sounds crazy? Of course it is, and this is the very point!

Now, before some hate mail starts pouring in, this matter has nothing to do with the Sikh community in the yesterday article. Nor with any other religion, Nor with atheists or even others who strongly oppose religion. It’s just the fact that road safety and the law of the state has nothing to do with an individual’s religious beliefs. It’s natural that these two have nothing in common, and it is to be desired that they remain this way. Here's what can happen when religion mixes with the road.

Any other relationship these two might be in at any given moment is wrong, because it introduces a grave discrimination against other members of a community. Personally, I’d revoke all religion-based waivers related to road safety, because their foundation is wrong and utterly immoral. Just like the countries or states with no helmet law, this exception affects ALL riders, helmet laws should affect ALL riders in the places where they are enforced.

Because riding a motorcycle is a CHOICE, and people must learn how to be responsible for their choices, regardless of race or religion.

 
 
 
 
 

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