June 1, 2009

MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL, IDEAS AREN'T:

Redefining Religious Liberty: Religious liberty is a deeply American solution to a perennial problem. It means that every individual has a right to pursue ultimate meaning without coercion from the government. (MAGGIE GALLAGHER, 5/27/09, National Review)

Religious liberty is a deeply American solution to a perennial problem. It means that every individual has a right to pursue ultimate meaning without coercion from the government. Totalitarian governments repress religion because they recognize faith communities as competitors with the state's power to define -- or redefine -- human rights.

But a funny thing happened on the way to defeating Communism. Religion has emerged as the sole institution standing in the way of a powerful neo-statist liberalism, in which equality doctrines are used not as a shield but as a sword -- to legitimate state intrusion into once-private realms.

In practice, religious voters are the core of resistance to social liberalism, and they empower economic conservatism by providing a much broader base of voters for a center-right coalition government. The temptation to the Left to exclude religious people and institutions from politics is perennial -- but also particularly intense for American liberals under modern circumstances. Thus their conundrum: How to repress religion without violating liberal doctrines about respecting religious liberty?

One way is to narrow religious freedom's scope while claiming to endorse the principle in general. So the Human Rights Campaign believes it supports religious liberty because it does not intend to have the government jail pastors who refuse to perform same-sex unions. Being American liberals, they feel pretty good about themselves for permitting religion to live quietly and impotently behind closed doors.

But being American liberals, they increasingly look across the pond for moral leadership. And what we are finding in our sister democracies (which admittedly do not have First Amendments) is not very reassuring.

Consider what is happening right now in Great Britain, our closest sister democracy and the one with the strongest free-speech tradition. How does the British government treat religious liberty when it clashes with "gay equality"?

Can the British government force a Catholic school to retain a principal who enters a civil union? Yes, it already has. How can that be, given British religious liberty? Well, the government says that if a religion teacher at a Catholic school enters a gay union publicly, he or she could be fired. But nobody else.

Can the government fine an Anglican bishop who refuses to hire an actively and proudly gay youth minister? Yes, it already has. (How is this justified by the above principle? I don't know. I just know the government can do it, because it has.)

In Great Britain, the use of "gay equality" to oppress Christianity is not down the road; it's already here.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 1, 2009 5:48 AM
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