“Religious Freedom” Or Simply “Freedom”?

Yesterday, Cornelius brought this article by George Weigel to our attention. The following assertion in particular caught my eye:

Thus the new pope must be a champion of religious freedom for all, insisting with John Paul II and Benedict XVI that there can be neither true fre…

  1. Donald Todd

    Aaron, I appreciate your dilemma because I share it.  Barring going to jail and losing everything or fighting a huge legal fight and losing everything, I am not sure what might be done.

    My prayers and my vote haven’t kept this creeping deity of Obama’s from taking shape.  I assume it is an opportunity to share in the sufferings still to be undergone for the sake of the Body of Christ, and will treat it as such.

    My religion will be my defense should I get hauled off to court, where I will probably be looking up to heaven to see if He is coming.  If not, I’ll have a stake in imitating our brothers and sisters who also looked up, and were given what was needed when it was needed.

    dt

  2. Mr. Bildo

    If you believe in the principle of individual liberty than I think religious freedom is a redundant concept.

  3. BrentB67

    You touch on a much more serious underlying issue we face, but that nobody wants to talk openly about: Can a republic survive without a homogeneous, virtuous, culture?

    The Judeo Christian foundation we were founded on included the concept that for every right there is a responsibility and that culture was so much a part of our fabric that there was no need to memorialize it in writing. The Constitutional limits on a centralized government should’ve been sufficient.

    A republic that at least neglects the Constitution and at most outright violates and abuses it is going to be short lived.

    Those same Judeo Christian foundations are becoming relics and those that value them are a shrinking minority.

  4. KC Mulville
    Aaron Miller:

    Note that in the Bill of Rights the freedoms of religion, of speech, of the press, of assembly, and of politicalpetition are included in a single Amendment as if they are multiple aspects of a single freedom. What is the significance of this? It seems misleading how these many phrases of the 1st Amendment are never discussed in unison.

    Complicating the discussion is that the Supreme Court doesn’t always treat them in unison, either.

    Consider: the press believes that the freedom of the press applies only to professional journalists. They want a “shield law” that allows them legal protections only “professional journalists” would enjoy.  The Court’s decision in the Pentagon Papers seems to support that.

    The problem is that this interpretation is completely left-field. The other aspects of the first amendment are all about what rights an individual would enjoy – right to religion, speech, etc. And then, in the same paragraph, we’re supposed to believe that “press” right belongs to a “profession” instead of an individual? (A profession that was, at the time, beneath contempt.)

    No. This is one freedom, and it belongs to individuals.

  5. Daniel Jeyn

    As I recall, the founders had quite a quandry at establishing a multi-religious republic.  Quite a few traditional Anglican congregants thought that Quakers, because they would not swear oaths, would completely undermine the application of law as understood under Common Law.  The Baptists were similarly anathematized, as I understand it.   Lest we forget, the common slur against Catholics was a belief that they were sworn to follow the orders of foreign potentates, something which even JFK had to downplay.

    I just hope the new Pope articulates what the Church stands for and resists calls by Muslims to approve “anti-blasphemy” laws.  It’d be nice if he denounced the EU, but I won’t hold my breath.

    As an atheist, my self-interest is that the Pope should actually be Catholic.  A squishy Pope who wants to please Muslims is the biggest threat to me as an American, the way I see it.

  6. Aaron Miller
    Tom Meyer

    Well said, Aaron.  I hope you have better success with this argument than I did.

    February of last year, almost as if this was an annual discussion!

    I noticed that the first comment in your thread includes a link to yet another Ricochet thread. That’s one of the things I love about Ricochet: how so many conversations overlap to create a larger, ongoing discourse.

  7. BrentB67
    Aaron Miller

    Note that in the Bill of Rights the freedoms of religion, of speech, of the press, of assembly, and ofpoliticalpetition are included in a single Amendment as if they are multiple aspects of a single freedom. What is the significance of this? It seems misleading how these many phrases of the 1st Amendment are never discussed in unison.

    . · · 21 minutes ago

    I always thought that the rights in the 1st Amendment were combined because they were so obvious. I always thought of the 1st Amendment as the ‘duh Amendment’ of course those are inalieble rights and the very reason(s) we declared our independence, but if a couple states need them in the final document for ratification – Ok.

    The rights that are broken out individually, specifically the 2nd and 4th were so critical that they had to broken out on their own for empahsis.

    If the Bill of Rights was an afterthought to get the Constitution ratified they could’ve been put in another Article, but somebody went to an awful lot of trouble to enumerate them in the Bill of Rights.

  8. Aaron Miller
    Mr. Bildo: If you believe in the principle of individual liberty than I think religious freedom is a redundant concept.

    I agree, provided that one’s concept of individual liberty includes the freedom to act in association with others.

    Then again, how many rights listed in the Constitution do not boil down to individual liberty? Unfortunately, it is indeed necessary to spell out the various manifestations of that very general principle.

  9. Cornelius Julius Sebastian

    Thanks Aaron, great post.  You ask, ”Can anything be legally justified purely for its relation to a religion … however pivotal to the practice of that faith, while another religion holds that action to be unjust?”  Anything or everything (in the sense of completely being unconstrained) cannot.  But many, or even most can.  The critical distinction lies in whether an irreversible and inescapable coercive requirement is imposed upon a person .  All religions have at least some requirements which are contradictory to the tenets of other sects, but rarely secular law. Most of the time this is of no consequence because it doesn’t affect the other.  Jewish or Muslim dietary laws do not infringe on my liberty because I am neither.  If I were Jewish or Muslim, I could seek refuge from them as a free agent if I chose.  Just as a Catholic may illicitly (per Church teaching) practice contraception or switch denominations. The price being rejection by the sect.  Steyn’s Hindu sutee example, or say female circumcision or honor killing among Muslims, impose irreversible coercive harm on an individual. The victim’s life, as the higher value, trumps religious dogma. Short of that though religious freedom should prevail. 

  10. Robert E. Lee
    Aaron Miller: Early Americans generally shared Judeo-Christian roots.

    Early Americans generally believed in the Great Spirit.  Then Europeans arrived uninvited and murdered them in the name of their God.

    Religious freedom is no more welcome in this country than is free speech.  Say something or worship something that offends someone with any sort of governmental power and end up in jail.

  11. Schrodinger

    The fly in the ointment here is Islam.

    Most religions, particularly Christianity, make it clear that their members should obey the secular authorities unless that authority requires them to take actions that are against what their deity commands. Thus, ”religious freedom” is usually a private subset of “freedom” generally.

    Because Islam is both an oppressive political and religious system, “religious freedom” often conflicts with what non muslims see as “freedom” in the generic sense.

    As is evident in the UK, as the muslim population of a country grows, what passes for “religious freedom” becomes more and more a form of oppression.

  12. Z in MT

    The 1st amendment rights all come under the rubric of freedom of ideas, which includes the ability to publicly discuss and promulgate those ideas.   CJS is drawing the right line of discretion between religious practices that harm or infringe on the rights of other individuals and those that do not.

    I don’t think the HHS mandate has to even come under freedom of conscience.  By arguing under this assumption, we have given up a lot of ground.  The HHS shouldn’t be able to force any employer to purchase particular products for their employees.

  13. BrentB67
    Z in MT: The 1st amendment rights all come under the rubric of freedom of ideas, which includes the ability to publicly discuss and promulgate those ideas.   CJS is drawing the right line of discretion between religious practices that harm or infringe on the rights of other individuals and those that do not.

    I don’t think the HHS mandate has to even come under freedom of conscience.  By arguing under this assumption, we have given up a lot of ground.  The HHS shouldn’t be able to force any employer to purchase particular products for their employees. · 2 minutes ago

    I agree whole heartedly, but we give up some of that with OSHA. There are numerous examples of protective gear and tools that must be provided by employers.

  14. Salamandyr
    The obvious rebuttal is “your right to swing your fists ends at my nose”.  The religious freedom of the Indians was not curtailed, their freedom to take away the rights and freedoms of other people, by setting them on fire, was curtailed. Those mandating that churches and religious hospitals pay for birth control are much closer to the Indians than the British in your scenario. A good rule of thumb, if the exercise of your right mandates involuntary action on the part of something else, then whatever you’re doing isn’t a right, and what’s more you’re probably taking away someone else’s.
  15. Sabrdance

    1.) Recall that the First Amendment originally only applied to the National Government -thus the simplest reading is that it only exists to prevent the National Government from imposing some form of organization on the states or their people.  The states were under no such restriction -having both invasive libel laws and censors, and established churches.  Disestablishmentarianism came later.  The 14th Amendment mucked that system up (not complaining, but it makes “original public meaning” a bit hard to fathom -original in 1790 or in 1868?).

    2.) As a political pluralist, I see the First Amendment as a protection of civil society.  No government can disband a non-governmental groups, whether expressive (speech), commercial (press), religious (religion), or political (petition) -nor may it compel or elevate one group over another by legislative fiat.  The people are free to organize their lives without interference from government.

    Not that anyone else agrees with me on this point.

    3.) And if the National Government would stick to its limits, we’d have a lot fewer problems with deciding what does and does not count as organization.  If the English weren’t governing India, Napier wouldn’t have needed to get involved.

  16. Merina Smith

    Specific protection for religion appears to be needed, as the Hosanna Tabor case and the HHS mandate show.  Gay marriage is also a huge threat to religious freedom.  Freedom of Association and other freedoms have been greatly weakened in recent years by  political correctness.  Thank God (literally) that religious freedom is spelled out.  If it had not been, how much success would religious institutions or commecial ones like Hobby Lobby have in resisting the HHS mandate and other coming challenges? 

  17. 3rd angle projection

    As arguing against abortifacients, it seems there are 2 to ways to go about it: 1. as a civil rights issue 2. as a religious issue under thou shalt not kill.

    As a Catholic, I’ll always argue it as a civil rights issue. This takes the conversation away from the 1st amendment as well as moral relativism.

    Contraceptives. Honestly, I didn’t know that contraceptives, being paid for by health insurance, was an issue. Aren’t they widely available for free and cheaply available at most stores, corner or otherwise? For this, any religious institution, I believe, has the right to demur on grounds of conscience, protected by the 1st amendment

  18. GFHandle
    Robert E. Lee

    Aaron Miller: Early Americans generally shared Judeo-Christian roots.

    Early Americans generally believed in the Great Spirit.  Then Europeans arrived uninvited and murdered them in the name of their God.

    Religious freedom is no more welcome in this country than is free speech.  Say something or worship something that offends someone with any sort of governmental power and end up in jail. · 3 hours ago

    You must be joking! And playing the flute is nothing but blowing and wiggling the fingers.  Reduce, reduce, reduce that complex world away.

  19. John Grant
    C

    The Founders did not separate religious liberty and the right of private associations to govern themselves.

    A business had as much right to determine who would work there and what they wanted to pay for as any religious association.

    That is actual freedom. Now religious freedom only means the right to worship as you want and the right for a demonination to choose its own ministers.

  20. Herbert Woodbery

    Can OSHA mandates be differentiated from HHS mandates, or are both wrong?

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