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 freedom nor true democracy without religious freedom in full. That means the right of both individuals of conscience and religious communities to live their lives according to their most deeply held convictions, and the right to bring those convictions into public life without civil penalty or cultural ostracism.
What does "freedom of religion" actually mean? Note how broad Weigel's definition is, whatever its merit.
A person's religious foundation — a fundamental and comprehensive definition of reality and the moral implications of that perception — affects every aspect of that person's life, in both public and private affairs. Is "religious freedom" a hopelessly vague and unenforceable term?
Consider Steyn's now-famous example of cultural collision in the British Empire:
In a culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of “suttee” — the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. General Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural: “You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”
At the time, both sides of the situation would have cited religious (fundamental) beliefs about human nature in the justification of their actions. One set of religious values was imposed upon another. Doesn't that constitute a breach of religious freedom? Yet who would argue that General Napier was wrong?
Though early Americans might not have considered themselves culturally homogeneous, they certainly were by the standards of modern America. Early Americans generally shared Judeo-Christian roots. Now, we have growing populations of atheists, Muslims, New World religions, Asian religions, etc. Is legally significant conflict not now inevitable, as it was in colonial India? Is it not sometimes necessary for one set of fundamental perceptions to be asserted over another?
Note that in the Bill of Rights the freedoms of religion, of speech, of the press, of assembly, and of political petition 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.
Can anything be legally justified purely for its relation to a religion (theistic or not), however pivotal to the practice of that faith, while another religion holds that action to be unjust?
I will do what I can to defend my fellow Catholics from being forced to pay for abortifacents and contraceptives. But the 1st Amendment seems a weak justification, both legally and rationally.