I'm in New York, where I attended the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty's annual Canterbury Medal Dinner last night. This year's winner, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, spoke about the rising threats to religious liberty. You can read his remarks here.
The Becket Fund is something of an ACLU for religious liberty. Their events tend to look like the World Parliament of Religions. Last night's official program included a Pentecostal minister, an LDS leader and an Orthodox Jewish rabbi (if it means anything for a Lutheran to have a favorite Orthodox Jewish rabbi, this guy, Meir Soloveichik, is mine). Also, I got to see Ricochet's own Bill McGurn.
Last night's dinner was festive, but the overall climate is difficult. A highlight for me was meeting members of the Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby stores. At great cost to themselves, they're refusing to abide by HHS regulations that violate their religious liberty. The Becket Fund has taken on their case, for which oral arguments are next week before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
This is a long way of introducing what I remain worried about this morning. Of the many poor responses to the Benghazi tragedy, one of the worst was how some of our political leaders deliberately led people to believe Benghazi occurred because of someone exercising his rights of speech and religion. Further, they suggested, this should lead to voluntary or forced limits on religious expression. From Reason magazine's "Hall of Shame" on this point:
Fourteen days after Ambassador Chris Stevens was murdered by Islamists, President Barack Obama stood up in front of the United Nations and declared that the "message" of a movie virtually no one will ever see "must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity," that "the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam," and that we all should "condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims."
Stephen F. Hayes' piece in The Weekly Standard this morning is a must-read. He briefly and clearly explains what remains troubling about the latest version of the talking points story, including concerns about how our country came to blame a YouTube video maker.
Religious liberty is the canary in the coal mine of civil liberties. And I suppose it should be no surprise that even presidents fail to appreciate its importance. But kudos to the Becket Fund for defending our rights to religious liberty, no matter our religion, against threats by local, state and federal governments.