‘Religious Freedom’ (Again)

Thomas MoreThe fact that the current clutch of campaigners for ‘religious freedom’ (brought together by their opposition to Obamacare’s contraception mandate) has adopted Thomas More, a less than admirable proto-Dzerzhinsky, as a symbol of freedom of conscience, a principle for which More showed not the slightest sympathy, should tell you all you know about their protest. It is based, not on the idea of religious freedom, but of religious privilege, an idea that is not only unlikable in its own right, but also (in an increasingly multicultural nation) can only help reinforce the drift to the Balkanization that is a very real menace to a shared American future.

Writing in the (leftish) National Catholic Reporter, David DeCosse takes a critical look at what the Cardinal Dolan crowd is now arguing:

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia articulated the problematic logic behind the bishops’ religious liberty campaign. “The purpose of religious liberty is to create the context for true freedom,” he said in his 2012 homily at a “Fortnight of Freedom” Mass organized in support of the campaign. “Religious liberty is a foundational right. It’s necessary for a good society. But it can never be sufficient for human happiness. It’s not an end in itself. In the end, we defend religious liberty in order to live the deeper freedom that is discipleship in Jesus Christ.”
Here we can see a subtle but significant shift from the logic of the Declaration on Religious Freedom. In the conciliar document, the respect for human dignity that is the basis of the right is an end in itself. The right so understood belongs to all people — Catholic, lapsed Catholic, Muslim, Jew, atheist and more. But, in Chaput’s homily, the right is not an end in itself; he says so explicitly. Instead, the right is instrumental: Its real value lies not so much in the freedom to believe but in the “deeper freedom that is discipleship in Jesus Christ.”

Here Chaput has introduced a tiered, imbalanced justification of religious liberty in civil society. The devoutly religious are more entitled to it than anyone else.

Quite: It’s about privilege, not freedom.

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4 Responses to ‘Religious Freedom’ (Again)

  1. Tom Meyer says:

    That about nails it.

    What’s always bugged me about the way most Catholics have argued against the contraceptive mandate is that they have no interest in defending the rights of anyone who disagrees with the mandate for any other reason. Practicing Catholics and Catholic institutions should be exempt from the mandate… but anyone who objects to it on secular grounds — e.g., because they think adults should pay for their own prophylactics — has no recourse.

    It really does privilege one set of beliefs over all others.

  2. cynthia curran says:

    What wrong with Texmex or Texas, too many Hispanics. Texas poverty rate went down from 18.3 to 17.9 percent. Florida also too many Hispanics, its up to 17 percent. California without income adjustment studies is 17 percent, too many Hispanics for Mexifornia. All the right things you can have a great economy with low income tax for the well to do and less regulation, La Texas but Texas has lower average income than near by Colorado. The right needs to somehow deal with bringing in less Hispanics maybe the technology revolution which will killed between 25 to 50 percent of jobs in some of the low skilled market like Farming, Cleaning and maybe even construction work. Robots and automation killed some office jobs and lots of manufacturing. It approaches gets the racists label from the left.

  3. cynthia curran says:

    I mean all the right thinks you need is low taxes and regulation if this is the case Puerto Rico would have higher income than Texas. Puerto Rico US Businesses get a big tax break.

  4. Richard says:

    You can call it “privilege” or “accommodation” or free exercise. The 7th Circuit recently ruled against the mandate, and the opinion points out that there is a long history of granting these kinds of dispensations precisely because the motivation is religious and not secular. http://tinyurl.com/mxlarlv

    In Sherbert a Seventh-day Adventist was denied unemployment compensation benefits after she lost her job for refusing to work on her Sabbath day. 374 U.S. at 399–400. In Yoder, Amish families challenged the application of a state compulsory-education law requiring their children to attend
    public school through age 16. 406 U.S. at 207–09. In Thomas a Jehovah’s Witness was denied unemployment compensation benefits after he was fired for declining a job transfer to a department that produced war materials. 450 U.S. at 709–12. In all three cases, the claimants asserted a conscientious objection
    to legal burdens placed on their religiously motivated conduct. In all three the Supreme Court held that the Free Exercise Clause required an exemption. See id. at 718–19; Yoder, 406 U.S. at 234–36; Sherbert, 374 U.S. at 398–99.

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