Religious Rights

James Hitchcock writes a wonderful article in February’s First Things titled The Enemies of Religious Liberty. (Read the article)
Dr. Hitchcock cites several examples where people claiming to promote freedom and personal freedom, will deny others the right of religious observance – when their positions disagree with them.
For a quick refresher, see The First Amendment:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The problem of course is at what point does the “freedom” to worship become a federal “establishment” of a religion? Or from the opposite perspective, when do federal laws prohibit the free exercise of religion?
One doesn’t have do much research to see how issues like school prayer and gay marriages reveal the conflicting ethics and “rights” of their proponents.
Even the ACLU can’t seem to make up its mind. In their statement on religious liberty, they claim, “the free exercise clause of the First Amendment guarantees the right to practice one’s religion free of government interference,” and that the “ACLU will continue working to ensure that religious liberty is protected by keeping the government out of the religion business.” In practice, they repeatedly appeal to the courts to restrict prayer if held publicly.
As Dr. Hitchcock notes, for many legal scholars religious freedoms are only granted where the secular culture allows. If there is any conflict or “divisiveness,” the personal freedom of religion bows to the ethics governing the secular society.
Dr. Hitchcock also writes a column for Women for Faith and Family which “issues occasional public statements on matters of concern to Catholic women, their families or religious communities.” Should provide some interesting reading for the elusive spare time.

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