The American Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments to our constitution, and thereby the supreme law of the land) starts this way:
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.
This, like the other nine, have provided us with the undergirding for maintaining our rights since 1789, our founding documents stipulate that all these rights come from natural law and that the state is inherently likely to violate them.
In large measure, they are based on the English Bill of Rights (now repealed) placed into law after the Glorious Revolution, in 1689, although that was a narrower document, designed to institutionalize the protestant supremacy. In our Constitutional Convention it was not thought necessary to restate the obvious, that these rights belonged to the people, but in the ratification process the people insisted that they be included, and so they (and two not ratified) were passed by the First Congress, signed by President Washington, and sent to the states, and shortly ratified. That’s the background for this story.
I commented on Chalcedon’s post The Faith and politics, that the US Commission on Civil Rights had issued a report that is causing a donnybrook. In it they state this:
“The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia or any form of intolerance,” said Chairman Julian Castro. He added, “today, as in past, religion is being used as both a weapon and a shield by those seeking to deny others equality. In our nation’s past religion has been used to justify slavery and later, Jim Crow laws.”
Well, I’m sure some very poor scholars did (and do) so, likely at exactly the time that many (maybe most) Christians were lining up to end slavery, enfranchise blacks (arm them for self-defense, as well), and pass all of the civil rights laws. These were all results of Christianity and the Churches.
In any case, Archbishop William Lori, archbishop of Baltimore and chair of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, replied with admirable directness, saying this:
The thought that religious institutions are inherently bigoted is absurd, he said. “Can we imagine the civil rights movement without Rev. Martin Luther King, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel?” he asked.
“We do not seek to impose our morality on anyone, but neither can we sacrifice it in our own lives and work,” he said. “The vast majority of those who speak up for religious liberty are merely asking for the freedom to serve others as our faith asks of us. We ask that the work of our institutions be carried out by people who believe in our mission and respect a Christian witness.”
Via The Federalist.
I think he speaks for us all, and yes, I like his examples, a Baptist, a Catholic, and a Jew, it took a united effort to end overt discrimination.
In that Federalist article Nicholas Senz also says this
The First Amendment prohibits the government from establishing a religion. But when the federal government declares ideas that everyone held until five minutes ago, supported by reason and lived out with compassion, as de facto hateful and criminal (“first they came for the photographers and bakers…”), then the government is essentially creating a new public faith and forcing everyone to adhere to it.
As Lori noted, “a pluralistic society, there will be institutions with views at odds with popular opinion. The Chairman’s statement suggests that the USCCR does not see the United States as a pluralistic society. We respect those who disagree with what we teach. Can they respect us?”
If not, we may be witnessing the instantiation of Neil DeGrasse Tyson
But the problem is deeper than that, this is an official (supposedly non-partisan) government report. And yet, it bears no relation to US Constitutional Law. Remember the Amendment above, where it says,”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” Worship is important , of course, but we all, as Christians, know that being a Christian entails much more than worship. And yet that is what the USCCR is attempting to reduce freedom of religion too.
It is hardly alone in this, in any part of what we used to call Christendom. We see it here, in the UK and in Europe, always a degradation of the people’s rights in favor of what the government wants. In a manner, we Americans are lucky, we have an enforceable text guaranteeing our freedoms, and yet, we seem to have a dearth of governmental people, both political, and bureaucratic, who even seem to understand what we are talking about. Let alone a willingness to abide by the written law. Except of course, when we violate the dogma of their secular religion, which conversely, they seem to think is an established religion.
It’s something we’ve become quite familiar with, of course. Since it’s just too hard in a republic to change the law, instead many attempt to change the meanings of the words themselves, and in such ways, is freedom itself lost.