Vision for Religious Freedom

True equality requires the protection of religious liberty. Religious freedom ensures equal treatment for all of God’s children.

To understand the former, one need only contemplate the contradiction in values, morals and logic contained in this scenario: A demand for equality leads to legal protection of an individual’s right to their core belief and expression regarding sexuality, but leads to legal prosecution of another individual for exercising their right to their core belief and expression regarding God. That is, in fact, a form of intolerance and inequality masquerading as equality.

To understand the latter, one need only ponder the historical fact that religion was a driving force behind the abolition of the English slave trade, the emancipation of American slaves, and the American civil rights movement. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. did not lead America’s civil rights movement in spite of his religious identity, but because of it.

Very early on in America’s history, Alexis de Tocqueville noted: “Religion, which, among Americans, never mixes directly in the government of society, should therefore be considered as the first of their political institutions; for if it does not give them a taste for freedom, it singularly facilitates their use of it.”[1] Part of what Tocqueville meant is that religion shapes the experience of citizenship. It is easy to see then, why the freedom to practice religion is critical to the nation’s order and character.

The interconnectedness of religion, equality and freedom is uniquely American. Other nations have viewed religious freedom in different ways. The French Revolution’s 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man had a “religious freedom” provision, which subordinated the right to the perceived interests of the state: “No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.” This approach allowed for unfettered freedom to believe, but severely constricted the ability to act on or express that belief.

Even the charter of the Soviet Union guaranteed “freedom of religious worship,” which looked nothing like what Americans would recognize as freedom. The governing principle of Communist Russia was that everyone was free to believe what they would like, but with the caveat that expressing those beliefs in contradiction to the laws and will of the state would be severely punished. In practice, even the guarantee of freedom of belief was never honored.

Contrast the foreign ideas of freedom of religious views and religious worship to the American principle of religious freedom. Religious freedom is core to the way Americans constitute ourselves as a people. The pursuit of religious liberty motivated the establishment of America’s second English colony in 1620 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Religious freedom also holds a unique place in our constitutional order: It is literally the first freedom protected in the Bill of Rights.

Religious freedom in the Constitution is found in two places. The First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” There is also a provision in the text of the original Constitution, less remarked upon, but no less important. Article VI says that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Taken together, these provisions, and similar ones in the constitutions of each state, show that the American ideal is one of robust protection for religious belief, worship and expression in the public square. These protections include three connected principles:

  1. All human beings should be free in their religious beliefs and practices without suffering persecution or official discrimination, except in the rare instances where a religious practice compromises a compelling governmental interest (e.g., protecting innocent life).
  2. Religious organizations must be free to determine doctrines and practices, including standards for membership, and to carry out their activities without government interference.
  3. No one should be forced by the government to affirm or support beliefs to which they do not freely ascribe.

Despite the robustness of the American principle of religious freedom contained in the Constitution, limited conceptions of religious freedom have their advocates in the modern United States. There has been a rhetorical shift among some to speak of a “freedom of worship.” This means that churches and individuals can believe and teach what they like, and perhaps even select their own clergy and perform their own ceremonies, but this “freedom” essentially ends outside the door of the meetinghouse, mosque, cathedral or synagogue.

For instance, a prominent government official recently argued that religious freedom was merely a “code word” for darker motives, such as hate for a particular group of people – the implicit suggestion being that the government can restrict the freedom of people of faith if their beliefs conflict with the official government-endorsed ideology: discriminating against religious people because of their beliefs, in the name of anti-discrimination.

A related notion is that other protections, like freedom of speech, are adequate to protect religious people. Thus, a recent Supreme Court decision dismissed concerns about religious organizations and individuals being asked to facilitate conduct at odds with their beliefs by saying that they still have the ability to verbally express their teachings. But the freedom to state one’s core beliefs becomes largely meaningless without its intended companion: freedom to live according to those core beliefs.

A free society prioritizes religious freedom. It recognizes what Tocqueville observed, that religious devotion fosters accountability that, in turn, secures the qualities in citizens that allows for a broadly tolerant and pluralistic community that is both safe and open. It also recognizes America’s historical reality: that religion is tied to equality, and without religious freedom equality would not exist in its current form in America.

With very rare exceptions – the damaging effects of which can be alleviated by existing constitutional principles – religion inculcates in its adherents a spirit of civility and public-spiritedness that allows a free society to flourish. It motivates individuals to come together to care for those who are less fortunate and to protect those otherwise excluded from the bounties of a prosperous nation.

Religious freedom is a foundation of a decent, equal and free society.

 

[1] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America 280 (translated by Harvey C. Mansfield & Delba Winthrop, 2000).

Wednesday, Aug. 19 noon rally at Utah Capitol Rotunda to address taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood

Wednesday, August 19, is the monthly legislative Interim Day on Utah’s Capitol Hill. In addition to the regularly scheduled meetings of the Legislature’s interim committees, an informative gathering will be held in the Capitol Rotunda from 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm – to which citizens are invited and encouraged to attend.

The topic will be taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood – an issue generating heightened interest and concern due to the public release of several videotaped interactions involving officials of Planned Parenthood that purportedly reveal the sale of body parts of aborted human babies.

To be conducted by radio host Rod Arquette, the program will include remarks by Governor Gary Herbert, Congresswoman Mia Love, Utah Senator Margaret Dayton, Utah Senator Curtis Bramble, Dr. Maureen Condic – fetal pain specialist at the University of Utah, and Taylee Winder.

For additional information and details, click here.

The Utah State Capitol is located at 350 North State Street in Salt Lake City.

In related recent matters, as reported on Monday, August 17, by Utah Policy Daily writer, Golden Webb,

House Oversight chief [Utah Congressman] Jason Chaffetz demands to know whether federal funding was used by Planned Parenthood in any exchange of fetal tissue.

Webb included an excerpt from “House Oversight panel probing Planned Parenthood,” an article by Jesse Byrnes published in the Aug. 17 edition of The Hill:

Planned Parenthood received more than $500 million from the government during the last fiscal year. Chaffetz and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who leads the panel’s healthcare subcommittee, noted the figure in their letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, made public on Monday.

“It is not clear whether Planned Parenthood used any federal funds to support transactions involving fetal tissue,” the pair wrote. In another letter to Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards, they asked for information relating to the group’s funding as well as expenditures…

Their letters came days after a sixth undercover video focused on Planned Parenthood was released. Many of the videos have shown officials with the organization talking about the price of fetal tissue.

The war on (unborn) women

A girl named Swarna (Sanskrit for "golden").

A baby girl named Swarna (Sanskrit for “golden”).

We’re constantly told by liberal politicians and media claiming to be “progressive” that conservative thinkers and policymakers are waging a “war on women.” As the argument is spun, the right’s “war on women” oppresses women’s quality of life by opposing proposed liberal policies regarding things like abortion and employee pay.

Well, whatever you may think about conservative ideas and women’s quality of life, you must admit the conservative perspective gives all women a chance at life – which newly published research suggests is not true for the “progressive” perspective.

The study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, looked at India’s male-to-female sex ratio, which has become more male-heavy in recent decades. The researcher – an economist at Northwestern University – reports that “fertility decline can explain roughly half of the increase in the sex ratio that occurred in India over the past thirty years.” The connection between fertility decline and having a larger portion of men in society is that as people desire and have fewer children, many continue to desire to have at least one son.

But simple math points to the fact that having fewer children decreases the likelihood of having a boy, and so this situation leads people to “manipulate the sex composition of their children.” That is a nice way of saying that people use “sex-selective abortion [aborting only girls], infanticide, or neglect” toward girls so they can have a son while having fewer children at the same time.

As a follow up to that finding, she also reports that “more progressive attitudes could counterintuitively cause a more male-skewed sex ratio.” Why? Because such views “reduce desired family size.” In other words, driven by “progressive” ideas and attitudes, more people kill or discard girl babies as a means to their goal of having fewer children.

How is it that the philosophy that claims to protect women on the basis of “equality” could lead people to kill or discard a child for no other reason than she’s a girl?

Which worldview is truly perpetuating a “war on women”: the one that is accused of standing in the way of equal pay for some women, or the system that is actually leading people to kill female babies before they have a chance to live?

Grand jury report says Gosnell case is partially a result of pro-abortion politics

Drawing by Leonardo da Vinci

Drawing by Leonardo da Vinci

In a thoughtful and compelling article published by The Wall Street Journal, James Taranto argues that the gruesome case of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell illustrates the need to end the legal “Roe regime” of “abortion on demand.” He cites the Philadelphia grand jury report, the writings and comments of pro-abortion activists, the two reigning U.S. Supreme Court decisions (Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey), and the personal stories of former pro-abortion activists to make his case.

One of the more particularly noteworthy, and disturbing, quotes from the grand jury report states, in regards to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s inspection efforts towards Gosnell’s clinic:

After 1993, even that pro forma effort came to an end. Not because of administrative ennui, although there had been plenty. Instead, the Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all. The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro. With the change of administration from Governor [Bob] Casey to Governor [Tom] Ridge, officials concluded that inspections would be “putting a barrier up to women” seeking abortions. Better to leave clinics to do as they pleased, even though, as Gosnell proved, that meant both women and babies would pay.

For those who consider it important to think seriously about the issue of ending the possibility of life that abortion represents, the whole piece is worth a read.

Writer uses illegal-abortion case to call for more abortions

BabyboyWhat is the solution for preventing people from killing women and children? Evidently, for the left, it is to make it easier to kill children.

In response to an opinion piece in USA Today blasting traditional media for ignoring the murder trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who is accused of performing illegal abortions that resulted in the deaths of several young woman and multiple live-born infants, pro-choice feminist Irin Carmon blamed abortion regulations that she claims are meant to drive abortion clinics out of business and drive up the cost of abortions. High abortion costs mean women must save money during their pregnancy, she argued, to pay for an illegal abortion at the end of their pregnancy.

Carmon’s solution? We ought to make it easier for women to get abortions and use taxpayer dollars to pay for them.

That’s right. The solution to people killing women and babies is to make it easier and cheaper to kill babies. Such is the twisted and perverted thinking that reigns among liberals who subscribe to the culture of death embodied by easy abortion.

Abortion essay shows breathtakingly honest brutality

National Review Online’s Katrina Trinko draws our attention to a Salon essay that is as revealing as it is breathtaking in its honest brutality. Trinko quotes the Salon article, written by Elizabeth Williams:

 I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life. And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice. . . .

Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.

Trinko responds, “By this same logic, isn’t infanticide also fine and dandy? After all, if we’re talking about autonomy, kids aren’t exactly independent as soon as they are born. No infant can take care of themselves. And even later on in childhood, children rely heavily on the adults in their life to provide shelter, food, and emotional support. What about kids and adults who become disabled in life? What about quadriplegics?”

Both articles are worth your consideration.

(And speaking of infanticide … see this post about “after-birth abortion.”)

Real 'moral sense' involves balancing conflicting principles

Josh Greenman, a New York Daily News opinion and editorial writer, recently tweeted, “If you believe conception instantly creates a human being, it makes moral sense to ban all abortions. Exceptions are craven compromise.”

Greenman’s assertion got us thinking. Making moral sense isn’t about taking basic moral notions and connecting them to a simplistic and unbending logic in order to arrive at a universal conclusion that leaves no room, short of cynical calculation, for exceptions based on real-life situations. That’s ignorant ideological moralizing, not “moral sense.”

Genuine “moral sense” is about working through the moral conflicts that real life inevitably creates and finding a workable solution to balance equally moral, and sometimes conflicting, principles. Case in point: Making moral sense is balancing one perfectly moral principle (we should protect the life and health of unborn children) with another perfectly moral principle (we should protect the life and health of pregnant mothers-to-be). Read more

Protect marriage, protect life

The small and brave contingent of the University Faculty for Life was in Utah recently for their annual conference hosted this year at Brigham Young University. My presentation examined the linkages between the deconstruction of marriage as a social institution – characterized by permanence, faithfulness and complementarity – and the culture of death – symbolized by abortion on demand.

We know that married parents are the gold standard for child well-being and my argument is that this is true for unborn children as well. To take one example from the presentation:  Read more

A Tale from the Abortion Crypt

From the “inhumanity of an abortion culture” file comes another form of killing a child: “after-birth abortion.”

Yes, this is a real idea. In fact, it was the focus of a recently published essay pitching its merits titled “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” As you can imagine, this article got quite a bit of public attention.

The paper was published (ironically) in the Journal of Medical Ethics by two “medical ethicists” affiliated with universities in Australia. The publisher of the journal is an institute which “aims to help improve the quality of both professional and public discussion of medico-moral questions.”

The authors of the essay summarize the idea succinctly: “What we call ‘after-birth abortion (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all cases where abortion is.” Their justification is that a baby, like a fetus, is not an “actual person,” but a “potential person” (this fact being “morally irrelevant”) and therefore has no “moral right to life.” In their words, “the moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”  Read more

Steve Jobs, abortion, and the geniuses we’ll never know

 

If Steve Jobs’ mother became pregnant with him today instead of in 1955, would he even be born? Although that question is impossible to answer, current data show that abortion would not be a surprising choice for his mom to make in this hypothetical situation.

Jobs’ birth mother, Joanne Schieble, fits almost every demographic description of a woman most likely to get an abortion:

  • Schieble was 23 years old at the time of the pregnancy (20-24 year olds account for 33 percent of induced abortions, the highest of any age group)
  • She was single and had never been married (72 percent of induced abortions are received by women who have never married)
  • Schieble was white (36 percent of women receiving induced abortions are white, the highest of any race) (Source: Guttmacher Institute, 2011)

In short, a single, white, 23-year-old woman is the typical candidate for abortion today. Read more