Sunday, April 08, 2007

Blogging For Religious Liberty

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof
United States Constitution, Amendment I.

Def Con wants me to Blog Against Theocracy this weekend. Hmph. Generally I like Def Con, but I’m not loving the assignment.

For those who don’t know, Def Con is the Committee to Defend the Constitution. Generally they work for church/state separation, for science (pro-evolution, pro-stem cell research), and some right-to-privacy issues like abortion, birth control and end of life decisions. Mostly they are against the Religious Right.

For the most part they are fairly reasonable, but at times they are Tone-Def Con. This is one of those times.

Generally, movements against things do poorly compared to movements that are for something. The Right knows this. The anti-abortion movement is “pro-life.” The anti-gays movement is “pro-family.” The effort to ban gay marriage is “pro-marriage,” (because the best way to protect something is to make sure there is less of it.) For some reason, the left keeps tripping over this. Thus Blogging Against Theocracy.

I’m against theocracy and all, but more importantly I am for religious liberty. That’s something I can blog about, and at length. What’s more, blogging for religious liberty on Easter weekend seems more congruous than blogging against theocracy. Choosing this weekend to blog against theocracy seems to be picking a fight with the faithful generally, rather than just those who wish to erode church/state separation. Maybe Sam Harris wants to pick that fight, but most of us on the left do not.

Finally, the rubric of fighting against theocracy troubles me in that it implies that the Religious Right’s agenda is dangerous only insofar as its end goal is theocracy. That leads to all kinds of problems. We can get into arguments about what constitutes a theocracy, people on the right can claim they want this but not that and so not a theocracy, we have separate debates about how far down the road we get before we are in danger of theocracy, and in the end efforts to shore up separation between church and state become mush.

In contrast, when we talk about religious liberty, the discussion is about something that nearly everyone wants. And it’s something that the religion clauses in the Constitution – both of them – are designed to protect. The religion clauses do not work against each other, they work together. They explicitly state that the government does not have the authority to intrude into the sphere of personal faith, either by endorsing or restricting religion.

When conservatives work to dilute the protections of the establishment clause, they erode our religious liberty. It doesn’t matter whether they are ultimately working toward theocracy. What matters is that they are working against religious liberty.

In this Holy time my Christian friends celebrate the resurrection of their savior. My Jewish friends remember their freedom from bondage. My pagan friends are fresh of marking the Spring Equinox. And my non-religious friends are looking forward to this crappy weather breaking for good in a couple of days. This is a season for rebirth, renewal and boundless possibility.

And on this day, I celebrate religious liberty.

Happy Easter, everyone.

3 comments:

Eric said...

Your Zen Buddhists friends celebrate the birth of Siddhartha Gautama via Hana Matsuri. ;-)

Cee Jay said...

Thanks for pointing to the need to be for something instead of against something. You are right, the left just doesn't seem to get it, although I have seen some progress as the more liberal religious groups have begun to speak out on social issues.

RJM said...

Amen, brother! This is exactly the right take on the issue.