‘Religious Liberty’ in the USA
To the editor:
“They won’t go away”, begins the The Journal’s Dec. 12 editorial. Well, our whole American Way has, more or less, invited them! “They.” of course, being the sect pecking away at Belle Plaine and their veterans’ park; to displace, replace and now compensate, for the claimed legal unfairness of the original Christian-themed memorial’s privileged status, compared with that of their satanic. Indeed, in the USA, a country birthed upon a legal agreement but lacking any objective criteria in matters pertaining to religion, these matters must fall to the judgment of shouting matches – and ultimately, to the strength of which side can retain the scariest lawyers.
“Religious Liberty” in the USA has had a good run, lasting far past its expiration date. That its contents have become unhealthy now, should be no great surprise. The magic preservative was that this was a new world, with room to spread apart if the neighbors were deemed unsavory. Moreover, the revered “melting pot” was mostly a pleasant fiction; the citizens being of an almost entirely Christian and European background. This common culture made it usually possible to reach agreement, even in matters where the legal system officially claimed incompetence.
It should be plainly stated and understood by all of us that “freedom of religion” and “freedom of conscience” — when held as universal principles — are inherently unsolvable. We pay lip service to these ideas, when, in reality, the state has no obligation to respect all consciences nor all religions – and indeed, cannot really accommodate them all, without contradicting its own laws and constitutions and internal coherence. This debate has been postponed for more than two centuries, but pushed its way to the forefront with certain of the Obamacare mandates.
Belle Plaine has had its own bad medicine, having already treaded the two usual American choices: (a) let every religion have a monument; or (b) let no religion have a monument. Unstatingly over-riding these two make-believe choices is another larger reality; that of (c) favor the religion that keeps the show going; or else (d) face anarchy, as the framework for social cohesion and judgement is lost. Oddly, we in the US seem incapable of selecting the option favored by the West for a thousand years of (e) if a religion evidences that it is from God, we favor it; and maybe even oppose any religions that cannot show such evidences.
Thus, the real choice is either (1) a state-favored religion, whether true or false; or (2) anarchy, postponed or otherwise. Poor Rip Van Winkle, such an especially American character, happily sleeping while the world has changed. He will at some point awaken to a revival of the normal historical reality.