Rethinking Religious Liberty | Benjamin Wiker | Catholic World Report
Why religious liberty cannot mean the right to believe whatever we want.
In a previous article, “The Puzzle of Religious Liberty,” I brought before readers a rather vexing quandary. Somehow our hearty affirmation of religious liberty—which would seem to be a good thing—ends up producing a secular state that uses its powers to enforce a secular agenda that contradicts our religious liberty.
How does it happen? In order to limit governmental interference in our religion, we declare that we each have a right to define our own particular view about God and how we should—or if we should—worship Him. Or Her. Or It.
But the practical result of our each individually exercising this right is, as would be expected, to multiply religious diversity. Catholics make up about a quarter of the US population, and Protestants about double that, but Protestantism itself is divided into myriad significantly distinct denominations. If you doubt that, go to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and start clicking through the divisions and subdivisions of Evangelical Protestant Churches or Mainline Protestant Churches.
The greater the diversity, the greater the need for particular religious believers or groups of like-minded believers to be protected from the imposition of others’ beliefs upon them. Add to the Christian mix Jews, Orthodox, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus, and the substantial differences in core beliefs become even greater.
In legal terms, the greater the religious diversity, the greater the desire to keep any one religious view from becoming established, i.e., from using the powers of the state to impose its particular doctrines. Hence, the greater power given to the government to ensure that no one’s religious beliefs are represented by the government. In America, the result has been the use of government power to subtract particular religious beliefs from public, political view.