Monday, March 12, 2012
My resolve, in the wake of its recent decision to run an ignorant, nasty, and bigoted advertisement, not to engage New York Times pieces on this blog was, it appears, pretty weak. (That said, I hope all of you are cancelling your subscriptions, and urging any Catholic institutions with which you are affiliated to do the same.)
In this piece ("Leaps of Faith"), Molly Worthen charges that the recent expressions of concern about the Obama Administration's insensitivity to, and undervaluing of, religious freedom are really part of a strategy to deny or question the President's own faith, to paint him as a "faker on religious freedom," as part of the "ongoing attack on his legitimacy."
Groan. This is nonsense. This Administration has said and done a number of things that, taken together, more than justify the concern that it does not value religious freedom -- and does not appreciate the constraints that a meaningful commitment to religious freedom puts on governments -- to the extent it should. It is entirely reasonable to worry, given what the Administration has done, that it does not value, to the extent it should, a rich and pluralistic civil society when it comes to religious social-welfare institutions and their distinctive character. Ah, but -- like a clever detective in a Dan Brown or Umberto Eco novel -- Molly Worthen sees what is really going on:
[Religious liberty] is a code phrase alternately benign and sinister, much like that other clever cloak for bigotry, “states’ rights.” In the context of the 2012 race, the charge that Obama subverts religious freedom is a code meant to label the president as an impostor, a blasphemer of the American gospel who adheres to another religion entirely.
No, Ms. Worthen, it isn't. And, just a note: Charging that concern for religious freedom is really sinister (racist?) code-talk is hardly the kind of "civil discourse" that our President -- whose "legitimacy" I do not question, even if I regret his election -- says (even if not consistently) our politics is lacking.