Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Appleby on "'Religious Freedom' and its Critics"

Here is Prof. Scott Appleby, writing at "The Immanent Frame," about a "Task Force Report" issued by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, entitled “Engaging Religious Communities Abroad: A New Imperative for U.S. Foreign Policy.”  Explaining the "scare quotes" around "religious freedom," he writes:

. . . While the members of the task force share a commitment to religious freedom as a universal human right—one enshrined not only in the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but also, with various degrees of impact on actual policy, in the constitutions of dozens of nations around the world—there was disagreement among us, cordial but occasionally sharp, about the relative weight to be given in the TFR to direct advocacy of the right by the federal government.

Those who were most uncomfortable with making religious freedom the headline tended to imagine the term in ironic scare quotes. “Religious freedom” is perceived by many peoples around the world, not least Muslims of the Middle East, they argued, not as a universal human right, but as a superpower-charged means of advancing hegemonic U.S. (read: Christian or, worse from their perspective, Judeo-Christian) interests. This particular strain of anti-Americanism is inflamed by isolated episodes of Christian missionaries proselytizing defiantly (or clumsily) in settings where they were manifestly unwelcome, and thereby igniting riots and sometimes deadly violence. More broadly, some suspect that missionaries, preachers, or U.S. government agents (sometimes conflated in the anti-American imagination) seek to impose on vulnerable populations “The American Way of Religion”—i.e., voluntarism, church-state separation, a free marketplace of religious ideas—which foreign opponents of U.S. influence believe to be anything but a universal human good. . . .

Read the whole thing.


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