Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Religious-liberty "hypocrisy"

I like the "Distinctly Catholic" blog, which is run by Michael Sean Winters.  And,I agree with him that ('twas ever thus, no?) that politics and public debate presents no end of examples of hypocrisy, in the sense that many people find it much easier to endorse Principle X when its application benefits or protects those whom they like than to endorse that same Principle when its application threatens to benefit or protect those whom they don't like.  No doubt, some of those who are concerned about the so-called Ground Zero mosque fall into this category (as do, of course, some of those who are -- correctly, this time -- invoking "religious freedom" to establish the project's legal rights, but who might not worry much about religious freedom in other contexts). 

I think it is unfair, though -- and in the case of the baseless charges lobbed at our own Robby George, mean-spirited and unworthy -- to charge those who (a) are publicly and unquestionably dedicated to religious liberty but (b) have not (yet) spoken out in strong defense of the proposal with 'hypocrisy" or "fraud."  (I'm being defensive here, of course, because I spent the weekend doing things besides commenting on the mosque.) 

We do this too much in our public conversations, I think (I am guilty of this sometimes too, I am sure):  "You say you are on the side of the angels, but you have failed to condemn publicly [insert outrageous act or current controversy] and so . . . gotcha!  You are a fraud!"

UPDATE:  Winters responds to me here.  I continue to think that his criticisms of Robert George -- the winner of, among other things,the Canterbury Medal from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty for his work on religious freedom -- are unfair and misplaced.  I say this not (merely) out of friendship and "loyalty," but because I believe it is true:  In my view, few Americans alive are more unswervingly (and effectively) devoted to authentic religious freedom than is Prof. George.  I do not believe that one is required, by virtue of one's commitment to religious freedom, to endorse publicly (or privately, for that matter) the proposed center.  Speaking only for myself -- and I like to think that my own commitment to religious freedom is beyond reasonable questionging -- I have mixed feelings (about the desirability of the project, not about the religious liberty of those who are proposing it).  I don't like some of the things that, I gather, Imam Rauf has said in the past; I also don't like (at all) the suggestion that there is something about the site's "sacred" status that makes it off-limits to a mosque.  In any event, if (as we've seen on this blog during the last few days) people as reasonable and decent as Chris Eberle and Paul Horwitz are not quite on the same page with respect to a question, then it seems to me that, well, reasonable and decent people can be on different pages with respect to that question.  


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