Saturday, April 14, 2012
I agree with Marc's comments about some mischaracterizations of the law of religious freedom that have been flying around the past many weeks, and, as he notes, we have both commented on a post about Employment Division v. Smith by Cathy Kaveny over at the Commonweal blog.
Speaking of our friends at Commonweal, it's remarkable for a document that invokes Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" and criticizes a state anti-immigration statute and the exclusion of many predominantly African-American churches from worshipping after-hours in New York City public schools to be swept aside as an exercise in partisanship. But that's just what the Commonweal editors have done in this editorial. Like Marc, I find much to commend in "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty," including its use of a range of specific examples, adapting the American idiom of religious liberty to a Catholic context, the judicious use of theological and historical sources, and a pastoral sensibility about the challenges facing Catholics today. The document leaves on the table one of the more potent points that could have been lodged against the Obama Administration, namely the Administration's brief arguing against the ministerial exception in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC. I just don't see throwing the label of partisanship around as an especially interesting or useful exercise. Catholics on the left bristled at allegations of partisanship from conservative Catholics upon release of the bishops' pastoral letters on the economy and war in the 1980s, conservative Catholics bristle when pro-life advocacy is deemed mere partisanship, and around and around we go. So here's a proposal: in this election year, let's talk about the merits of particular issues drawing upon the rich tradition of Catholic thought, avoid cheap allegations of partisanship against the bishops or anyone else, and let the electoral consequences fall where they may.