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.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"Should Washington Try to Change Religious Beliefs?"

Here is a short piece I did for USA Today, which returns to the question raised in this earlier post.   A bit:

. . .  The idea that public authorities and officials should take editorial aim at certain religious beliefs and revise them to better serve the government's needs should make Americans uneasy. It seems to conflict with foundational and constitutional commitments, with James Madison's famous assertion that religion is "wholly exempt" from the "cognizance" of "civil society," and with Thomas Jefferson's insistence that the "legitimate powers of government" don't extend to religious views because "it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket," he quipped, "nor breaks my leg."

In fact, though, governments do care — even if they do not always admit it — about what religious people believe and what religious leaders teach. . . .

Religious freedom under law is an accomplishment, one that is both relatively new and always vulnerable. It is vulnerable precisely because it is often inconvenient to political authorities and officials. The constitutional rules that governments are supposed to keep out of religious disputes and stay away from religious questions are good ones, but it is important to remember that they cut strongly against what they have always done and probably always will try to do. And so, if we value religious liberty and freedom of conscience, we will be on guard not only against overt change-campaigns like China's but also against nudges, temptations, and bribes from our own leaders.

https://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2015/05/should-washington-try-to-change-religious-beliefs.html

Garnett, Rick | Permalink