Saturday, December 09, 2006
Freedom of Religion Means All Religions
My friend Hemant, the eBay Atheist, posted about a great recent news story over at his blog that does a good job of highlighting some of the hypocrisy of people who want freedom for Christian activities in the public sphere but are unwilling to extend that same freedom to other religious groups. They seem to forget that freedom of religion means freedom for all religions, not just theirs.


posted by Mike Clawson at 12:04 AM | Permalink |


At 12/09/2006 11:23:00 PM, Anonymous Joseph

Mike, I agree there has to be freedom of religion. However, there are certain groups that bent on killing inocent human beings or sacrificing people for polical reasons. After 9/11 the world has changed, and we are facing grave danger. There are certain measures that must be taken, although some groups don't like it.


At 12/10/2006 01:31:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson


What does that have to do with the story I linked to here?


At 12/10/2006 11:42:00 AM, Anonymous J. Michael Matkin

A couple of thoughts. First, is this really a case of hypocrisy? Maybe these folks don't believe in a liberal democratic freedom of religion per se. They may believe that the school systems that there children are largely forced to attend should reinforce (both negatively and positively) the faith that they are raising their children to believe. Their commitment isn't to the preservation of a civil right at all costs but to the nurturing of their children. (By the way, I'm not saying whether this is the right approach, just that I think I understand people's reaction.)

Second, there's nothing to suggest, from my reading of the article, that the folks who objected to the distribution of the pagan flyer were associated with the folks who strongarmed the school into allowing for this in the first place. Should we assume that all fundamentalists are alike on this issue? Maybe they are, but I didn't see any explicit link.

Finally, it's one thing to be dismayed at thoughtless and unselfcritical (is that a word?) behavior, but do you really think we ought to be giddy when the foolishness of our brothers and sisters is put on display? I don't remember Jesus ever chuckling as he filleted the Pharisees.


At 12/10/2006 04:45:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

"Giddy" seems like a pretty stong word. It doesn't seem like my post was expressing an inordinate amount of glee at this story (I can't vouch for Hemant's attitude.) I just think it's good to sometimes highlight this kind of thing in order to remind people that state-sponsored religion is only a good thing when it's your own religion.

You could be right; perhaps these people don't really believe in freedom of religion. However, I doubt it. I used to be in this conservative camp, and usually it's the same people who want to put prayer back in the public schools (and similar things) who also talk the most about upholding our Constitutional rights and especially about our freedom of religion. They talk about our right to have school sponsored prayers, but don't stop to think how they'd feel if it was, say, Mormon prayer, or Catholic prayer, or Muslim prayer, that they're kids are forced to participate in. I think the situation related in this post is analogous to that same double-standard.

And again, it used to be me who thought this way, and this is still how many of my friends and family tend to think; so when I post things about this, I'm not just engaging in schadefreude. I'm speaking to my roots, preaching against an earlier version of myself, so to speak.




At 12/10/2006 08:21:00 PM, Anonymous J. Michael Matkin

I hear you, Mike. I come from the same roots -- fourth generation Pentecostal of Oklahoma/Arkansas extraction -- and the clay clings hard to them even when the tree has been transplanted to different ground. So, to be clear, I wasn't meaning to rag on you. I've noticed that it's the places we've escaped from that we tend to be most critical of. As you put it, you are "preaching against an earlier version of myself", and that can make us less compassionate towards folks who are like we were than we would be towards others. At least it's been that way for me.

I've also heard all the talk about Constitutional rights, etc., and you're right when you say that most of these folks have never thought about that applying to anyone but themselves. That's partly my point. They may talk about Constitutional rights, but that's not really what matters to them. Despite the rhetoric, what really matters to these folks is that their own faith be upheld by the culture and society around them. If what a person believes is revealed not by what they say but how they live when the chips are down, then these folks don't believe in religious freedom, at least not in the way that you would describe it.

That's not to say that they are right or wrong, by the way. I would guess that you would agree with me that folks who don't have children don't really understand the kind of fears and cares, the anxieties, that come from being a parent and having responsibility for stewarding another human life. I don't know about you, but I haven't prayed nearly as often or as fervently in my life as I have since our two daughters came into my life.

The thing I find myself praying for the most with regards to them is that they will have strong godly influences in their lives. Then when they start going to school, as my eldest did this year, you are startled at how many of those outside influences start pulling at them, and how little power you have to control what your child is being exposed to at a time when their critical faculties are still forming. We keep rituals as part of our faith celebration, part of the Catholic heritage from the other side of my family. Nevertheless, I'll give you one guess as to which my daughter has learned faster, the Lord's Prayer or the Pledge of Allegiance? Suddenly my parenting reading includes a lot of Stanley Haeurwas.

I'm not trying to be alarmist ("The secularists are out to get your kids! Beware! Beware!"), and it doesn't make me any less critical of the kind of behavior that you were pointing to in your post (If you live by the Supreme Court ruling, be prepared to die by the Supreme Court ruling). I guess I just don't consider it as outright stupid and risible as I once did. I think I am even beginning finally to understand it.

As for 'giddy', well, I can accept that you find it too strong a word. You know the intent of your tone better than I do, obviously. I only have the words to go by. When you describe something as a 'great recent news story' about 'hypocrisy', that isn't language that conveys to me either sorrow over the event or humility with regards to people's motives. You can chalk it up to me naturally wanting to defend folks rather than see them publicly spanked. I wouldn't want my own bad judgment and worst moments to be put on the laundry line for everyone to see, so I tend to want that same thing for others. Anyway, I was just reflecting back what I was hearing. Take it for what it's worth.


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