(USA Today) Tom Krattenmaker: Even religious freedom has limits

In an 1878 decision on the Mormons and polygamy, the Supreme Court held”” much like Oregon’s Legislature today ”” that religious freedom could not justify (otherwise) criminal activity. If it could, the court reasoned, what would stop a church from practicing human sacrifice?

Therein lies important practical wisdom that’s worth remembering the next time you hear people shouting indignantly about their rights with little regard for the consequences faced by their fellow citizens of other persuasions ”” whether it’s a pharmacy employee’s “right” to refuse selling legal contraceptives or an ardent secularist’s “right” to be free of any exposure to religious expression in public (as in the case of those who would forbid mention of the G-word in the Pledge of Allegiance).

The freedom to believe as one chooses is crucial to the American way, and belief has little meaning if it cannot be acted upon. Even so, as the Followers of Christ are learning the hard way, the right to practice religion must have its limits. Especially when the consequences are life or death for those with no choice in the matter.

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, State Government

7 comments on “(USA Today) Tom Krattenmaker: Even religious freedom has limits

  1. Timothy Fountain says:

    I agree with his overall line of thought – off course I expect he would make the compulsory concession and jettison all he’s written when it comes to elective abortion.

  2. carl says:

    [blockquote] a religion cannot reasonably expect the public and the law to respect its idiosyncratic ways when it fails to live up to the community’s well-considered standards [/blockquote] The critical question of course is “What informs the community’s well-considered standards?” It’s ironic that polygamy should be presented as the bellweather case, since the suppression of Mormon polygamy was clearly a case of Christian presuppositions about marriage being instantiated in the law, and consequently being used to judge Mormon practice. Those presuppositions are exactly what the courts are presently driving out of the law. The court (if it were being consistent) would decide that case much differently today. The foundations for judging the actions have shifted and shifted profoundly. What was once considered true is now no longer considered true.

    This reveals the problem behind the assertion that “Belief is protected but actions are not”. There is no religiously neutral test by which actions may be judged. Someone’s presuppositions about the Good, the Right, the True will inform the law, and those presuppositions must proceed from religion – whether theistic or non-theistic – because there is no other place from which to retrieve them. This is in fact the exact definition of the culture war – a struggle over whose presuppositions inform the law. So when we say “Belief is protected but actions are not”, we mean “Believe what you like, but your actions will be constrained by the dominant religion of the culture.” We are limiting the ability of religious belief to influence action by embedding the presuppositions of a particular religion in the law, and judging all actions according to those presuppositions. We cannot do otherwise. It is inherent in the nature of man to do so.


  3. Br. Michael says:

    This is nothing more than a prescription for religious persecution. What sort of religious practices can be proscribed? Well it is common to persecute Jews by proscribing circumcise and the preparation of kosher foods.

    Similarly by forcing someone to sacrifice their religious beliefs and practices in order to earn a living in their chosen profession is a form of religious persecution. The pharmacists comes to mind. True religious liberty allows them to work as they see fit without government interference.

  4. Ad Orientem says:

    Good rule of thumb… Your rights end at the tip of your neighbor’s nose (or the boundary line of his property). If you are doing anything that can harm someone else then you are overstepping your bounds. No one has a right endanger someone elses health or safety. And yes, that includes parents and their children.

  5. Formerly Marion R. says:

    Does anyone really believe that [i]Reynolds[/i] would stand today?

    Indeed, I’ll bet $20 that polygamy is legal in at least one U.S. state before 2017.

  6. Ad Orientem says:

    Formerly Marion R
    I have serious doubts that $20 will buy a can of soda in 2017.

  7. Formerly Marion R. says:

    Does anyone really believe that soda is going to be around much longer?

    Indeed, I’ll bet $18.75 that soda will be illegal in at least one U.S. state before 2017.