In short, things are not looking good for Americans like myself who see religious liberty as one of the great achievements of the American experiment. Today, not only Muslims but also Hindus and Sikhs, Buddhists and humanists are on the outside of American public culture looking in. But as Jesus once said, “Take heart.”
The United States has survived a series of culture wars in which Catholics, Mormons and members of other religious minorities were anathematized as un-American. In each case, Americans as a group have eventually decided to live not by fear but by first principles, not least the constitutional protection of liberty afforded in the First Amendment to Americans of all creeds.
Sept. 11, 2001, was, of course, a national trauma. Americans responded to that trauma, however, with a show of unity that crossed lines of race, region and religion. Such unity is easier to find in wartime, of course, or when one of our cities is strewn by hate with cremated remains. But it is always there in our cultural DNA ”” in Jefferson’s insistence in his first inaugural address that “we are all Republicans, we are all Federalists,” and in the words of Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural: “We are not enemies, but friends.”