Religious Freedom vs. Theocratic Dictatorships
Glenn Greenwald, typically a fierce critic of President Obama’s policies affecting civil liberties, rightly commends the president for his politically risky reminder that the United States is a country committed to religious freedom for everyone–Muslims included. Obama has since clarified his statement by noting that he was not commenting on the prudence of building a mosque and community center near Ground Zero, but his initial point remains. As I’ve written before, those who wish to practice their religion tomorrow would be ill advised to deny or limit the religious freedom of others today, fearing that the other’s religion looks poised to increase its sway within society. It does no good to diminish or remove another person’s freedom of religion fearing that the other will someday diminish or remove our own. We all share the same religious freedom–a freedom meant to protect the minority against the majority.
While media attention has focused on the proposed building near Ground Zero, we’ve seen protests against proposed mosques across the country. I’ve read comments ranging from an assertion that Muslims have the right to practice their religion in their own countries, but not in ours, to expressed concerns that Sharia law might one day supersede our civil laws. I agree with John Henry that the former is a very marginal view. The latter is more common and understandable, given events in other countries, though I don’t see that the demographics here warrant so strong a concern. Besides, building mosques doesn’t establish Sharia law, even if the builders wish to impose Sharia law using the coercive power of the state. We as a society can therefore welcome Muslims and their places of worship while also insisting that we remain now and always a country hospitable to people of all faiths and none. We should encourage respect for religious pluralism. By refusing to give Muslims their rights to assembly and worship, even in one instance, we encourage the denial of religious freedom for those we perceive as a threat. We do to them precisely what we fear they will do to us. That’s hardly a prudent course of action.
The wish to politicize religious laws isn’t spoken just by some Muslims, though. Michael Voris of RealCatholic TV has a new interestingly-timed video out in which he argues for a “benevolent dictatorship” ruled by a virtuous Catholic monarch. How Voris thinks we could possibly achieve his ideal political system he doesn’t say. I suppose he speculates that when democracy fails in a suicidal fall (like a vortex?), which he thinks is sure to happen unless worthy Catholics are the only ones allowed to vote, his shining wielder of absolute power will rise from the ashes of the cataclysm, bible and catechism in hand. Maybe Voris can be his Karl Rove. He’s already proven himself quite the apologist of power. Anyhow, I’m grateful that Voris’ political theology isn’t shared by most Catholics. I’ll take religious liberty, thank you.