Bobby Jindal's NY Times Article And Thoughts On Religious Liberty

In this New York Times article by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, he's on the side of religious liberty, and already I hear mockers on the left saying he just supports discrimination. This is exactly the same as governors who blocked schoolhouse doors to blacks in the 60s and is only posturing for right-wing primary voters. Of course, declining to participate in a ceremony that you don't endorse is not discrimination against particular humans. And there are plenty of events that these screeching left-wingers would not want to endorse or participate in, in the operation of a small business of their own. Most of us conservatives wouldn't have the cold brass to ask a liberal atheist singer to for example, sing God Bless America at a pro-life banquet and then cry discrimination when they declined.

But I do think there are some thoughts that ought to be thrown into this discussion that I have not heard considered. The question of whether some events may not comport with one's religious convictions is actually too narrowly focused in considering commercial obligations. Not long ago, there were no commercial obligations other than not perpetrating fraud or injury. You don't want to make this commercial transaction? Literally, it's your business. You can determine how the market will reward your choices.

But first of all, "religion" is a word like very many, that popular usage has carried considerably afield from its etymological origins. And actually, what that is not perfectly certain, but there seem a couple of Latin possibilities. One refers to a process of adhering or binding to, presumably, a code of conduct. And similarly, another would refer to the law or code of a sovereign. Both are matters of a code of behavior. But note that neither refer to God, as the word "religion" is now popularly connoted, except as one may identify God as that sovereign in the second. But otherwise, everyone has a code of right behavior, in our culture perhaps most assertively liberals. But this would also simply refer to a moral philosophy.

In the place and time of America's founding, the constitutional reference to "freedom of 'religion'" was not to monotheistic belief systems like Christianity or Judaism, or to polytheistic systems or to non-theistic beliefs like Buddhism. The American founders referred to different Christian confessions and/or liturgies. The "freedom of religion" referred to the restriction of the federal government from imposing or preferring one denomination over another upon the American people. At the time in fact, many of the specific colonies, did have established religions. The very phrase "separation of church and state" is from a letter from Thomas Jefferson assuring the Danbury (CT) Baptist Association that there should be no federal assumption of a national established church. They had written to Jefferson concerned that The First Amendment freedom of religious practice did not necessarily make freedom of religion an unchangeable God granted inalienable right, but possibly only a government-granted favor that could be changed.

Now, I don't think I speak only for myself when I say it is an ideal that ALL aspects of life are subordinated to my own Christian ideals, even though of course in my own failure and limited vision, they are not. Nevertheless, there are not aspects of life, broad or narrow, that are exempt from an expectation of comportment with my overall Christian belief. And by the mistaken contemporary idea that state action or advocacy ought to be divorced from what are thought my "religious" beliefs, I should therefore be forbidden to engage in such things.

That is obvious nonsense with respect to the intent of the framers of our founding documents. And the main point I wanted to make is that under the pressure of media and educational secularist and naturalist forces, it is nonsense that has come to frame our understanding of this and so many other matters. This sort of thinking was not in public currency at the time of the American founding. But given their complete divergence from and ignorance of my worldview and perceptual scheme, their scorn and mockery is entirely to be expected. Short of at least sober consideration of the internal rationality of other perspectives, what else can they do? But I have to ask, how realistic and practical is it for so divergent perspectives to productively cooperate in a constitutional democratic republic like our own?


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