Religious and Civil Liberty
by: John Tyrrell
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As this is being written, I'm nearing the half-way point in serializing Henry M. Taber's Faith or Fact. Three chapters are being posted today - one deals with civil liberty as opposed to religious liberty in general; the other specifically with the civil liberty of doing what we want on Sundays instead of what a subset of Christians want us to do (or not do). And this is at the heart of why I want to look at more of these classic texts — because in spite of their faults (some of which I mention in my opening comments to each chapter), they tackle some issues which are timeless.
Civil liberty is always an issue which is timeless in a democracy - particularly if a majority or an extremely vocal minority finds itself in a position to impose its will on a non-consenting minority. And we seem to be surrounded by Christians prepared to do this.
I point to Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association who ignorantly and falsely stated that the constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion applied only to Christians. And he falsely claimed support for this position by quoting a Supreme Court Justice out of context in a decision which stated the exact opposite. Bryan Fischer would deny non-Christians in the USA their civil liberties. And he would lie to achieve this.
On a more minor but seasonal note, I point to a Fox News host, Gretchen Carlson, who got all bent out of shape about a Festivus Pole at the State Capitol. She said: "I am so outraged by this. Why do I have to drive around with my kids to look for a nativity scenes and be, like, 'Oh, yeah, kids, look, there's baby Jesus behind the Festivus pole made out of beer cans! It's nuts!"
If that is nuts, then it also nuts that followers of all other religions along with followers of no religion have to drive around seeing nativity scenes all over the place.
The thing is — even though Christians claim that Jesus invented the golden rule — too many Christians are apparently incapable of imagining themselves in the position of others. Essentially, they lack empathy. (They also lack a sense of humour - but that's another issue.) And without empathy, we see demands such as "Get rid of your Festivus Pole and don't mess with my Nativity Scene" amounting to "To hell with your civil rights! I get to impose my religious views on everyone else."
And that's wrong. Everyone's individual civil liberties should trump one group's religious liberty - particularly when that group uses its liberty to impose on others.
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