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Religious Freedom is Under Attack: Why even Non-Believers should Care

Written on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 by

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Christians and secular humanists often find themselves at odds when their two vastly different worldviews meet in the public square.  However, there is one issue on which Christians and secular humanists should agree: the sanctity of the First Amendment.  For the sake of review, the First Amendment reads as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

            The First Amendment protects several freedoms that should be cherished by Christians and secular humanists alike.  Currently it is freedom of religion that is under attack in America—particularly on the campuses of colleges and universities—and it is secular humanists who are doing the attacking.  But what the leftist professors who devote so much time to whittling away at freedom of religion apparently do not understand is that the First Amendment is not a multiple-choice item.  They cannot attack one component of the First Amendment—freedom of religion—without attacking the entire amendment.  They cannot claim that the men who drafted the Constitution and amended it with the Bill of Rights were wrong on one part of the First Amendment but not on the rest of it.  By attacking freedom of religion, secular humanists run the very real risk of undermining the rest of the First Amendment: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the freedom to petition for a redress of grievances.

In a lecture delivered at Hillsdale College, Matthew J. Franck of The Witherspoon Institute had this to say about the increasing number of attacks on religious freedom: “In our universities, those citadels of toleration, we find that toleration can be sharply limited.  At the Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, the student chapter of the Christian Legal Society was denied any status on campus because it would not abandon its requirement that members commit themselves to traditional Christian norms regarding sexual morality. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling in 2010, held that the student groups’ rights were not violated by a ‘take all comers’ policy.  Following this lead, Vanderbilt University has rewritten its student organization policy and effectively chased every traditionally Christian student group off campus, denying them regular access to campus facilities.  And at the University of Illinois, an adjunct professor of religion, hired to teach a course on Catholicism, was let go because a student complained that about his patient explanation of the Catholic Church’s natural law teachings on human sexuality.”

These are just a few of the hundreds of cases in which secular humanists, not just in liberal colleges and universities, but in all walks of life seek to limit freedom of religion as an initial step in doing away with religious freedom altogether.  Ah, but there is the rub.  How do liberals go about eliminating freedom of religion without also undermining those aspects of the First Amendment they cherish: freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and petition?

Never fear, they have a plan.  Secular humanists and liberal politicians are following the “Rules” set forth by Saul Alinsky and attacking the problem by making subtle changes in the language they use.  The left has stopped using the term “freedom of religion.” They now talk about “freedom of worship.” In other words, the next step in the grand scheme of secular humanists is to confine Christians to their Sunday morning worship services and nothing more.  If they can succeed at limiting the practice of Christianity to a few hours on Sunday morning, secular humanists will be happy indeed. But as is typical of liberal “logic,” this new scheme overlooks an important point.  Their efforts to limit Christianity can ultimately cut both ways.  In the process of limiting Christianity, secular humanists might go too far and wind up limiting all elements in the First Amendment.

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