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Religious Freedom, Limited Gov't, Political Liberty (How Catholic Church empowered Obama)
Ricochet ^ | May 11, 2012 | Paul A. Rahe

Posted on 05/11/2012 3:02:26 PM PDT by NYer

Do atheists and agnostics have a stake in religious liberty? At first glance, it is hard to see why. But I think otherwise, and I addressed this question (among others) in a public lecture entitled “Obamacare’s Assault on Religious Liberty,” now available on YouTube, that I delivered a month ago today at the Allan P. Kirby Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship established not long ago by Hillsdale College in Washington, DC:

"Obamacare's Assault on Religious Liberty"

Here I propose to return to one of my lecture’s themes – the connection between religious freedom, limited government, and political liberty. To begin to come to grips with what I have in mind, you need only consult and ruminate on the First Amendment to the Constitution, which reads “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.”


I would submit that James Madison knew what he was doing when he linked in this document the three participial phrases that define its scope. I would submit that, while barring religious establishments and protecting the free exercise of religion are theoretically distinct, they tend in practice to be unsustainable where both are not in place. I would suggest that political liberty tends to be meaningless where freedom of speech and of the press and the right peaceably to assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances is not guaranteed. And I would argue that only where there is disestablishment and a free exercise of religion can one hope in the long run to have these political rights safeguarded. In other words, it is not an accident that


John Locke, the Englishman who penned the Letter Concerning Toleration, was the man who, in his guise as a civil servant under William III, was responsible for England’s quiet abandonment of the licensing of the press. In modern times, intellectual freedom, political freedom, and religious liberty have always been inseparable.

There is another, perhaps a better, way to make the same point. Limited government is a modern phenomenon. It was crafted in the late-seventeenth century to solve an otherwise apparently insuperable problem: the catastrophic political consequences of the fact – as visible in late antiquity (especially in the Christian East) as it would be in the Christian West during and after the Reformation – that the Christian faith tends to give rise to doctrinal disputes and sectarian divisions. Only if these can somehow be quarantined, John Locke and others thought, only if doctrinal disputes can be kept out of the political arena, only if political authority can be made neutral with regard to sectarian divisions, can there be domestic tranquility within Christendom.


To this end, Locke proposed that government be reconceived, that it be re-founded on the basis of an imaginary social contract, that it be limited to the protection of the rights accorded human beings by nature, to the rights that no one in his right mind would even think of alienating – first and foremost, the right to life, liberty, and property – which is the formulation that you will find echoed in the declarations of rights that George Mason wrote for the Virginia Constitution and that John Adams penned for the Massachusetts Constitution, which is the formulation that Thomas Jefferson rephrased when he spoke of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in 1776 in the American Declaration of Independence.


It is not fortuitous that this same Thomas Jefferson asserted the existence of religious liberty as a natural right in his Virginia Statute of Religious Liberty. Nor should it seem odd that James Madison defended it in precisely those terms in his Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments. When he substituted pursuit of happiness for John Locke’s property, Jefferson did not mean to deny that we have a natural right to the fruits of our own labor. Nor did he mean to make property rights dependent on positive law (as some suppose). In the Revisal of the Laws of the State of Virginia that he penned in 1779, he restates John Locke’s trilogy – life, liberty, and property – verbatim. When he substituted pursuit of happiness for property Jefferson had in mind something more extensive than property – something for which the acquisition of property might be a means, something that included religious faith. For Jews, Christians, and Muslims, as Jefferson well knew, the free exercise of religion is part and parcel of the pursuit of happiness. It is how happiness is most effectually to be pursued.


I belabor this point for a reason. I belabor it because I believe that, when Barack Obama stated in 2008 that he wanted to “fundamentally change” the United States and when he called his administration The New Foundation, he meant precisely what he said. He meant to reverse what Locke and the American Founders had achieved. He intended to establish in this country a political regime unlimited in its scope and power. That is the meaning of the Hosanna-Tabor Case pursued by Attorney General Erich Holder, and it is the meaning of the individual mandate. It has rightly been said that Obamacare changes the relationship between the citizen and the government radically. The HHS Mandate has made that fact manifest, and I have made it clear in earlier posts, linked below, that I hope that its issuance serves as a warning to the American Catholic Church.

I say this because that Church has contributed mightily to placing in the hands of Barack Obama the power he is now wielding against the Catholic Church in the United States. For decades now the American Church has been allied with the Left in domestic affairs – pressing with vigor for ever-more extensive and ever-more expensive social programs. For decades the American Church has been pushing for one form or another of universal healthcare, demanding as its first priority that the federal government enact a health care policy that “ensures access to quality, affordable, life giving health care for all.” In the process, the American bishops asserted on 27 January 2010 that “health care is a basic human right” and claimed that “there are nearly 50 million Americans who do not have access to health care.”

Leave aside the fact that the numbers the bishops provided on this occasion were grotesquely inflated. Their propensity to descend into demagogy is by no means the worst of it. The real problem lies with their theoretical claim concerning the extent of “basic human rights” conceived of as legitimate claims on the political community and with the larger implications of such claims.

I would submit that one cannot make good on such claims without concentrating tyrannical power in the hands of the government. I would submit that the social teaching of the Catholic Church, as it has been applied in the United States by the American Catholic Bishops, is inconsistent with the principles of limited government and that in rejecting the principles of limited government the American Catholic Church has rejected the foundations of religious liberty. The bishops have been hoist with their own petard. They contributed mightily to fashioning the weapon now being wielded against them.

Let me be more precise. Consider the Declaration of Independence and the inalienable natural rights mentioned therein. Consider the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom and its defense of religious liberty as a natural right. The rights specified in these two documents – both drafted by the same man – have this in common: They are negative rights. In each case, it is the task of government to defend us against those who would interfere with our exercise of those rights – who would deprive us of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as we conceive of that happiness (which is where both the acquisition and preservation of property and religious liberty come into it). We are to be constrained by this government only to the extent that we deprive our fellow citizens of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and it is our duty to cooperate with this government in protecting those rights. That is what constitutes justice under a limited government.

TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; Moral Issues; Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: hhs; obama; socialism

1 posted on 05/11/2012 3:02:31 PM PDT by NYer
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To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...


2 posted on 05/11/2012 3:03:13 PM PDT by NYer (Open to scriptural suggestions.)
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To: NYer
Before you give Madison too much credit there, John Leland, a polymath, who moved from New England to Virginia to Christianize black slaves, probably did most of the work in tugging the parts of the First together.

John also wrote a vast number of songs and is credited with founding Gospel Music. He was also an early member of the Primitive Baptist church.

So, whatever was going on in Madison's mind was only part of the story. You must also tap into Leland.

3 posted on 05/11/2012 3:21:27 PM PDT by muawiyah
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4 posted on 05/11/2012 3:25:09 PM PDT by Matchett-PI ("Andrew loved the battle and he knew the stakes." ~ Mark Levin 3/2/12)
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To: NYer

If you do not live in a right to work State.. you have no FREEDOM..
The Unions OWN the givernment.. and parasitize it..
Unions are intrinsically... parasitic..
And sap economic life always..


5 posted on 05/11/2012 3:59:59 PM PDT by hosepipe (This propaganda has been edited to include some fully orbed hyperbole...)
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To: NYer
The bishops have been hoist with their own petard. They contributed mightily to fashioning the weapon now being wielded against them. saddens me to say how true above is, although not all Bishops (there are some good ones out there). My mother told me 25 years ago that if the Catholic heiracy continued to align themselves with the Democratic party, it would be to their own demise.

6 posted on 05/11/2012 5:23:25 PM PDT by Gerish (Feed your faith and your doubts will starve to death.)
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To: NYer
“there are nearly 50 million Americans who do not have access to health care.”

All too often conservatives lose because they allow liberals to control the way issues are phrased.

Who in America doesn't have "access" to healthcare? No one of course. There are plenty of folks who can't, or won't, pay for their medical care but no one is barred from seeking medical help. But again and again we see the phrase "access to healthcare" instead of "afford healthcare".

7 posted on 05/12/2012 4:59:55 AM PDT by Straight Vermonter (Posting from deep behind the Maple Curtain)
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