An Appeal To The Christian Left

For a large number of conservatives who were expecting Mitt Romney to win the election last week, day one of the Romney Presidency was also going to be day one of a concerted loyal opposition effort.  A good deal of conservatives were unhappy with the Romney nomination.  Not just the Ron Paul people, but also the Santorum-or-Gingrinch-or-anyone-but-Romney contingent.  They feared that Romney was a big government moderate merely posing as a conservative.  That is the main reason that enthusiasm for Romney among the Republican base was so tepid until the last month of the campaign.  The conservative base, especially the “Tea Party” movement, was expecting Romney to go back on all of his major promises, such as lowering taxes across the board and repealing Obamacare.  They were especially worried that his most important goals, lowering the deficit and balancing the budget, would fail to be acheived if he allowed himself to get mired in business-as-usual in Washington rather than holding fast to principle.  As such, those who were willing to vote for him (more in opposition to Obama) were gearing up for a (loving) fight.

Before the election, and now in the days following, I have not seen this kind of principled committment coming in large measure from the Left.  President Obama is still “their guy”, and the vibe I get is that opposition to those dangerous, wild-eyed conservatives is so important that showing anything less than total confidence in the Democrats’ agenda would be too harmful.  One notable exception I’ve seen is this article in The Atlantic by Conor Friedersdorf.  Friedersdorf is a liberal and makes no secret of his loathing for Republicans, but he essentially says that when it comes to foreign policy and the dangerous misuse of executive power, President Obama is far worse than any Republican (including Bush) and a principled liberal cannot enthusiastically endorse him.

The election is over and Mr. Obama is President once more, so this is no longer a question of support through voting.  Now the question is this:  Will those on the Left be willing to oppose the President when his agenda, either foreign or domestic, does not coincide with their own values and principles?  And more importantly, will liberals be willing to engage in the bipartisanship and compromise that they so often rail against the Right for failing to embrace?  My hope is that they will.

To be clear, I am not simply asking for liberals to become conservatives.  Those who believe in the necessary use of more government power, including increased taxes, for the common good of the people, especially the poor and disenfranchised, can still maintain that principle while refusing to accept as good every single use of that government power by those currently in office.  You can support Obamacare without supporting the attendant HHS regulations that would violate the religious liberty of Catholic institutions by forcing them to pay for birth control and abortions.  For that matter, you can fully support the availability and use of contraceptives without embracing wholesale the current narrative of the Left that any restrictions whatsoever on who has to provide and pay for them is a “war on women.”  In that sense, I simply call on my brothers and sisters on the Left to show discretion and wisdom, and not get caught up in the sound bite culture of political discourse.

If you’re wondering why the title of this post is aimed specifically at Christians, the answer is two-fold.  The first is abortion.  All Christians, Left or Right, must affirm the infinite worth of the human soul as well as a Christian sexual ethic (sex only within the bonds of marriage, generally, though not exclusively, for procreation).  There are still details that can be argued here.  Christians can disagree, in good faith, about whether the soul enters the child’s body at conception or at some later point, and also about what “personhood” means scientifically and philosophically, so I don’t want to get bogged down in those things here.  However, I believe that a general acceptance of the two things I just mentioned necessitate some form of pro-life view and a rejection of most of the assumptions of the pro-choice view.  At the very least, I see no reason why professing Christians on the Left should oppose something like a partial-birth abortion ban, or why they would whole-heartedly embrace the attitude that there is nothing wrong with “elective” abortion (that is, abortion for no other reason than the current material convenience of the parents), especially in the second half of pregnancy.

Perhaps even more interesting is the question of why the Democratic party has become the pro-choice party to begin with.  Democrats are (or claim to be) the party of the disenfranchised and those without a voice.  They value community over individualism, the good of others over the absolute rights of self.  Why on earth, when it comes to abortion, are they suddenly so radically individualistic (in the case of the mother) and absolutely uncaring toward the one party in the whole situation with no voice of her own?

In this light, abortion really ought to be the easiest point of agreement between Left and Right.  Why isn’t it?

Second, as those who share a transcendent faith in Christ, Christians on the Left and the Right ought to be able to come together and view their political differences in light of their religious commonalities.  In that sense, I actually think the church can set a good example for the rest of the country in how to engage in meaningful bipartisan cooperation.

My plea, then, is simple.  To my Christian brothers and sisters on the Left, do not merely celebrate the victory of “your guy” and avoid the difficult work of being a light in a dark world.  That darkness is present everywhere that Christ is not acknowledged as Lord, whether on the Right or the Left.  Please let wisdom and discernment win out over a party politics run almost exclusively by secular agendas.

If “my guy” had won, I would want the same admonition, and I genuinely I hope I would listen.

US Support for Yousef Nadarkhani Grows as Iran Denies Its Own Apostasy Charges

In a move more reminiscent of a badly regulated nursery than of a foreign power, Iranian officials have now denied that Yousef Nadarkhani is to be executed on charges of apostasy.

Instead, the young Iranian Christian will be executed on charges of rape, treason, and Zionism. Maybe.

Or maybe not; a statement on the Iranian Embassy site in the U.K. contradicts numerous reports—including official Iranian court documents—when it claims that no verdict has been issued:

The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in London renounces the published news regarding the death penalty for Mr. Yousof Nadarkhani and announces that the Court of Appeal in the Islamic Republic of Iran has not issued any verdict on his case. Accordingly, the allegations to the issue of the death penalty for the above mentioned, are unsubstantiated.

Iran’s wish to do away with Pastor Nadarkhani while maintaining an increasingly absurd semblance of legality has not received nearly the attention it deserves, especially when compared with some of the better known court cases that have crowded our news feeds. Mark Tapscott writes,

Unlike Troy Davis, for whom the evidence of his innocence was at best questionable, Nadarkhani is unequivocally innocent of wrongdoing. So why the seeming celebrity indifference to his situation and to the worldwide Muslim persecution of Christians?

Unfortunately, celebrity outrage reflects the multiculturalist mindset of our era, which places all minorities on a pedestal – unless that minority is a devout Christian. Celebrities flocked to support American Muslims’ right to religious freedom in the Ground Zero mosque controversy (a right which the mosque protesters were not even contesting). They decried the “state-sanctioned murder” of the black Troy Davis. But they can’t be bothered to take even a stand on Twitter for Pastor Nadarkhani, whose murder at the hands of an oppressive state is imminent.

Fortunately, as the expected execution is continually delayed, more and more people are beginning to take notice. Condemnations from the White House, numerous members of Congress, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, advocacy groups like Amnesty International, and a few mainstream news outlets have made Iranian officials nervous enough to deny the findings of their own court system. Unfortunately, that may not be enough to save Nadarkhani’s life.

Yousef Nadarkhani’s case is particularly important because he is just one of the many Iranians suffering under increased religious persecution. No one has been executed for apostasy for Iran since 1990, but if Nadarkhani dies, many others will no doubt follow. Let’s hope that future martyrs will be enabled to keep the faith, as Nadarkhani has—and let’s hope the world will start to pay more attention.


Abdolreza Haghnejad and Yousef Nadarkhani: Christians in Iran

Yousef Nadarkhani still looks set to become the first Christian executed for apostasy in Iran since 1990. Unfortunately, he may be merely the first in a new wave of Iranian persecutions–yet the media has hardly noticed.

Abdolreza ‘Matthias’ Haghnejad, a pastor in the Evangelical Church of Iran, was arrested August 17 while on a pastoral visit. It is not known where he is being held, or what charges he may face, and he does not have access to a lawyer.

Haghnejad and others were arrested last April, but acquitted in mid May when Mohammed-Ali Dadkhah, a human rights lawyer, took on their case. Despite this high-profile acquittal, other Iranian Christians have also been arrested in recent days:

Last month, a Christian man and woman were detained in Iran. The man was released but the woman, Leila Mohammadi, was arrested and is believed to be behind bars in Evin prison.

CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said: “It is vital that the Republic of Iran ensures due process and ends this practice of incarcerating persons simply on the basis of their faith as this is in clear violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

“Those who, like the pastor, have been arrested must either be charged and tried in a timely manner or released, and all detainees must be allowed contact with their families and lawyers.”

Stories like this are on the rise in Iran, a fact that has largely been ignored in the media despite having been addressed at the U.S. State Department and by Canadian officials.

Arrests are not the only setbacks Iranian Christians have had to endure:

In August a consignment of 6,500 Bibles was confiscated as it was being transported between the cities of Zanjan and Ahbar in the north-western province of Zanjan. In a comment on the seizure, Dr Majid Abhari, advisor to the social issues committee of the Iranian parliament, declared that Christian missionaries were attempting to deceive people, especially the youth, with an expensive propaganda campaign. He also indicated his belief that all religions are strengthening their power to confront Islam.

This rhetoric is the latest in a stream of condemnations of Christians from members of the Iranian regime, who have attempted to demonise Christians as western-backed conspirators, ‘parasites’ and ‘like the Taliban’.

Christians are not the only religious minorities to be targeted in Iran; Sufis and those in the Baha’i community have also seen an uptick in persecution.

Iran’s treatment of its own legally-protected minorities may prove a harbinger of things to come in its relations with the rest of the world. That’s especially relevant given the nation’s penchant for nuclear weapons development. As Walter Russell Mead observed,

Interestingly, like many stories of Christian persecution in the Middle East and elsewhere, the stories of Iranian Christians and Pastor Nadarkhani have received widespread attention in the US religious press — and are covered much more episodically and lightly if at all by mainstream outlets.  The contrast not only undermines public credibility in the mainstream press as readers take this as evidence of an anti-Christian or anti-western PC bias in the press; it blinds those who rely on mainstream reports to the actual state of US public opinion.

For many Americans, evidence of how Iran treats its Christian minority is an indicator of the kind of uses to which it would put nuclear weapons.

This should concern even those who are uninterested in what happens to Iran’s Christians. Iran persecutes its own people–why should should it treat other nations any better, especially if it gains access to nuclear weapons?

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak is gone: Long Live the Muslim Brotherhood?

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down this morning, and there’s no way to know what will happen next. While one should, on principle, welcome the departure of a tyrant, the fact is the Egyptian people might very well become less free now that Mubarak is gone.

That’s because—as anyone who has paid attention already knows—it’s likely that Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s best organized political force, will now take the reins. The Muslim Brotherhood ‘s supreme goal is the worldwide institution of Sharia law, and to say that they are dedicated to this goal is to insult them by understating their devotion.

Sharia is fundamentally anti-democratic. The Brotherhood has a history of manipulating democracy inorder to bring about its ultimate downfall, so don’t let the specter of free elections convince you of the group’s virtues. The Brotherhood might take leadership in Egypt violently, or they might do so democratically; either way, the danger to Egyptian freedom is very real.

And so is the danger to you. Because, despite what National Intelligence Director James Clapper would have you believe, the Muslim Brotherhood is no friend of the United States: it is one of the world’s most deadly radical terrorist groups. Consider, just for starters, their self-proclaimed motto:

Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.

The word jihad here does not refer to an internal struggle for holiness, and dying in the way of Allah has nothing to do with dying to self—at least, not for the Muslim Brotherhood. It surely does mean something like that to the millions of moderate Muslims who do not wish to see you dead, but there’s a reason those moderates are not part of the Brotherhood.

James Clapper told House Intelligence Committee members Thursday that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is “a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.” The claim is so baldly false as to be nearly humorous, as is Clapper’s insistence that the Muslim Brotherhood has “no overarching agenda, particularly in pursuit of violence, at least internationally.” As John Podhoretz points out,

This is one of the most reckless and irresponsible statements ever made publicly by an American official at a critical and delicate moment. If one of the key figures in the making of the administration’s foreign policy is already making excuses for the Muslim Brotherhood, the president needs to signal immediately that the United States does not view this evil and destructive force with rose-colored glasses. Hard to say how Obama can do that in a way that will be meaningful and still allow Clapper to remain in his office.

Clapper’s office has since offered a clarification, stating that Clapper is aware the Brotherhood is not a secular organization, but not before U.S. academics had a chance to defend his claims—proving that, even in the United States, Brotherhood ideology has already taken root.

Who knows—perhaps Egypt will come out alright. Perhaps the Muslim Brotherhood will not take leadership. I pray so. But realize, as you cheer the fall of a tyrant, that your Egyptian friends are not the only ones in danger here.

image credit

An Open Letter To Mohamed Abdel Moniem El-Sawy

An open letter to Mohamed Abdel Moniem El-Sawy:

I must admit, I don’t understand everything about the different segments of your Islamic faith—anymore than I understand everything about all the different denominations of Christianity. But they say actions speak louder than words, and I do understand that you and thousands of other Muslims in Egypt were willing to put aside differences in creed to unite for the sake of peace in your nation.

Thank you for being willing to protect the Coptic Christians in Egypt who were afraid for their lives this Christmas. You put yourselves in very real danger when you offered yourselves as “human shields.” Fortunately, the deadly New Years’ Eve attack was not repeated, and no one was hurt.  Thank you, all the same, for being willing to sacrifice yourselves for my Christian brothers and sisters.

I admire the theme emerging from your actions: “We either live together, or we die together” for indeed, these were no mere words. You were willing to literally put your life on the line in support of your fellow Egyptians, despite the religious differences which can so easily separate neighbors.

Just as we Americans learned from Abraham Lincoln that a house divided against itself cannot stand, the world can learn much the same from your actions last Thursday. We do not have to be threatened by all of our differences, and it’s good to be reminded that, for the sake of a nation, people will act on the courage of their convictions. There is much here to be admired.

Thank you.

Editors note: We offer our sincere condolences for the families of those who were shot on an Egyptian train today.

Image credit

On Malaysia’s Moderate Muslims and why you should care

A few months ago I decided to take a break from regular blogging to work on finding  a more specialized niche in which to fit my naturally charming yet gruffly journalistic self.

It’s gone well, and I’m learning a lot.  A lot about Malaysia, where apparently I’m sort of famous, thanks to posts like this. And this.  That’s not what I expected–I had hoped an employer with scads of highly-paid job openings would notice my mad research skillz and beg for a piece of my brilliance (still hoping for that, by the way)–but hey. Beggars (and moms in need of the sort of serious intellectual fodder that life with a preschooler doesn’t normally include ) can’t always be choosers.

In all seriousness, as one of the world’s few truly moderate Muslim-majority nations, Malaysia is well worth a look.  While Democracy and Islam do not usually go hand in hand, in Malaysia they co-exist with a surprising degree of harmony.  Malaysia’s multi-ethnic, multi-religious society is remarkable in that it mostly works in a way that hardly any other nation has managed to emulate–and, as you’ll see below, both the democratic and the Islamic worlds can benefit from a lot of what Malaysia has to offer.  Here are a few excerpts from some of my most recent work:

From the Daily Caller, Sept. 24, 2010:

Out of Many, 1Malaysia

Today, President Barack Obama addresses the US-ASEAN summit taking place in New York City, concurrent with the United Nations General Assembly. Among the heads of state he will speak with is a familiar acquaintance — Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, whom the president last saw at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C., this past April. Though he’s not a flashy newsmaker on par with some of the other ASEAN figures, Najib is no less newsworthy — and in some ways, the country he represents is one of the most important to the United States in an era where the meeting of Islam and democracy seems less a union, and more a collision.

In Najib’s Malaysia, despite some real challenges, the future of majority-Muslim, multiethnic democracy is slowly taking shape.  This past Sunday Najib joined with his country’s minister for unity, minister for religious affairs, and others in endorsing the work of Malaysia’s Inter-faith Relations Working Committee.  The committee, which is composed of Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Taoists and Sikhs, was formed in February in response to the widely publicized racial and religious tensions that plagued Malaysia in early 2010.  In endorsing the committee, Najib is affirming his commitment to Malaysia’s unity and diversity, and he’s doing so at the expense of his own political standing.

If there’s one thing Najib wants, it’s national unity — and that’s not something he’s going to get easily, especially if his political opponents get their way.  Fifty-three years after declaring independence, Malaysians are still unsure of what it means to be Malaysian.  With countless political parties and coalitions, dozens of cultural barriers, and the geographical imposition that is the Java Sea, it’s difficult to discern what sort of unifier will serve to carry the country forward.  To further complicate matters, only the nation’s Muslims are subject to Sharia law; the 40% of citizens who hold different beliefs are all served by a separate court system.  Far from asking his countrymen to adopt a homogenous national identity, however, Najib has set for himself the harder task of fostering and encouraging Malaysia’s differing societies while simultaneously working toward a concrete sense of national unity.

It’s not an easy task.

Read more here.

On Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s call for a “global movement of moderation”, from the Daily Caller, October 1, 2010:

It’s Always the Quiet Ones: Malaysia’s Moderate Muslims

Last week’s US-ASEAN summit was significant in ways that much of the mainstream media failed to report — and that’s a shame, given that Southeast Asia is home to some of our most important global partners.  Though China and Indonesia dominated most of the summit’s news coverage, their relatively low profile at the actual event provided an opportunity for ASEAN’s quieter voices to prevail.

Malaysia’s overtures to the United States deserve particular illumination here.  You’re not likely to read much about them elsewhere, though they are no less important for not having been highlighted in western media outlets.  The relative media silence regarding Malaysia has nothing to do with lack of newsworthy content, but is rather owing to the nation’s peaceful national home life. While other nations are busy dominating the news with tales of violence, poverty, and aggression, Malaysia is taking advantage of its own stability to carefully and strategically set itself up as the United States’ next best Southeast Asian partner — and, given the difficulties the United States has had in combining Islam and democracy, we better pay attention.

When I interviewed Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in New York on Sunday, he was careful to elucidate some specific areas in which Malaysia can benefit both the United States and the rest of the world.  He mentioned one especially unique commodity that not many other nations can match: progressive, well-educated, female Muslim professionals.  Women make up 62% of Malaysia’s undergraduate population, and that number will only grow as the nation aims to eventually staff at least 30% of its policy and decision-making positions with women.  In addition, Najib told the Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday that Malaysia plans to assist in Afghanistan by sending female Muslim doctors to the region — a valuable offer, given that an overwhelming number of conservative Muslim women prefer to be treated by doctors of their own sex.

Though Malaysian democracy isn’t yet fully consonant with the U.S. model, it is making tremendous strides in the right direction at an astonishing pace — and it’s not about to slow down.  While it’s always good news when a democracy liberalizes, Malaysia’s efforts are especially relevant because it is one of the world’s few moderate Muslim-majority nations, and it has the potential to be a positive and effective example to other Muslim nations.

Najib is well aware of this potential, and he has good reason to take advantage of it for both political and religious reasons. At his inaugural address to the United Nations General Assembly, for example, he called for a “global movement of the moderates” among people of all faiths in an attempt to “reclaim the centre and moral high ground that has been usurped from us.”  In his meeting with President Obama on Friday he offered Malaysia’s help in combating the dangers of Islamophobia, stating that the US needed help in educating its people about the reality of Islam.  When 26% of America’s populace believes its own president is Muslim, he pointed out, it’s a sign that the people are woefully uneducated.

Read more here.

Image credit Nazir Amin

Anwar Ibrahim: Not the Bright Spot We’d Hoped For

As Israel struggles to defend itself, Islamist voices around the world still stridently condemn the Jewish state for stopping the flotilla bringing aid to Hamas. Shockingly, one of those voices is Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim — the former media darling and favorite of the foreign-policy teams of both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

In a remarkable development, B’nai B’rith International has urged the U.S. to end its relationship with Anwar, citing his “…anti-Jewish and anti-Israel slanders, such as his April 30 assertion that Israeli spies are ‘directly involved in the running of the government,’” and his active role in sparking the recent resurgence of anti-Semitic sentiments in Malaysian politics.  In a letter addressed to the State Department, the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the venerable organization argued that “[a] purveyor of anti-Jewish hatred such as Ibrahim should not enjoy the measure of legitimacy that a positive relationship with the United States would confer upon him.”

Statements like these are symptomatic of a larger resurgence of anti-Semitism in Malaysian politics—a resurgence that Anwar himself has helped spark.  While the current Malaysian leadership is eager to be counted among our Muslim-majority allies, Anwar and his party are another story.  Anwar, who was long mentored by the publicly anti-American anti-Semite Mahathir Mohammed, has continued Mahathir’s legacy despite having been disowned by him in the late 1990’s.  Anwar’s conspiracy-theory laden charges of Israel’s secret takeover of the Malaysian Police IT unit bear all the marks of Mahathir’s influence—and he isn’t stopping there.

At the “Justice and Peace for Gaza” roundtable in Malaysia on June 4th, Anwar continued his anti-Semitic verbal assaults by attacking an American public relations firm, previously hired for minor work by the Malaysian Prime Minister, as an agent of Jewish influence: the firm, Anwar said, is “able to influence the oldest Jewish body to attack me personally… and to ask [other] countries, mainly the United States, to consider me an enemy because I’m seen as an enemy of Israel.”  Anwar declared that he was being subjected to retribution for his previous statements before the Malaysian Parliament, in which he claimed that Jews were working to manipulate Malaysian policy for America’s benefit.

Purveyors of anti-Semitism are often dealers in anti-Americanism, and Anwar Ibrahim is no exception.  He went on to attack President Obama, telling some one hundred Malaysians at the roundtable, “Obama is weak. He only said that he ‘regretted’ the attack [on the Gaza flotilla] when we actually need action.” This theme of weakness in the face of alleged Jewish interests was a continuation of one Anwar advanced several weeks back, when he accused the Malaysian government of bending to Jewish pressure in participating in sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program.

Statements like this make it clear that in asking the U.S. government and policymakers to end their erstwhile cordial relationships with the Malaysian opposition leader, B’nai B’rith is doing us a significant favor. There is simply no place for American engagement with traffickers in anti-Semitism, for both moral and pragmatic reasons.  Withdrawing support from Anwar will not solve the problem of world-wide anti-Semitism, but it will help put America on the right side of the issue.  If American policy makers choose to distance themselves from Anwar and his anti-Jewish hate speech, perhaps they will also distance themselves from others whose foul rhetoric we have wrongfully ignored.

While Anwar has spent years polishing a genteel Western image, his conduct and associations in Malaysia prove that he is every bit the sort of anti-American radical the U.S. must avoid.  Anti-Semitic statements like the ones B’nai B’rith has condemned show that Anwar’s public stances on major issues like race and foreign policy vary wildly depending on his own political needs.  And, despite his recent acceptance at places like Johns Hopkins University, where he was invited to teach for a year in their School for Advanced International Studies, he is quick to link his own anti-Semitism with anti-Americanism.

When asked about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict he told CNN, “Stoking the flames of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism is a good distraction from the stench in their own backyard, namely rampant corruption, denial of basic human rights, abuse of power and the suppression of civil society.”

Most Americans failed to realize that he was describing this as a useful strategy, not condemning it.  We overlook it at our own peril, however, as our eager search for bright spots in a largely unwelcoming Islamic populace makes it all too easy for our policy makers to rest contented when they think they’ve found what they’re looking for.

The Obama administration will have to keep this in mind as it seeks to strengthen relations with the Islamic world in general and Malaysia in particular.  It’s not always easy to tell the difference between our friends and our enemies among the people of the Muslim faith, but in Anwar’s case the problems are clear to anyone willing to pay attention. ‘

The Marriage Muzzle:
Same-Sex Marriage’s Threat to Religious Liberties

When same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, can the government force religious groups to treat it like traditional marriage? Will non-discrimination laws trump five thousand years of tradition? Would Christians be silenced and treated as “bigots” for refusing to accept the normalcy of gay marriages?
Those were some of the questions raised last night during Family Research Council’s “Liberty Sunday” simulcast. I was initially skeptical by the claim that same-sex marriage poses a threat to religious liberty. My doubts vanished, though, after reading Maggie Gallagher’s Weekly Standard article, “Banned in Boston.”
Gallagher asked the Becket Fund, one of the leading law firms that defend religious liberty, about the seriousness of the threat. Last December, the firm brought together ten religious liberty scholars of right and left to look at the question of the impact of gay marriage on the freedom of religion. Anthony Picarello, President of the Becket Fund, summarizes their findings: “All the scholars we got together see a problem; they all see a conflict coming. They differ on how it should be resolved and who should win, but they all see a conflict coming.”

Continue reading The Marriage Muzzle:
Same-Sex Marriage’s Threat to Religious Liberties

Separation and the City:
An ‘Inconsistent Conservative’s” View of Religious Liberty

Baylor professor Francis Beckwith has recently come under fire from the crowd over at Panda’s Thumb for his writings on the Establishment Clause. One curious criticism from Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Timothy Sandefur is that Beckwith is espousing an ‘extreme view” of separationism that clashes with conservatism. In response, Beckwith posts on his blog:

I am first a Christian and then a conservative. And whenever the former conflicts with the latter, I lean toward the former. I’m more convinced that Jesus was right than I am about William F. Buckley, Jr.’s opinions. Part of my understanding of Christian theology and its relationship to the state is that the state should not be in the business of coercing people to be Christians, either directly or indirectly. It should respect the rights of all believers and unbelievers to believe as they will and to make life choices consistent with these beliefs as long as they do not violate the public good or infringe on the rights of others (I know that there is a can of worms here with ‘public good,” but I’m just articulating the general principles). So, in that sense I am a church-state separationist.*

This corresponds with both my own uneasy alliance with conservatism and with my view of religious liberty. As fellow blogger David T. Koyzis writes in his excellent book Political Visions and Illusions,

Continue reading

Separation and the City:
An ‘Inconsistent Conservative’s” View of Religious Liberty