There are a lot of good and thoughtful teachers and scholars who work at Liberty University. It is time for these cooler heads to prevail and do something about the Dean of the Law School, Mat Staver.
You may recall that it was Staver who was one of the few members of the Christian Right who defended David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies after nearly all Christian conservatives had backed away from most of the book’s claims about our third president.
Now Staver is arguing that Islam is not protected under the First Amendment because it is not a religion, but a “political ideology.” How can Liberty claim to have a respectable law school when its dean continues to promote this kind of stuff? These remarks are not only detrimental to the reputation of Liberty Law School, but they should be embarrassing to any American Christian who cares about religious liberty and the First Amendment.
Warren Throckmorton explains:
Mat Staver, Dean of the Liberty University Law School told OneNewsNow, the “news service” of the American Family Association that Islam is more political ideology than religion and as such does not merit the same religious liberty protections. Staver said
“One of the issues, however, that needs to be considered is whether or not there will be much emphasis placed on advancing the Muslim cause,” he notes. “Certainly that could be a concern to many people around the country.”
He explains why that should be a concern in a law school.“Islam is a political ideology. Certainly it takes characteristics of religion, but by and large, at its core, both in the United States and around the world, it is a political ideology,” Staver asserts. “Consequently, to use the same kind of laws for an advancement of a political ideology that you would for religious liberty could eventually cause some concerning issues that we want to address.”
Thomas Jefferson certainly disagreed with this analysis. When Jefferson commented on his Virginia law on religious freedom, he said the law was meant to cover all religions. Specifically, Jefferson wrote:
The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason & right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally past; and a singular proposition proved that it’s protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read “departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it’s protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Islam], the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.
The Virginia statute is not the First Amendment but it is clear that James Madison, acting in sympathy with Jeffersonian views, intended the same scope for the First Amendment.
Another frightening aspect of Staver’s reasoning is that it could easily be applied to other religions, including Christianity. Churches that pass out political guides and organize members to vote GOP could easily be considered to be purveyors of a political ideology.