A Religious Case for Opposing Religious Liberty?

Fractured RepublicAfter reading Darryl Hart’s post on Yuval Levin‘s views on religious liberty I have placed Levin’s book The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism on my reading list.

Here is a taste of Hart’s post:

Yuval Levin, arguably the most Burkean of commentators in conservative circles these days, recognizes what many who oppose modern secularism fail to see — namely, that a defense of religious liberty for persons actually increases the power of the state. He is evoking an older case for mediating institutions, like families, schools, community organizations, and churches. These institutions should retain authority over members and government should not seek to overthrow the powers of “lesser authorities.” In the case of Christianity, faith is corporate not individual. But when government does intervene for the sake of a person’s freedom — a son against his parents, a church member against her church officers — the government gains more authority (less for the lesser authorities) by liberating the individual. In effect, libertarianism and big government go hand in hand.

Read the rest here.

3 thoughts on “A Religious Case for Opposing Religious Liberty?

  1. Of course to LGBT people, “religious liberty” seems to have become the liberty to capriciously discriminate against, and thereby segregate, minority people going about their lawful business in the public square. As long as you can come up with any sort of religious statement, you have the privilege to nullify whatever anti-discrimination law displeases you with impunity.

    It’s rather obviously thinly disguised white privilege. That sort of privileged, exclusionary ‘religious liberty’ is opposed to the concept of a civil society.


  2. The problem with the “corporate” argument–“these are the teachings of my church”–is that it’s particularly vulnerable to the “separation of church and state” rebuttal, which in this case is not a totally invalid one. Where the primacy of individual conscience has long been an American principle–in no small part because it’s a Protestant principle–the corporate/community principle is a lot less obvious. How can any community claim primacy over the federal government?

    Indeed, that’s Barry Shain’s argument in his “Myth of American Individualism” argument, that the Puritans, et al., didn’t cross the ocean for religious liberty per se, but for the freedom to live as a religious community without the interference of a larger government entity.

    Indeed, this is the tragedy and the outrage in the Little Sisters of the Poor case, that a religious community is being coerced by the government to cooperate with what it regards as intrinsically evil.

    The Catholic principle of “subsidiarity” does indeed claim a primacy of the community over larger government entities, but it’s little known, even by Catholics.
    Benjamin Wiker:

    From the Catechism (1883-1885), which is itself quoting from St. John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus (48).

    Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which ‘a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.’”

    God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature. This mode of governance ought to be followed in social life. The way God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those who govern human communities. They should behave as ministers of divine providence.

    The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies. It tends toward the establishment of true international order.

    There are a few points well worth making here.

    To begin with, the dual problem with the modern state is that its overwhelming historical tendency has been to absorb “power” from below, and to impose secular agendas from above. The modern state thereby violates the principle of subsidiarity in two ways: (1) by taking away legitimate “power” from more fundamental social, moral, and economic levels of human communities, such as the family, the neighborhood, and the village, and (2) by harnessing that stolen power to secular ideas and policies that destroy these more fundamental social, moral, and economic levels, and the faith along with it.

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