I am in Boston this week filming a series of lectures for an on-line course on colonial America produced by the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History. We have been shooting short introductions at places like the Long Wharf, Old South Meeting House, King’s Chapel Burial Ground, Harvard University, and the Boston Public Library. (We shot some footage at Mount Vernon, Virginia earlier in the week).
Yesterday we filmed an introduction at the statue of Mary Dyer located at the corner of Beacon Street and Bowdoin Street adjacent to the Massachusetts State House. I talked about Dyer’s relationship with Anne Hutchinson, her so-called “monstrous birth,” her conversion to Quakerism, and her eventual execution in Boston Commons in 1660.
I thought about Hutchinson and Dyer today as I read this tweet from Family Research Council President and court evangelical Tony Perkins.
.@SecPompeo: We all agree that fighting so that each person is free to believe, free to assemble, and to teach the tenets of his or her own faith is not optional – indeed, it is a moral imperative that this be permitted. #IRFMinisterial https://t.co/eLikqbehRE
— Tony Perkins (@tperkins) July 16, 2019
I agree with Perkins and Pompeo. We must defend religious liberty. But I wonder if our current president thinks the same way. Trump will preach religious liberty to evangelicals until he is blue in the face. Evangelicals will eat it all up and pull the lever for Trump in 2020. They will continue to call him the most faith-friendly president of all time.
But what would Trump say about religious liberty if a person’s religious convictions led her or him to criticize the United States for its past and present sins? What would Trump say about religious liberty if someone’s faith-informed view of the world resulted in the criticism of him?
I don’t know if religious faith informs the moral vision of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Talib, or Ayanna Pressley (we did a post on Ocasio-Cortez back in June 2017). But if it does, how might Trump reconcile religious liberty with his recent tweet telling these women to leave the country? If someone’s faith leads one to oppose racism, nativism, xenophobia, misogyny, dishonesty and general cruelty, should we deem that person to be unpatriotic and encourage them to go back to their own country?
The analogy is not perfect (no historical analogy is), but it seems like the faith of Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer led them to criticize the beliefs of the Puritan government in seventeenth-century Massachusetts Bay. They exercised liberty of conscience in a way that Trump might describe “unpatriotic.” Hutchinson was not “sent home.” She was sent to Rhode Island. I don’t think the Puritans were chanting “send her back, send her back” when they banned her, but I am sure they were thinking something similar.
Dyer, on the other hand, was “sent home.”