Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Religion, politics, and the battle over Christmas

Hugh Hewitt links and responds to a lengthy post by Jeff Jarvis about our seasonal battles about Christmas and the public square. Lord knows that I have commented on and contributed to these battles, and I’m not about to stop now.

Of course, I wish that they weren’t shouting matches more often than not. And I’m also glad when participants on both sides retain their sense of proportion, with conservative "religionists" (to use Stephen Carter’s phrase) recognizing that there is such a thing as real persecution out there, as opposed to annoying insults and harrassment, and liberal secularists recognizing that there is real theocracy out there, which is often engaged in the aforementioned persecution.

But I’m glad that we’re having conversations, and that at least much of the time they’re more or less civil. Imposing a solution from above, silencing one or the other side (or both sides) in the name of peace, just postpones the "day of reckoning." It’s the fights that end in conversations and the conversations that end in fights that in the end help create the shared stakes in a regime, at least as long as the regime itself offers a principled respect for all sides and stands for something higher than temporal peace.

Here’s James Madison on property:

This term in its particular application means "that dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in exclusion of every other individual."

In its larger and juster meaning, it embraces every thing to which a man may attach a value and have a right; and which leaves to every one else the like advantage.

In the former sense, a man’s land, or merchandize, or money is called his property.

In the latter sense, a man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them.

He has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by them.

He has a property very dear to him in the safety and liberty of his person.

He has an equal property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them.

In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.

This strikes me as articulating the kind of principle on which a government that respects the liberty to be religious or not to be religious can rest.

Discussions - 1 Comment

Ah, but there is no "real persecution" of Jews or atheists or Muslims in America. While there is a minor theocratic fringe, it counts for absolutely nothing politically.

Conversations are better than cowardly silence, but defying the censors is far more important than "conversing" with them.

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