Monday, January 30, 2012

Common Law Tradition of Religious Liberty and the Obama Birth Control Mandate

Catholics are the first often to get that is a difference between "Freedom of Worship " and "Freedom of Religion".

So when lets say the Secretary of State uses the more restricted "Freedom of Worship" in a speech alarms bells go off in Catholic Internet land.

On the issue of the Obama birth control mandate even Catholic dissenters on the birth control issue I think sense something is not right.

There was a interesting article at the National Review that makes an important point . See Religious Liberty and Civil Society

....As many have noted around here, the fact of the administration’s willingness to do this sheds light on its hostility to (or at the very least its contempt for) religious liberty. But it’s not quite that simple. This incident (and especially the nature of the exemption that the administration was willing to grant, which is essentially an exemption for actual houses of worship but not for other religiously-affiliated institutions) also sheds light on a very deeply rooted problem in our tradition of religious liberty itself—a problem that should cause those of us inclined to seek recourse in “conscience protection” and religious exemptions to pause and think.

The English common law tradition of religious toleration, which we inherited, has always had a problem with religious institutions that are not houses of worship—i.e. that are geared to ends other than the practice of religion itself. To (vastly) oversimplify for a moment, that tradition began (in the 16th century, and in some respects even earlier) with the aim of protecting Protestant dissenters and Jews but (very intentionally) not protecting Catholics.

And the way it took shape over the centuries in an effort to sustain that distinction was by drawing a line between individual religious practice (in which the government could not interfere) and an institutional religious presence (which was given far less protection). Because Catholicism is a uniquely institutional religion—with large numbers of massive institutions for providing social services, educating children and adults, and the like, all of which are more or less parts of a single hierarchy—this meant Catholics were simply not granted the same protection as others. Obviously the intent to treat Catholics differently has for the most part fallen away since then, but the evolved legal tradition is very much with us, and it is not a coincidence that it always seems to be the Catholic Church that gets caught up in these situations when the government overreaches.....

Mirrors of Justice takes up on this theme and others at The Importance of Institutional Pluralism


Kurt said...

So when lets say the Secretary of State uses the more restricted "Freedom of Worship" in a speech ...

You mean like Ronald Reagan used to?

James H said...

Reagan I suspect used both terms but he very migh have used the more restrictive use too at times as other Republicans have. Of course they were Protestasnt too and lets face it the Rockerfeller wing too boot of the party might have not been too keen on certain Freedom of Religion issues back in the day.

We see this mindset of course in overborad anti Shari laws and facets of the Alabama immigration law.

But that dynamic is at play among various State Department types that I think get the difference

Kurt said...

I think you might consider that people honestly use the terms interchangabily in common speech and the understanding of the differece between the two, while intellectually correct, is something recently developed in certain political quarters.