A Crabbed Vision of Religious Liberty


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ABSTRACTThe Obama Admininstration’s Crabbed Vision of Religious Liberty » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog SUBSCRIBER LOGIN forgot password? | obtain login Home Visit the Home Page Print Edition Current Edition Previous Edition Archive Subscribe On the Square Latest Feature Archive Blogs Evangel Secondhand Smoke First Thoughts Postmodern Conservative Events Coming Events Recent Events Advertising Advertise on First Things Donate Support First Things About Us Masthead ROFTERS Contact Us Submissions Store Shop First Things Buy The Creed Subscribe Subscribe Customer Service Search First Things Search for: / Masthead Joe Carter Ian Marcus Corbin Meghan Duke Greg Forster Matthew J. Franck Joseph Lawler Micah Mattix Robert T. Miller Matthew Milliner David Mills Joseph Knippenberg R.R. Reno Robert Saler Russell E. Saltzman Matthew Schmitz First Thoughts Archive Monthly Select Month April 2012  (13) March 2012  (184) February 2012  (137) January 2012  (147) December 2011  (148) November 2011  (141) October 2011  (161) September 2011  (150) August 2011  (151) July 2011  (128) June 2011  (114) May 2011  (112) April 2011  (128) March 2011  (121) February 2011  (114) January 2011  (142) December 2010  (147) November 2010  (175) October 2010  (199) September 2010  (211) August 2010  (206) July 2010  (224) June 2010  (189) May 2010  (201) April 2010  (182) March 2010  (153) February 2010  (137) January 2010  (140) December 2009  (123) November 2009  (123) October 2009  (94) September 2009  (149) August 2009  (176) July 2009  (221) June 2009  (172) May 2009  (125) April 2009  (133) March 2009  (144) February 2009  (122) January 2009  (97) December 2008  (113) November 2008  (106) October 2008  (118) September 2008  (157) August 2008  (134) July 2008  (93) June 2008  (87) May 2008  (26) April 2008  (40) March 2008  (69) February 2008  (113) January 2008  (181) December 2007  (100) « Previous    |Home|    Next »          The Obama Admininstration’s Crabbed Vision of Religious Liberty Friday, February 3, 2012, 12:41 PM Joseph Knippenberg Yesterday, while I was listening with students to the oral arguments in the Hosanna-Tabor case , I noticed something I hadn’t caught before. Here’s Leondra Kruger, Assistant to the Solicitor General, responding to a question from Chief Justice John Roberts: The government’s interest extends in this case beyond the fact that this is a retaliation to the fact that this is not a church operating internally to promulgate and express religious belief internally. It is a church that has decided to open its doors to the public to provide the service, socially beneficial service, of educating children for a fee, in compliance with State compulsory education laws. The reasoning here is perfectly consistent with the thought animating the narrowly-drawn exemption to the widely reviled contraceptive mandate. Whenever a church or house of worship ceases to be simply inward-looking, when it in any way engages or serves the wider public, it becomes subject to much the same sort of government regulation as any secular entity. Relgious freedom is a purely private freedom. The moment you enter the public sphere, you’re subject to regulation. The public sphere is by definition secular, not pluralistic , with its tone, terms, and limits set by governmental authority. Now, I don’t mean to argue that religious freedom is or should be absolute, that religious organizations should never be subject to any sort of regulation. I’m at least somewhat comfortable with a compelling state interest test to justify regulation. But here the Obama Administration seems to go further than that. The logic of its argument in these two cases is that any religious institution that is public-serving has to behave in many instances (those determined by the state) like every other public-serving organization. The religious presence in the public square can’t be distinctive except in ways the government permits. Pursued consistently across the board (and the Obama Administration hasn’t yet done this), this approach would gravely threaten religious freedom. It’s one thing to say (as some have, though I disagree with them), that if you take public dollars, you have to be thoroughly secular in your operation. Anyone can escape the secularizing effect of public money by refusing to accept it. It’s quite another to say that if you serve the public, your religiosity can’t permeate your efforts and your organiz.......