Framing the Religious-Liberty Issue


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ABSTRACTFraming the Religious-Liberty Issue - George Weigel - National Review Online Get FREE NRO Newsletters   Log In   |   Register Follow Us Everywhere         April 30 Issue  Subscribe to NR  Renew  April 30 Issue   |   Subscribe   |   Renew Home The Corner The Agenda Campaign Spot The Home Front Right Field Bench Memos The Feed Media Blog Critical Condition Larry Kudlow David Calling Exchequer Phi Beta Cons Planet Gore Uncommon Knowledge Between the Covers Tweet Tracker NR / Digital Subscribe: NR Subscribe: NR / Digital Give: NR / Digital NR Renewals & Changes Shop! Donate Media Kit Contact Cooke: The Capricious Dr. Hansen Bryce: The Next ‘Next Solyndra’ Editors: Mourdock for Indiana Fund: How Obama Got the Individual Mandate So Wrong Weigel: Framing the Religious-Liberty Issue Ponnuru: Obama v. the Court Lopez: Ann Romney, Everywoman Nordlinger: North Dakota Journal, Part I Barone: A Decade of Obamacare Will Cost $1.6 Trillion McCarthy: Holder Meets Sharpton Steyn: What’s Your Plan? Editors: Dealing with North Korea Kudlow: Obama’s Misleading Reagan Reference Costa: The Chris Christie Show Lott: Where’s the ‘Probable Cause’? Hess& Pickett: Education Research as Clown College Braunstein: The Nanny Tax Guelzo: Titanic Presumption Fund: The New Black Panthers’ Unpunished Threats Bolduc: Amnesty for Irish Immigrants? New on NRO . . . Close To: Your Email: Your Name: Subject: April 16, 2012 4:00 A.M. Framing the Religious-Liberty Issue The U.S. Bishops’ ad hoc committee sets the terms of debate. By George Weigel Archive Latest RSS Send Bishop William E. Lori, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty Print Text   Comments 0 George Weigel  ‘O ur First, Most Cherished Liberty,” the Easter Week statement by the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is the most developed statement on current religious-freedom controversies to emerge from the bishops’ deliberations. It also, and just as urgently, defines with considerable precision a major issue in American public life: Will the robust networks of free and voluntary associations that Alexis de Tocqueville admired as the sinews and musculature of American democracy continue to flourish? Or will the United States increasingly resemble Western Europe, where the associational instinct (and, with it, civil society) has atrophied under the heavy weight of the European nanny state? The bishops, in other words, helpfully frame the religious-freedom issue in its broader context. To be sure, the bishops are very, very concerned about increasing governmental encroachments on religious freedom of recent years. Those encroachments include the HHS “contraceptive mandate” in the implementation of Obamacare, which brought the entire issue to the surface of public life; they also involve state laws that impede the Church’s service to immigrants, attempts by state legislatures to turn religious communities into bureaus of state government, discrimination against Christian students on university campuses, and restrictions on the Church’s capacity to draw on public funds in its service to orphans and victims of human trafficking. This shrinkage in the sphere of religious freedom is bad enough in itself, and deserves to be fought. But as the Ad Hoc Committee points out (in explaining that religious freedom “is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the Rosary at home”), the issue beneath these issues is the advance of Leviathan, often in the name of imposing a beneficent relativism — that turns dictatorial: Advertisement What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society — or whether the state alone will deter.......