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Fortnight for Freedom - Religious Liberty and Its Contemporary Enemies


GEORGE WEIGEL

Source:
First Things
Type:
Media/Opinion
Date:
7/5/2012

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ABSTRACTFortnight for Freedom - Religious Liberty and Its Contemporary Enemies | First Things 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 Affiliate Books Subscribe Subscribe Customer Service Search First Things 2012 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul 2011 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec 2010 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec 2009 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec 2008 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec 2007 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec 2006 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec 2005 Sep Oct Nov Dec Fortnight for Freedom - Religious Liberty and Its Contemporary Enemies Jul 5, 2012 George Weigel Independence Day concludes the Fortnight for Freedom mandated by the U.S. bishops, a two-week period of reflection and prayer on the defense of religious liberty that began on the vigil of the liturgical memorial of St. Thomas More. In July 2012, we may be grateful that none of us faces the headsman�s axe, as More did in Tudor England. But neither should we be indifferent to, or flippant about, the 21st century threats to religious liberty that surround us. They have yet to bring anyone to today�s equivalent of the scaffold on Tower Hill, but they are already putting severe pressure on both believers and religious institutions. That pressure is more subtle than it was in More�s day, and it involves a kind of governmental pincer movement. The first arm of the pincer aims to reduce religious liberty to a privacy right: a permission slip from the government to engage in certain recreational activities considered matters of personal taste. The second arm of the pincer�embodied in the Obama administration�s contraceptive/abortifacient mandate (which many Catholic entities are challenging in court)�aims to conscript religious institutions so that they become virtual departments of the government. Between the two arms of the pincer, religious liberty is being subjected to a slow but steady wasting disease. Recognizing that disease is essential; so is an accurate diagnosis of its causes. What are the sources of this new assault on religious freedom in full? The pressure comes in part from a newly aggressive American secularism that is sadly similar to its counterparts in 21st century Europe. There, secularism is not benign, tolerant and pluralistic, asking only that secular views have free play in the public square. Rather, 21st century European secularism is intolerant, hegemonic, and anti-pluralistic. It demands the entire public square for itself and tries to use the coercive power of the state to drive religious conviction to the far margins of society and public life. It is, in the pungent term deployed by the international legal scholar Joseph H. H. Weiler (himself an Orthodox Jew), �Christophobic.� That this new form of bigotry has at least something to do with ancient animosities over the Church-state alliances of Old Europe, no one should doubt. Yet that is why its translation across the Atlantic is somewhat odd: For there is no �establish.......