What Is Religious Freedom?

The Supreme Court has ruled that Maine cannot exclude religious schools from tuition assistance programs. In dissent, Justice Sotomayor said,

“As a result, in just a few years, the Court has upended constitutional doctrine, shifting from a rule that permits states to decline to fund religious organizations to one that requires States in many circumstances to subsidize religious indoctrination with taxpayer dollars.”

I think the majority of Americans, including most “conservatives,” will probably see this shift as a matter of fairness and not get too excited about it, but I am quite upset. It is profound. There are many who sincerely believe that the early settlers intended their new country to be a Christian nation, a notion symbolically supported by the 1954 inclusion of . . . “under God . . .” in the pledge of allegiance and professed by many evangelicals.

The truth is, the early immigrants mostly wanted to be able to pursue only their personal brands of religion without interference, and in some cases that meant the “freedom” to punish, torture and even execute the “heretics” among them. Fortunately, the founders, in their wisdom, understood that many had fled government persecution of their particular faith and knew that “religious freedom” ought to mean a personal freedom to believe whatever they chose.

Noah’s Ark ?

Does this SCOTUS decision mean we are on a slippery slope toward becoming a theocracy? That’s about as likely as a self-promoting, psychopathic, secular, mendacious, philandering, populist businessman being favored by most evangelicals to be president.

Uh, wait . . .

What is the most-religious country in the world? I would have picked Iran, but a YouTube clip of a speech by Christopher Hitchens changed my mind. I would be surprised if you were to guess it. Whatever you might think of his personal views, he was a brilliant thinker and speaker. It is not a short clip, but if you are like me, it is fascinating brain food.

About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Democratic.
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10 Responses to What Is Religious Freedom?

  1. Jim Wheeler says:

    If you open the Hitchens clip you will find it starts at mid-point. Sorry, I copied the URL at that point, didn’t know it would start there. Should be easy to re-start.


  2. SusanR says:

    I was 11 years old when “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance and to this day I do not repeat those words when reciting the Pledge. I don’t think any public money should go to religious schools since they are supported by their churches. And frankly with all the political stuff that spews from pulpits, I don’t think churches should get tax exemptions (doesn’t that amount to government support of religion?). I haven’t watched the video yet but I did read “God Is Not Great” some years ago and agreed with everything Hitchens wrote. As for today’s Supreme Court decision … I expect many more such pro-religion decisions from this super conservative court. I’m not anti-religion. I just don’t think it should butt into my life uninvited and my tax dollars should not be used to fund it.

    Sorry, I should just go write my own post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t have the same view of religious freedom as the conservatives – especially those who believe in establishing a theocracy. Yes, cheers to the wisdom of the Founders for not establishing a theocracy – but wow – I’m amazed how that thought remains today.


    • Jim Wheeler says:

      I don’t think I’ve heard any American say they want a theocracy, Frank, but Trump’s appointments on the SCOTUS clearly have us headed that way. It’s funny how imposition of religious law can be outrageous for some but seems like “religious freedom” to others.


  4. Gkorengold says:

    The concept of some Supreme Court Justices seems to be that religious freedom means the ability of some people (usually Christians) to impose their ideas of what’s permitted (religiously) on the rest of us. This is in exact contradiction to what I think the Founders meant by forbidding laws promoting the establishment of religion.


  5. Daniel Digby says:

    How long will it be before SCOTUS requires states to pay beadles to monitor your morality? Morality police may be more effective, but we need to establish a starting point for them.


  6. Gkorengold says:

    This Supreme Court ruling quite clearly has the effect of promoting religion, albeit not a particular one. To me, that is clearly a violation of the First Amendment, and should be unconstitutional—but as the Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of constitutionality, there’s no recourse (other than different Justices).


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