Acton Institute Powerblog

Limiting Religious Freedom to Limit Religion’s Influence

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religious-freedomV2Challenges to religious freedom are not only becoming increasingly more common but are being based on a broader range of social, legal, and political arguments. The one unifying feature of these attacks, claims R.R. Reno, is the desire to limit the influence of religion over public life:

In the world envisioned by Obama administration lawyers, churches will have freedom as “houses of worship,” but unless they accept the secular consensus they can’t inspire their adherents to form institutions to educate and serve society in accordance with the principles of their faith. Under a legal regime influenced by the concept of public reason, religious people are free to speak—but when their voices contradict the secular consensus, they’re not allowed into our legislative chambers or courtrooms.

Thus our present clashes over religious liberty. The Constitution protects religious liberty in two ways. First, it prohibits laws establishing a religion. This prevents the dominant religion from using the political power of majority rule to privilege its own doctrines to the disadvantage of others. Second, it prohibits laws that limit the free exercise of religion. What we’re seeing today is a secular liberalism that wants to expand the prohibition of establishment to silence articulate religious voices and disenfranchise religiously motivated voters, and at the same time to narrow the scope of free exercise so that the new secular morality can reign over American society unimpeded.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • charles

    You have the freedom to practice your religion as you see fit however that is not a free pass to do whatever you want.

    There are no laws obstructing your ability to practice your religion if that it all you want to do. However if you want to run a business you have to obey anti-discrimination legislation and serve gay customers for example. If that goes against your religious beliefs then don’t open a business and you will be free to practice your religion how you want.

    Don’t want your kids learning about evolution or sex ed because it’s against your religion? Home school them.

    Want to present evidence in a courtroom? Go for it however any non secular testimony will be disregarded.

    Want to pass a law? Go for it as long as it passes a rational basis review (secular purpose) to society.

    Religion isn’t being infringed upon, society is just starting to call out religious organizations that are trying to force their morality onto other people. Morality that has not inherently secular or rational basis.

    • Marc Vander Maas

      “society is just starting to call out religious organizations that are trying to force their morality onto other people.”

      Yes, because secular people would never attempt to force their morality on the religious. That’s just crazy talk.