David Urban, an English professor at Calvin College, recently interviewed the managing editor of Religion & Liberty, Ray Nothstine about the upcoming Acton On Tap Event: The Growing Threat to Religious Liberty. Urban, writing for Grand Rapids, Mich.-based The Rapidian, began his article by quoting the First Amendment and asking, “But is religious liberty in the U.S. being eroded?”
There are several issues regarding religious liberty in the United States today, to name a few: the health and human services mandate, the New York city policy that disallows churches to use public school property for meetings, and the Colorado baker who was required, against his will, to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
“More and more the courts reflect our relativistic culture as long established rights are redefined or simply pushed aside,” Nothstine said.
Nothstine voiced concern about the Obama administration’s tendency to use the term “freedom of worship” instead of the traditional term “freedom of religion.” Nothstine believes “freedom of worship” departs from the language of the First Amendment and implies appropriate religious activity should be relegated to within the walls of established houses of worship.
“There’s a push to move the freedom of religion into the private sphere instead of the public sphere,” Nothstine said. “You’re free to believe what you want as long as you don’t push that into the public sphere.”
Nothstine said both President Barack Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have used the phrase “freedom of worship” in speeches.
Nothstine said the push to restrict religiously motivated activities goes contrary to the emphasis on religious liberty given by framers of the U.S. Constitution such as James Madison.
“He [Madison] said that all men are equally entitled to the freedom to follow the dictates of their consciences,” Nothstine said.
Nothstine said the framers wanted religious convictions to play prominent roles in how citizens lived.
“They wanted a very high degree of religious influence,” he said. “I want to recover this high degree of religious influence.”
Nothstine believes progressive efforts to divorce religion from the public sphere has been ironically counterproductive to the pursuit of freedom.
“The progressive scheme has been about freeing man from the perceived restraints of the higher order,” he said. He said that apart from the traditional American emphasis on religion “we’d have far fewer rights and space for freedom.”
This free event will be Tuesday, February 4 at 6PM at San Chez Bistro. To learn more or to register, please visit the event’s page.
Religion and the American Future is a lively, learned dialogue on the role of religion in American society. .