Religious Liberty or Religious Truth?

pope-leo-xiii-rights-of-godThere are many people emphasizing the need to speak and argue on behalf of religious freedom and religious liberty. The argument is that unless we stand vigorously in favor of these ideals the little religious freedom we have left will be gone and nearly impossible to regain.

In my view, this is a defeatist tactic.

There is a profound difference between the generic concept of religious freedom and the more controversially specified proclamation of religious truth. Moreover, there is a distinguished sort of weakness behind the argument postulating a flimsy pluralistic universal right to be religious without government interference. Such an argument sets up the government as supreme ruler while cementing religious relativism as the normative condition for the transcendent. The concept of religious freedom, as understood in our current cultural milieu, basically states that there are no religious or revealed truths. So understood, there is nothing more than subjective religious sentiment residing in the human person that the government should respect in neutral fashion according to modernist dictate. Due to the feeble nature of “religious liberty” the secular state can assert itself over this intrinsic relativism when specific religious beliefs conflict with the universal secular rights claims of modernity. Because there is no revealed truths, and only subjective pluralism, the state can shrink the scope of religious liberty because there is no truth in the sentiment in the first place.

The above scenario is what the argument for religious freedom cultivates.

Another example of the weakness of the religious freedom argument can be applied to the marriage debate. Even the strongest advocates for conjugal marriage, when contextualized within our democratic political process, reduce the sacred truth of marriage to an element of religious freedom. According to these advocates, putting the definition of marriage up for a vote is reasonable only if religious liberty is maintained if the vote goes toward redefinition. Change the structure of marriage and the family all you want, but only if a sliver of liberty is decreed by the governing elite. I find this to be an incredibly soft approach to the sacred truth of marriage.

To summarize, there is a significant difference in politely pleading with the government for the subjectively held sentimental right to believe that Jesus Christ is King; it is something entirely different to proclaim Christ is King of kings and all governing authority comes from him. One approach is rooted in “religious freedom” while the other is standing upon revealed truth.


– Lucas G. Westman

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