Paul L. Caron

Sunday, October 16, 2022

NY Times Op-Ed: Why Religious Freedom Matters, Even If You’re Not Religious

New York Times Op-Ed:  Why Religious Freedom Matters, Even if You’re Not Religious, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep (2021) (Christianity Today's 2022 Book of the Year)):

Warren 3When David French and I first met around 2010, our friendship felt unlikely. He was deeply involved in Republican politics and had served in Iraq. I had never voted Republican and was committed to nonviolence. But his courage of conviction and kindness amid disagreement made us fast friends. (David became an independent in 2016, after Donald Trump received the Republican presidential nomination.)

When I met him, David was a religious liberty and free speech litigator, a role he held for over two decades. He is now a senior editor for The Dispatch and a contributing writer to The Atlantic. Some of the most discussed Supreme Court cases last year involved religious liberty disputes. As a new Supreme Court term [began] on Oct. 3, I asked David to speak to me about the state of religious freedom in America. ...

Beto O’Rourke, who is currently running for governor in Texas, where I live, has said that religious institutions — including schools and charities — should be stripped of their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage.

How would you reply to him?

First, there’s a legal response to that. O’Rourke’s position has no chance of prevailing at the Supreme Court of the United States. ...

Religious liberty ... is not hanging by a thread of a single justice. It’s not hanging by a thread of two justices. You would have to have a generations-long transformation of the court in a particular direction to fundamentally alter American religious liberty law.

The additional answer is essentially, what Beto is saying here is that millions upon millions of Americans who have a different view of sexual morality, rooted not in bigotry, not in hatred, but in a deep and profound belief in a particular scripturally informed definition of human sexuality, would essentially become second-class citizens. Their institutions, their churches, their schools would be placed at a profound disadvantage in American law and American life because of their view. I know people have profound disagreements. But the mere fact that I disagree with a religious point of view does not render it bigoted. ...

I hear what you’re saying, but I think there are people who would say that those who would not perform a same-sex wedding are actually evil. Or there are people on the right who would say that those who believe that public libraries should be able to host a drag queen story hour are actually evil. So how can we have religious liberty and a culture of free speech in that context?

If you’re beginning to reach a point where you’re looking at millions of your fellow citizens and seeing them as obviously evil, I think that’s when some self-examination is necessary.

And that’s when we have to have the humility to begin to re-examine many of our own priors. But that’s very difficult, and it’s getting increasingly difficult because one thing that we know is that more and more Americans are walling themselves off into like-minded communities. This is a phenomenon that Cass Sunstein has identified as the law of group polarization. When people of like mind gather, they tend to become more extreme. If you find that your social circle is dominated by people who share your point of view, you’ll often become more extreme without even realizing it. Just like the fish that doesn’t know that it’s wet.

One thing that I think is very important is, to the extent that it’s possible — and sometimes it’s very difficult, depending on how thick your bubble is — seek out relationships with people with opposing points of view. To the extent that you can’t, at least seek out the best expression of the opposing side’s point of view online.

Editor's Note:  If you would like to receive a weekly email each Sunday with links to the faith posts on TaxProf Blog, email me here.

Other New York Times op-eds by Tish Harrison Warren:

Faith, Legal Education | Permalink