Who’s afraid of religious liberty? An introduction

Professor Richard Samuelson’s closely argued Mosaic essay “Who’s afraid of religious liberty?” is must reading. In it Professor Samuelson explains the assault on our religious freedom under the ever expanding regime of anti-discrimination law and practice. I urge readers who care about the subject to read the whole thing; there is no substitute for it. I invited Professor Samuelson to write a brief introduction for Power Line readers. Professor Samuelson writes by way of introduction:

Perhaps way to introduce “Who’s Afraid of Religious Liberty?” to Power Line’s readers is to describe where it came from. This essay was spurred by three observations. A colleague noted in passing a couple of years ago that we have not grasped the full implications of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Pondering that, I began to wonder if the legislation was best understood as almost certainly necessary to combat Jim Crow, but was a tragic necessity, that, in time, could have adverse consequences for American liberty.

While pondering that I happened to be at a conference in downtown Indianapolis the weekend of the protests against religious liberty protections. Religious freedom protections passed easily in the early 1990s. What had changed? Had there been a turn in the American understanding of political right and wrong, at least in part, and was it a consequence of the impact of the new civil right regime on how Americans understand liberty and the job of government?

The third observation is that, thus far, the cases of concern, with which Power Line readers are no doubt familiar, have mostly involved the liberty of Christians, and not Jews. Even so, the legal principles and practices would, no doubt, apply to Jews and Jewish institutions as well. First they came for the Christians?

If trends continue, it is likely that what David Bernstein calls the “religion of non-discrimination” in his response to my essay (highlighted in Paul Mirengoff’s post) will soon begin to squeeze the American Jewish community, particularly as it grows more and more orthodox — as present demographic trends suggest.

The irony of Jews and Christians facing legal disability in the name of non-discrimination, which I have elsewhere described as a post-modern dhimmi tax, is perverse and Orewellian, but, alas, quite possible in the near future. The essay develops that logic, comparing Washington’s view of religious liberty with that which prevails today, and exploring the rise, the progress, and the nature of the change.

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