Secular Government vs. Secular Society (Part 2 of 2)

In Part 1, I began an excerpt from Sen. Jim DeMint’s book Saving Freedom wherein he explained the difference between having a secular society versus having a secular government with certain religious freedoms. This is clearly what America’s Founders envisioned and what we still have, for the most part, now. When I ‘interrupted’ the Senator, he was explaining how freedom of religion not only allows for true tolerance and compassion but demands that…

“[W]e have the right to form associations with those who share our religion, values, and principles. This freedom also means that nongovernment, voluntary associations should have the right to exclude those who don’t share their faith and values.”

Let’s pick up from there…

“For example, if an individual wants to organize a Freedom Club requiring members to believe in God and traditional values, that should be his right. But this arrangement is not acceptable to secular-socialists. They do not want the Freedom Club to have the right to have religious-based standards or the right to exclude people who do not share their values. And they regularly use the force of government to threaten and intimidate individuals and organizations attempting to practice religious freedom.”

Corner of Church St. & State St.This reminds me of two things that we’ve seen in the news in the not-too-distant past. First, the brouhaha over Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and their stand on gay rights. While not a religious organization, much of the Boy Scouts’ principles and requirements for membership and behavior are consistent with traditional Judeo-Christian values. Back in 1990 a newspaper interview with an assistant scoutmaster was published, in which he revealed he was gay. The BSA expelled him from Scouting; the NJ Supreme Court used public accommodations law to get him his job back. Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ruling (Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale), which they said violated the BSA’s right to freedom of association. Specifically, a private organization may exclude a person from membership when “the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group’s ability to advocate public or private viewpoints.” The court ruled that opposition to homosexuality is part of BSA’s “expressive message”, and allowing homosexuals as adult leaders would interfere with that message.

The second thing I’m reminded of is this: It is not uncommon for some Christian student organization at a secular college or university to appear in the news, usually for some church/state question involving funding, equal access, proselytizing, etc. Sometimes, the complaint (or one of them) is that said organization only allows professing Christians as members. They may even require that students applying for membership sign a promise to not engage in certain behavior considered to be unwise and a “bad witness” — e.g., extramarital sex, excessive (or any) drinking, perhaps dancing/partying, etc. Sometimes the school itself decides there is unfair discrimination. Other times, there is a non-Christian student or two whining that they are being unfairly discriminated against and should be allowed membership in the group. My first question is always, “Why?!” Why would someone who doesn’t have the same religious views or agree with the appropriateness of certain restrictions in behavior want to be part of the group? Either they really do want to join but for no good reason (e.g., to stir up trouble or pick up naive girls); or, they are only complaining in order to cause problems and possibly get the organization shut down. My second question is, “Why is it so difficult to let like-minded people (i.e., affinity groups) associate together, even if they are a religious group?” We’re not talking about potential terrorist cells, after all. (Said school probably doesn’t have a problem with Muslim-only student groups.) But, sometimes they are groups that organize Christian events, bring in Christian speakers, hold prayer vigils, hand out Christian literature, etc. Can you imagine…?!

Back to Sen. DeMint:

“The distinction here is important: freedom requires that government not force religious doctrine or morality onto the people, but it must allow the free operation of religion, freedom of association, and the practice of religious-based values throughout society. If there is to be a ‘wall of separation,’ it should be between a secular government and a religious society.

Religion is a threat to socialists because it creates a cultural authority that supersedes government authority. Socialism requires an all-powerful central government to force societal compliance and uniformity. Secular-socialist uniformity is based on the lowest common denominators of values and behaviors because it is based on the minimum standards of external law. A pervasive religious culture creates an internal moral code based on society’s highest values and aspirations.”

This reminds me a bit of what Larry F. Sternberg was saying in my series about Jews and Liberalism in America. DeMint continues…

“Even a population practicing many diverse faiths will develop a consensus moral code that provides guidance and stability to society. This moral code creates a ‘wall of virtue’ that antagonizes individuals and groups practicing countercultural behavior. They want government protection from religiously informed value judgments.

Freedom depends on guiding values in a culture emanating from the free practice of religion. As a billboard in my hometown expressed it, ‘When values are present, laws are not needed. Without values, laws are unenforceable.’

‘Because the human spirit is the primary form of democratic capital, the notion of cultural authority is both critical and complementary to freedom. When the cultural authority of beliefs, ideals, and traditions is strong and operative, external laws and coercions are unnecessary. Such beliefs, traditions, and ideals have the power to inspire, discipline, and constrain in a manner that does not contradict personal freedom.’
— Os Guinness, author & social critic

“Amen!” to that.

When we see any individual or movement, secular or religious (e.g., pushing for Shariah law in some states), that weakens or threatens to take away our religious freedoms, we need to call it what it is and do whatever we can to fight against it. Even if it’s directed at another religious group, we must fight it on principle. The next group to come under fire could be ours.

“We have no government armed with powers capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
— President John Adams


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