The New Religious Freedom – Part 2
TimeWatch Editorial
November 30, 2016

In the first paragraph of our November 28 Editorial we gave the Free Encyclopedia’s extended biography of Frederick Clarkson. One of his many informed literary works posted on the Political Research Associates website, is entitled “When Exemption Is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right.” In the first paragraph of the Preface of this work, John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President United Church of Christ introduces his heritage and that of the Constitutional United States is one swoop.

“You might say religious liberty is in my blood. I’m a Mayflower descendant. My maternal grandmother was Delores Howland, some 16 or so generations removed from John Howland. His home still stands in Plymouth, and I have been there to sign the descendants’ book. As proud as I am of my Pilgrim Congregationalist history, I am also aware that within that history is the Puritan experience of the Salem witch trials and the treatment of indigenous peoples: reminders of how religion as a culture’s moral compass can bring out the worst in us. By the time our Constitution was written, both the desire to be free from religious tyranny found in the spirit of the Pilgrims—and the need to protect ourselves from religious zealots like the Puritans—would serve to inform its authors. They treated both as instructive, writing into the Bill of Rights language that would preserve our religious liberty and restrict the government’s power to establish any religious point of view as normative.” John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President United Church of Christ, Preface of “When Exemption Is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right,” the Political Research Associates website.

Religious liberty is indeed in Clarkson’s blood. His obvious attention to the detail of the events that have been and will continue to occur is worthy of respect. The Political Research Associates Website describes this particular article as a groundbreaking January 2016 report by senior fellow Frederick Clarkson, which details the strategy and agenda inside the Christian Right’s campaign to exempt not only religions, but individuals and businesses from civil rights and labor laws, using a false notion of religious freedom. The Political Research Associates website further reveals about Clarkson that it is within the context of the United Church of Christ, within the faith he now embraces, that the free expression of his church’s beliefs called for an end to slavery, an end to the disenfranchisement of women and people of color, an end to state-sanctioned homophobia, and an end to the stranglehold that management held over working class peoples. Clarkson continues his description of the objectives of the Religious Right:

“They argue that they have no religious freedom unless their restrictive moral code is written into the Constitution. They argue that they have no religious liberty unless those whose religious ceremonies violate the sanctity of their precious theology are thrown in jail. What they want to call religious freedom is in fact the kind of oppressive religious tyranny that my ancestors left their homeland to escape. We can’t allow the Religious Right to twist the meaning of religious liberty to the point that it becomes the means by which their theocratic vision is finally and fully realized. For decades now they have fought to erode or redefine the very freedoms the Constitution was written to protect. It would be unwise of us to either turn a blind eye to their machinations or to dismiss the ongoing effectiveness of their efforts.” John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President United Church of Christ, Preface of “When Exemption Is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right,” the Political Research Associates website.

So this member of the United Church of Christ articulates with extreme clarity the objective of the Religious right.

“Outcomes are hard to predict, but I think it is fair to say that the Religious Right is slowly but surely taking significant ground in the battle to turn America into a theocratic state, or a collection of theocratic mini-states, governed by the very narrowest of religious points of view. That they are doing it under the guise of protecting their religious liberty is the greatest of ironies. Their ambitions are to unseat the U.S. as the world’s safest place to explore and express one’s spiritual longings. If left unchecked by those of us who want to preserve an authentic rendering of religious freedom as envisioned by this country’s founders, they will succeed.” John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President United Church of Christ, Preface of “When Exemption Is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right,” the Political Research Associates website.

Perhaps we should give, what I would describe as Mr. Clarkson’s revelation of the ultimate covert objective of the “Religious Right.”

“The evangelical protestant Christian Right and U.S. Roman Catholic bishops are intensifying their campaign to carve out arenas of public life where religious institutions, individuals, and even businesses may evade civil rights and labor laws in the name of religious liberty. By creating zones of legal exemption, the Christian Right seeks to shrink the public sphere and the arenas within which the government has legitimacy to defend people’s rights, including reproductive, labor, and LGBTQ rights. In this, it is often aligned with the antigovernment strategy of free market libertarians and some business interests, who for a variety of reasons also seek to restrict arenas where government can legally act. This conservative Christian alliance is challenging a century or more of social advances and many of the premises of the Enlightenment underlying the very definition of religious liberty in the United States. Its long-range goal is to impose a conservative Christian social order inspired by religious law, in part by eroding pillars of undergirding religious pluralism that are integral to our constitutional democracy.” Frederick Clarkson, Executive Summary, “When Exemption Is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right,” the Political Research Associates website.

Just one more voice, sounding the alarm, maybe we should heed the warning.

Cameron A. Bowen

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