A Growing Divide in America Raises the Stakes in Fights over Religious Freedom

March 14 2019

In 1993, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which provides a general exemption from laws that place an unnecessary burden on the free exercise of religion, was sponsored by Charles Schumer and the late Ted Kennedy, and was passed by Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. Now its provisions and applications have become sources of dispute between religious conservatives and secular leftists. David French answers the question “what changed?”

America changed from a largely single-faith culture to a two-faith nation—sacred and secular—and it will be a two-faith nation for the foreseeable future. That’s why religious liberties are so controversial. That’s why they’ll be a flashpoint in the 2020 and 2024 [elections]. No longer is a Christian nation urged to protect the small and politically insignificant faiths in its midst. In 1993, there was no real perceived public cost to basic religious tolerance. . . . [I]n the zero-sum game of a two-faith power struggle, when one faith wins, the other takes a loss. . . .

[The journalist Ross Douthat] has called [the now-dominant strain of American] liberalism a “pseudo-church.” Increasingly, however, we can drop the “pseudo.” As . . . many others have been arguing for some time, the language and practice of secular intersectionality directly compares with multiple elements of [Christian] belief—from original sin (privilege), to justification (becoming “woke”), to sanctification (being an “ally”).

But the secular nature of this religion leads many progressives to believe it can fully inhabit government, the academy, and corporate America without constitutional or legal consequence. True enough, under American law you can preach each aspect of the social-justice faith from the government pulpit in a way that you can’t preach, [say], the divinity of Jesus, but social justice cannot [be allowed to] crowd religion from the public square.

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More about: American politics, Freedom of Religion, Religion & Holidays, RFRA

Despite What the UN Says, the Violence at the Gaza Border Is Military, Not Civilian, in Nature

March 22 2019

On Monday, a UN Human Rights Council commission of inquiry issued its final report on last spring’s disturbances at the Gaza border. Geoffrey Corn and Peter Margulies explain why the report is fatally flawed:

The commission framed the events [in Gaza] as a series of demonstrations that were “civilian in nature.” Israel and its Supreme Court, [which has investigated some of the killings that occurred], framed the same events quite differently: as a new evolution in Israel’s ongoing armed conflict with the terrorist organization Hamas. Consistency and common sense suggest that the Israeli High Court of Justice’s framing is a more rational explanation of what occurred at the Israel-Gaza border in spring 2018.

Kites, [for instance], played a telltale role [in the violence]. When most people think of kites, they think of a child’s plaything or a hobbyist’s harmless passion. In the Gaza confrontation, kites [became] a new and effective, albeit low-tech, tactic for attacking Israel. As the report conceded, senior Gaza leaders, including from Hamas, “encouraged” the unleashing of waves of incendiary kites that during and since the spring 2018 confrontations have burned thousands of acres of arable land within Israel. The resulting destruction included fires that damaged the Kerem Shalom border crossing, which conveys goods and gasoline from Israel to Gaza. . . .

Moreover, the incendiary-kite offensive was an effective diversion from the efforts encouraged and coordinated by Hamas last spring to pierce the border with Israel and attack both IDF personnel and the civilian residents of the beleaguered Israeli towns a short distance from the border fence. . . .

The commission also failed to acknowledge that Hamas sought to use civilians as an operational cover to move members of its armed wing into position along the fence. For IDF commanders, this increased the importance of preventing a breach [in the fence]. Large crowds directly along the fence would simplify breakthrough attempts by intermingled Hamas and other belligerent operatives. The crowds themselves also could attempt to pour through any breach. Unfortunately, the commission seems to have completely omitted any credible assessment of the potential casualties on all sides that would have resulted from IDF action to seal a breach once it was achieved. . . .

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Laws of war, UNHRC, United Nations