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

 

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey