Understanding American Religious Freedom—beyond James Madison

In Sacred Liberty, Steven Waldman provides a history of religious liberty in America from colonial times to the present. In doing so, he provides a more nuanced picture than that normally on offer. Mark David Hall writes in his review:

Jurists and scholars often act as if James Madison and Thomas Jefferson are the only Founders who matter when it comes to religious liberty and church-state relations. Refreshingly, Waldman cautions that Madison “did not alone invent the general concept of religious freedom,” and he notes that even the major Founders differed regarding the extent to which governments should encourage religious practices.

Waldman identifies Madison as a separationist; but this misunderstands the extent to which he was committed to strictly separating church and state. For instance, Waldman writes that Madison “opposed the appointments of congressional and military chaplains, on the grounds that using tax dollars to pay ministers was creating a religious establishment,” and that he “objected when Presidents Washington and Adams issued prayer proclamations.”

As a member of the confederation and federal congresses, Madison voted to pay chaplains, and as the nation’s fourth president, he issued four calls for prayer. After he left the presidency, he questioned the constitutionality of these practices, but he did so in a private document that was not published in his lifetime. Even if these were views he had held earlier, he did not act on them, and there is little evidence that other Founders (except Jefferson) shared them.

For Waldman, as for his reviewer Hall, freedom of religion was something that continued to evolve, often if not always in a beneficial direction, in the years since the Bill of Rights was ratified:

An overlooked landmark in the rise of religious liberty in America is the National Conference of Christians and Jews, founded in 1927. In 1933, three of the group’s leaders, a Protestant minister, Catholic priest, and Jewish rabbi, embarked on a 38-city tour to promote interfaith understanding. Their journey was covered by Time magazine, and their endeavor inspired a host of similar tours by other trios throughout the 1930s.

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Read more at Law and Liberty

More about: American founders, James Madison, Jewish-Christian relations, Religious Freedom

 

Terror Returns to Israel

Nov. 28 2022

On Wednesday, a double bombing in Jerusalem left two dead, and many others injured—an attack the likes of which has not been seen since 2016. In a Jenin hospital, meanwhile, armed Palestinians removed an Israeli who had been injured in a car accident, reportedly murdering him in the process, and held his body hostage for two days. All this comes as a year that has seen numerous stabbings, shootings, and other terrorist attacks is drawing to a close. Yaakov Lappin comments:

Unlike the individual or small groups of terrorists who, acting on radical ideology and incitement to violence, picked up a gun, a knife, or embarked on a car-ramming attack, this time a better organized terrorist cell detonated two bombs—apparently by remote control—at bus stops in the capital. Police and the Shin Bet have exhausted their immediate physical searches, and the hunt for the perpetrators will now move to the intelligence front.

It is too soon to know who, or which organization, conducted the attack, but it is possible to note that in recent years, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has taken a lead in remote-control-bombing terrorism. Last week, a car bomb that likely contained explosives detonated by remote control was discovered by the Israel Defense Forces in Samaria, after it caught fire prematurely. In August 2019, a PFLP cell detonated a remote-control bomb in Dolev, seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem, killing a seventeen-year-old Israeli girl and seriously wounding her father and brother. Members of that terror cell were later arrested.

With the Palestinian Authority (PA) losing its grip in parts of Samaria to armed terror gangs, and the image of the PA at an all-time low among Palestinians, in no small part due to corruption, nepotism, and its violation of human rights . . . the current situation does not look promising.

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More about: Israeli Security, Jerusalem, Palestinian terror