How the Slaughter of French Protestants Contributed to the Birth of Freedom in America

Wednesday marked the 450th anniversary of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, when France’s Catholic king instigated the killing of thousands of Protestants. In the following years, thousands more French Protestants fled for Britain or the Netherlands, while others would make their way to America. Mark Tooley explains how these events shaped religious freedom in the United States:

These refugees were disproportionately middle-class, educated, and skilled. Their emigration strengthened the Protestant nations economically and technologically. The tribulations of the French Protestants also embedded in the Netherlands and Britain, and later in America, a deep fear of persecution by Catholic monarchs and a greater appreciation for religious toleration. Benjamin Franklin recalled that in his Boston boyhood he heard his Puritan preacher inveigh against the French king Louis XIV, who [in 1685 again] criminalized Protestantism in France.

Britain had followed a different course because its clashing political and religious forces of the previous century had, however reluctantly, learned from and accommodated each other through compromise and toleration. This evolving Whig tradition esteemed liberty, order, limited government, progress, and freedom of speech and religion.

There is today in America, and the world, a rising tide of intolerance and impatience with if not disdain for liberty, democracy, “liberalism,” and religious freedom. Why should “false” beliefs be tolerated? Why should people who are “wrong” have the same liberty as the people who are “right?” Isn’t freedom chaotic, decadent, and ultimately unsustainable? Doesn’t the common good require a central political and religious authority dictating the terms under which all shall live?

These illiberalisms ignore the bloody lessons of compromise and accommodation that led to toleration in Britain and Holland, thanks partly to the sufferings of the French Protestants, and eventually to full religious freedom, freedom of speech, and democracy, with protected equal rights for all. Regimes that dogmatically enforce what is religiously “right” typically betray the intent of their own professed religions and create the conditions of their own destruction.

Read more at Providence

More about: American founding, Britain, France, Religious Freedom

If Iran Goes Nuclear, the U.S. Will Be Forced Out of the Middle East

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in May that Iran has, or is close to having, enough highly enriched uranium to build multiple atomic bombs, while, according to other sources, it is taking steps toward acquiring the technology to assemble such weapons. Considering the effects on Israel, the Middle East, and American foreign policy of a nuclear-armed Iran, Eli Diamond writes:

The basic picture is that the Middle East would become inhospitable to the U.S. and its allies when Iran goes nuclear. Israel would find itself isolated, with fewer options for deterring Iran or confronting its proxies. The Saudis and Emiratis would be forced into uncomfortable compromises.

Any course reversal has to start by recognizing that the United States has entered the early stages of a global conflict in which the Middle East is set to be a main attraction, not a sideshow.

Directly or not, the U.S. is engaged in this conflict and has a significant stake in its outcome. In Europe, American and Western arms are the only things standing between Ukraine and its defeat at the hands of Russia. In the Middle East, American arms remain indispensable to Israel’s survival as it wages a defensive, multifront war against Iran and its proxies Hamas and Hizballah. In the Indo-Pacific, China has embarked on the greatest military buildup since World War II, its eyes set on Taiwan but ultimately U.S. primacy.

While Iran is the smallest of these three powers, China and Russia rely on it greatly for oil and weapons, respectively. Both rely on it as a tool to degrade America’s position in the region. Constraining Iran and preventing its nuclear breakout would keep waterways open for Western shipping and undermine a key node in the supply chain for China and Russia.

Diamond offers a series of concrete suggestions for how the U.S. could push back hard against Iran, among them expanding the Abraham Accords into a military and diplomatic alliance that would include Saudi Arabia. But such a plan depends on Washington recognizing that its interests in Eastern Europe, in the Pacific, and in the Middle East are all connected.

Read more at National Review

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy