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


Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University