The Liberal State, Broadly Defined, Is Not Hostile to Religion

Sept. 24 2019

Responding to recent debates among American religious conservatives about whether liberal democracy of the kind practiced in the U.S. is innately inimical to traditional religious values, Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George defend a system of government devoted to protecting the freedom of its citizens. These two Catholic intellectuals instead argue for a version of liberalism that is supremely well suited to allowing for religious flourishing, so long as certain principles are observed.

[P]olitical authority shouldn’t undertake managerial direction of religious institutions, and it shouldn’t coerce religious acts (though it may and should coercively forbid certain acts that may happen to be religious, such as the slaughter of children). This is because the political common good does not directly concern personal holiness. . . .

And note well that nothing in this argument [for a republic that guarantees individual rights] supports or encourages progressive liberalism’s strictures against religious believers acting in the public square to advocate for just and humane public policy. It does require equal liberty for religious communities as a political matter in circumstances of pluralism like ours. But it does not require a naked public square where religious believers must leave behind their substantive beliefs about the human good.

Indeed, religious traditions are sources of wisdom, and citizens owe it to one another to draw deeply from these wells of wisdom when deliberating about essential aspects of justice and the common good. This is not, contrary to certain fears, to embrace theocracy—the authority of church and state are distinct. As Richard John Neuhaus never tired of saying, the alternative to the naked public square isn’t the sacred public square but the civil public square in which citizens of all religious persuasions (or “comprehensive views”) can deliberate together about how we should order the life of the community we constitute.

Our “liberal” institutions deserve better than to be dismissed a-priori based on abstractions. They deserve to be admired when they enable the common good, and improved (or in some cases replaced) when they don’t.

Read more at National Affairs

More about: Liberalism, Religion and politics, Richard John Neuhaus, U.S. Politics


President Biden Should Learn the Lessons of Past U.S. Attempts to Solve the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Sept. 21 2023

In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Joe Biden addressed a host of international issues, mentioning, inter alia, the “positive and practical impacts” resulting from “Israel’s greater normalization and economic connection with its neighbors.” He then added that the U.S. will “continue to work tirelessly to support a just and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians—two states for two peoples.” Zach Kessel experiences some déjà vu:

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and review how past U.S.-brokered talks between Jerusalem and [Palestinian leaders] have gone down, starting with 1991’s Madrid Conference, organized by then-President George H.W. Bush. . . . Though the talks, which continued through the next year, didn’t get anywhere concrete, many U.S. officials and observers across the world were heartened by the fact that Madrid was the first time representatives of both sides had met face to face. And then Palestinian militants carried out the first suicide bombing in the history of the conflict.

Then, in 1993, Bill Clinton tried his hand with the Oslo Accords:

In the period of time directly after the Oslo Accords . . . suicide bombings on buses and in crowded public spaces became par for the course. Clinton invited then-Palestinian Authority chairman Yasir Arafat and then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak to Camp David in 2000, hoping finally to put the conflict to rest. Arafat, who quite clearly aimed to extract as many concessions as possible from the Israelis without ever intending to agree to any deal—without even putting a counteroffer on the table—scuttled any possibility of peace. Of course, that’s not the most consequential event for the conflict that occurred in 2000. Soon after the Camp David Summit fell apart, the second intifada began.

Since Clinton, each U.S. president has entered office hoping to put together the puzzle that is an outcome acceptable to both sides, and each has failed. . . . Every time a deal has seemed to have legs, something happens—usually terrorist violence—and potential bargains are scrapped. What, then, makes Biden think this time will be any different?

Read more at National Review

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Joe Biden, Palestinian terror, Peace Process