Disingenuous Arguments about Religious Liberty Don’t Contribute to the Abortion Debate

Oct. 15 2021

Last month, multiple Jewish organizations, along with a Catholic one, filed a brief with the Supreme Court urging it—on religious-freedom grounds—to strike down Mississippi’s ban on abortions after the fifteenth week of pregnancy. Setting aside arguments about the fitness of the legislation in question, or its constitutionality, Mitchell Rocklin and Howard Slugh argue that the brief’s claims abuse the principle of freedom of religion:

It is important to understand what these groups are not arguing. They are not arguing that, in some instances, courts might be required to grant religious exemptions from abortion laws. Such a claim would be akin to those that religious objectors typically raise. If the Supreme Court allows the Mississippi law to stand, courts would decide future requests for religious accommodations under the normal rules that apply to such cases. That is how the free exercise of religion is protected in American courts.

There is no precedent for doing what these Jewish groups support: invalidating a law as it applies even to non-objectors simply because it could potentially violate someone’s religious liberty. This untenable maximalist position undermines the cause of religious liberty by making it incompatible with the functioning of any government in a pluralistic society.

The pro-choice groups openly argue . . . that the Supreme Court should strike down Mississippi’s law because it is “at odds with the views of” their religious traditions. They also argue that the ban is impermissible because it “fails to account for—and indeed, disrespects” their religious views. This is not a request for a traditional religious accommodation that applies to religious objectors. It is a demand that religious adherents be granted a religious veto to prevent states completely from adopting any policy that conflicts with their faith.

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Read more at Jewish Link

More about: Abortion, American Judaism, American law, Freedom of Religion, Supreme Court

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy