The Good News about Religious Liberty in America

In his recent book, Kenneth Starr examines the jurisprudence that has come to define the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of religion. Doing so, he defends the traditional idea that the government must be restrained from interfering with the natural, and salutary, flourishing of its citizens’ spiritual lives. Tal Fortgang writes in his review:

In recent years, some conservatives have shot past this tradition. They insist that seeking accommodation is basically a loser’s game. In their eyes, state power is not the problem but the solution, so long as it is wielded unabashedly by the right people with the right ends in mind. Led in spirit by Adrian Vermeule, a Harvard Law School professor and “integralist” Catholic who seeks to subordinate state power to church leadership, the new vanguard insists that trying to carve out space to worship freely will never work. What we actually need to save our souls is to infuse American government with more explicitly religious (even sectarian) ideas. Politics must be purposefully oriented to explicitly religious ends if we are to stand any chance of fending off the secularist barbarian hordes at the gates of your local public library.

Starr, [by contrast], is a constitutionalist who believes that our law (especially after Reconstruction) is meant to protect individuals against a zealous state, and to limit the power of would-be tyrants and oppressors. He is wary of substantive orientations within the law that may privilege one denomination’s idea of the highest good over another’s.

The bulk of Religious Liberty in Crisis is dedicated to Supreme Court cases from the 20th century, when America found its cherished traditions of religious freedom under assault from activist courts that might have thought it an impermissible establishment of religion if you walked into the White House and remarked, “God, what a lovely building.” As Starr shows, we have made great strides in the campaign to restore the establishment and free-exercise clauses of the First Amendment to meanings befitting our Constitution’s Framers—most of whom invoked God frequently, supported religion in the public square, and were perfectly content to allow states to establish churches. Religious believers have good reason to trust now, for the first time in decades, that the courts will vindicate their rights even as democratically elected leaders are likely to become more hostile to faith and practice. In some sense, then, religious liberty is not in crisis at all.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: American law, Conservatism, Freedom of Religion, U.S. Constitution

The Significance of Mahmoud Abbas’s Holocaust Denial

Aug. 19 2022

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, during an official visit to Berlin, gave a joint press conference with the German chancellor Olaf Scholz, where he was asked by a journalist if he would apologize for the murder of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics. (The relationship between the group that carried out the massacre and Abbas’s Fatah party remains murky.) Abbas instead responded by ranting about the “50 Holocausts” perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians. Stephen Pollard comments:

Scholz’s response to that? He shook Abbas’s hand and ended the press conference.

Reading yet another column pointing out that Scholz is a dunderhead isn’t, I grant you, the most useful of ways to spend an August afternoon, so let’s leave the German chancellor there, save to say that he eventually issued a statement hours later, after an eruption of fury from his fellow countrymen, saying that “I am disgusted by the outrageous remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. For us Germans in particular, any trivialization of the singularity of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable. I condemn any attempt to deny the crimes of the Holocaust.” Which only goes to show that late is actually no better than never.

The real issue, in Pollard’s view, is the West’s willful blindness about Abbas, who wrote a doctoral thesis at a Soviet university blaming “Zionists” for the Holocaust and claiming that a mere million Jews were killed by the Nazis—notions he has reiterated publicly as recently as 2013.

On Wednesday, [Abbas] “clarified” his remarks in Berlin, saying that “the Holocaust is the most heinous crime in modern human history.” Credulous fools have again ignored what Abbas actually means by that.

It’s time we stopped projecting what we want Abbas to be and focused on what he actually is, using his own words. In a speech in 2018 he informed us that Israel is a “colonialist project that had nothing to do with Judaism”—to such an extent that European Jews chose to stay in their homes and be murdered rather than live in Palestine. Do I have to point out the moral degeneracy of such a proposition? It would seem so, given the persistent refusal of so many to take Abbas for what he actually is.

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Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Anti-Semitism, Germany, Holocaust denial, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority