The Enemies of Religious Liberty in America, and How to Refute Them

To Peter Berkowitz, emergent trends on both the American left and the American right are hostile to the Founders’ version of freedom of religion:

Scorn for religion drives the threat to religious liberty from the left. The progressive threat is less openly articulated but more ensconced in elite institutions. Many on the left regard religion as an oppressive and dehumanizing superstition. Christianity, they believe, suffuses and corrupts the great literary and philosophical works of Western civilization and sustains what they regard as the West’s surpassing sins toward minorities, women, other civilizations, and the environment. The progressive disposition aspires to purge religious expression from the public sphere while using state authority, especially through public education, to emancipate individuals still under religion’s spell.

Religious enthusiasm propels the threat to religious liberty from the right. The conservative threat is primarily the work of elite right-wing intellectuals who have yet to persuade the people or the powerful. While religious liberty’s most ardent defenders in contemporary America tend to be conservatives, members of the new right who are outraged by secularism’s inroads in America want to scale back substantially, if not tear down, the wall of separation between church and state. Some national conservatives rightly argue that Christianity is central to American traditions. Some common-good constitutionalists respectably regard religion as the highest good. Both leap from these reasonable stances to espousing the use of state power to promulgate religion, particularly Christianity.

The threats to religious liberty from left and right betray a common ambition—if inspired by diametrically opposed anxieties and aims—to employ government to regulate faith. Whether intended to circumscribe religion or expand its reach, however, assigning the state responsibility for overseeing the wellbeing of citizens’ souls flies in the face of the principles of individual liberty, human equality, and limited government that are inscribed in America’s founding documents and deeply rooted in the nation’s political traditions.

Read more at RealClear Politics

More about: American founding, Freedom of Religion, Religion and politics, U.S. Politics

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority