Recent debates over the meaning of religious freedom, argues Mark Bauerlein, often tend to ignore the idea—once taken for granted—that religion serves a distinct social and moral purpose:
[T]he Founders . . . placed religious liberty as the first guarantee in the Bill of Rights for a reason. They understood that religious conviction is different from other preferences. They were sensitive to its depths, to its definitive character, and most obviously to the fact that people who believe in God and belong to a church accept both as transcendent authorities.
But, of course, if you regard religion as just another human construct, then it has no claim higher than other claims. . . . The conclusion is inevitable once you conceive of religion as simply a group identity. At that point, the error of religious faith is to set its central object, God, above other groups’ central objects (for instance, same-sex desire) after having entered the public sphere.