Can Religion Be Allowed in the Public Square?

The civics examination required of those applying for U.S. citizenship has come under criticism for a question that mentions “freedom of worship,” rather than “freedom of religion,” as a constitutional right. Peter Berger adjudicates the distinction between the two, and the connection between that distinction and current debates over the meaning of religious liberty:

[T]he two phrases are by no means synonymous: “freedom of worship” refers to an activity commonly undertaken in a specific location—a home, a church, a mosque. “Freedom of religion” is a much more expansive concept, including a person’s right to exercise his religion freely anywhere at all, including the public square. This might seem to be a trivial distinction, were it not for the fact that the narrower understanding of this freedom animates various non-trivial actions of the Obama administration and other positions taken by American progressives.

In a broader context what this means is the privatization (or, if you will, the domestication) of religion. There is an underlying, unspoken (perhaps unconscious) assumption: religion is okay if engaged in by consenting adults in private, not so if it spills over into public space. The similarity with pornography is telling: it comes through the mail in plain brown envelopes; you are free to view the contents in the privacy of your home; just don’t view them in a public place.

Read more at American Interest

More about: American Religion, Freedom of Religion, Hobby Lobby, Obamacare, Religion & Holidays, U.S. Constitution

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security