Can Religion Be Allowed in the Public Square?

June 26 2015

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.

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Read more at American Interest

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

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror