A Growing Divide in America Raises the Stakes in Fights over Religious Freedom

March 14 2019

In 1993, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which provides a general exemption from laws that place an unnecessary burden on the free exercise of religion, was sponsored by Charles Schumer and the late Ted Kennedy, and was passed by Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. Now its provisions and applications have become sources of dispute between religious conservatives and secular leftists. David French answers the question “what changed?”

America changed from a largely single-faith culture to a two-faith nation—sacred and secular—and it will be a two-faith nation for the foreseeable future. That’s why religious liberties are so controversial. That’s why they’ll be a flashpoint in the 2020 and 2024 [elections]. No longer is a Christian nation urged to protect the small and politically insignificant faiths in its midst. In 1993, there was no real perceived public cost to basic religious tolerance. . . . [I]n the zero-sum game of a two-faith power struggle, when one faith wins, the other takes a loss. . . .

[The journalist Ross Douthat] has called [the now-dominant strain of American] liberalism a “pseudo-church.” Increasingly, however, we can drop the “pseudo.” As . . . many others have been arguing for some time, the language and practice of secular intersectionality directly compares with multiple elements of [Christian] belief—from original sin (privilege), to justification (becoming “woke”), to sanctification (being an “ally”).

But the secular nature of this religion leads many progressives to believe it can fully inhabit government, the academy, and corporate America without constitutional or legal consequence. True enough, under American law you can preach each aspect of the social-justice faith from the government pulpit in a way that you can’t preach, [say], the divinity of Jesus, but social justice cannot [be allowed to] crowd religion from the public square.

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Read more at National Review

More about: American politics, Freedom of Religion, Religion & Holidays, RFRA

 

What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy