Religion in politics essay

Establishmentarian political policies fail to respect the equality of all persons by promoting some views and not others. Worse, some establishmentarian policies violate the rights of non-believers, as with attempts to interfere with science education in mandatory public schooling.

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Both believers and non-believers have a right to educate their children as they think is best. But there are also good religious reasons to oppose establishmentarian policies. Historically, states have bent Christianity to support their own power and have distorted its doctrines and ecclesiastical structure.

The secular progressive approach reigns among intellectuals and theorists.

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The secular progressive approach claims to embrace equality and state neutrality. On these grounds , secular progressives oppose religious influences in politics. Religious political activism violates our understanding of democratic politics as a shared enterprise of promoting mutually acceptable policies. Treating others with equal respect in politics requires appealing to reasons whose force all can appreciate.

Since not everyone is religious, no religious reasons are shared reasons. Instead, they confine themselves to shared reasons when supporting political policies and discussing them with others.

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In this way, secular progressives assign religious reasoning an auxiliary role in public life, at best. This line of argument has two problems. First, it leads to the marginalization of sincere citizens of faith. Secular progressives imply that deeply religious citizens have less civic virtue than secular citizens and insist that they bear heavier political burdens.

Second, privatization requires many religious citizens to violate their personal integrity. Because the secular progressive approach both marginalizes many sincere citizens of faith and demands that they violate their own integrity in public life, the secular progressive approach resembles the establishmentarian policies defended by religious conservatives. Whether they realize it or not, secular progressives seek to establish secularism as the de facto if not official ruling ideology of democratic states by insisting on a conception of political life that excludes many people of faith.

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In France, at least, the establishment of secularism is widely acknowledged and accepted. The problem with religious conservatism is its penchant for establishment. Secular progressives have the same authoritarian aim but are generally in denial about it. So what we need is an approach to religion in politics that is fundamentally constructive and anti-establishmentarian.

In my book, I argue that laws are only justified when multiple reasonable points of view find them acceptable. Diverse reasons, including but not limited to religious reasons, can play a prominent role in public discourse. Given that non-religious citizens and citizens of other faiths will reasonably reject nearly all religiously based coercion, religious reasons will seldom be sufficient to justify laws or policies by themselves. Conservatives regularly attempt to legally define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

On the theory I advance, these arguments cannot justify restricting marriage to a man and a woman given that such laws force many organizations to deny benefits to gay couples that would otherwise offer them. On the other hand, legalizing gay marriage without religious exemptions disrespects sincere citizens of faith by forcing them to provide benefits to gay couples whose unions they reasonably believe are morally and theologically invalid. Thus, my approach either requires the abolition of government marriage, or as a second best policy, the legalization of gay marriage with extensive religious exemptions.

The contraception mandate, created by the Department of Health and Human Services in order to fully implement the Affordable Care Act, originally required all employers, save religious organizations, to pay for contraception for their employees. When a wide range of religious institutions objected, the Obama Administration partly backed off, instead forcing religious for-profit institutions to offer contraception coverage and permitting non-profit religious employers to be exempt only if they signed a form that arguably authorizes a third-party insurer to provide contraception.

This mandate has been incredibly and needlessly divisive. Instead, they have threatened non-profit religious institutions like Little Sisters of the Poor with massive fines unless they do what they believe is sinful — facilitating the use of contraception. This is the authoritarianism of the secular progressive approach made manifest. But even if the ACA can be so justified, the contraception mandate plainly cannot. Religious organizations have publicly offered highly sophisticated, well-reasoned and sincere arguments against the mandate drawing on hundreds of years of intellectual tradition.

The role of religion in politics is to preserve religious liberty against an overreaching state and encourage religious contributions to the ratification of laws that promote justice and the common good. Religion belongs in politics primarily as defense, rather than offense, restricting state power rather than extending it. We can see this in my two examples. Further, a genuinely liberal approach to religion in politics permits political discourse and action as diverse as American citizens themselves.

Our public discourse should be far more uninhibited than secular progressives allow, so long as people are prepared to acknowledge that there are legitimate points of view other than their own. The assumption on selective campuses is not only that we are in full possession of the truth, but that we are in full possession of virtue. But regimes of virtue tend to eat their children. Think of Salem. They tend to turn upon themselves, since everybody wants to be the holiest.


Think of the French Revolution. The ante is forever being upped. Everyone is terrified of challenging the NRA everyone in a position to stop it, at least , so it gets whatever it demands. But then, because it can, it thinks up new demands. Guns in playgrounds, guns in bars. So it is with political correctness.

The term political correctness, which originated in the s as a form of self-mockery among progressive college students, was a deliberately ironic invocation of Stalinism. So you were always already guilty, or could be made to be guilty, and therefore were always controllable. Regimes of virtue produce informants which really does wonders for social cohesion. Who decided, and who gave them the right to decide? And whenever I hear that a given group of students demands this or says that, I want to ask, whom exactly are we talking about: all of them, or just a few of them?

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Did the group choose its leaders, or did the leaders choose themselves? Let me be clear. I recognize that both the culture of political correctness and the recent forms of campus agitation are responding to enormous, intractable national problems. There is systemic racism and individual bigotry in the United States, and colleges are not immune from either.

There is systemic sexism and sexual assault in society at large, and campuses are no exception. The call for safe spaces and trigger warnings, the desire to eliminate micro-aggressions, the demand for the removal of offensive symbols and the suppression of offensive language: however foolish some of these might be as policy prescriptions especially the first two , however absurd as they work themselves out on the ground, all originate in deeply legitimate concerns.

But so much of political correctness is not about justice or creating a safe environment; it is about power. And so much of what is taking place at colleges today reflects the way that relations of power have been reconfigured in contemporary higher education. Campus activists are taking advantage of the fact and I suspect that a lot of them understand this intuitively, if not explicitly that students have a lot more power than they used to.

The change is the result not only of the rise of the customer-service mentality in academia, but also of the proletarianization of the faculty. Students have risen; instructors have fallen. Where once administrations worked in alliance with the faculty, were indeed largely composed of faculty, now they work against the faculty in alliance with students, a separate managerial stratum more interested in the satisfaction of its customers than the well-being of its employees.

In the inevitable power struggle between students and teachers, the former have gained the whip hand. The large majority of instructors today are adjuncts working term to term for a few thousand dollars a course, or contract employees with no long-term job security, or untenured professors whose careers can still be derailed.

With the expansion of Title IX in —the law is now being used, among other things, to police classroom content—even tenured faculty are sitting with a sword above their heads. Thanks not only to the shift to contingent employment but also to the chronic oversupply of PhDs the academic reserve army, to adapt a phrase from Marx , academic labor is cheap and academic workers are vulnerable and frightened.

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But the teacher could be fired. That is why so many faculty members, like that adjunct instructor at Scripps, are teaching with their tails between their legs. They, too, are being silenced.