First Things: A New Order of Religious Freedom
By Richard John Neuhaus
Friday, September 12, 2008
“Oh look, the sun is rising again.” Most of us manage to contain our surprise. As predictable as the rising of the sun is the emergence of religion in our political contests—and the feigned surprise of much of our political class. Or maybe the surprise is not feigned. For some it is a sustained puzzlement and frustration that history is not turning out the way it was supposed to have. In this view, someone like Gov. Sarah Palin—combining fervent Christian faith with political moxy and celebrity power—is an interloper from an earlier America that secularists had long since consigned to the past. But it keeps coming back.
To be sure, religion has also played a big part in Sen. Obama’s campaign. But that’s different. He had to do something about the perception of the Democrats as the anti-religious party. Anyway, he’s black, and it’s understood that blacks are given a pass when, among other things, it comes to religion and politics. Even the rantings of someone like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright must be “contextualized” within the narrative of victimhood. As the senator said before he disowned the Rev. Wright, he could no more disown the Rev. Wright than he could disown the black community. And it’s not as though anybody worries that the urbane former editor of the Harvard Law Review poses a threat to Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation” between church and state.
Any time is a good time, but this election is a particularly good time, to review some basics about the free exercise of religion in this American constitutional order the rest