Religious freedom is a core American value, one of those things that really do make us different. We invented it. We practiced it from the beginning. And I am not going to let it go without a fight.
Watching President Obama blame the American people for having security concerns over Syrian refugees is disgusting. But watching Donald Trump refuse to rule out serious violations of Americans’ fundamental constitutional rights is equally so.
Yes, the mainstream media are trolling for gotchas. And yes, I understand that Trump’s core supporters just want a big strong alpha male who will thump their enemies. But respect for our core constitutional values is a precious and fragile inheritance. Most of the rest of the world doesn’t have our deep American faith that our rights come from God, not government, and that core among these is the right to seek God and serve Him freely.
Yahoo News asked Trump whether he would do warrantless searches of American Muslims, or issue some kind of special Muslim ID badge, the way the Nazis required Jews to wear special identification. Donald Trump refused to rule out sending the secret police after people based on their religion. You can’t get more un-American than that: “We’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule,” Trump said. “And certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”
Now, I don’t believe that Trump would likely do that if elected. And I don’t believe the courts would let him. The First Amendment hasn’t yet been repealed, even if the culture of robust respect for the liberties it implies is being eaten away at our elite college campuses, like Yale. The trade-off is always the same: Make me feel safe, I’ll surrender liberty.
#share#There is no way even a police state can guarantee that some evil human being will not pick up a gun and kill me, or you, or our loved ones. We can and should take reasonable precautions, such as making sure we are vetting refugees properly. Absolute safety is an illusion, but a government big enough to promise us that is big enough to trample on all our rights.
Every American citizen has a sacred, God-given right to choose to be a Christian or a Muslim or a Jew or an atheist. When a man who would be our president seeks in this un-American way to target a religion instead of terrorism, then it is up to us to fight for our law-abiding neighbors’ right to be wrong.
#related#In a just-released Pew Global survey, Americans stood out for our robust defense of First Amendment values. Ninety-five percent of Americans say people must be free to criticize their government publicly. When asked whether people must be free to say things that are offensive to “your religion or beliefs,” Americans chose freedom, with 77 percent acknowledging that freedom means the freedom to offend me. (Around the world, just 35 percent of people agree.) Even in the hardest case for American liberals, saying things that are offensive to minorities, 67 percent of Americans choose freedom, compared with a worldwide average of just 35 percent.
And when it comes to the question of whether it is “very important” that “people can practice religion freely,” 84 percent of Americans agree, compared with just 68 percent of Brits, 62 percent of Canadians, and 57 percent of Turkish citizens.
James Madison wrote that “religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.” As the blogger James Breig has written, quoting constitutional scholar Rick Garnett, Madison
“believed that a specifically ‘American model’ of religious freedom was emerging” in our new nation and that it would distinguish us, shape us and strengthen us. He and other leaders among the founding generation appear to have been keenly aware that they were attempting something new and great, something that would change — indeed, remake — the world.
God gave us this right, our forefathers died to make it a reality; do not allow a dozen or so evil jihadists in France to terrorize us into giving it away for the illusory promise of 100 percent safety.