The Corner

Fanaticism about Faith

A relentlessly stupid New York Times op-ed (“Faith-Based Fanatics”) by Timothy Egan ends thus:

In the United States, God is on the currency. By brilliant design, though, he is not mentioned in the Constitution. The founders were explicit: This country would never formally align God with one political party, or allow someone to use religion to ignore civil laws. At least that was the intent. In this summer of the violent God, five justices on the Supreme Court seem to feel otherwise.

Egan packs a lot of misunderstandings into a few words. The founders were not “explicit” about either of the propositions Egan claims they were; neither proposition follows from the fact that the Constitution does not mention God; even if either did, it would be implicit rather than explicit; and the justices did not “formally align God with one political party.”

Most liberal commentators on Hobby Lobby and related controversies have accepted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or even embraced it, while saying that it should not be read to narrow the scope of the administration’s contraceptive mandate in the cases before the courts. They have said, for example, that the act should not be read to protect corporations. But today’s liberalism — in contrast to the liberalism of 1993, when Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and Chuck Schumer were among the act’s most vigorous supporters — also includes voices that are much less friendly to religious freedom in general. Egan is hostile in principle to the act, which is designed to provide religious exemptions to civil law.

We had a long history of providing such exemptions even before the act was passed. Almost nobody has ever taken the extreme view that the Constitution does not allow such exemptions. (Under the establishment clause, I suppose, which would mean that Prohibition was an “establishment” of Catholicism as the state religion. Counterintuitive!) It is a small mercy that none of the dissenting justices on the Court has expressed any such view. Egan should have replaced “five” with “nine” in his last sentence.

(h/t Mirror of Justice)

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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