Once again the US is faced with the conflict over religious freedom and secular law. The forces of institutionalized religion, largely the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, have decided they are above mere secular law. The refusal to pay for a woman’s health insurance by the church is just a minor example of a greater problem. Who decides the law in the US ?
There is no middle ground in this debate. The US is either a secular nation, ruled by laws passed and enacted by a legitimate government authority. OR. The US is a theocracy, ruled by the dictates of self-anointed religious clergy. There is no third option. One or the other must have ultimate authority.
We see theocracies in the middle east. Saudi Arabia is a good example. Look also to Afghanistan, Iran, and perhaps eventually Egypt. People are free to do whatever the ruling elite and the ruling theocrats allow. They have no recourse to challenge or alter the decisions of the theocrats or monarchs. Is this the path the US wishes to follow ? The fundamentalists in the US would answer “YES”.
It is a dangerous game the GOP has played with the religious conservatives and fundamentalists over the last 30 years. By combining a radical, old testament driven theology with modern political propaganda they have severely weakened the democratic ideals of the founding fathers. those founding fathers they idolize and idealize EXCEPT when it comes to the over arching ideal of secular government.
Is the current trend in the new GOP dangerous ? Yes. Religious views must always be protected. Freedom to discuss religious ideas and worship in legal ways is one of the rights guaranteed. No one denies that. But this religious freedom does not mean that religious leaders are ABOVE the law. To accept that is to take the first steps toward theocracy. All people and institutions, secular and religious, are governed by secular law. To have it otherwise is to reduce government to anarchy , or worse, theocracy.
So, my neoConservative friends need to rethink their rhetoric about “freedom of religion”. Without context, it becomes a call for a fundamental theocracy. Something most Americans find repulsive.