If it is proper for the state to define the good life, then many mandates about how people should behave are entirely proper. But defining the good life is considered by most religions to be their proper function. Religious freedom rests in large measure on the intuition that people should not be required to take action they believe is wrong. And that mandates a modest role for government, as it has traditionally had in Anglo-Saxon liberalism.
Of all freedoms in the civil order, none can be more important than religious freedom, since it protects our right to live in accordance with what we apprehend to be ultimately right and wrong. This cannot be set aside for values the state imposes.
The United Nations attack on the moral teaching of the Catholic Church in the name of human rights points to a more general problem with the application of U.N. human rights treaties, namely, that the monitoring committees charged with reviewing compliance read into them a social radical agenda, which is then claimed as an international norm, binding on nation-states … The result is that international law is no longer about the relation of nation-states to one another, but instead is developing as a global legal code, binding on individuals, and embodying the far left’s commitment to the sexual revolution.
Moral autonomy, the reigning doctrine of our age, is seriously inhibiting both truth and freedom for the gospel … Because the relativist challenge to truth and morality is so wide ranging, a successful strategy has to be on many fronts. It has to affect the “core of what people believe.”
It is not the case that Jesus would have baked a cake to be used in a homosexual celebration. Rather his words in the New Testament clearly show that such an act is a sin, worthy of hellfire. Nor would Jesus, or the apostles, have obeyed a requirement of the civil authorities to commit such a sin.
While a return to the atheistic, communist past seems unlikely in the republics of the former Soviet Union, the features of religious persecution in that era, most notably prohibition or restriction of religious education, especially to the young, burdensome registration of churches, and state preference for a few, familiar religious groups, seems to be returning. The general situation bears vigilance and activism by Christians in the West, and, when needed, official action by the U.S. and western governments to prevent further deterioration of religious freedom, and recovery of what has been lost.
With the possible exception of a temporary improvement in Vietnam, nowhere has America’s religious freedom policy actually improved an on-the-ground situation for religious freedom in another country … [but] seriously advancing religious freedom as a foreign policy objective serves other American interests, specifically 1) stabilization of areas, particularly the Middle East, which are riven by severe social and political conflict, 2) counterterrorism, and 3) humanitarian concern.
If Christians and other similarly committed traditional religious believers are to function in society, their consciences must be accommodated. If they are not accommodated, they cannot function in any area of their lives to the extent that they are not accommodated.
The primacy of religious freedom in the social order of free societies, historically acknowledged in America if not perfectly realized, is today under intense attack by secularist thinkers and their followers, whose true object is not state neutrality about religion, but the elimination in practice, and ultimately, in belief of religious doctrines they object to.
Do Christians really believe, and are they committed to the claims of Biblical faith, to God’s lordship, the uniqueness of his truth revealed in the Bible, and the moral precepts set forth in it? Our liturgies, sermons, and prayers resound with claims of God’s lordship, and its superiority over anything else … Nothing is more vital to freedom than liberty of conscience, nothing is a greater injustice to the individual than the government requiring that person to violate his or her conscience. If people are required to do what they are convinced is wrong, the formerly free societies of the West will effectively become a tyranny, which has no regard for the worth of the lives of its subjects.