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Monday, November 1, 2010

The naked public square, religious freedom and conscience rights

While historically insightful, a recent Washington Post op-ed by Michael Gerson misses the mark on the contemporary application of a controversial challenge regarding Thomas Jefferson's non-Constitutional phrase, "separation of church and state".
Although Jefferson put his own phrase in context by attending church services in the House of Representatives, creative courts have manipulated his words to undermine the framers' establishment clause intent. Decades of judicial gerrymandering have increasingly cordoned off religious people and their values to the confines of churches, synagogues and mosques, resulting in what Richard John Neuhaus aptly labeled the "naked public square".
Even Mr. Gerson limits the policy-making influence of "teachings of faith" to "respecting the priority of conscience." Yet conscience is precisely what is not respected in our country today. Healthcare professionals are being fired, intimidated, demoted and blackballed from medicine simply for following their consciences and adhering to life-affirming ethical standards rather than participating in abortion. Now President Obama plans to rescind the only federal regulation protecting conscience in healthcare.
Unlike Jefferson, our government increasingly respects neither conscience nor the Constitution. As a result, our body politic is being robbed of the creative and power-challenging vitality of faith and the redemptive, faith-based morality of a large segment of the citizenry.

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