Father Jonathan Morris is a Catholic priest and Fox News contributor. He recently freaked out about a “black mass” in Oklahoma City and demanded that the government prevent it from happening “in the name of free speech.” But like so many Christian righters, he claims to be an advocate of religious freedom.
If we suggest that the government is the one who decides who can violate their conscience, my goodness, what have we come to? It comes down to this. Do we believe in the individual’s ability to decide what they believe in? And whether or not the government is going to step in and say, you are not allowed to believe in that. We have a long tradition and that’s the very purpose of the first amendment, a long tradition, the government saying, you know what? We are not able to judge what you decide is right or wrong, but we’re going to respect it. That is the very essential part of our government.
Like so many Christians, when Morris says “religious freedom” what he really means is “Christian privilege.” It’s religious freedom for him but not for anyone else. And this is one of the key differences between humanists and civil libertarians and the Christian right. The ACLU defends the rights of Christians, Muslims, Jews and virtually every other group when they are violated. Humanists fought for the release of Meriam Ibrahim in Sudan and push for the end of blasphemy laws all over the world, laws that frequently are aimed at Christians. But the Christian right legal groups only care about the rights of Christians and will cheer on the destruction of the rights of non-Christians.That’s why the ACLJ endorsed blasphemy laws in Russia and tried to deny a Muslim group in New York the right to open an Islamic center in a building they owned. That’s why Liberty Counsel screams bloody murder at the imagined denial of rights to Christians while publicly demanding that the government censor a private, ticketed event hosted by satanists because it offends Christians who don’t have to attend anyway. Their position is that non-Christians must be forced to sit through Christian prayers at public meetings of government bodies, but Christians should be allowed to censor events held by non-Christians that they don’t have to attend or watch in any way whatsoever. This is Christian privilege, not religious liberty.