Hey Look, a New Pledge

Hey Look, a New Pledge December 1, 2011

It seems to be the hot thing in politics these days to demand that candidates sign pledges to do or not do certain things. There’s a new one from a group called Open Doors USA that certainly sounds innocent enough:

I PLEDGE that I will protect religious freedom in full for all Americans, and will advance international religious freedom as part of American foreign policy.

As part of this PLEDGE, I hereby commit myself to the following positions:

FIRST, that religious liberty in full is the birthright of every American, as recognized by the First Amendment. It entails the right to believe, worship, and practice in accord with one’s faith, subject only to the limits imposed by the U.S. constitution and the Bill of Rights. The right of religious freedom must be applied equally to all religious communities in America, including Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and others. At the same time, religious freedom does not mandate belief, but protects the right not to believe.

Religious freedom includes the right to employ religious arguments, or religiously-informed moral arguments, when contending for or against laws and policies, such as laws designed to protect the unborn and traditional marriage, or to relieve poverty and increase economic opportunity for the disadvantaged.

Religious freedom includes the right of individuals and of religious communities to engage in religiously-motivated charitable works. It also includes the right of individuals and of religious communities not to be forced to participate in, or to forfeit their employment because of refusal to participate in, activities that deeply offend their religious conscience.

SECOND, that I will nominate to the U.S. federal bench judges who are committed to protecting for all Americans the religious liberty rights described above.

THIRD, that I will make religious freedom promotion a foreign policy priority of my administration. This will include ensuring the U.S. State Department performs its statutory duty of advancing international religious freedom; appointing an ambassador at large for international religious freedom who is a person of stature, experienced in matters of religious freedom and diplomacy; ensuring that the ambassador at large has sufficient authority and resources to succeed; ensuring that democracy assistance funding includes support for religious freedom; and ensuring that all of America’s diplomats are trained in the importance of advancing, and how to advance, international religious freedom.

Certainly sounds reasonable. Who could be opposed to this other than those who seek to impose their religious beliefs on others? As it turns out, the whole thing is a trojan horse. The author of the pledge explains why he thinks it’s important:

[Dr. Thomas] Farr, visiting associate professor of Religion and International Affairs at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, told The Christian Post Monday that it was vital to highlight issues of religious freedom in the U.S. because of efforts among those in positions of authority to “remove religious voices from American democracy.”

Farr, giving an example, pointed to “Judge Vaughn Walker’s reasoning in overturning California’s Prop 8 referendum included the assertion that religious and moral arguments against gay marriage are, in effect, irrational and therefore unconstitutional. If this reasoning were accepted, it would mean that religious arguments, and religiously-informed moral judgments, would be banned from our public debates, thereby ceding the field entirely to aggressively secular and anti-religious arguments. This would not be good for America’s citizens that are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, or adherents of any other religion, whose views of justice, freedom, equality, and the common good are influenced by their religious beliefs. Removing religious voices from our discourse would be unconstitutional and harmful for the country.”

Talk about a straw man argument. No one is arguing, least of all Judge Walker, that religious belief can’t influence one’s positions, much less that “religious voices” would be “banned from our public debates.” For crying out loud, almost every legislator at every level in the entire country is religious. But if the only warrant you can offer for a position is your religious beliefs, you haven’t said anything meaningful at all. If your policy positions can’t be justified on the grounds of evidence and reason instead of alleged revelation, then your positions are, in fact, irrational.

The fake nature of this pledge is revealed simply by the fact that Rick Santorum, who has explicitly argued that civil law must comport with “divine law,” was the first candidate to sign the pledge. The rest are still considering it.

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