Thursday, August 26, 2010

Archbishop Chaput Argues for Freedom: For Himself and His Cronies

The line of argument that Archbishop Chaput of Denver sketches in his recent comments to the Canon Law Association of Slovakia: we can look for more of this in days to come, in response to Judge Walker's prop 8 decision in California.  This is becoming a typical argument of the Catholic right (and the religious right in general), as its theocratic claims are exposed and challenged by the democratic process in various democratic societies around the world.

Here's the argument, in brief: faith communities have a right to free expression of their beliefs and ideas in the public square.  Decisions (like the prop 8 decision) that call into question the "right" of faith communities to control laws in a secular, pluralistic democracy restrict the freedom of religion.

They turn religion into one more commodity in the marketplace of ideas.  

What has religionists of the ilk of Archbishop Chaput furious is not the legitimate proposal of defenders of democratic constitutions like Judge Walker that religious claims need to be tested rationally in the public square along with all other ideas, if those claims are to be imposed as law.  What has folks like Archbishop Chaput enraged is that, increasingly, churches and other faith communities are not being given special privilege in pluralistic secular democracies.

Are not being permitted the automatic and unquestioned "right" to impose their peculiar moral or theological views on the rest of society.  Simply because they are faith communities.

What Archbishop Chaput and other right-wing religionists are pushing hard against today is the attempt to check the theocratic agenda of religious groups that are not seeking freedom of religious expression at all, but a theocratic right to suppress free discussion in the public square in the name of religion.  It is with ill grace that people like Archbishop Chaput argue that their true concern is safeguarding freedom of religion, when they have done everything possible to impose one set of religious ideas among many competing religious ideas--even within their own faith communities--on entire societies.