Saturday, July 5, 2014

What happened to religious freedom in America?

Mike Farris, having a lifetime of experience in freedom-related law, gives a bit of history on the religious freedom debate.

Wow, the part about:

"Bill Clinton signed Religious Freedom Restoration ActFRA. Now, Hillary Clinton condemns the decision that RFRA was specifically designed to render. The political left worked side by side with people like me on the right because at least we could agree on one thing—religious free exercise. Now the left is condemning religious freedom...

Here is the danger point. In 1993, American liberals still had a robust view of negative* rights including religious freedom. In 2014, the left has changed. Negative rights (religious freedom) must give way to positive rights (entitlements)."

*Negative rights are what the government CANNOT do TO you. They are designed to protect freedom.

Mike Farris, facebook:

The public reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case reveals a dangerous “progression” of the liberal movement. Those looking for a scapegoat for this decision should look at the people who created the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

RFRA was enacted by Congress in 1993. Given the liberal reaction to the Hobby Lobby decision, I would be surprised if they remember which party controlled Congress in 1993. The Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress. Tom Foley was the Speaker of the House. George Mitchell was the Senate Majority Leader. Bill Clinton was President.

Congress was not Democrat in name only. This was a truly liberal Congress. Wikipedia includes RFRA in the list of the ten pieces of major legislation passed in 93-94. Other laws in this session include: the Brady Handgun ACT, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Freedom for Access to Clinics Act, and NAFTA. Liberals were indeed in control.

The groups in the leadership of the movement to pass RFRA included the ACLU, People for the American Way, the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, and many other liberal organizations. I was one of the few conservatives in the leadership of the RFRA steering committee. But, it was a Democratic Washington DC and liberal groups needed to take the lead if we were going to save religious freedom.

Bill Clinton signed RFRA. Now, Hillary Clinton condemns the decision that RFRA was specifically designed to render. The political left worked side by side with people like me on the right because at least we could agree on one thing—religious free exercise. Now the left is condemning religious freedom.

What has changed?

The change is best analyzed through the use of an analogy from international human rights law. There are five categories of human rights: civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. Civil and political rights are known as negative rights. Economic, social, and cultural rights are known as positive rights.

Negative rights are very familiar to Americans. International norms on civil and political rights are largely designed around the American Bill of Rights and traditions of free institutions. Negative rights are what the government CANNOT do TO you. They are designed to protect freedom.

Positive rights (economic, social, and cultural) arise out of the socialist/communist tradition. Positive rights are what the government MUST do FOR you. Think entitlements.

The United States has never ratified a UN human rights treaty with significant elements of positive rights. In fact, there was a grand divide in the 1960s. America and its western allies supported the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights. The Soviet Union opposed it. The USSR and its camp supported the UN Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. The US has never ratified this treaty.

In the 1960s, the United States understood that freedom and entitlements were not compatible. Many no longer understand this truth, but it is still unassailably true.

The government mandate that Hobby Lobby buy abortion coverage for its employees is classic positive rights. It is a government-mandate creating a form of an entitlement program.

This is why liberals are hollering about the fact that removing abortion coverage constitutes “taking away my birth control.” Conservatives respond: Go buy it yourself.

Conservatives are saying—no one is taking away your freedom. Liberals are saying—they are taking away my entitlement. Conservatives are thinking negative rights, liberals are thinking positive rights. Both sides think the other side is stupid for “not getting it.” But, the reality is they do not have the same idea of what constitutes rights. It is as if the two groups talk two different languages.

Here is the danger point. In 1993, American liberals still had a robust view of negative rights including religious freedom. In 2014, the left has changed. Negative rights (religious freedom) must give way to positive rights (entitlements).

This is not merely a battle about religious freedom—although it is that as well. It is a battle about what kind of country we are.
Are we a freedom seeking country seeking to stop the government from invading our (negative) rights? Or are we a socialist country seeking to ensure entitlements (positive rights)?
We can’t have both.

As for me and my house, I choose freedom.

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