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Progressives see adherence to many traditional religious teachings, particular those concerning sexual morality and the status of women, as mere bigotry to be stamped out by government authorities. And, finally, what does it all mean for the future of Jews and Judaism in the United States?
Secular liberals seem unable to discern why—unless out of a prejudiced hostility to women’s rights—a Catholic university should decline to provide its employees with insurance coverage for birth control.
This failure of moral imagination is quite staggering, especially given that progressives consider themselves to be exceptionally open-minded and tolerant of diversity.
Still another, related factor in the rout of religious liberty is the unwillingness of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other one-time supporters of the free exercise of religion to defend the rights of traditionalist Christians lest, by doing so, they fall on the wrong side of the culture wars.
It was one thing for the ACLU and like-minded groups to have historically defended politically inconsequential minorities like peyote-smoking Indians and Sabbatarians (as well as Orthodox Jews) whose free-exercise rights were threatened by the mainstream Protestant majority.
The first is the gradual transformation of the primary rationale for anti-discrimination laws.
These started as part of an effort to redress the exclusion of African-Americans and others from mainstream American life.
This has caused the ACLU to give short shrift to its once proud tradition of defending the free exercise of religion, a shift exemplified by the organization’s changing position on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
That 1993 act, which, as Samuelson points out, was passed almost unanimously by Congress, responded to a Supreme Court opinion written by none other than the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
The Association for the Philosophy of Judaism is dedicated to encouraging new work in the philosophy of Judaism.
Our annual APJ Essay Prize will be awarded to new work in the philosophy of Judaism.