Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Liberty of conscience

Thomas Kidd is a historian particularly interested in the views of the Founders about religion and its relation to the state. Here he addresses what they would have thought about the current religious liberty case argued yesterday before the Supreme Court and in doing so refers to a Baptist:
.... The great Baptist champion of religious liberty, John Leland, a staunch ally of Madison and Thomas Jefferson, acknowledged that religious dissenters could not be allowed to “disturb the peace” and harm fellow citizens under the cover of conscience objections. However, he insisted that governments which really valued religious liberty should afford exemptions to laws that “prevent liberty of conscience,...because men cannot stretch their consciences like a nose of wax.” Sincere religious non-conformists should not be treated like common vagrants, he said. ....

.... Any reasonable observer can see that the Green family of Hobby Lobby (as well as their co-litigants Conestoga Wood) has a sincere religious objection to providing abortifacient coverage to employees. Their convictions represent an honest, longstanding objection to abortion held by many other Americans. The HHS Mandate, conversely, represents an abrupt, intrusive requirement of the national government that has obvious ramifications for the consciences of many American employers. Trying to ram this policy through, without offering substantive conscience exemptions, would have struck the Founders as ungenerous and coercive. [more]