Senator McConnell, The 1st Amendment Protects Us FROM Religion

Senator Mitch McConnell - photo by Gage Skidmore

In an op-ed on Truthout, Bill Moyers distinguishes between protection ‘from’ religion and protection ‘of’ religion.

From Truthout – Freedom of and From Religion:

The Catholic bishops had cast the president’s intended policy as an infringement on their religious freedom.

The president in effect said: No quarrel there; no one’s going to force you to violate your doctrine. But Catholics are also Americans, and if an individual Catholic worker wants coverage, she should have access to it – just like any other American citizen. Under the new plan, she will. She can go directly to the insurer, and the religious institution is off the hook.

Those who have been on the wrong side of the recent birth control ‘debate’ have used protection of religion as the basis of their argument. Some have even claimed Obama is waging a war on religion.

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had this to say:

The fact that the White House thinks this is about contraception is the whole problem. This is about freedom of religion. It’s right there in the first amendment. You can’t miss it, right there in the very First Amendment to our Constitution. And the government doesn’t get to decide for religious people what their religious beliefs are. They get to decide that.

I think Senator McConnell needs take a look at the First Amendment again, it reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The government cannot make a law that endorses a specific religion. This is a protection from religion, not of religion. This is a key distinction. It means that a dominant religion cannot thrust its beliefs on the population in the form of government legislation. It does NOT mean that religious beliefs that are incompatible with laws and regulations are exempt from the law. If the Catholic church goes into business then they must abide by the regulations of that industry. The Catholic church, or any religion, cannot limit the rights of their employees based on religious beliefs.

This protection from religion is what also affords protection of religion. It is in that order, not the other way around.

Moyers ends his column with:

So here we are once again, arguing over how to honor religious liberty without it becoming the liberty to impose on others moral beliefs they don’t share. Our practical solution is the one Barack Obama embraced the other day, protect freedom of religion… and protect freedom from religion. Can’t get more American than that.

This is a secular nation and protection of personal freedom and liberty is paramount. It is not persecution of religious beliefs when the government protects the freedom and liberty of all citizens.


photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr


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