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Sunday, March 22, 2015

A libertarian argument in favor of religious liberty

Euripedes over at Self-Evident Truths provides one in this short essay on the need to stand up for the rights of religious believers:  Why We Must Protect Religious Freedom in the U.S. As he writes:
You nor I may like a particular religion, or particular religious beliefs of certain individuals, but we must protect the free exercise of religion in this country if, for no other reason, than to prevent the state from dictating what is right and what is wrong. When the state defines morality, we, as people of a free society, will cease to be free.
I would quibble with this argument a bit -- the state defines morality through the law all the time -- but the basic point is sound not only from a libertarian but also a conservative perspective. Aside from its theological value, religious liberty serves a critical function in limiting the power of the state to dictate moral norms without criticism. Absent religious liberty -- and coherent religious institutions within a society -- there is very little tangible limitation to the power of government.

By emphasizing the autonomy of faith & by fostering an atmosphere where institutions can flourish outside of the micro-managing grasp of the state, religious liberty fosters the practice of limited government. Organized religion and religious believers function to provide an alternative voice to state power. This is one reason why one of the tells of tyranny is its hostility to traditional religion, believers & institutions.

One does not need to be religious to understand this point and to come to the defense of religious believers & institutions when under attack.


Tom Van Dyke said...

How is it that those who argue most vociferously for the separation of church and state these days forget that in the England the American forefathers fled, the state controlled the church and not the other way around?

Mark D. said...

Right. The separation of church and state was designed in America to provide for the autonomy of the church from the state, so believers could follow their consciences without being burdened by religious tests and government sanctioned religious ideology. A useful lesson for modern times.