By / Jun 28

Beneath many—if not all—of the pressing social and cultural questions that our nation faces today sits a fundamental question about the nature and role of religion in the public square. From the often-fraught debates over abortion and sexuality issues like transgenderism to the increased discussions over online governance and the role of the technology industry in moderating public discourse, there lies a deep tension among ethical worldviews and disparate visions for the pursuit of the common good. 

Although it was published in 1984, The Naked Public Square by Richard John Neuhaus offers a deep critique of these contrasting visions and models an understanding of the public square that reveals the constant interplay of religion and politics. Ultimately, they cannot be kept separate, regardless of what some proponents of a “naked” or purely secular public square want to claim. Neuhaus defines the vision of a naked public square as the desire to “exclude religion and religiously grounded values from the conduct of public business” (ix).

Neuhaus was a prominent public theologian who served in a variety of clerical positions in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, later serving as a Roman Catholic Priest until his death in 2009. He was the founder and editor of the ecumenical and conservative monthly journal First Things, the director of the Institute on Religion and Public Life in New York City, and the author of over 36 works. 

In The Naked Public Square, Neuhaus offers a constructive critique of both the moral majoritarian movement of his day — as seen in the “religious right” led by so-called fundamentalists like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson — and what some have deemed “the rainbow coalition” of the religious or secular left who seek to shift the conversation of public morality away from any transcendent reality toward radical concepts of “naked” pluralism based in an expressive individualism. Neuhaus concludes that the concept of a “naked public square” is simply untenable and fails to account for the public nature of religion itself. He forcefully argues that religion cannot simply be relegated to a private matter as seen in the language of freedom of worship or belief. And this concept of religion as purely a private matter of the individual is even more prominent today than it was in the 1980s when Neuhaus penned this monumental work.

Dangers of the “naked” public square

In this second edition, released in 1986, Neuhaus seeks to build upon his original cultural critique and begins to flesh out a constructive proposal for bridging “the connections between biblical faith and democratic governance” (xi). He opens the work by exposing the rise of civil religion in his day and critiques the constant debate over the proper role of religion in public life. Much of this debate has devolved into caricaturing opponents’ views, all the while defending the moral purity for our own tribe through comparison. He wisely points out that “in principle, we should be suspicious of explanations for other people’s beliefs and behavior when those explanations imply that they would believe and behave as we do, if only they were as mature and enlightened as we are” (16). This honest and humble posture is evident throughout Neuhaus’ work.

In this book, Neuhaus traces the history of public theology and shows that many critics of religion in the public square express fear that if allowed, politics may again degenerate into the religious wars of the past. Quoting Alastair MacIntyre, he states that “in the absence of a public ethic, politics becomes a civil war carried on by other means” (99). This is a prescient critique of today’s public square based on how many of Neuhaus’ predictions have become reality in recent years with the warring factions of political tribalism — fueled by the rise of the social internet — and the almost religious-like devotion to secularism of our day. Both of these political and inherently religious tribes are at odds over what should constitute a serviceable public ethic, which Neuhaus believes is “not somewhere in our past, just waiting to be found and reinstalled” (37). It will take hard work on behalf of all parties in order to navigate the challenges ahead.

Like a skilled surgeon, Neuhaus dissects the political moment of his day and shows the fundamental issue with religion in the public square is not an issue of Christian truth “going public,” which he points out is an essential element of Christian faith (19). Rather, he critiques the substance of the claims made by both the politicized fundamentalism and the utopian dreams of the naked public square of secularism. He argues that both pose a grave threat to human flourishing and the preservation of democracy as a whole. Whereas fundamentalism can lead to a paving over of conscience and may even devolve into forms of totalitarianism (99), secularism removes the “agreed-upon authority that is higher than the community itself” (76). The naked public square then becomes a place where “there is no publicly recognizable source for such criticism, no check upon such patriotism . . . therefore criticism becomes impossible and patriotism unsafe” (76). 

Neuhaus later proposes a new way in this debate that seeks to reorient the public square as one based on a transcendent reality, one that seeks to honor the real differences in worldview and groundings of morality through the framework of democratic values and a robust public square of reinvigorated discourse.

The morality of compromise

Neuhaus’ vision for the public square draws criticisms from both sides of the debate. To the ire of secularism, he refuses to grant that religion is simply a private matter that shouldn’t be allowed in the public square. Instead, he argues that it is also at odds with the religious right by stating that religion dogma cannot go unchecked in this democratic experiment. He articulates a vision of compromise and tolerance in the public square that seeks to understand both religion and democracy in their proper forms — a vision that is much more robust than critics often ascribe to him. For Neuhaus, compromise doesn’t equate with weakness or giving up on deeply held beliefs but rather engaging in a robust dialogue over important issues and seeking a workable solution for all parties. He states, “Compromise and forgiveness arise from the acknowledgment that we are imperfect creatures in an imperfect world. Democracy is the product not of a vision of perfection but of the knowledge of imperfection” (114).

Neuhaus goes on to argue that compromise “is not an immoral act, nor is it an amoral act” because the person who makes a compromise is making a moral judgement about what is to be done when moral judgements are in conflict.” He rightfully critiques the terminology of “two-kingdoms” in popular public theology and proposes a “twofold rule of God” that “underscores that it is the one God who rules over all reality, and his will is not divided” (115). This ensures that the public square is not devoid of a transcendent grounding for morality. Though, some on both sides of the divide will argue that Neuhaus gives away too much in the debate to the other side and that his middle ground approach is ultimately untenable in the increasingly hostile public square.

Neuhaus’ vision of compromise picks up on the idea of true toleration that has been popularized by some today as a path forward in these divisive times of polarization and tribalism. In his view, compromise is not about giving up truth or abandoning principle but recognizing that there are multiple moral actors present in any given decision and the need for humility in a workable vision of democracy. It means that “having set aside the sectarian and triumphalist alternatives, one acts with moral responsibility in an arena that requires compromise” (124). He later describes this project as one true democracy that understands that there “will always be another inning, another election, another appeal, another case to be tested” (181). It is understandable why this particular vision would be unsettling to both sides of these public debates because it means seeing the humanity of your supposed “enemies” and working toward a common future.

In seeking to lay out this vision for religion and democracy in America, Neuhaus describes a “very large number of Americans who feel they have for a long time been on the losing end have come to believe that the winners are trying to deny them their innings” (181). This is also one of the prevailing issues of today and bears acknowledging that particular communities — especially those of color — have actually been historically disenfranchised. But given Neuhaus’ context and intention of this volume, he does not particularly highlight the plight of these communities in his vision for the public square and discourse. While this is a weakness of the argument presented, it does not invalidate the principles that he lays out for his constructive proposal for the public square. He simply shows that those who hold a “pragmatic and provisional view of the democratic process” would understandably be alarmed by his proposal. Neuhaus rejects this pragmatic vision of the democratic process and argues for a more robust public theology.

Overall, Neuhaus offers a credible and healthy alternative to the warring factions of society and the outright secular rejection of religion in the public square by showing that these disparate visions of religion and democracy are simply untenable by their very nature. In the preface to the second edition of The Naked Public Square, Neuhaus writes that many critiqued the first edition of this work because it lacked a substantive proposal for applying the vision he articulates. While this second edition does move toward that type of proposal, it still lacks a detailed outworking of his vision for the public square. But Neuhaus believed others would be able to develop that type of proposal as they built upon the foundation that he laid out for an alternative understanding of the relationship of religion and democracy in the public square.

By / Sep 25

Recent media coverage and statements by public figures about Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a federal judge being considered for the Supreme Court, have raised concerns of a religious test being applied to judicial candidates who are associated with Christian groups. 

For example, Newsweek published a piece with the title, “How Charismatic Catholic Groups Like Amy Coney Barrett’s People of Praise Inspired ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’” (The reference was to Margart Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the 1985 dystopian novel about women who are enslaved by quasi-Christian theocrats.) Newsweek later issued a correction stating, “The book’s author, Margaret Atwood, has never specifically mentioned the group as being the inspiration for her work,” but has not retracted the misleading article.

Similarly, the wire service Reuter’s published an article that was originally titled, “Handmaid’s Tale? U.S. Supreme Court candidate’s religious community under scrutiny.” The article claims that Barrett was an unconfirmed member of People of Praise, a “charismatic, ecumenical and covenant community” that includes “Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Baptists, Pentecostals and other denominational and nondenominational Christians.”

Reuter’s also points out that from 1970 to 2016, People of Praise used the term “handmaiden” for women leaders. The group said the term handmaid was used by the group to mirror Jesus’s mother Mary, who called herself “the handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38, NAB). The group also said in 2018 they stopped using “handmaiden” because “the meaning of this term has shifted dramatically in our culture in recent years.”

What is a religious test?

A religious test is a requirement that to hold public office a person must either hold or reject a particular set of religious beliefs or must be formally affiliated with a particular religious group. Religious tests are used to secure the bond between the state and a particular religion and to prohibit anyone not associated with that religion from holding political office.

For example, religious tests were used in England to “establish” the Church of England as an official national church. As Alan E. Brownstein and Jud Campbell explain, the Test Acts, in force from the 1660s until the 1820s, required all government officials to take an oath disclaiming the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and affirming the Church of England’s teachings about receiving the sacrament. These laws effectively excluded Catholics and members of dissenting Protestant sects (such as Baptists) from exercising political power. 

Are religious tests legal?

No, religious tests are unconstitutional. In the only explicit reference to religion in the U.S. Constitution, Article VI, Clause 3 states, “. . . no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” This clause explicitly bans any religious requirement to hold federal office.

Unlike most parts of the Bill of Rights, the Supreme Court has never held that the Clause applies to state as well as federal office-holding under the 14th Amendment. Indeed, it wasn’t until 1961 that the court struck down religious tests applied by the states.

At that time, the Maryland state constitution said, “[N]o religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this State, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God. . . .” Roy R. Torcaso was appointed to the office of Notary Public by the governor of Maryland, but he could not receive his commission to serve because he would not declare his belief in God. Torcaso filed a lawsuit claiming the requirement violated his rights under the First and 14th Amendments. 

In the case of Torcaso v. Watkins, the U.S Supreme Court unanimously declared that the test was an unconstitutional encroachment on the freedom of religion since it effectively aided religions that profess a belief in God at the expense of any other form of belief or disbelief.

In another case, McDaniel v. Paty (1978), the Supreme Court relied on the First Amendment to strike down state laws prohibiting clergy from holding office. The court ruled that the government’s forcing a person to choose between one’s religious beliefs and the desire to seek office was an unconstitutional restriction on the free exercise of religion.

Why can’t religious tests be applied indirectly?

In 2017, Barrett was appointed a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. In her confirmation hearing, California Sen. Diana Feinstein implied that Barrett couldn’t be trusted to apply the Constitution and laws objectively because she was a believing Catholic

“Why is it that so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling that dogma and law are two different things, and I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different,” Feinstein said. “And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.”

Numerous legal scholars condemned Feinstein for her indirectly applying a religious test as a requirement for the federal judiciary. The reason this is wrong, as Gerard V. Bradley, a professor of constitutional law at Notre Dame, explains

The scope of anyone’s immunity from disqualification from office on religious bases now depends upon the meaning of the Establishment and Free Exercise of Religion Clauses, not upon Article VI. At present, the central rule enunciated by the Supreme Court for Establishment Clause jurisprudence is the “endorsement” test. It stipulates all public authority—from state and federal to the most local municipal body—must never do or say anything that a reasonable person could understand to be an “endorsement” of religion, i.e., that favors adherents over non-adherents. Nothing in the neighborhood of a religious test for office could survive application of this norm.

Shouldn’t religious beliefs be excluded from public policy?

Some Americans contend that the religious beliefs of elected or appointed officials are to be excluded from having any influence. For example, they claim that since the religious beliefs of Catholic jurists shape how they decide on the legality of abortion, it is legitimate to exclude faithful Catholics from the judiciary if, as Feinstein might say, “the dogma lives loudly” within them. 

The underlying assumption is that there are certain beliefs that are accessible to a majority, if not all people, through publically accessible reason. These are legitimate, while more narrow beliefs—based on such things as religion—are illegitimate because they are not considered publicly accessible and held by a broad majority of citizens.

This is a key premise in the argument for secular neutrality in law and public policy, which requires that all religious beliefs be checked before entering the public square. Ironically, the result is that certain religious beliefs (e.g., those that are reductionist and based on materialism) are welcomed while others (any religion that relies both on general and special revelation) are excluded.

However, even though such beliefs are openly excluded, they are still allowed to smuggle in the beliefs that the secular neutralists cannot derive from their own religious beliefs (e.g., atheists who are also materialists don’t have any basis for natural human rights, and so must borrow presuppositions from the theistic religions).

This is not to say that all religiously based arguments are legitimate or that they deserve preferential treatment in matters of law and public policy. However, to believe that religious beliefs should be excluded from the public square because they are religious is itself a belief rooted in a religious belief (i.e., a presumption of agnosticism). Since this argument is based on neither reason nor reality, there is no reason Christians should accept the myth of secular neutrality. 

By / Jul 2

Albert Mohler discusses the future of secular America at the Southern Baptist Convention Pre-Conference in Dallas, Texas.

By / Jun 18

R. Albert Mohler shares how Christians can navigate family life in the secular age. 

By / Jun 9

Albert Mohler discusses the future of secular America at the Southern Baptist Convention Pre-Conference in Dallas, Texas on June 9, 2018.

By / Sep 15

In 2017, a new trend has been established among prominent senators of the Democratic Party: Interrogating would-be government appointees about their religious beliefs as a condition of serving in government, something expressly prohibited by Article VI of the United States Constitution.

In June, Senator Bernie Sanders angrily berated Russell Vought over his Christian conviction that salvation is attainable only through Jesus Christ. Sanders voted no on Vought’s appointment, believing his views—which he caricatured as “Islamophobic”—disqualified him from serving in government.

Most recently, Senators Dick Durbin and Diane Feinstein applied the same disrespectful religious test to Amy Coney Barrett, a nominee for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. “Do you consider yourself an ‘orthodox Catholic’?” Senator Dick Durbin asked Barrett abrasively. The line of questioning is reminiscent to the McCarthy Inquisitions of the 1950s. Durbin might have well asked: "Are you now or have you ever been a Christian?" Senator Feinstein condescendingly and cynically observed about Barrett’s Catholic faith that “dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.” Americans are free to have religious disagreements, but heresy pronouncements made by politicians with their own orthodoxy is off-limits.

In each of these instances, members of the most deliberative body of government engaged in religious discrimination in its purest form. It is inexcusable. Whether issuing from liberals or conservatives, religious tests are a violation of the religious equality knit into our system of government.

I wish these occurrences were rare, but their frequency suggests that progressive elements of the Democratic establishment are fine with castigating government appointees if these appointees’ religious values dare inform their lives or transgress the new religious test mandated by secular orthodoxy.

Thankfully, diverse perspectives throughout all avenues of American life (including from Harvard, Notre Dame, and Princeton) have condemned these senators’ cajoling. That suggests that the Democratic party is out of touch with American sentiment on religious convictions.

As a Baptist Christian, I believe church and state ought to be kept institutionally separate. But religion and politics? They are inseparable. Anyone who takes their faith seriously understands how religion informs a person’s deepest understanding of truth and ethics. This reality informed the basis of our First Amendment, which guarantees not just the right of worship, but to “exercise” one’s “dogma.” It’s the exercise of that same dogma that motivates organizations like Southern Baptist Disaster Relief to serve thousands impacted by recent hurricanes.

The U.S. Senators who have made these remarks are violating the letter and spirit of the Constitution’s guarantee of religious equality. Equality is understandably a revered term in American politics. Equality establishes the truth that no citizen is inferior because of his or her convictions. This treasured equality principle is being torn apart in the name of an aggressive form of equality that views religion as an enemy of equality.

If pluralism, tolerance, and equality are the acclaimed benchmarks of progressive politics, then senators setting up a religious test are betraying the sacred totems of their own party’s principles. More worrisome, they do damage to the tradition of American constitutionalism.

Religion isn’t a threat to democracy, but a zealous secularism that attaches punishment and employment eligibility to historic religious convictions most certainly is.

By / Jun 2

Sorting out a revolution is a tricky business. When the prevailing cultural sentiment is “you do you,” what does an appropriate response to moral chaos even look like?

As evangelicals, we are increasingly in need of thoughtful answers to the difficult questions arising from the still-evolving sexual revolution. Beyond the multi-faceted LGBT movement and the controversy of gender and bathrooms, we are now being confronted with an innovation that is different in kind; an emerging subculture that consists of adult men “who dress and behave like dogs.”

(Warning: Images and subject matter may be disturbing)

As Nell Frizell writes for The Guardian, “It’s easy to laugh at a grown man in a rubber dog suit chewing on a squeaky toy.” And she is correct. Even in our ever-progressive age, it seems that the subject hardly merits any serious consideration at all. But before dismissing it altogether, recognize this practice is directly tied to significant issues that Christians must be prepared to address.

Pay attention to this statement from Frizell’s article quoting someone on the inside of the movement, “It feels like you can be gay, straight, bisexual, trans and be accepted…All I want is for the pup community to be accepted in the same way. We’re not trying to cause grief to the public, or cause grief to relationships. We’re just the same as any other person on the high street.”

Those words are chilling because they invoke the legerdemain that brought us the sexual revolution; a plea for acceptance. Our age is defined by tolerance and acceptance. Our culture has declared war on any notions of absolutes and anything that smacks of tradition or institution. Yet, at least for the moment, the majority of people in the United States would likely regard this practice—of dawning leather costumes, eating from dog bowls, and participating in all manner of canine imitation and illicit sexual activity—as socially unacceptable. But for how long? And with what instrument might we determine such a boundary?

It is apparent that as a society, we lack the moral basis or credibility to pass such judgments with integrity. Given this reality, it is likely that pup play and related vicissitudes will gradually gain acceptance in the broader culture. And while this is a problem for society at large, there are particular considerations for the church. Christians have been fighting and losing a culture war for decades. Embattled and exhausted, we have endured a torrent of cultural change and watched our best methods and messengers fail to stem the tide. So, as evangelicals engage the issue of pup play and the myriad innovations that are sure to follow, we must seek a better way forward. We must retain a prophetic voice and gospel witness even if the moral foundations of American culture continue to erode.

Diagnosing the problem is not difficult. Christians embrace a biblical model of personhood and sexuality. We believe that every human being bears the imago Dei. And from these beliefs we arrive at several conclusions which fly in the face of the sexual revolution. We affirm the binary nature of gender. We affirm a compatible, complementary, and monogamous view of marriage. We affirm the innate patterns and dignity of personhood. And for this, our beliefs are deemed offensive and we are maligned as bigots. Thus, we find ourselves in direct conflict with the modern zeitgeist. Not only does our conception of these things defy innovation, we audaciously claim that accepting our understanding of them is best for society.

Pup play distorts what we know is true about humanity, namely that personhood is unique and valuable. It is dangerous because it further threatens our culture’s fragile understanding of personhood. Participants seek solace and shelter from life’s burdens in escapism. But the practice of imitating animals represents a strange form of reductionism that denies our dignity and complexity. But most importantly, it is a direct attack upon the image of God borne by every human being. The answer to human struggles is not to pretend to be something other than human. As evangelicals, we contend that the answer to our burdens and brokenness is found in a restored identity that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. As a culture, we should recognize that the special dignity of human life is fundamental to our society and our laws. We can ill afford to forfeit this belief.

So how might Christians respond to pup play and the like? In John 3:17, the Scripture declares that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Christians are called to be messengers of light in a world filled with darkness. Perhaps our biblical ethics will never again dominate the social mores of American culture, but we must neither fear or be dismayed. We are not called to win the culture war; we are called to bear witness to the light.

In the opening of her article, Frizell chides our willingness to dismiss or denigrate the behavior associated with the pup community. She is correct there as well. It is tempting to mock that which we find strange or novel. In recent years, Christians have gained much practice in showing love to those with whom we have deep disagreements. It appears that the future will hold the same. We must respond to cultural change by continuing our efforts to advocate and model the biblical patterns of personhood and sexuality. We will be less concerned with dominance than faithfulness. We will see more victories in our neighborhoods than in Washington. But in dealing with pup play, the sexual revolution, and an ever evolving culture, we will follow the example of our Lord. We will neither be scandalized by the sin we witness or cower to demands that we accept it. With God’s help, we will faithfully bear witness to the light.

By / Mar 13

Leave us alone and our ideas will triumph.

Religious freedom is dangerous for secularism because secularism is doomed in a free marketplace of ideas. Anti-religion can catch a wave of the moment if the dominant religions are receding, but revival will soon reduce them to the tide pools.

We are not afraid because Christians have faced much worse and prevailed. Nero was Emperor of the Romans, but then a Christian Emperor saved Rome for a millennium. Islam was going to sweep the church into oblivion until Islam ended up in the backwater of history for centuries. Stalin was the future that worked and now Stalin is the monster who murdered a nation. Mao was cool until the murderer was dead.

As bloody persecution sweeps the Middle East, American Christians understand our relative blessings. We have it better than Christians in the rest of the world and we know it. Our primary focus must be on the suffering church of Iraq, Syria, Sudan, and North Korea, but this does not prevent a secondary focus on the defense of religious liberty at home. American Christians are right that being “number one” in religious freedom is only comforting if based on growing freedom in American life and not only because American decline started from a great place and still leaves the US being relatively less awful.

If acquiescing to gay marriage or injustice at home would save one Syrian Christian life, I would consider the compromise. The Islamic State does not seem interested in such a trade.

In this broken world, Christians have to deal with multiple issues at once: foreign and domestic. Our worst day is better than an Iraqi Christian’s best day, but that does not mean that we must be silent about the erosion of our religious liberty. Christian thinkers are capable of opposing the Islamic State (serious) and fighting for full religious liberty in the United States.

Secularism dominates influential sectors of American society and is adept at framing the questions we face. Roe versus Wade demonstrates beyond a doubt that such victories forced through with temporary majorities do not last. Millions of traditional Christians are not going to change their minds and adopt secularism tomorrow, partly because secularism doesn’t work and Christianity does.

The poor are better off if they adopt Christian morality and practice it. They are destroyed by the consumerism and hedonism the secular media teaches. The Christian church will thrive in urban areas that see that our message works and that the alternatives are violent.

The greatest threat to religious freedom is that opponents of religion are afraid. They cannot be afraid of persecution, as atheists have never been burned at the stake in the United States. The bluster of the new atheists is to cover the fact that the religious have the cathedrals, the art, evensong, and Shakespeare. Secularists have modernity, 50 Shades of Grey, the Oscars, and Book of Mormon (the musical!). Even then, the best of their culture borrows, begs, and steals from Christendom: Christian fairy tales twisted, religious values mocked.

There is no creativity in a taking Jewish and Christian culture and stripping away the parts that bother secularists. The lame imitation is endless: secular Christmas is not better, just secular. Secular music is church music in bondage. How many genre of pop music got started in church music? Now that the church is shrinking, where will the next great genre develop? Educational curriculum came out of Christian civilization that was training people for eternal life, not preparing workers for the omnipotent state. The old Bachelor of Arts made sense in a Christian nation, but who will defend it or give it content now?

From the start of the nation, an Enlightenment-influenced American Christian super-majority faced radical dissent from our assumptions about the good life and we handled it with tolerance. With Christian apologist and philosopher John Locke, we valued human reason. Some groups placed less emphasis on reason. American Christians typically thought scientific progress was a good thing, but not all Americans did. A significant portion of Americans would not even swear allegiance to the United States. We let them affirm their allegiance.

As a result, dissident Christian groups- some as counter-cultural as the Amish- came from all over the world to practice their faith. They were welcome and we did not fear their dissent despite the fact that as the decades passed, their lifestyle served as a constant alternative to the majority’s choices. More conservative groups of Mennonites and Amish became less like the American majority over time, but the majority did not respond by forcing their “ways” on these little groups.

I dare our secular compatriots to us the same freedom the Christian majority gave to the dissident Amish: the right to live a counter-cultural life freely.

The Amish are allowed to run their businesses on Amish principles.

The Amish are allowed to educate their children on Amish principles.

The Amish are allowed to vote their values.

Let traditional Christians run our private businesses, even refuse to bake your cakes.

Let traditional Christians educate their children on Christian ideals.

Let us vote our values.

Whenever I have mentioned this solution to friends, they point to the obvious disanalogy: these were small groups and traditional Christians are the majority in parts of the United States. Federalism solves this problem. If Alabama or Utah were left alone on social and religious issues, then New York (as her population fades) should be left alone as well. If the federal solution is rejected, grant traditional Christians a large “private” sphere of activity (including our businesses).

Some studies suggest that the Amish population is growing. Are their civil and religious rights to be imperiled when they are large? I hope not. It would be a perversity in a secular democracy if the largest dissident groups had fewer rights than fringe dissident groups. This intolerance would suggest a lack of confidence in the persuasiveness of their cause and the effectiveness of their values from the majority!

Give the Church the freedom that we gave the Amish and within the century there will be a revival that democratically will sweep away the secularism of this particular historical moment. When Christians of that time gain a majority on issues where we are now a minority, I trust we will treat the decayed secularist parts of the nation with tolerance.