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Evangelicals and the Double Standard of Religious Freedom

January 30th, 2013

It should be no surprise when a poll finds that Christian Evangelicals have a double standard on religious freedom. Even when it is an evangelical polling organization.

More than any other group in the poll—Non-evangelical born-agains, “Notional” Christians (apparently Chistians who do not live up to the standards of the evangelical pollsters), Other Faiths, and “Skeptics”—evangelicals believe that religious freedom has diminished because America has moved away from traditional Christian values, and that gays are chiefly at fault for it. And—here’s the hypocritical part—although they believe as heartily as anyone else that “true religious freedom” means citizens are able to “believe and practice the core commitments and values” of their faith, they also believe that one set of values—theirs—should be given preference, and indeed, should “dominate” the country.

In other words, everyone should be free to believe what they want, so long as it is what the evangelicals proscribe.

This is exactly in line with what I have noted before: that not only is the “war on Christianity” an imaginary phantom, it is Christians themselves who oppress the freedom of belief of others:

What is truly hypocritical is the fact that Christianists are the only ones who actually try to deny others the right to freedom of belief and legal expression. They openly discriminate against people who believe differently from them. They refuse to serve atheists or Muslims in their businesses. They clamor to take down atheist billboards and actually fight to prevent Islamic mosques from being opened, even in remote rural areas with no one else around. They’re the ones that howl in protest when any other religion aside from Christianity gets to deliver an invocation or inaugural prayer. They vote down anyone who is not Cristian from getting into public office. Even Gingrich himself has said he would not allow anyone who is non-religious to even serve in government, and you know he would shut out most non-Christians in the same way.

And the Christian claim to persecution? Despite being the dominant religion with their beliefs almost everywhere, including on the currency, in prayers before public sessions, in the Pledge of Allegiance and nearly all other public oaths, etc. etc.–the persecution against them is horrific because they don’t get to slather their religion in every last nook and cranny of society. Not because they’re actually being shut out, but because they are not allowed to dominate everywhere.

These people do not desire religious freedom for anyone but themselves. What they desire would be more accurately described as “religious primacy.” I have said before that they do not recognize the fact that the policy of separation of church and state is to protect religious freedom, but more and more I realize that they recognize this, and oppose the wall of separation precisely because it prevents them from asserting religious control over the country.

Precisely what the founders feared, and precisely the reason many of the original colonists came to America in the first place:

The very Pilgrims who came across on the Mayflower, the ones celebrated by Christians in America to this day (with a public national holiday, no less), came seeking relief and respite from religious laws in England, such as the Act of Uniformity which required everyone in the country to attend government-mandated prayers–this the result of the marriage of church and state. The exact same type of marriage that Santorum and others protest is their God-given right.

I would wager that these self-same evangelicals celebrate the Pilgrims as symbols of their own “persecution,” whilst campaigning to create the same religious authority that caused the Pilgrims to flee in the first place.

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