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March/April 2006

Discover more articles from this issue.

Freedom in the Old Testament

There is a widespread notion that the Bible, and especially the Old Testament, is and has historically been a force working against the freedom of man....

Robert’s Rules

Has order been restored to the Supreme Court with the appointment of legal wunderkind John Roberts, and Samuel Alito an associate justice? After talk of the Nuclear Option, his easy confirmation seemed like the end of the cold war. The relatively collegia

Quiet Case May Have Far-Reaching Impact

Missing were the shouting protestors with placards, the miniature Ten Commandments tablets, and the throng of media representatives. It was almost business as usual the day the Supreme Court heard the term's sole religious liberty case. Unlike the Ten Com

Jews and the Christian Right

It has been one of the stranger political alliances in American history: the conservative evangelicals of the Christian Right and America's Jews, two...

Freedom and Tolerance

Does religion promote freedom and tolerance? It is a question that might be asked by any observer of the rioting that has followed publication of cartoons in Denmark that offend Muslims worldwide.

All in the Family

Behind closed doors at a Religious Right strategy session in Washington, D.C., last spring, James Dobson sounded more like a hardball political operator than a Christian family counselor. Impatient with President George W. Bush and Republican congressiona

A Populist Religious Movement

Stories of religious disestablishment in America usually revolve around discussion of the origins and meaning of the establishment clause of the federal Constitution. But the story of disestablishment, at least in the early Republic, was much more a state

Toward a Medieval Model

Amid all the activity of a turbulent year, many missed the March 3, 2005, filing of the Constitution Restoration Act of 2005 (CRA) in both houses of Congress (S. 520 and H.R. 1070). If enacted, the CRA would effectively turn the United States into a theoc

What kind of liberty?

It was the "momentous question" that "awakened" and "terrified" Thomas Jefferson, like a "fire bell in the night." Jefferson considered it the "knell of the union." The "question" at issue was ostensibly that of slavery. Jefferson wrote about his nocturna

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Published in the March/April 2006 Magazine
by Lincoln E. Steed


Does religion promote freedom and tolerance? It is a question that might be asked by any observer of the rioting that has followed publication of cartoons in Denmark that offend Muslims worldwide.

It is a question the United States government must be asking itself. After all, a linchpin of the war on terrorism has been the president's determination to advance democratic norms around the world. While the media inundate the public with tales of roadside bombing woe and officialdom sticks to the line that democratic renewal is proceeding apace, few take the time to really look at what is emerging.

Both Afghanistan and Iraq have new constitutions. Both are superficially modeled on the United States Constitution. Both give not only a preeminent position to the majority Muslim faith, but also give the Koran a veto power over civil legislation. And in Iraq in particular, the religious leaders have become the true arbiters of power.

Perhaps it is not coincidental that in Afghanistan the Taliban is on the comeback trail. Perhaps there is a reason that so many of the million or so Iraqi Christians have left the new Iraq.

It seems to me that a basic flaw here is the assumption that the majority will always act in concert with democratic values. The Founders of the United States Constitution did not share that assumption. That was why they muted pure democracy by a principle of representative government, a complicated system of checks and balances, and the overall restraint of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, with its distancing of religion from state power.

I have to believe that most Muslims around the world are embarrassed by the at times violent reaction to the cartoons—even if they share the sense of insult. For most of them, Islam is indeed a religion of peace. I want to believe that, even as I am reminded that with any religion worth committing one's life to there is a sense of privilege over lesser belief systems. And when true adherents are granted a degree of secular power, they do not easily share its benefits equally.

For 100 years this magazine has argued for the necessity of a separation between church and state. Of course individuals can often practice their faith conviction adequately within a system that does not have a bright line divide between church and state. But without a clear separation, the prerogatives of church and state, spiritual allegiance and public duty either conflict or cojoin. And while most of the developing Western clich

Author: Lincoln E. Steed

Lincoln E. Steed is the editor of Liberty magazine, a 200,000 circulation religious liberty journal which is distributed to political leaders, judiciary, lawyers and other thought leaders in North America. He is additionally the host of the weekly 3ABN television show "The Liberty Insider," and the radio program "Lifequest Liberty."

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