The Cinch Review

Chaput is right

And, in an important sense, Bush was wrong (as is Obama today), in not insisting on this as a premise in both Afghanistan and Iraq. At Georgetown University today the Archbishop of Denver, Charles J. Chaput, gave a speech which included the following:

The global situation is made worse by the inaction of our own national leadership in promoting to the world one of America’s greatest qualities: religious freedom.

This is regrettable because we urgently need an honest discussion on the relationship between Islam and the assumptions of the modern democratic state. In diplomacy and in interreligious dialogue we need to encourage an Islamic public theology that is both faithful to Muslim traditions and also open to liberal norms. Shari’a law is not a solution. Christians living under shari’a uniformly experience it as offensive, discriminatory and a grave violation of their human dignity.

A healthy distinction between the sacred and the secular, between religious law and civil law, is foundational to free societies. Christians, and especially Catholics, have learned the hard way that the marriage of Church and state rarely works. For one thing, religion usually ends up the loser, an ornament or house chaplain for Caesar. For another, all theocracies are utopian – and every utopia ends up persecuting or murdering the dissenters who can’t or won’t pay allegiance to its claims of universal bliss.

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We need to insist that religious freedom – a person’s right to freely worship, preach, teach and practice what he or she believes, including the right to freely change or end one’s religious beliefs under the protection of the law – is a foundation stone of human dignity. No one, whether acting in the name of God or in the name of some political agenda or ideology, has the authority to interfere with that basic human right.