Religious Liberty vs. Civil Rights?


[Note: The following is a reprint of the weekend edition of the Braver Angels Newsletter, originally published May 9, 2021. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.]

First of all, Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mothers in your life!

Our family is taking the kids to see their grandmother today. So many grandmothers have not been able to see their children and grandchildren in recent months except on the other side of a screen. But personal contact is becoming a safer part of life again. That is a wonderful thing.

A brief message today, and an invitation to you to join this week’s Braver Angels Community Debate on a fascinating and critical topic: religious liberty and civil rights.

The resolution to discuss? “Resolved: Non-discrimination laws should take precedence over religious liberty.”

Liberty is a value deeply etched in the American soul. With respect to religion, the freedom to worship and practice as we choose is an innovation of American democracy that has been central to defining our nation since its very beginning.

The same First Amendment that protects our right to worship also protects each of us from being compelled to worship, to adhere to a religion we have not chosen, or to have religious strictures dictate the application of secular law. In this sense, freedom from religion is as much an American liberty as is freedom of religion, and is a part of the edifice of our commitment to civil rights.

But civil rights and religious freedom sometimes find themselves in tension.

Many will argue that the government needs to step into our lives to protect vulnerable communities from places of employment where powerful interests advance discrimination in the name of religious freedom.

What does this issue look like to you? Like most important issues, there are (at least) two sides to this story. If we can come to understand one another’s perspectives and experiences more clearly, however, we may be able to unearth common ground. If not, we will understand our differences more clearly and this will make us stronger advocates for the things that we believe.

This is why I would love for you to join this week’s Braver Angels Debate, Thursday, May 13th 8pm EST, and make your voice heard. Can you join us over Zoom? Register now:

Non-Discrimination Laws and Religious Liberty – A Braver Angels Debate

Incidentally, desire to maximize freedom for all Americans, religious and non-religious alike, through a marketplace unbiased by preferential government policies and a state that does not extend its controls beyond its obligation to protect the freedoms of Americans has been a vital inspiration for America’s libertarian movement.

Nick Gillespie, editor-at-large of Reason Magazine, is one of the leading lights of American libertarianism. I welcomed him to the Braver Angels Podcast live in studio recently for a special conversation on the libertarian movement in America. If these sorts of issues are important to you you’ll enjoy the conversation.

Nick is an interesting guy and we’re happy to have him as a friend of Braver Angels:

Libertarianism in America | Nick Gillespie with John Wood, Jr.

“How do we make it easier for people to innovate in free speech spaces?…That’s the only way forward. Once you get the government involved, saying this is good or bad speech, this is how you have to run your business, nothing gets better.” -Nick Gillespie

Braver Angels Debates are not about humiliating our opponents. To the contrary, they are about sharing our experiences as well as our arguments, opening a window into who we are as people and laying bare why we believe what we believe while at the same time being willing to be honest about the doubts we hold as well.

Humility is a part of our culture at Braver Angels. Truth be told, humility is an important part of debate, at least where trust and honesty are part of the goal. We strive to open the door for Americans of all experiences to show up as who they are so that we may move the needle towards truth together. It is an experience like few others in the bond-breaking melee of modern American politics.

Join us! And thank you for being a part of the ongoing story of Braver Angels.

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