Almost all adult Americans are aware that the term "religious liberty" has taken on various political meanings. To some it means the freedom to protect LGBT people from discrimination. To others it means the freedom to discriminate against such people based on religious belief.
And that's far from the only issue in which a similar kind of division can be found. Actually, divisions, plural. The range of positions on any matter touching on freedom of religion can be wide. So thinking in black-white, binary terms is often misleading.
What we can say with some certainty is that several important religious freedom issues will be in the news in 2017 as the Trump-Pence administration replaces the Obama-Biden team.
The courts, where many of these matters ultimately may be decided, are going to be busy.
As this Atlantic piece about all of this notes, "Every issue will come saddled with this fundamental conflict: Some groups’ claims to religious liberty may necessarily involve curtailing the rights of others." That's a pretty sweeping zero-sum-game statement, and I think it may not apply to "every issue," as the piece asserts. But something like that will be present in many cases.
The article also notes this: "No matter what happens, it seems clear that the conflict over religious liberty and discrimination will be the basis of some of the biggest fights and policy shifts over the next two years. What’s also clear is that religious liberty will not just be an issue for the white, conservative Christians who voted Trump into office."
The points of contention will be many, including those having to do with the possibility of a Muslim registry (a terrible and, ultimately, unconstitutional idea, if you ask me), with who will serve on the Supreme Court (now that Republicans have rejected President Obama's nominee to replace Antonin Scalia on purely partisan grounds, meaning that the way we pick justices from now on will be different and highly political), with abortion rights, with so-called bathroom laws about transgender people and more.
These culture-war issues will continue to divide the electorate in part because many of the American people seem to have lost the ability to see any reasonable points in the arguments of people with whom they disagree. Political compromise, once the engine that drove the nation forward, now is seen by many as a toxic cave-in of principles.
I don't yet know where the leaders will come from to lead us out of this terrible situation, but my hope is that some of those leaders will come from faith communities that know how to be comfortable with paradox, with ambiguity, with mystery and, above all, with humility. Otherwise the only game in town may degenerate into repetitive arguments of yes-no, yes-no.
The only other option is to silence the opposition. And you have not convinced people just because you have silenced them.
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CHINA, A BULLY, STILL WORRIED ABOUT LITTLE TIBET
Tibet's Communist Party leader, criticizing the Dalai Lama, says China's control of religion in Tibet will get only stronger. Notice how such threats and bombast have, since he fled the country in 1959, convinced the Dalai Lama to quit seeking autonomy for his beloved Tibet. Not at all. Is there a better example of meeting force and power with truth and consistency?