"God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are a gift of God?"
There are faiths in the United States of America that support traditional marriage (see PDF below). It is then the duty of all faiths to rally to that cause, in the true spirit of American religious freedom.
Religious Freedom (in its most basic form)
It was conceived in a patriot's mind
And forged 'mid raucous debate
That I need not bow down to his God,
Nor he say prayers to mine.
Virginia 14 year-old
BY MOLLIE ZIEGLER HEMINGWAY
Robert Ingersoll and his partner, Curt Freed, were longtime customers of Barronelle Stutzman, a florist in Richland, Wash. After voters in the state approved same-sex marriage in December 2012, Messrs. Ingersoll and Freed decided to tie the knot, and called their florist. "There was never a question she'd be the one to do our flowers," Mr. Ingersoll told the Tri-City Herald. But Ms. Stutzman declined, citing her Christian beliefs about marriage.
"You have to make a stand somewhere in your life on what you believe and what you don't believe," Ms. Stutzman told Christian Broadcasting Network. For acting on her religious beliefs, Ms. Stutzman has been sued twice: once by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and once by the American Civil Liberties Union.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. Voters were assured that legalizing gay marriage wouldn't undermine religious freedom—after all, the public was assured that religious institutions would be free to act as they always had. But what about religious individuals? The effects of this new legal regime on private citizens have largely been ignored.
When the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in June, President Obama said: "How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions. Nothing about this decision—which applies only to civil marriages—changes that."
That line was echoed by the media, with a typical comment coming from the Los Angeles Times editorial page: "Government entities in California must now recognize and extend equal rights to same-sex marriages, but that requirement does not extend to religions, their houses of worship or their ministers."
Reassuring words like those may help explain why many Americans support legal recognition for same-sex marriage even though the practice is contrary to their own religious beliefs. Some 97.6% of religious adherents in the U.S.—more than half the population—belong to religious bodies that affirm the traditional definition of marriage, according to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
For those Americans, tolerance isn't turning out to be a two-way street. A couple that owns a bakery in Gresham, Ore., closed its shop earlier this month after the state launched an investigation into their religious objections to catering same-sex union celebrations.
The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in August that Elane Photography violated the state's Human Rights Act by declining to photograph a lesbian commitment ceremony because doing so would present a religious conflict. A judge upholding a $6,637 fine against the small business owned by a Christian couple said being "compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives" was "the price of citizenship."
Members of the clergy who object to performing same-sex marriages are generally protected from such legal harassment—a fact that advocates for gay marriage emphasized to give the public confidence that religious beliefs would not be trampled by legalization. In 2008, the California Supreme Court suggested that religious freedom would be unaffected by same-sex marriage because "no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs."
But the protection of the beliefs held by church officials and congregations is guaranteed by the First Amendment and a host of legal precedents. What's at stake is personal religious liberty. "Individuals really haven't gotten much protection at all," says Robin Fretwell Wilson, a professor of the University of Illinois College of Law who lobbies legislatures to protect individual religious liberty when revising marriage laws.
It's not just religious-minded business owners who need to worry. County recorders, magistrates and judges in Iowa as well as justices of the peace in Massachusetts and town clerks in New York have been told that refusing to perform services for same-sex couples will result in criminal prosecutions for misdemeanors or other sanctions. Faced with choosing between their jobs and their religious beliefs, many have resigned, including a dozen Massachusetts justices of the peace.
"Wherever government is giving you access to something, licensing the power to perform certain acts, government can abuse that position to promote a particular point of view," says Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
Long before the lawsuits, fines and penalties started piling up, many legal scholars recognized that gay rights and individual religious liberty were on a collision course. In 2006, Chai Feldblum, a legal scholar and gay-rights activist later appointed by President Obama to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, acknowledged the conflict: "There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that's the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner."
It is only now becoming clear to many Americans what sort of compromise has been imposed on them.
Ms. Hemingway is a writer in Virginia.
A version of this article appeared September 19, 2013, on page A13 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Gay Marriage Collides With Religious Liberty.
By Alistair MacDonald
The French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec on Tuesday announced plans for wide-ranging legislation aimed at keeping religion and religious clothing out of the workplace, a move that has ignited a fierce debate about religious freedom and discrimination.
The measures, if passed, would ban public employees from wearing visible religious symbols, from turbans to skullcaps, and would allow small businesses the right to push back on religious demands, such as prayer time. While aping laws in France, the policies in the so-called Charter of Values are being seen by critics as part of the long-term campaign by the separatist minority government of Quebec to secede from Canada. Critics argue the laws are an attack on freedom of worship and multiculturalism, with religious groups, such as Muslims and Jews, saying they are being singled out for their style of worship.
The minority Parti Quebecois government says the laws treat everybody equally by ending special treatment for the religious at work. They are also aimed at enforcing secularism in government and discouraging clothing such as the burqa, which the Parti Quebecois says discriminates against women.
"We want rights and values that will be the source of harmony and cohesion," said Bernard Drainville, the Quebec provincial government's minister for democratic institutions and active citizenship. "That will apply to all Quebecers, regardless of our faith and religion."
France passed a ban on wearing religious symbols in schools in 2004 and effectively banned burqas in public via a 2010 law.
Legal experts and political rivals say the law may struggle to get off the ground in Canada. The PQ will need the support of another party to get the bill through provincial parliament. Jason Kenney, a federal government minister, said he was "very concerned" by the proposed legislation and said the federal government will challenge any law in courts if they deem it unconstitutional. Lawyers say the law may infringe constitutional rights on freedom of religion and expression.
Political analysts say they believe the Parti Quebecois will relish these challenges, allowing them to argue that Quebec's identity and future can only be safeguarded outside of Canada.
According to an opinion poll taken by researchers Leger, 57% of Quebecers think the charter is a good idea, while 28% believe it a bad one. The province has a postwar history of fighting against religious interference in state activities. In the 1960s, the so-called Quiet Revolution saw Quebecers loosen the grip of a Catholic Church that had dominated education and health care in the province. The process has left Quebec with some of the lowest church attendance rates in Canada.
The proposed charter has come under fire from public-sector unions.
"If you want to wear a cross on your neck, that's your business," said Yves Parenteau, an official at teachers union, Alliance des Professeures et Professeurs de Montreal. "Just as long as you don't talk about the crucifixion in class."
In an increasingly diverse province, many religious groups have also come out against the measures.
"This is painful, it's an encroachment on freedoms that are guaranteed constitutionally," said Salam Elmenyawi, the president of the Muslim Council of Montreal.
Mr. Elmenyawi and others say the charter is an attack on multiculturalism, in which different cultures are encouraged. Pauline Marois, Quebec's premier, stoked this view when she told one local paper that multiculturalism in the U.K. had fed homegrown terrorism and social unrest. The bill's critics say it lets off many Christian traditions, allowing, for instance, Christmas trees in public spaces.
Mr. Drainville said the measures were, in part, aimed at promoting Quebec's cultural heritage. "We are all Quebecers, regardless of our origins," he said.
Write to Alistair MacDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org
The commentary below was taken with permission, from the Newsroom website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/relevance-religion).
COMMENTARY — 25 JULY 2013The Relevance of Religion
SALT LAKE CITY — “Over the long haul, religious faith has proven itself the most powerful and enduring force in human history.” R. R. Reno
Resilience amid Change
How relevant is religion? It’s a question each new generation asks itself. As times change, new circumstances present new challenges and possibilities. And yet, through it all, this immemorial longing we call religion continues on.
In the 1960s, sociologists came to a consensus that religion was fading. As knowledge and freedom increased, they theorized, so modern society would outgrow religion. Thirty years later, however, that hypothesis was reversed. One of these sociologists, Peter Berger, explained the miscalculation this way: “Religion has not been declining. On the contrary, in much of the world there has been a veritable explosion of religious faith.” He concluded that just because the world is becoming more modern doesn’t necessarily mean it is becoming less religious. Religion, it can be said, is just as relevant now as it has ever been.
The value of religion speaks less through sermons and more through the soup kitchens, hospitals, schools and countless other humanitarian works it nurtures. Simply put, religion builds social capital. Research shows that more than 90 percent of those who attend weekly worship services donate to charity, and nearly 70 percent volunteer for charitable causes. Such giving also benefits the giver. According to the landmark study American Grace, “the correlation between religiosity and life satisfaction is powerful and robust.”
Religiosity, however, does not remain static. It might surge in one part of the world and decline in another. In America, for example, religion is in a state of flux. The number of those who claim no religious affiliation nearly doubled from 8.2 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2008. Now that number has crept to nearly 20 percent. And among those under 30 years old, disaffiliation jumps to 32 percent.
In many ways religion finds itself on the margins of society, where one’s beliefs and values may be expressed privately but are often dismissed publicly. Conflicts sometimes arise when religious organizations or individuals share their views of right and wrong in the public sphere. Tension can be seen, for example, in rules banning religious clubs from college campuses or in regulations curbing the conscience of health care practitioners. Public figures and regular citizens often hesitate to articulate their religious values to avoid controversy.
This separation of religion from public life is a feature of what is often called secularism. Philosopher Charles Taylor describes the current environment as a shift “from a society in which it was virtually impossible not to believe in God, to one in which faith, even for the staunchest believer, is one human possibility among others.” Meanwhile, the broader questions of religion get lost in narrow cultural divisions. What does religion mean in the actual lives of people? What role does religion play in forming communities? And how do religious beliefs address life’s most difficult problems? Such matters cannot be reduced to mere politics; they are perennial concerns, deeply interwoven in humanity’s rich fabric.
The Good of Religion
Human beings are religious by nature. They seek a higher purpose outside themselves. Whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or other, religion offers a framework by which people find meaning, belonging and identity. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has written, religion gives us “a feeling of participating in something vast and consequential.” And this feeling tends to flow into civic interactions. American Grace found that religious observance is linked to higher civic involvement, connected to trust and correlated with the neighborly virtues of charitable giving, volunteerism and altruism. Churches of all kinds bring communities together and provide a space and setting for individuals to serve people they otherwise would not. According to Rabbi Sacks, religion “remains the most powerful community builder the world has known.”
Religion and the search for transcendence are integral to the human experience. Though they take many forms, religious beliefs help us make sense of life’s mysteries and provide answers to deep philosophical challenges. Professor Brian Leiter, who normally disagrees with privileging religion in public life, concedes that faiths “render intelligible and tolerable the basic existential facts about human life, such as suffering and death.”
Religion and secularism, though, do not always have to be at odds. Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive. Each can benefit from the other. The encounter between the two can be a productive tension that provides opportunities to learn, not contradictions to avoid. Mormons, for example, believe that "the glory of God is intelligence." People of faith reject the notion that religious faith and practice are devoid of rational thought. Science can explain much of the human experience, but without faith we lack ultimate meaning.
Modernity in Fragments
With its teeming plurality of choices and possibilities, our modern world presents unique challenges to religion. Endless philosophies, ideologies and truth claims clamor for attention, magnified by instantaneous media. Globalization pushes peoples and cultures together. Different religions and worldviews interact and collide. Personal preferences alone become a guide in dealing with moral dilemmas. In this flux individuals can feel isolated and become disconnected from their communities.
Modernity, therefore, is not just one thing; it is a commotion of many things. But it can tend toward fragmentation. In this competition of choices, according to Charles Taylor, living a religious life can be “an embattled option,” making it “hard to sustain one’s faith.” In such an atmosphere, he continues, many will “feel bound to give [their faith] up, even though they mourn its loss.” In much the same spirit, novelist Marilynne Robinson laments how the religious self is often reduced to “a sort of cultural residue needing to be swept away.”
Even so, during the millennia of human existence nothing has been able to replace religion. Skeptics have misread and underestimated the religious impulse in the human spirit. It is part of who we are, and it won’t go away. Secular thinker Terry Eagleton describes the situation over the past century this way: “Culture made a bid for power, a bid as it were to oust God, to oust theology and religion. … But it didn’t work.”
Religion’s Place in the Whole
People of faith have cause to believe not only in the good of their own religion but also in the good of religion in general. The conclusion of William James is fitting: “The highest flights of charity, devotion, trust, patience, bravery to which the wings of human nature have spread themselves, have been flown for religious ideals.” Religion can also be a powerful source of ethical reflection and orientation toward the moral.
The roots of religion are so deeply planted in the values of society that to pull them up would unsettle the whole. Virtually all of us, believers or not, practice values laden with religious meaning. Our modern aspirations toward human rights and humanitarian aid, for example, have long religious pedigrees. Religion’s reservoir of moral ideas spills over for everyone to drink. Reflecting on what they called “the lessons of history,” scholars Will and Ariel Durant asserted, “There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.”
All societies have some moral basis, whether derived from religion, philosophy, custom or any number of sources. Religious values should not be dismissed from the public square any more than the vast array of other positive values. Prominent thinker on religion and society Jurgen Habermas wrote that among the modern societies of today, “only those that are able to introduce into the secular domain the essential contents of their religious traditions which point beyond the merely human realm will also be able to rescue the substance of the human.”
Religion is worth upholding and honoring in our society. It has both tremendous capacity andresponsibility to lift individuals, support communities and uphold the dignity of all God’s children. Faith and society, therefore, are intertwined in important ways. As Christian Pastor Rick Warren has affirmed, “A truly free society protects all faiths, and true faith protects a free society.” With mutual respect and civility we can all live, even flourish, with our deepest differences. As long as we continue to seek meaning, purpose and community, religion will remain not only relevant but an essential part of what it means to be human.
 R. R. Reno, “Religion and Public Life in America,” Imprimis, Apr. 2013.
 Peter Berger, “Secularization Falsified,” First Things, Feb. 2008.
 Arthur C. Brooks, “Religious Faith and Charitable Giving,” Policy Review, Oct. 2003. Similar statistics are found in the “Faith Matters Survey 2006,” as cited in American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.
 Robert A. Putnam and David E. Campbell, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us(New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010), 491.
 Barry A. Kosmin, Ariela Keysar, “American Religious Identification Survey,” 2008, 3.
 Cary Funk, Greg Smith, Pew Research Center, “’Nones’ on the Rise: One in Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation,” Oct. 9, 2012. It is worth noting here that though religious unaffiliation is not the same as irreligion — two-thirds of the people in this group say they still believe in God — it does indicate a diminished confidence in churches and religious institutions.
 Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2007), 3.
 Jonathan Sacks, The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning (New York: Schocken Books, 2011), 101.
 Robert A. Putnam and David E. Campbell, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us(New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010).
 Jonathan Sacks, “The Moral Animal,” New York Times, Dec. 23, 2012.
 Brian Leiter, Why Tolerate Religion? (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2012), 52.
 Doctrine & Covenants 93:36
 Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2007), 3.
 Marilynne Robinson, Absence of Mind (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2011).
 Terry Eagleton, Intelligence Squared, “Terry Eagleton in Conversation with Roger Scruton,” Sept. 13, 2012.
 William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: The Modern Library, 1902), 254.
 Will and Ariel Durant, The Lessons of History (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 51.
 Jurgen Habermas, et al, An Awareness of What Is Missing: Faith and Reason in a Post-Secular Age (Malden, Massachusetts: Polity Press, 2010), 5.
 Rick Warren, “A truly free society protects all faiths, and true faith protects a free society.” (#NationalDayofPrayer), May 2, 2013, 8:05 p.m. Tweet.
By PHILIP RYKEN AND JOHN GARVEY
American Evangelicals and Catholics have not always been the best of friends. But in recent years, many in both camps have moved from suspicion to mutual understanding and appreciation.
Charles Colson, the evangelical founder of Prison Fellowship, began one such effort with Richard John Neuhaus, the Catholic editor of First Things, 20 years ago. The fruit of their labor was a document titled "Evangelicals and Catholics Together."
That statement shows that alongside our theological differences, we hold important beliefs in common. For example, the statement says, "we contend together for religious freedom. . . . In their relationship to God, persons have a dignity and responsibility that transcends, and thereby limits, the authority of the state and of every other merely human institution." Recent efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services to implement the Affordable Care Act have brought us together to defend that freedom.
On Wednesday, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the trustees of Wheaton College joined The Catholic University of America in filing a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services. They did so because the HHS mandate requiring the college to provide and subsidize insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs violates the conscience of the school and its members, and denies their First Amendment freedom of religion.
When Catholic University began its own legal action on May 21, it asserted a moral and a constitutional right to practice its religion without government interference. Defending liberty is also deeply rooted in Wheaton's identity as a Christian liberal arts college, founded by abolitionists on the Illinois prairie at the outset of the Civil War.
Wheaton's first president, Jonathan Blanchard, believed that slavery was something more than an "ordinary political problem." He felt a religious imperative to act in defense of freedom. "A command against my conscience," he said, "I would not obey."
Our institutions do not agree on all points about HHS's mandated services. The regulations require religious institutions (except churches) to guarantee coverage for all government-approved contraceptives. Wheaton College does not, as Catholics do, view all forms of artificial contraception as immoral.
But the list of required services includes "morning after" and "week after" pills that claim the life of an unborn child within days of its conception. During the period for public comment, Wheaton and many other evangelical colleges and universities objected that this requirement violated their belief in the sanctity of human life.
We must cherish life, not destroy it. This belief is shared by both campus communities. The Catholic Church's unqualified defense of the unborn is too well known to need restatement. Wheaton's commitment is equally firm.
As a systemically Christian college, all of Wheaton's students, faculty and staff undertake to live a distinctive lifestyle. In its Community Covenant, the college affirms "the God-given worth of human beings, from conception to death." Because abortion destroys innocent human life, the college regards the HHS mandate as contrary to its deepest convictions.
Many Americans disagree with our shared belief in the immorality of abortion. That is their right. But there should be no dispute about a second point we hold in common: Religious schools like Wheaton College and Catholic University should have the freedom—guaranteed by the United States Constitution—to carry out our mission in a way that is consistent with our religious principles.
"If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation," Justice Robert Jackson wrote in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943), "it is that no official . . . can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein." It is not just churches that have these religious rights, but all Americans who gather in voluntary association for distinctively religious purposes, such as Christian education.
The danger in ignoring Justice Jackson's principle is not limited to institutions like Wheaton College and Catholic University. The real danger is to our republic. As Colson and Neuhaus observed in "Evangelicals and Catholics Together": "[T]his constitutional order is composed not just of rules and procedures but is most essentially a moral experiment. . . . [W]e hold that only a virtuous people can be free and just, and that virtue is secured by religion. To propose that securing civil virtue is the purpose of religion is blasphemous. To deny that securing civil virtue is a benefit of religion is blindness."
A government that fails to heed the cries of its religious institutions undermines the supports of civil virtue and puts in jeopardy our constitutional order.
Messrs. Ryken and Garvey are the presidents, respectively, of Wheaton College and The Catholic University of America.
By MICHAEL I. MEYERSON Americans of all political stripes invoked the Declaration of Independence this Fourth of July week. Some read the document and found, as Harvard Prof. Alan Dershowitz has, that it "rejected Christianity, along with other organized religions, as a basis for governance." Others saw the same language proving the opposite, that our nation was founded on "Judeo- Christian values." Such definitive statements do not tell the full story. The American Framers, in their desire to unite a nation, were theologically bilingual—not only in the Declaration of Independence but beyond.
That document was the work of many hands. As is well known, the first draft was written by Thomas Jefferson. That version began with a religious reference that largely remained in the final version, stating that the United States were assuming the independent status, "to which the laws of nature and of nature's god entitle them."
The phrase "Nature's God" is not a product of traditional religious denominations, but is generally associated with 18th-century Deism. That philosophy centered on what has been called "natural theology," a belief that while a "Creator" started the universe and established the laws of nature, the modern world saw no divine intervention or miracles.
The most famous religious phrase in the Declaration—that people are "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights"—was not included in Jefferson's original draft. He had written that people derive inherent rights form their "equal Creation." The iconic language was added by a small committee, including Benjamin Franklin and John Adams.
"Creator" was a theologically ambiguous word. Most Deists used it, but it was also commonly spoken by the most orthodox religions of the day. Timothy Dwight, a Congregational minister who served as president of Yale College from 1795-1817, delivered a sermon stating that the Bible contained "as full a proof, that Christ is the Creator, as that . . . the Creator is God."
Often overlooked in discussing the Declaration of Independence are two more religious references, both added to its closing paragraph by other delegates in the Continental Congress. The delegates described themselves as "appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions," and they affirmed their "firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence."
These phrases were widely regarded as being far more traditionally religious than the earlier language. Ashbel Green, a Presbyterian minister and Jefferson critic who served as chaplain of the House of Representatives in the 1790s, cited these sections to assert that had they not been added, Jefferson would have permitted the American call for independence to be "made without any recognition of the superintending and all disposing providence of God."
But even after the congressional editing, the language of the Declaration wasn't limited to a particular faith. Deliberately designed to be as inclusive as possible, it was a quintessentially American achievement—specific enough to be embraceable by those with orthodox religious views but broad enough to permit each American to feel fully included and equally respected.
George Washington maintained this adroit balance when he became president. In his first inaugural address, written with the assistance of James Madison, Washington declared that it would be "peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe."
Even Jefferson and Madison, often described as believing in a total separation of religion and government, continued the practice of using inclusive religious language. Jefferson urged in his first inaugural, "May that infinite power, which rules the destinies of the universe, lead our councils to what is best," while Madison stated that, "my confidence will under every difficulty be best placed . . . in the guardianship and guidance of that Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of nations."
The Framers didn't see such nondenominational language as divisive. They believed it was possible—in fact desirable—to have a public expression of religion that is devout, as long as it recognizes and affirms the variety of belief systems that exist in our pluralistic nation.
Mr. Meyerson, a professor of law at the University of Baltimore School of Law, is author of "Endowed by Our Creator: The Birth of Religious Freedom in America," recently published by Yale University Press.
By DAVID GELERNTER Presidential elections are America's season for serious chats around the national dinner table. The sick economy, health care and the scope of government are the main issues. But another is even more important. Who are we? What is the United States? Recently Gov. Mitt Romney urged us to return to "the principles that made America, America." But too many of us don't know what those are, or think they can't work.
Yes, Americanism evolves, and by all means let's change our minds when we ought to. We should always be marching toward the American ideals of freedom, equality and democracy, as we did when we ended slavery, granted women the right to vote, and finally buried Jim Crow. But if we forget our basic ideals or shrug them off, as we are doing today, we no longer deserve to be great. Without our history and culture, we have no identity.
Almost no one believes that our public schools are doing a passable job of teaching American and Western civilization. Modern humanities education starts from the bizarre premise that students must be cured of the Europe-centered, misogynist, bigoted ideas of the past. Many American children have never heard a good word for the United States, the West, Judaism or Christianity their whole lives.
Who are we? Dawdling time is over. We have failed a whole generation of children. As of fall 2012, let all public schools be charter schools, competing for each tax dollar and student with every other school in the country. Of course this is a local issue—but a president's or would-be president's job is to lead. There are wonderful teachers, principals and schools out there, and a new public-school system based on the American ideal of achievement will know how to value them.
No principle is more American than equality. Every generation has strained closer to the ideal. We have seen the near eradication of race prejudice in a mere two generations—an astounding achievement. We are a nation of equal citizens, not of races or privileged cliques. Affirmative action has always been a misfit in this country. A system that elevates individuals because of the color of their skin, their race or their sex has no place in America.
Yet a boy born yesterday is destined to atone (if he happens to be the wrong color) for prejudice against black women 50 years ago. Modern America is a world where a future Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor, can say publicly in 2001, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [on the bench] than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
Once a justice has intuited, by dint of sheer racial brilliance, which party to a lawsuit is more simpatico and deserving, what then? Invite him to lunch? Friend him on Facebook? This is not justice as America knows it.
Next Independence Day let's celebrate the long-overdue end of affirmative action, and our triumphant return to the American ideal of equality.
Modern American culture is in the hands of intellectuals—unfortunates born with high IQ and low common sense. Witness ObamaCare, a health-care policy, now somehow deemed constitutional, that forces millions of Americans to buy something they don't want.
Bilingualism was the intellectuals' response to one of the best breaks America ever got, a common language to unite its uncommon people. Resolved: The federal government will henceforth conduct its business and publish its statements in English, period. There is plenty of room in this country for new immigrants of all races and religions who want to learn America's culture and be part of this people; none for those who dislike all things American except dollars. Resolved: The federal government will henceforth enforce its own immigration laws.
America's creed is blessedly simple. Freedom, equality, democracy and America as the promised land, the new Jerusalem. What Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he invoked "the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life."
President Obama rejects this creed. He doesn't buy the city-on-a-hill stuff. He sees particular nations as a blur; only the global community is big enough for him. He is at home on the exalted level of whole races and peoples and the vast, paternal power of central governments.
The president has revealed no sense of America's mission to move constantly forward "with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right." Lincoln's sublime biblical English uses the parallel stanzas of ancient Hebrew poetry. That is who we are: a biblical republic, striving to live up to its creed. The dominion of ignorance will pass away like smoke and we will know and be ourselves again the moment we choose to be. Why not now?
Mr. Gelernter, a professor of computer science at Yale, is the author of "America-Lite," out on July 4 by Encounter Books.
A version of this article appeared July 2, 2012, on page A11 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: What Is the American Creed?.
By TIMOTHY M. DOLAN
Religious freedom is the lifeblood of the American people, the cornerstone of American government. When the Founding Fathers determined that the innate rights of men and women should be enshrined in our Constitution, they so esteemed religious liberty that they made it the first freedom in the Bill of Rights.
In particular, the Founding Fathers fiercely defended the right of conscience. George Washington himself declared: "The conscientious scruples of all men should be treated with great delicacy and tenderness; and it is my wish and desire, that the laws may always be extensively accommodated to them." James Madison, a key defender of religious freedom and author of the First Amendment, said: "Conscience is the most sacred of all property."
Scarcely two weeks ago, in its Hosanna-Tabor decision upholding the right of churches to make ministerial hiring decisions, the Supreme Court unanimously and enthusiastically reaffirmed these longstanding and foundational principles of religious freedom. The court made clear that they include the right of religious institutions to control their internal affairs.
Yet the Obama administration has veered in the opposite direction. It has refused to exempt religious institutions that serve the common good—including Catholic schools, charities and hospitals—from its sweeping new health-care mandate that requires employers to purchase contraception, including abortion-producing drugs, and sterilization coverage for their employees.
Last August, when the administration first proposed this nationwide mandate for contraception and sterilization coverage, it also proposed a "religious employer" exemption. But this was so narrow that it would apply only to religious organizations engaged primarily in serving people of the same religion. As Catholic Charities USA's president, the Rev. Larry Snyder, notes, even Jesus and His disciples would not qualify for the exemption in that case, because they were committed to serve those of other faiths.
Since then, hundreds of religious institutions, and hundreds of thousands of individual citizens, have raised their voices in principled opposition to this requirement that religious institutions and individuals violate their own basic moral teaching in their health plans. Certainly many of these good people and groups were Catholic, but many were Americans of other faiths, or no faith at all, who recognize that their beliefs could be next on the block. They also recognize that the cleverest way for the government to erode the broader principle of religious freedom is to target unpopular beliefs first.
Now we have learned that those loud and strong appeals were ignored. On Friday, the administration reaffirmed the mandate, and offered only a one-year delay in enforcement in some cases—as if we might suddenly be more willing to violate our consciences 12 months from now. As a result, all but a few employers will be forced to purchase coverage for contraception, abortion drugs and sterilization services even when they seriously object to them. All who share the cost of health plans that include such services will be forced to pay for them as well. Surely it violates freedom of religion to force religious ministries and citizens to buy health coverage to which they object as a matter of conscience and religious principle.
The rule forces insurance companies to provide these services without a co-pay, suggesting they are "free"—but it is naïve to believe that. There is no free lunch, and you can be sure there's no free abortion, sterilization or contraception. There will be a source of funding: you.
Coercing religious ministries and citizens to pay directly for actions that violate their teaching is an unprecedented incursion into freedom of conscience. Organizations fear that this unjust rule will force them to take one horn or the other of an unacceptable dilemma: Stop serving people of all faiths in their ministries—so that they will fall under the narrow exemption—or stop providing health-care coverage to their own employees.
The Catholic Church defends religious liberty, including freedom of conscience, for everyone. The Amish do not carry health insurance. The government respects their principles. Christian Scientists want to heal by prayer alone, and the new health-care reform law respects that. Quakers and others object to killing even in wartime, and the government respects that principle for conscientious objectors. By its decision, the Obama administration has failed to show the same respect for the consciences of Catholics and others who object to treating pregnancy as a disease.
This latest erosion of our first freedom should make all Americans pause. When the government tampers with a freedom so fundamental to the life of our nation, one shudders to think what lies ahead.
Timothy Dolan is archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Chris Stevenson investigates the indispensability of faith to the American experiment in self-governance.