Saturday, December 27, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Role of religion shrinking in modern America

By
From page A8 | July 12, 2014 |

Surveying the response to last month’s Hobby Lobby decision, I was struck by a comment from progressive Massachusetts senator and possible Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.

Speaking about the ruling, Warren remarked: “I cannot believe that we live in a world where (we) would even consider letting some big corporation deny the women who work for it access to the basic medical treatments or prescriptions that they need based on vague moral objections.”

I won’t address inaccuracies in the first part of her comment.

Frankly, it’s the latter half that really concerns me, precisely for what it reveals about the deep and growing divide between religious and secular America.

The significance of religion in America has evolved throughout our history, but it has always been regarded with a deep respect across the political spectrum. The reaction from the left to the Hobby Lobby decision indicates that is no longer the case.

In brushing off the religious convictions of the Hobby Lobby owners with such unstinting indifference, Warren describes quite succinctly how many on the secular left view religion today.

In a word: insignificant.

To the senator and those of like minds, faith, it would seem, is not fundamental, defining or life-giving, but vague, casual and intermittent; “more like a hobby,” as Bloomberg columnist Megan McArdle describes it.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her dissent, seemed to agree about religion’s irrelevance in secular democracy, referring to any effect of the administration’s contraceptive coverage requirement on an individual’s free exercise as “incidental.”

For many Americans whose faith informs everything they do and through which they understand their very existence, relegating faith to the marginal role of “activity” or “hobby” isn’t just ignorant, it’s a threat to our democracy.

Anyone who has cracked a textbook on U.S. history is probably aware that our nation owes its beginning to men and women expressly seeking to secure their own religious freedom, often at great risk to themselves.

As such, it was no accident that free exercise of one’s faith (or no faith at all) is the first freedom listed in our nation’s Bill of Rights, preceding freedom of speech, press and assembly.

Freedom of religion was clearly understood by the drafters as fundamental to the success of the experiment in self-government they were about to propose in the Constitution.

Religious practice was also indispensable to the American idea of ordered liberty.

The 19th-century philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville observed that the presence of religion in America made a distinct difference in the nation’s particular version of democracy, “impos(ing) upon each man some obligations toward mankind,” that a society based on a secular understanding of equality could not.

He was right, and this religiously steeped understanding of freedom has motivated some of the greatest liberation movements, from abolition to civil rights, not to mention some of the most robust humanitarian efforts in modern history – all made possible because as a protected freedom, religion in America was allowed to flourish.

Yet, contemporary secular thinkers seem to be quickly forgetting, or wittingly ignoring, religion’s profound influence on American life by insisting that its role in modern society is increasingly marginal. But such insistence does not make it so.

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat writes of “a sense – not universal but widespread – that religious pluralism has broad social benefits, and that the wider society has a practical interest, within reason, in allowing religious communities to pursue moral ends as they see fit.”

His point is an important one. Unlike the right to free contraception of one’s choosing or any other modern entitlement, religious freedom benefits everyone equally, sometimes in ways we fail to recognize or acknowledge.

We would all be well served to rediscover its value and return it to a place of significance in American democracy.

Cynthia M. Allen is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Readers may send her email at cmallen@star-telegram.com.

Cynthia M. Allen

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 17 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • PornacJuly 12, 2014 - 7:03 am

    Corporations are people. Romney said and it is so.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895July 12, 2014 - 9:30 am

    Freedom of religion is alive and well in America, but if religion clashes with secular law where the impact on free exercise is legally (not necessarily individually) "incidental," secular law should prevail.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksJuly 12, 2014 - 9:37 am

    BS. We do not need this type of thinking in America. Religious freedom DOES NOT "benefit everyone equally!" The Supreme Court stepped in it and opened the door. This is dangerous ground, believe it.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • DanielJuly 12, 2014 - 10:02 am

    Slavery was legal secular law that conflicted with religion especially Lincoln's religion which was a major influence on every single one of his governmental decisions. If Lincoln belonged to the religions of secularism, atheism or relativism, he possibly would have accepted slavery because in those religious systems each one is based on selfish interests, greed and envy. Among the other religions pure orthodox Christianity is the only one that teaches to put everyone else before yourself and even to live and pray for your enemies, Admittedly those that label themselves as Christians often don't follow what is being taught however if the whole world practiced the principals taught directly by Christ the world would be a utopia compared to the affect of the religions of atheism, secularism and paganism as followed by Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pot Pol and American "progressives".

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksJuly 12, 2014 - 10:08 am

    Right Daniel more BS.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rick WoodJuly 12, 2014 - 10:13 am

    Lincoln was driven first and foremost by a secular desire to keep the Union together, not to end slavery. That came later. He didn't put his religious beliefs above secular law. He knew slavery could only be ended, under the Constitution, by secular law. And that's how it ended, first with the Emancipation Proclamation in the rebellious territories as a wartime necessity, and finally, for good everywhere in the country, with the 13th Amendment.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • DanielJuly 12, 2014 - 10:50 am

    Even though Slavery was secularly "legal Lincoln viewed it as even evil law and reversed that law. The reason he was motivated to reverse it wasn't based on secularism on its own merits, it was because of his convictions and those were all formed and influenced by his religion. Everyone in the world is influenced by a "religion" whether they acknowledge it or not like CD who labels his own personal religion as a non religion even though he has the beliefs, faith and zeal that are characteristic of all other religions.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksJuly 12, 2014 - 10:57 am

    Daniel, my "religion" is and always has been my faith in myself and my abilities. The rest is BS you just haven't figured that out yet.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • archieJuly 12, 2014 - 1:52 pm

    AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rick WoodJuly 12, 2014 - 11:01 am

    I don't doubt that Lincoln viewed slavery as evil, but he was also a lawyer and knew it was an legal evil, and he was bound to uphold any law that was constitutional. He never reversed that law, but he overrode it using his war powers during the Civil War when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. He only freed the slaves in the rebellious territories that were at war with the Union. Slaves were still held legally in border states like Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland. It wasn't until the 13th Amendment became law well after Lincoln was gone and the war over that the last slave became free in America. So even in the case of Lincoln and slavery, religious beliefs yielded to secular law.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • MarkJuly 12, 2014 - 1:46 pm

    Your title is correct, and thank goodness for that! Young and educated people realize how ALL religions are BS and hopefully in my lifetime religions will be all but obsolete.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksJuly 12, 2014 - 4:07 pm

    Mark, a great start would be the immediate elimination of their exemptions. Then they can play politics all they like.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • TJ BairdJuly 12, 2014 - 7:12 pm

    Sorry I'm late to this discussion - busy day. CD, I have never weighed in with you, in part because you seem to be far more intelligent than myself. I do have a question. By your estimation would you say that as a whole, is the US the greatest country in the history of mankind?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895July 12, 2014 - 7:45 pm

    I don't know, the Roman Empire was pretty impressive.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • TJ BairdJuly 12, 2014 - 8:06 pm

    CD, they were in fact a very impressive society. In your opinion greater than America? You have such definite opinions on most everything, certainly you have a perspective on this. This is not meant to trap you in any way. Just curious. You and I have very different world views, (based on what I have read of your comments) but that doesn't mean I can't learn things for you.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksJuly 13, 2014 - 7:27 am

    TJ Baird, good morning. I have read your comments for some time and appreciate your thinking and how you confidently articulate your thoughts. No I'm not an intelligent guy. I do have very passionate opinions about many things and don't mind expressing them. I'm not the greatest rah-rah guy around so not sure I'd go out on that limb saying the "US the greatest country in the history of mankind?" Some of the heinous crimes that were committed in the name of a god or by those allegedly representing a god have certainly stained our history. Then the way we treat minorities and women and those that are “different” surely cannot be described as honorable.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rick WoodJuly 17, 2014 - 11:23 pm

    I have the same reservations as CD, because I don't think of the U.S. in those terms. We should focus on us being as good as we can be and let future generations decide. I'm also not such a student of history that I could defend a position against someone who is. Nonetheless, in our lifetimes, I would say the U.S. has been the world's greatest nation by many measures that matter to me. I can't think of any nation today that would be greater. Can you?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Suisun Valley celebrates appellation’s anniversary

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Suisun museum adds Japanese-American internment exhibit

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

Girl’s selfless act boosts Suisun Wildlife Center

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Beer for 1st butterfly of year challenge returns

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Fairfield firefighters save Christmas for family

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3

SF Giants championship trophy coming to Vacaville

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3

 
Fire damages Fairfield home

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3

Car rolls over on Highway 113

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3

 
Fairfield man killed after family gathering in Napa

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

USA Weekend magazine ceases publication

By Glen Faison | From Page: B6

 
Suisun City police log: Dec. 25, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Fairfield police log: Dec. 25, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
 
.

US / World

California braces for first widespread frost

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
California gears up for migrant driver’s licenses

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 2 Comments

People slide down bedsheets to escape motel fire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Court: LA Police Department policy for impounding cars is OK

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Man shot to death in struggle over officer’s baton

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
4 dead in fiery Northern California car crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Police officer shoots woman in leg in Hollywood

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

 
Inmate breaks out of jail through ventilation duct

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Bodies of woman, 3 grandsons found in burned home

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Truck crashes into home; 93-year-old resident dies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Scientists target mess from Christmas tree needles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Baby ostracized by other gorillas will switch zoos

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Thousands attend 8-hour wake for slain NYC officer

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Study: Marijuana use has increased in Colorado

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

Dog not gone: Rescue in the Columbia Gorge

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Feline fame in cyberspace gives species a boost

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Lawmakers promise to help strapped oil-patch towns

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
At 101, dedicated union rep is calling it quits

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Can GOP shatter ‘Obama coalition’ in 2016?

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 2 Comments

 
GPS used to track some immigrants caught at border

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

10th anniversary of tsunami is marked with tears

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
.

Opinion

Sony hack is reminder of broader Sony dysfunction

By William Pesek | From Page: A8

 
A proud man, a good honorable man

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 14 Comments

 
.

Living

Today in History: Dec. 27, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Dec. 27, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Dec. 27, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

 
Remember, caregivers need some care attention, too

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B5

Cow that fled slaughterhouse in 2006 has new home, again

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Jazz great Buddy DeFranco dies at age 91

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
1990s TV star ‘Screech’ charged in bar stabbing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7, 1 Comment

.

Sports

Games to Remember from 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Suns outlast Kings 115-106 for 5th straight win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Anthony Davis, Roman meet over tweet

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Cleveland reaches 50 years of sports futility

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Prep JV boys basketball: Vanden gets win in Dixon tourney

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Could Watt be 1st NFL MVP from defense since Taylor in 1986?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Dan Uggla joins Nationals for minor league deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Georgia’s Richt: RB Todd Gurley heading to NFL

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Slumping New Jersey Devils fire coach Pete DeBoer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

No. 1 Kentucky, No. 4 Louisville resume rivalry

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Raiders rookie CB makes most of opportunity

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

High-scoring offenses create longer college games

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Anderson: post-game petulance was out of character

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Chiefs QB Alex Smith out with lacerated spleen

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Globetrotters’ Robert ‘Showboat’ Hall dies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

NC State wins Bitcoin Bowl to cap turnaround year

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Rutgers beats North Carolina in Quick Lane Bowl

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

La. Tech beats Illinois 35-18 in Heart of Dallas Bowl

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Arizona’s Lindley back at starter, Stanton has infection

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

This date in sports history for Saturday, Dec. 27, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Weather for Saturday, Dec. 27, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B11

 
.

Business

In 2014, US economy began shaky, finished strong

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Missouri 1st to see average gas price below $2

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6, 1 Comment

Holiday deliveries improve but hiccups continue

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
.

Obituaries

Frances Cruz Pangelinan

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
John Benjamin Calvin Adams

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
.

Home Seller 12/27/14

Real estate transactions for Dec. 27, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR2

Average US 30-year mortgage edges up slightly

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR2