Religious intolerance disguised as freedom
The American left has learned how to disguise its intolerance of religion as acts as freedom. Two personal experiences led me to understand this.
Years ago, I went through customs at an airport in Saudi Arabia. I was shocked when the inspector, clad in his traditional Arabian garb, pulled an item of contraband from my luggage and accusingly showed it to me. It was a small paperback book that had on its cover an image of Buddha. I briefly objected as he confiscated it. Fortunately for me, a seasoned traveler nudged me and said, don’t quarrel, or he will have you arrested. Being arrested in Saudi Arabia is a profoundly miserable experience, I am told. So I then smiled diplomatically and asked the inspector to toss it, which he did. He then allowed me to proceed on my way, a mercy not always offered to travelers.
I cannot describe the dark resentment I still have about that incident. We take for granted a freedom that is routinely denied in many nations.
When I was in Asia, I was on several occasions in close contact with Buddhists and adherents of other Eastern religions. While walking along a public sidewalk, I came upon a young lady blocking my path. She was standing at the foot of what I regard as an idol. Her hands were folded in prayer, and she repeatedly bowed at the waist toward it. I waited a few moments, wondering whether I should cross the street to go around her. She then finished her brief ceremony and went on her way. Unlike my experience in Arabia, I felt no sense of being oppressed. I know that Koreans and Japanese tolerate many religions. My act was not one of accommodating a false god, but of being courteous to my host nationals, and perhaps building bridges of mutual respect and understanding. I find this not the least bit inconsistent with my evangelical Christian faith.
Here in America, the American Civil Liberties Union brings lawsuits forcing the removal of displays of Christian (or in some cases, Jewish) religious symbols from the public square. Unlike in Saudi Arabia, no one’s freedom is restricted by these symbols. As in Asia, no one is forced to bow before them. The courts have developed a bizarre interpretation of the Constitution so as to rule against religious freedom on the pretense of protecting it.
It is no coincidence that the very first item in the Bill of Rights concerns religious liberty. It says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Displaying a Nativity scene in a public park does not constitute making a law, nor does it require anyone to pay tithes to any such a thing as a Church of America. Nor does the First Amendment say we have freedom of religion “except on public property.”
Why should non-Christians be inconvenienced by such displays? They should, because it is a matter of history that our nation has very deep roots in its Christian heritage. These traditions should be respected by all. Our laws and traditions arise not from Buddhism or Islam, but from millennia of Judeo-Christian worship and thought. Attempts to excise that vital component of our national character do not expand anyone’s freedom; rather, they constitute religious oppression.
Arguments to the contrary are specious. Complaints that “when I see a Christmas tree, I feel excluded” have no more validity than would my demand for Koreans to stop inconveniencing me as I walk on their sidewalks. They are entitled to their traditions. Complaints from the left about such matters are the product of years of absurd psychobabble that have infected leftist thinking. They resemble the sort of complaint by illegal aliens who say the display of the American flag (in America) is insulting to their heritage. Nonsense.
Liberal thought police are no more interested in protecting religious liberties than was that customs inspector in Arabia. Unlike him, however, liberals insist that it is they, the liberals, who are the guardians of liberty, while they trample on ours.