Rediscovering Civility and Purpose in America’s Public Discourse

Hugh Hewitt writes:

The Terri Schiavo tragedy has been seized on by long-time critics of the “religious right” to launch attack after attack on the legitimacy of political action on the basis of religious belief. This attack has ignored the inconvenient participation in the debate–on the side of resuming water and nutrition for Terri Schiavo–of the spectacularly not-the-religious-rightness of Tom Harkin, Nat Hentoff, Jesse Jackson, and a coalition of disability advocacy groups.
The attack has also been hysterical…
All of these charges–from the most incoherent to the most measured–arrive without definition as to what “the religious right” is, and without argument as to why the agenda of this ill-defined group is less legitimate than the pro-gay marriage, pro-cloning, pro-partial-birth abortion, pro-euthanasia agenda of other political actors…Every political conflict is a choice between competing moral codes…
…But a strain of thought is developing that the political objectives of people of faith have second-class status when compared to those of, say, religiously secular elites. Of course, not only would such a position have surprised all of the Founding Fathers, it would have shocked Lincoln and Reagan, too.
The speed with which issues that excite the passions of people of faith have arrived at the center of American politics is not surprising given the forced march that the courts have put those issues on. It was not the “religious right” that pushed gay marriage…ordered Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube removed… forced the United States Supreme Court to repeatedly issue rulings on areas of law that would have been better left to legislatures.
These and other developments have indeed mobilized new activists across the country, many of who see a vast disparity between what they believe ought to be public policy and what is becoming that policy by judicial fiat. They have every right to participate in politics, and they can be expected to refuse to support elected officials who ignore their concerns.
Attempts to silence them, marginalize them, or to encourage others to do so are not arguments against their positions, but admissions that those positions represent majorities that cannot be refused a place at the law-making table.

Five important issues arise out of Hewitt’s editorial and are the focus of this posting: (i) the under-discussed but domineering presence of liberal fundamentalism, a competing moral code in American society; (ii) how judicial activism destroys the fabric of our politics; (iii) the connection between religious values and the American Founding; (iv) the long-term consequences for America of a radically secular religion; and, (v) how we discover civility and purpose in America’s public discourse.


THE RISE OF A COMPETING MORAL CODE: LIBERAL FUNDAMENTALISM
Some perspective is helpful in order to realize that this is not a new debate, although the intensity of the battle between competing moral codes seems to have grown in recent years. For example, this posting contains these words from a 1984 Wall Street Journal editorial:

…we would like to offer a few thoughts on what has been far and away the most messianic religion in America the past two decades – liberal politics.
American liberalism has traditionally derived much of its energy from a volatile mixture of emotion and moral superiority. The liberal belief that one’s policies would on balance accomplish something indisputably good generally made opposing arguments about shortcomings, costs or unintended consequences unpersuasive…
…many active liberals carried along their newly found moral certitude and quasi-religious fervor into nearly every major public policy issue that has come along in the past 15 years. The result has been liberal fundamentalism.
…Not surprisingly, this evangelical liberalism produced a response. Conservative groups – both secular and religious – were created, and they quite obviously made the political success of their adversaries more difficult. Liberals don’t like that. So now, suddenly, we find all these politicians and columnists who are afraid someone might want to impose a particular point of view on them…
If some liberals are now afraid that certain Christian fundamentalists will reintroduce new forms of intolerance and excessive religious zeal into American political life, perhaps we should concede the possibility that they know what they’re talking about. But they might also meditate on the current election and why there has been an apparent rightward shift in political sentiment in the U.S. It could be that a great many voters have taken a good look at the fundamentalists on the religious right and the fundamentalists on the political left and made up their minds about which poses the greater threat to their own private and public values.

It was commonplace for public discussions after the 2004 elections to talk about “moral values” and only mean people of faith. The quality and accuracy of the public debate would be improved if we recognized there is another large and active faith group whose religion is a radical secularism.
I believe I speak for many Americans who, while personally religious, are inclined to be tolerant of those who disagree with us. Yet the intolerance toward the worldviews of many people of faith exhibited by liberal fundamentalists, as they aggressively push their political agenda, has only polarized the public debate and weakened the fabric of civil society. Richard John Neuhaus has described the core of this intolerance in the following way:

The conflict in American public life today then is not a conflict between morality and secularism. It is a conflict of moralities in which one moral system calls itself secular and insists that the other do likewise as the price of admission to the public arena. That insistence is in fact a demand that the other side capitulate…

This demand for the capitulation of their opponents is at the heart of liberal fundamentalism, is delivered to philosophical opponents in a highly condescending manner, and is largely unreported in the mainstream media.
It is worth reiterating that the growth of the so-called “religious right” was largely a response to the attempts by liberal fundamentalists to grossly redirect public policies and the broader public debate in ways never seen before. Putting the public focus strictly on the religious right and not on the liberal fundamentalists is a clever, and so far successful, ploy to control the public debate.
Our challenge as a country is to recognize that dueling fundamentalists of both the left and right diminish the opportunity for reasoned debate in America on the great issues of our day – and that does no one any good.
JUDICIAL ACTIVISM: COMMANDEERING THE PUBLIC DEBATE & VIOLATING THE FOUNDING PRINCIPLES OF AMERICA
Many of these aggressive attempts by liberal fundamentalists to redirect societal practices have been done through a hyperactive judiciary. It has been going on for enough decades now and, with our weak knowledge of history, many Americans do not appreciate how judicial activism is a relatively recent phenomenon, it violates the governmental principles upon which our nation was founded, and it has an insidious effect on the relationship between the government and the governed.
Chief Justice Warren Burger elaborated on this in the 1982 case of Plyler v. Doe:

The Constitution does not constitute us as “Platonic Guardians” nor does it vest in this Court the authority to strike down laws because they do not meet our standards of desirable social policy, ‘wisdom,’ or ‘common sense.’…We trespass on the assigned function of the political branches under our structure of limited and separated powers when we assume a policy-making role.

Subsequently, Justice Antonin Scalia reinforced this point in his dissent in the 2003 case of Lawrence v. Texas:

The Court has taken sides in the culture war, departing from its role of assuring, as neutral observer, that the democratic rules of engagement are observed.

In the case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette nearly 70 years ago, Justice Felix Frankfurter also emphasized how judicial activism is contrary to American principles of government:

As a member of this Court, I am not justified in writing my private notions of policy into the Constitution, no matter how deeply I may cherish them or how mischievous I may deem their disregard. The duty of a judge who must decide which of two claims before the Court should prevail, that of a State to enact and enforce laws within its general competence or that of an individual to refuse obedience because of the demands of his conscience, is not that of the ordinary person. It can never be emphasized too much that one’s own opinion about the wisdom or evil of a law should be excluded altogether when one is doing one’s duty on the bench. The only opinion of our own even looking in that direction that is material is our opinion whether legislators could in reason have enacted such a law…
When Mr. Justice Holmes, speaking for this Court, wrote that “it must be remembered that legislatures are ultimate guardians of the liberties and welfare of the people in quite as great a degree as the courts…” he went to the very essence of our constitutional system and the democratic conception of our society. He did not mean that for only some phase of civil government this Court was not to supplant legislatures and sit in judgment upon the right or wrong of a challenged measure. He was stating the comprehensive judicial duty and role of this Court in our constitutional scheme whenever legislation is sought to be nullified on any ground, namely, that responsibility for legislation lies with legislatures, answerable as they are directly to the people, and this Court’s only and very narrow function is to determine whether within the broad grant of authority vested in legislatures they have exercised a judgment for which reasonable justification can be offered…
This is no dry, technical matter. It cuts deep into one’s conception of the democratic process…

In his book entitled The Uncivil War: How a New Elite is Destroying our Democracy, David Lebedoff offers an explanation about the intent underlying the push for judicial activism:

Many who loudly insist on the appointment of activist judges describe themselves as political “activists,” as well. But how can one possibly endorse both judicial and political activism, unless, of course, political activism has come to mean something different from what the label implies? One who believes in judicial activism can be a political activist only if he or she no longer views political activity as directed toward the achievement of majority support. If one believes that the point of politics is to see that society does what is “right,” regardless of what the public thinks or wants, only then can these two forms of activism indeed be reconciled.

Lebedoff then discusses the eventual consequences of judicial activism:

As those of one political philosophy or another seek to write their own notions into law, with no restraint from themselves or the public, the immigrant wisdom of Justice Frankfurter may be recognized at last for what it really is: a timeless warning that if consent of the governed is not our goal, it will become our memory.

In their book entitled Democracy by Decree: What Happens When Courts Run Government, Ross Sandler and David Schoenbrod note how judicial activism undermines government accountability to the citizenry:

Democracy by decree undermines accountability of government to the voters. Democratic accountability is, in our constitutional scheme, not an unalloyed good. The framers of the U.S. Constitution recognized that a democratically accountable government may reflect bigotry or be inattentive to the people’s needs or rights that they should have. For that reason, the Constitution includes rights and authorizes Congress to enact statutes necessary to ensure that state and local government honor them. These are rights, not aspirational goals dressed up as rights.
As long as rights are honored, everything else, including how the rights are honored, is a question of policy to be left to elected officials. The Constitution and its state and local counterparts set up the ground rules for how policy should be made. These ground rules are designed with careful attention to the potential faults of people and those they elect. The guiding principles are division of power and accountability.
Division of power is required because of distrust of both the people and those whom the people elect. Power is divided, first of all, between those who are empowered to govern and those who are governed. Those who are governed retain the power to vote the elected out of office. The power of those who govern is further divided many ways – between the federal government and the states, and within each level of government among the legislature, the executive, and the courts. Inherent in the whole scheme is that elected officials should bear the responsibility for the key policy choices and must retain the power to change policy.
Although the system is far from perfect, democracy by decree makes it worse. It does not substitute the dispassionate rule of judges for the rule of politicians. Decisions by controlling groups are politics in a different form. By hiding ordinary politics behind the robes of judges, democracy by decree makes government less accountable and therefore less responsive. Judicial reason does not supplant politics. Instead, the courts become political.

It is only through the “messiness” of a reasoned public discourse that a broad societal consensus can be achieved on major issues. Judicial activism short-circuits that process, to the detriment of our democratic institutions and habits.
RELIGIOUS VALUES AND THE AMERICAN FOUNDING
Many secularists and members of the mainstream media boldly, and ignorantly, proclaim that secularism is consistent with the American Founding – with the effect of making people of faith akin to second-class citizens in the public discourse.
Yet nothing could be further from the truth. For example, in the Letters to the Editor section of the April 2005 edition of Commentary Magazine, David Gelernter writes:

Michael Novak’s fascinating report of a survey by Donald Lutz who “counted 3,154 citations in the writings of the Founders; of these, nearly 1,100 (34 percent) are to the Bible, and about 300 each to Montesquieu and Blackstone, followed at a considerable distance by Locke and Hume and Plutarch.” Which does not mean that philosophical arguments were unimportant, merely that they were less important than biblical ones.

That secularist viewpoint is further contradicted in a posting which contains these words from George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address as President as he spoke to the importance of religion and morality in the public debate:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness – these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them…Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

Another posting shares these words from Neuhaus, which reinforce how the Declaration of Independence presupposed a higher power and how attempts to deny that strike at the very foundation of the American Founding:

But the radical nature of the Declaration consists not only in its revolutionary character but in its reliance on the authority of a divine Creator. The Declaration teaches that the authority of the people is prior to government, but that the rights of the people are the gift of God. Neither man nor government is the author of liberty. That honor belongs only to God…
It is true that America’s founders were scrupulously neutral between the numerous religious sects that existed in their time. But it is not true that they were hostile to the God worshipped by all of them…
What is especially sinister about the relentless campaign to remove all public references to God is that it calls the nation’s foundations needlessly into question. If there is no God, then there is no human freedom and there is no government by consent of the governed…

These points are reinforced in the same posting when Neuhaus quotes Thomas Jefferson:

[C]an the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?

Another posting highlights words by President Calvin Coolidge in 1926 about the religious principles underlying the Declaration of Independence:

…Three very definite propositions were set out in [the Declaration’s] preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed…
While these principles were not altogether new in political action, and were very far from new in political speculation, they had never been assembled before and declared in such a combination…
…when we come to a contemplation of the immediate conception of the principles of human relationship which went into the Declaration of Independence we are not required to extend our search beyond our own shores. They are found in the texts, the sermons, and the writings of the early colonial clergy who were earnestly undertaking to instruct their congregations in the great mystery of how to live…
In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man – these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in religious convictions…Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish…
About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776…that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final…If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people…
In all the essentials we have achieved an equality which was never possessed by any other people…The rights of the individual are held sacred and protected by constitutional guarantees, which even the government itself is bound not to violate. If there is any one thing among us that is established beyond question, it is self-government — the right of the people to rule…We hold that the duly authorized expression of the will of the people has a divine sanction…The ultimate sanction of law rests on the righteous authority of the Almighty…
…We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all of our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren sceptre in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it…We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed…

A speech entitled “Limited Government to Protect Equal Rights” by Mac Owens, published on this blog site, elaborates further on the uniqueness of the American Experiment:

Before the American founding, all regimes were based on the principle of interest – the interest of the stronger. That principle was articulated by the Greek historian Thucydides: “Questions of justice arise only between equals. As for the rest, the strong do what they will. The weak suffer what they must.”…
The United States was founded on different principles – justice and equality…It took the founding of the United States on the principle of equality to undermine the principle of inequality…Thanks to the Founders, the United States was founded on a principle of justice, not the interest of the stronger. And because of Lincoln’s uncompromising commitment to equality as America’s “central idea,” the Union was not only saved, but saved so “as to make, and to keep it, forever worthy of saving…”
“Every nation,” said Lincoln, “has a central idea from which all its minor thoughts radiate.” For Lincoln, this central idea was the Declaration of Independence and its notion of equality as the basis for republican government – the simple idea that no one has the right by nature to rule over another without the latter’s consent…
Indeed, it is the idea of equality in the Declaration, not race and blood, that establishes American nationhood, constituting what Abraham Lincoln called “the mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land…”
The United States is a fundamentally decent regime based on the universal principle that all human beings are equal in terms of their natural rights…
…the only purpose of government is to protect the equal natural rights of individual citizens. These rights inhere in individuals, not groups, and are antecedent to the creation of government…

What the hard-core secularists are pushing is nothing less than a dangerous non-Judeo-Christian religious ideology of their own. In seeking to delegitimize religion by privatizing it to the individual level, the state is being established as the new church – but without any countervailing transcendent force to limit its ambitions. Neuhaus offers further thoughts on that dangerous pathway in this posting:

What is relatively new is the naked public square. The naked public square is the result of political doctrine and practice that would exclude religion and religiously grounded values from the conduct of public business… When religion in any traditional or recognizable form is excluded from the public square, it does not mean that the public square is in fact naked…
The truly naked public square is at best a transitional phenomenon. It is a vacuum begging to be filled. When the democratically affirmed institutions that generate and transmit values are excluded, the vacuum will be filled by the agent left in control of the public square, the state. In this manner, a perverse notion of the disestablishment of religion leads to the establishment of the state as church…
Our problems, then, stem in large part from the philosophical and legal effort to isolate and exclude the religious dimension of culture…only the state can…”lay claim to compulsive authority.”…of all the institutions in societies, only religion can invoke against the state a transcendent authority and have its invocation seconded by “the people” to whom a democratic state is presumably accountable. For the state to be secured from such challenge, religion must be redefined as a private, emphatically not public, phenomenon. In addition, because truly value-less existence is impossible for persons or societies, the state must displace religion as the generator and bearer of values…
[T]he notion of the secular state can become the prelude to totalitarianism. That is, once religion is reduced to nothing more than privatized conscience, the public square has only two actors in it – the state and the individual. Religion as a mediating structure…is no longer available as a countervailing force to the ambitions of the state…

A further posting adds this comment from Ramesh Ponnuru who notes the broad implications of this effort to alter the nature of politics in America:

If I’m right about liberalism’s instinctive reflexes, then contemporary liberalism has forfeited the creed’s ancient claim to promote civil peace…But if liberal secularism amounts to the unwitting imposition of the views of an irreligious minority on a religious majority, then it hardly seems likely to foster social harmony. Nor has it.

That is the crux of the matter. Their efforts are nothing but a bold political move by a minority seeking to gain power by asserting a statist ideology that, by its very definition, is illiberal and highly intolerant of any who disagree with them. They know, at least implicitly, what the Founding Fathers knew: The only serious impediment to realizing their utopian dream is resistance from citizens and democratic institutions that recognize moral claims based on a transcendent authority.
THE DIRE CONSEQUENCES WE COULD FACE
The stakes for the future of America are enormously high. If we ignore these Founding Principles of America, then this T. S. Eliot quote (offered in this book by Bruce Frohnen) will likely become our future:

As political philosophy derives its sanctions from ethics, and ethics from the truth of religion, it is only by returning to the eternal source of truth that we can hope for any social organization which will not, to its ultimate destruction, ignore some essential aspect of reality. The term “democracy,” as I have said again and again, does not contain enough positive content to stand alone against the forces that you dislike – it can easily be transformed by them. If you will not have God, you will pay your respects to Hitler and Stalin.

Neuhaus elaborates further:

If law and polity are divorced from moral judgment…all things are permitted and…all things will be done…When in our public life no legal prohibition can be articulated with the force of transcendent authority, then there are no rules rooted in ultimacies that can protect the poor, the powerless and the marginal…

It was what led Peggy Noonan to say:

And those who are still learning–our children–oh, what terrible lessons they’re learning. What terrible stories are shaping them. They’re witnessing the Schiavo drama on television and hearing it on radio. They are seeing a society–their society, their people–on the verge of famously accepting, even embracing, the idea that a damaged life is a throwaway life.
Our children have been reared in the age of abortion, and are coming of age in a time when seemingly respectable people are enthusiastic for euthanasia. It cannot be good for our children, and the world they will make, that they are given this new lesson that human life is not precious, not touched by the divine, not of infinite value.
Once you “know” that–that human life is not so special after all–then everything is possible, and none of it is good. When a society comes to believe that human life is not inherently worth living, it is a slippery slope to the gas chamber. You wind up on a low road that twists past Columbine and leads toward Auschwitz…

In this editorial, Michael Barone paraphrases comments by George Weigel in his book entitled The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics and offers some of his own thoughts:

Reasoned moral conviction: That is one of our national strengths…Without strong religious or moral beliefs, tolerance degenerates into indifference, mere “skepticism and relativism,” which fail to provide a reason that people should be tolerant and civil…A society that believes only in skepticism ultimately has no means of self-defense.

Finally, George Weigel’s commentary on the radical humanism of Pope John Paul II brings added clarity to what is at stake:

…freedom detached from moral truth – the “freedom of indifference” that dominated the high culture of the triumphant West – [is] inevitably self-cannibalizing.
Freedom untethered from truth is freedom’s worst enemy. For if there is only your truth and my truth, and neither one of us recognizes a transcendent moral standard (call it “the truth”) by which to adjudicate our differences, then the only way to settle the argument is for you to impose your power on me, or for me to impose my power on you.
Freedom untethered from truth leads to chaos; chaos leads to anarchy; and since human beings cannot tolerate anarchy, tyranny as the answer to the human imperative of order is just around the corner. The false humanism of the freedom of indifference leads first to freedom’s decay, and then to freedom’s demise…

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
In this posting, Dr. Roger Pilon of the Cato Institute offers these thoughts on the Declaration of Independence and what obligations American citizens are duty-bound to honor in order to protect the freedom for all citizens:

We are all created equal, as defined by our natural rights; thus, no one has rights superior to those of anyone else. Moreover, we are born with those rights, we do not get them from government � indeed, whatever rights or powers government has come from us, from �the Consent of the Governed.� And our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness imply the right to live our lives as we wish � to pursue happiness as we think best, by our own lights � provided only that we respect the equal rights of others to do the same. Drawing by implication upon the common law tradition of liberty, property, and contract � its principles rooted in �right reason� � the Founders thus outlined the moral foundations of a free society…
In the end, however, no constitution can be self-enforcing. Government officials must respect their oaths to uphold the Constitution; and we the people must be vigilant in seeing that they do. The Founders drafted an extraordinarily thoughtful plan of government, but it is up to us, to each generation, to preserve and protect it for ourselves and for future generations. For the Constitution will live only if it is alive in the hearts and minds of the American people. That, perhaps, is the most enduring lesson of our experiment in ordered liberty.

It is indeed up to all of us to preserve and protect our American heritage. Like all other American citizens, people of faith have the right to play an active, legitimate role in the great public debates of our country. One of the greatest contributions they can make right now is to remind us that a radically secular vision for America will eventually take us down the pathway to totalitarianism. At the same time, it is important to conduct this debate using both words and a style that allows the building of a broad societal consensus by appealing to thoughtful Americans who, while not sharing the same faith, join a larger cause because of shared ethics as well as beliefs about the Founding Principles of America.
REDISCOVERING CIVILITY AND PURPOSE IN AMERICA’S PUBLIC DISCOURSE
All of us, regardless of our political philosophy, need to be dedicated to conducting ourselves in a reasoned manner. Civil society will only be strengthened in America if every side of the political debate acts honorably – something that all of us have, at some time, failed to do. For example, see this posting by Michelle Malkin. There can be no second-class citizens or the public discourse in America will be impoverished.
Neuhaus talks here about how politics is a moral enterprise:

Politics is an inescapably moral enterprise. Those who participate in it are…moral actors. The word “moral” here…means only that the questions engaged [in politics] are questions that have to do with what is right or wrong, good or evil. Whatever moral dignity politics may possess depends on it being a process of contention and compromise among moral actors, not simply a process of accommodation among individuals in pursuit of their interests.

William Voegli identifies our challenge in this way:

A healthy democracy does not require blurring political differences. But it must find a way to express those differences forcefully without anathematizing people who hold different views.

In closing, I would offer these thoughts on the meaning of tolerance and how we must rediscover civility and purpose in America’s public discourse:

…the definition of the word “tolerance”…

sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own…the allowable deviation from a standard…

The definition of tolerance clearly states there are pre-existing standards, without which the very concept of tolerance has no significance. But multiculturism has led us into a world of relativism where there are no standards. And that means there is no way to define allowable deviations.
In a free and democratic society, we owe it to ourselves to openly debate what will be the appropriate standards and the allowable deviations from them that we will tolerate in our American society.
I hope we can conduct that debate in a context that keeps sight of the standards given to us through our Founding in the Declaration of Independence, the lessons learned over the entire history of America, and the natural law principles that have guided Western Civilization for centuries…

Or, as George Weigel wrote in describing the relevancy of Pope John Paul II’s teachings:

That is why John Paul relentlessly preached genuine tolerance: not the tolerance of indifference, as if differences over the good didn’t matter, but the real tolerance of differences engaged, explored, and debated within the bond of a profound respect for the humanity of the other. Many were puzzled that this Pope, so vigorous in defending the truths of Catholic faith, could become, over a quarter-century, the world’s premier icon of religious freedom and inter-religious civility. But here, too, John Paul II was teaching a crucial lesson about the future of freedom: Universal empathy comes through, not around, particular convictions.

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