Freedom to Be a Community
With all of the local controversy over matters of church and state — made timely again, today, by Ed Fitzpatrick’s column about Treasurer Frank Caprio’s status as a pro-choice politician with experience as an unwed teenage father (more on which anon) — it’s worth submitting into the discussion this excellent explanation from the religious side, culled from Richard Garnett’s review of a book by David Novak:
Of particular interest to Novak is the debate over same-sex marriage and the increasing pressure on religious believers to censor their reservations about it, particularly in Canada, where Novak lives and teaches. He notes that this debate implicates religious liberty not because the legal recognition of same-sex unions is itself a burden on that liberty but because religious communities are increasingly being told that they may not make their case. To “deprive a religious community of the right to make moral claims,” he contends, is both antireligious and undemocratic. What’s more, he observes, religious freedom—the freedom to make moral claims from out of a religious tradition—is not only a claim on democratic society, it is a “gift for it as well.”
Perhaps the most striking and distinctive aspect of In Defense of Religious Liberty is Novak’s consistent, almost dogged, insistence that religion is not private, personal, or individual. It is, necessarily, relational, communal, traditional, and public. “Faith,” as he puts it, “is not so much a leap from the rational into the super-rational as it is one’s acceptance of a communal narrative by including oneself within the narrating community.” A legal regime that recognizes and protects a right to accept this narrative will also, necessarily, acknowledge the authority of that community to govern itself and those who have accepted it.