It may be shooting fish in the proverbial barrel to criticize the American Center for Law and Justice for faulty reasoning, but today I’d like to look at a specific example of how the religious right uses deceptive language to frame the discussion of religious liberty.
In an article posted a few days ago, “Atheism on the Rise as Groups Seek to Censor Faith,” the author warns about the rising number of challenges from groups that are “attempting to remove every vestige of our religious heritage as a nation from public life.”
Starting with the headline, where the key word is “censor,” he goes on to write of “angry” atheists who “attack,” “bully,” and are “bent on hampering the faith” of believers and “determined to eviscerate the tradition of faith from American life.” The ACLJ, of course, defends “liberty.”
But every example he cites, “Ground Zero Cross, the National Day of Prayer, our National Motto, or the Pledge of Allegiance,” etc., has a common element.
It has nothing at all to do with religious liberty in the ordinary sense.
In each case, “liberty” means the ability of some governmental body, or an individual acting in an official capacity, to endorse religious beliefs. It has nothing at all to do with religious liberty in the ordinary sense: the idea that everyone is free to believe or not believe, practice their faith or criticize someone else’s–and that the government will stay out of it.
But to the ACLJ, a governmental establishment of religion is liberty, and opposition to said establishment is censorship. Criticism is attack, and exercising one’s rights as a citizen is bullying.
To invoke George Orwell, I suppose war is peace and freedom is slavery.
The article is ham-handed propaganda, and makes no sense when you pick it apart, but this kind of language has gained strength through endless repetition. Scan the news and it isn’t hard to find. Witness the ongoing debate over contraception, Obama’s “war on religion,” or the “censorship” of Chick-fil-A.
“Liberty” is a good word. It’s time to reclaim it.