Washington D.C., Oct 17, 2013 / 05:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Although different belief systems create varying ideas on what’s best for a nation, religious freedom is essential for the maintenance of a just and thriving society, academics said at a recent D.C. event.
“Instead of treating religious conviction as the problem, we can treat religious traditions as part of the solution,” Kristine Kalanges, law professor at the University of Notre Dame, said at the Oct. 10 panel.
If society continues to treat religious traditions and viewpoints as a negative contribution to society rather than a positive one, “we’re ignoring the problem,” she warned.
“The solutions we build on top of that are not solutions, but exercises in raw power, and then the law ceases to be just.”
Kalanges made her remarks during the discussion titled “Does Every Person Everywhere – Religious or Not – Need Religious Freedom?” – part of a larger conference at Georgetown University called “Freedom to Flourish: Is Religious Freedom Necessary for Peace, Prosperity, and Democracy?”
Also speaking on the panel were Christopher Tollefsen, professor at the University of South Carolina, and co-author of “Embryo: A Defense of Human Life,” and Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, a professor at Chicago Theological Seminary.
Tollefsen argued that belief is a “basic good,” for all persons, and “grounds” other social phenomena. In respect of this basic good for all persons of all beliefs, religious freedom should be protected.
Kalanges echoed his statements, arguing that “religious freedom is a universal human right, regardless of culture, regardless of creed, regardless of whether they have a creed.”
Thistlethwaite, however warned against supporting the “violence” that comes from any tradition claiming “access to absolute truth.”
She argued that instead of supporting religious freedom, people should be careful in supporting such arguments, because in many places around the world, religious belief is a “part of identity” and religious freedom advocacy often leads to power struggles and conflict between groups.
Tollefsen later responded to this point, looking to the domestic disputes over the HHS contraceptive mandate, saying that “it is hard for me to see how” smaller institutions, such as those asking to run their companies by their religious beliefs, “are occupying a position of power and privilege relative to that of the state.”
The mandate was issued under the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act and requires employers to provide and pay for contraception, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs and procedures in employee health insurance plans, even if (Read More)