In the newest issue of the Baptist Joint Committee’s Report From the Capital, executive director Brent Walker discusses the importance of government neutrality toward religion – not just neutrality between religious viewpoints, but neutrality between religion and irreligion. His column takes on the flawed sentiment, recently espoused by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, that the Constitution allows the government to show favoritism to religion over irreligion.
Here is an excerpt from Walker’s column:
The First Amendment bars “an establishment of religion.” Not “a” religion or “one” religion over another, but religion generally, period. In fact, the Framers turned away several proposals that would have explicitly allowed non-preferential aid to religion across the board. Instead, they adopted the expansive and unqualified clause banning an establishment of religion. Justice Scalia, who purports to be bound by the text on how he interprets founding documents, should understand as much.
Another reason why government should not be permitted to try to promote religion over irreligion is that it is never truly able to do so. Whose religion are we going to bless? In a democracy, the government will always tend to favor the majority religion. Hey, that’s where the votes are, right? Justice Scalia is a Roman Catholic, a powerful religious body that continues to exhibit majoritarian thinking. I wonder if he would have been so sanguine 150 years ago when Catholics were a persecuted minority, often denied religious liberty and even civil rights.
Read the whole thing. This column is the first in a series Walker will write during this, his final year at the helm of the BJC discussing “crucial and indispensable principles” of a healthy relationship between church and state in America. Stay tuned.