Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Melissa Rogers Critiques Justice Sunday III

Melissa Rogers, visiting professor of religion and public policy at Wake Forest University, has written an outstanding critique of Justice Sunday III under the title Religious Freedom for All. Melissa formerly served as General Counsel for the Baptist Joint Committee and as Executive Director of Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Here's an excerpt from Melissa's critique:

The rhetoric and advocacy positions of the Family Research Council and its partners reveal that they want the court to go far beyond rulings like these [the Texas ten commandments decision]. For example, they want to reintroduce school-sponsored prayer in a variety of settings and ensure that the government has wide latitude to erect religious monuments and otherwise endorse religion. They express a broad desire to use the machinery of the state to promote their faith.

Understandably, many non-Christians are alarmed by this agenda. As a Baptist Christian, I am alarmed as well. All people should be free from governmental pressure on matters of faith. We should exercise the great freedom we have to practice our faith, but we should not ask the government to advance religion for us. Indeed, when the government promotes faith, it inevitably uses religion for its own ends, which warps religion and weakens its spiritual force. As Baptist preacher John Leland said in 1804: "Experience, the best teacher, has informed us that the fondness of magistrates to foster Christianity has done it more harm than all the persecutions ever did."

While its rulings on these issues have not been perfect, the Supreme Court deserves great credit for striking the right balance. It's a balance Christians should seek to preserve rather than undo.

As Judge Alito's confirmation hearings continue, senators should expose false claims about First Amendment interpretation and judicial motivations. They also should seek to determine whether Alito would uphold the general ban on government-endorsed religion or whether he would drive constitutional interpretation in the direction favored by the Family Research Council.

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