In his recent pronouncements, Sen. John Kerry, for example, has tiptoed perilously close to endorsing the political philosophy of Reich. At a Fourth of July barbecue in Iowa, Kerry explained why, despite his expressed personal opposition to abortion, he has a 100 percent voting record with NARAL Pro-Choice America:
On abortion, he said, "I can't take my Catholic belief, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant or a Jew or an atheist who doesn't share it. We have separation of church and state in the United States of America."
Let us think through for a minute what Kerry is saying. Catholics such as him are obligated to support legalized abortion. To do anything else would be illegitimate and undemocratic, a violation of fundamental constitutional principles of America. Our shared democratic faith obliges Catholics to vote against their consciences. Separation of church and state turns out to mean the state can bully or silence religious people.
Is Kerry similarly obliged to vote for the death penalty, because to fail to do so would be to impose his Catholic views on the non-Catholic majority?
To imply that religious believers have no right to engage moral questions in the public square or at the ballot is simply to establish a Reichian secularism as our state faith. I don't think that's what the First Amendment is all about. Our Constitution does not promise separation of church and state (a phrase that appears nowhere in the text); it does promise each and every one of us religious liberty, whatever our faiths may be.
Americans of all political and religious persuasions should stand shoulder to shoulder for that.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.