The Constitution and the ‘Freedom’ To Do Evil

My colleague Paul Zummo wrote recently here at TAC responding to presidential candidate Herman Cain’s recent remarks about mosques: The Constitution Isn’t a Suicide Pact. It is not my intention to either defend or criticize Herman Cain, nor to talk about radical Islam, per se, but Zummo’s article touches on a topic that is too frequently ignored. Whether we are talking about abortion, terror-supporting mosques, so-called ‘gay marriage’, pornography, or any other topics where issues of morality come up in politics, we should recognize that people of faith are always going to be butting heads in the public sphere with those who claim that the Constitution gives us the freedom to do evil. Does the Constitution give us the freedom to do evil? No. It doesn’t.

Does the Constitution give religions the freedom to preach terror? I would argue that the answer to that is no. This is what I’m sure Herman Cain was referring to, and I agree with him on the point, however ineloquent he may have been.

The Constitution must not be read in a vacuum. It was authored by people of faith, for people of faith. It proceeded from the Declaration of Independence and has foundation in the Declaration’s principle that all men are created equal by the one Creator recognized by Jews and Christians universally. The Founders were certainly aware of Islam, but I doubt they would have thought that Americans would stand for allowing Islamists to put our lives at risk under the guise of ‘freedom of religion’.

Jews and Christians to this day continue in their shared acknowledgment that we owe our rights to the same Creator. This is why we say that America is a Judeo-Christian state. Even so, we should welcome those of other faiths, provided that they live in the same respect for human dignity that is inherent in the Judeo-Christian ethic.

Because the vast majority of Americans – whether Jew or Christian – understood from the beginning that our rights come from God alone, it was understood universally, as well, that we do not have freedom to do evil. Instead, we are all bound to be what we believe the Creator has called us to be. The first Americans understood this clearly, whereas today, the Constitution is frequently held up as a document that protects the freedom to do evil. As of late, the call is for evil to be enshrined as good, and for good to be condemned because it challenges evil. The latest clear example is the recent ‘gay marriage’ law passed in New York.

The primary example of this enshrinement was the 1973 Roe v Wade decision which legalized abortion. Slavery might have been similarly enshrined as a Constitutional “right” by the Dred Scott decision had people of good will not risen up to correct the wrong. As more and more people rise up to correct the wrong which was the Constitutional enshrinement of abortion, a new movement seeks to enshrine another evil: “gay marriage”.

Let us not make the mistake of enshrining evil as good, be it in giving radical Islam protected status as “religion” or in giving gay marriage protected status as if it were a legitimate union for the good of society.

Much is at stake in our time. Let’s pay attention and not throw any babies out with the bathwater.



9 Responses to The Constitution and the ‘Freedom’ To Do Evil

  • I like Lisa’s post – for whatever value my opinion may contain.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with a single thing Lisa has ever uttered.

    Which group of Americans is most dangerous? KKK, Black Panthers, Communists, pornographers, or Muslims? We allow the first 4 to build bases of operation.

    The danger has to be a bit more clear and present than Muslim prayers.

    “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen” – Treaty of Tripoli, ratified by John Adams and a unanimous Senate in 1797

  • “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen” – Treaty of Tripoli, ratified by John Adams and a unanimous Senate in 1797

    Which was inserted in the treaty RR in a failed attempt to convince the Barbary States that the almost totally Christian United States was not a Christian nation. The stratagem did not work, with the Barbary pirates warring on US shipping as they did all Christian shipping except for those nations that paid protection money. This led to our two wars against the Barbary Pirates, 1801-1805 and 1815.

  • Excellent Lisa. The founders intended that we actually can vote morality into law and that’s why the people’s decisions were left to the states rather than to be “imposed by a governing caste that knows best.” (Scalia, dissenting in Lawrence vs. Texas) It is supposed to be OK to declare things like sodomy illegal, even if criminalizing it in practice is pretty much unenforceable. (um, gross) Sodomy is not a fundamental right. Neither is killing children or “gay marriage.”

  • Thanks, Stacy. Remember when you said something to me a couple days ago and I said how providential it was because I was working on a blog post about it? Well, this is it. :smile:

  • Yes! I thought so when I saw it posted and hurried over to read it. The legal stuff is new to me and it is very troubling to realize how the Supreme Court has played fast and furious with the Constitution. :shock:

    And I agree with Paul’s valuable opinion. I like your post.

  • The idea that “error has no rights” is one with a fairly long Catholic heritage, but I think it’s fair to say that it’s one which is not in keeping with American principles. I’ll go ahead and stick my neck out and say that (at least in a modern society) that’s a good thing. Once you get into the idea that people should be suppressed for being wrong, everyone starts fighting to suppress everyone. At a stretch, one might observe that this difference in philosophy has a bit to do with the relative political stability of traditionally Catholic countries such as France, Italy and Spain (and their former colonies) versus the countries of the Anglosphere.

    In this particular issue, I think there are two problems:

    1) Far too many people on the right want to insist that any given mosque of Islamic event might be “terror promoting” — and when called on this people often fall back on a variation of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy and insist that if any particular Muslim is not in favor of terror, that’s because he’s not a “good Muslim” or else he’s just hiding it well.

    2) Even if it were the case that some particular mosque was “terror supporting”, that’s not an excuse for shutting down the religious operation of the mosque. Voicing violent political opinions has traditionally been protected in the US as valid free speech — it’s engaging in (or trying to engage in) violence that’s punishable, and I am very much in favor of punishing such actions. But I think there are very good reasons for keeping the speech legal and punishing actions — not the least of which being that liberals would be very, very happy to take such a precedent and use it against us.

    Nor, to be clear, do I think that the latter of these points, even taken to its fullest extent, necessitates allowing things like pornography and gay marriage. Gay marriage isn’t a speech issue at all, and we were quite successful for a century and a half in allowing wide ranging political and religious speech without allowing obscenity.

  • “Let us not make the mistake of enshrining evil as good, be it in giving radical Islam protected status as “religion”

    I’m not sure it’s wise for Catholics to advocate parsing out which religions get protection under the First Amendment and which don’t; I’d rather not have the judiciary trying to parse out what elements of radical Islam are true Islam (and therefore religion) and which are not. Instead, a broad protection is most appropriate.

  • Islam is an inherently violent religion in more ways than just what we see in terrorism. It is in no way compatible with our system of law. Because it is in no way compatible with our system of law, the law should take precedence. Just as law enforcement has the right and duty to investigate any churches that may be calling for violence, so should law enforcement be able to investigate mosques who do the same.

    If a group of people meet anywhere to plan a terrorist attack, it shouldn’t matter what their religion is. Religion that does not value life has no place in America, because America values life.

    At least, we should.

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