Dennis Prager wrote a column at Town Hall earlier this year about an evolutionary biology professor who proclaimed that we have “evolved to need coercion” — and thus Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s soft drink limits were justified. Prager warned about the dangers inherent in this philosophy:
Whereas until now, the democratic left has attempted to persuade humanity that left-wing policies are inherently progressive, this Harvard professor has gone a huge step further. Left-wing policies are scientifically based. This is exactly how the Soviet Communists defended their totalitarian system. Everything they advocated was “naoochni,” “scientific.”
To differ with the left is not only definitionally sexist, intolerant, xenophobic, homophobic, Islamophobic, racist, and bigoted (SIXHIRB, as I have labeled it) — it is now against science itself.
The long march of the left to marginalize religion from public life is now coming to fruition and they are winning decisive battles in the culture wars.
One of the most important victories has been to control the language by deeming certain speech either anti-intellectual or hate speech. There are consequences if one veers from the so-called “settled” orthodoxy on a number of issues. The age of the earth (and its origins) is just one example. Ask Juan Williams about Muslims in airports or Rick Santorum about his defense of the natural family or a certain filmmaker about YouTube videos on “The Prophet.” The truth is, there are things you cannot say in America without severe consequences in the year 2012.
This is not how our Founders envisioned our country when they penned the First Amendment. Matthew Spalding of the Heritage Foundation explains the role of religion in a republican government in his excellent book We Still Hold These Truths: Rediscovering Our Principles, Reclaiming Our Future:
While it is often thought that religion and politics must be discussed as if they are radically different spheres, the Founders’ conception of religious liberty was almost exactly the opposite. The separation of church and state authority actually allowed—even required—the continual influence of religion upon public life. In a nation of limited government, religion is the greatest source of the virtue and moral character required for self-rule. … In recognizing the need for public morality and the prominent role that religion plays in nurturing morality, the Founders invited the various religious communities to cooperate at the political level in sustaining the moral consensus they share despite their theological differences. While this does not exclude any religious denominations that agreed with this consensus, in America as a practical matter, it overwhelmingly meant the Protestant denominations of the Christian faith and a religious tradition formed by Christian theology.
What the “separation of church and state” does, then, is liberate America’s religions—in respect to their moral forms and teachings—to exercise unprecedented influence over private and public opinion by shaping citizens’ mores, cultivating their virtues, and in general, providing a pure and independent source of moral reasoning and authority. That is what Alexis de Tocqueville meant when he observed that even though religion “never mixes directly in the government of society,” it nevertheless determines the “habits of the heart” and is “the first of their political institutions.”