Culture Wars: Carving Out a Place for Disagreement

In a recent post, I briefly described a larger trend in secular society that insists that religious influence, doctrine, and conscience have no place in the public square.

A large part of how all this plays out depends entirely upon how people of religious faith (as opposed to secular faith, which does exhibit an influence) respond.

Which is why I was glad to see this response from the President of Catholic University John Garvey and the Archbishop of Washington Donald Wuerl make a point about Catholic doctrine and practice that places so-called “culture war” disagreements into the proper context.

Disagreement is Not Discrimination

Religion is a moral worldview. So is the secular morality concerned with non-discrimination and with reproductive health rights. To insist that any form of what can possibly be interpreted as “discrimination” is always and forever a bad thing (Economists talk about statistical discrimination all the time without repercussion) is very shortsighted indeed, as is insisting that individual health needs are the only concern an institution or church should have. Non-discrimination rights have limits, just as our First Freedoms of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition have limits to allow us to function as a pluralistic society. If some points are not conceded by the non-discrimination crowd, we will get more of the same.

I particularly appreciated this:

“The church’s message, though, is one of mercy, not moral indifferentism. That is why we object to these two [reproductive health and Human Rights Amendment] laws. They ask for much more than mercy and understanding… Mercy is not the same as moral relativism. Disagreement is not the same as discrimination. The law goes too far when it demands that the church abandon its beliefs in the pursuit of an entirely novel state of equality.”

I can’t speak to the specifics of these two laws, as I don’t know their ins and outs. But the larger principle remains the same: as long as moral intuitions are a matter of personal belief that has far-reaching consequences for society, anyone for whom laws apply should be able to voice their concerns in the public sphere, whether they got there by religious or secular persuasion.


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