David French is naïve in thinking that progressives will allow courts to protect Christian’s religious liberty.
David French ignores authorial intent and historical context to attack the idea that religious liberty in America was intended for Judeo-Christian religions. Watch as French appeals to “Well, the text doesn’t say that,” as his argument. This ignores asking the simple question: What did the Founders mean by religion.
“In some quarters of the far right, you will see people try to argue that the First Amendment, the Free Exercise Clause, was really designed for Judeo-Christian liberty and not for anyone else,” French said on this podcast with Russell Moore. “Which one of the things you do when you are interpreting the law is you look at the text first and that is not there. I’m very sorry. That is just not there.”
But wait, shouldn’t we ask what the Founders intended by the text? Shouldn’t we examine the historical context to figure out the intent of the Constitution’s framers? Or, can we make the text mean whatever we want it to mean?
Lee J. Strang writing in Originalism’s Promise, argued the historical mattered. According to Strang, “Originalism is the theory of constitutional interpretation that identifies the Constitution’s original meaning as its authoritative meaning. This meaning is the text’s public meaning when that text was ratified.”
So, at best French’s “Well the text,” argument is just another bit of smugness from one of the most insufferably smug men on the Internet. What did the Founders mean by religion? Did they mean any religion? Would any include those that require bigamy or human sacrifice? Does it protect genital mutilation? Does it protect child brides? What about blasphemy? What complicates these questions is that most of the states had a state church, banned many of those practices, and regulated significant behaviors with Blue Laws.
French may be right; however, instead of trying to mock the “far right,” perhaps he could offer arguments beyond his simple—the text!
After showing the limitations of a textual approach, French then pivots to making a political argument—you don’t want to infringe on other religions because they might win the next election.
“So, if you are going to be a defender of religious liberty, and if you want to actually protect it,” French said. “If you want religious liberty to be actually protected, you need to defend everyone’s religious liberty because once you break that firewall that says the government is going to be able to infringe on some religions and not others, once you breach that firewall, you better pray you win all your elections.”
However, this exposes the entire problem with David French’s political philosophy. It is built on two fatal flaws. First, French thinks the courts will protect Christians from secular attack. Second, that progressives will obey the court if it does.
The first is possible.
The second is not. Just as Democrats showed, if they face sustained defeat at the ballot box, eventually, they will attempt to pack the court. The only way to prevent that is for Republicans to win elections in the Senate—at least enough so that conservatives and moderates hold the balance of power and can stop these attacks.
So, basically, French’s only hope is to win elections. Which makes his repeated attempts to help elect Democrats by suppressing conservative voter turnout a total joke.
Then Russell Moore explains why Christians should only play defense and not offense.
Russell Moore said, “I would have people who would say, ‘Why are we talking about…this (religious liberty)? That is defensive. Why don’t we move on the offense?’ I was starting to realize that wait a minute—what that actually betrays is you think that what is really matters is what happens with the state and not what is happening with the church.”
The argument is that if you want to use the state to promote virtue or something similar, then you are not as pious as Russell Moore and his ilk. If you want to use the state, then you do not care about the church.
Talk about a fallacy!
What the state does and who controls it matters.
If it did not matter, God would not have ordained government for man’s good.
It does matter and not every Christian working to make the state better is doing so because they do not believe there is power in the church. What pietistic nonsense we get from David French and Russell Moore!
Follow their advice and conservatives will continue to lose.
Which is probably the point.