Why is it that folks on the left and in the MSM (but I repeat myself) have such a double standard for religion in the public square?
More specifically, why is it not objectionable for Harvard University to close one of its on-campus gyms to men for six hours each week so Muslim women can exercise without men present? (HT: Ronald Bailey, writing in Reason Magazine, and commenting extensively.)
Would an on-campus Evangelical group get the same consideration?
Also at Harvard, why is it OK to have the Muslim call to prayer broadcast over a loudspeaker from the steps of the university’s main library during Islamic Awareness Week? (Also from Ronald Bailey.)
That means that daily, Harvard students heard the refrain that “there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger.” I don’t begrudge the Muslims that belief or practice at all, but can you imagine a Mormon Awareness Week at Harvard, during which quotations from Joseph Smith would be read over a loudspeaker?
Or, as Bailey asks:
I wonder what the protesters would have thought if some students had similarly recited the Nicene Creed during Christianity Awareness Week?
I am also wondering: Why can Barack Obama undergo that huge kerfluffle over his minister’s appalling anti-American rants, and yet suffer little damage in the polls — while Romney, whose Mormon faith is unabashedly patriotic, must wear that faith like an anvil around his neck from day 1?
It just seems that some people and faiths get a pass, and others don’t.
Or am I wrong?
John comments: In every case, the Mormon one included, we are confronted with multiple issues wrapped up in a single knot, and we get varied reactions because the press and people tend to focus different single issues rather than trying to untangle the knot and deal with all the issues.
In the Harvard case we have not only the religious issue, but also the issue of their literal militancy. In this instance people are essentially conceding to blackmail. People assume that the special privileges they grant the Islamic community will prevent violence. They are wrong, but the point is they are focused on the violence, not the religion.
In the Obama case, we are confronted with racism and religion. Now, I think the verdict is still pending as to whether he is or will suffer damage from all of this. I believe it could yet be fatal to his aspirations, if not in the primary, in the general. In addition, I have been highly uncomfortable with the detailed theological analysis that Jeremiah Wright’s preaching has undergone as a part of the political discussion. Especially from some sources that I highly respect. But again, any break that Obama and his pastor are being cut is based on people focusing on the racial aspects of the situation, not the religious one – which begins to point to the problem.
In the Mormon case the knot is religion tied up with historical polygamy. As in the other two cases, people seem unable to separate issues. It is especially troubling for Mormons because they have not practiced polygamy for over 100 years, which makes it somewhat jaw dropping that people are unable to separate the issues with the expanse of time, but I think it is the lessons on Mormon polygamy from history class that underlie most of America’s “weird factor” with Mormons.
In all three of these cases, the reason people are unable to make the separation of the issues is the idea of religion defining a persons entire identity. Now, as a deeply religious person myself, I want my religion to consume my entirety, and transform it into something better, but it does not establish for me a group stereotypical identity.
Consider these two links to stories on Romney. In both cases, Mormon is treated as a defining “label” for Romney and for a larger group of people instead of an individuals chosen faith and philosophy. Now in fairness to the shot that I took at Hugh Hewitt in the link above, this is the point Hugh was trying to make. I just think that making it by picking on Wright’s specific liberation theology is too targeted, the point needs to made in a broader perspective.
In essence, religion is an individual’s choice, and they should not suffer consequences based on that choice alone, thought he right is reserved to bring those consequences if that individual behaves – either as a direct result of their faith, or a combination of that faith and their individual proclivities – in a fashion our nation deems to be unacceptable. But it is important to note the consequences are a result of behavior, NOT RELIGION.
Which brings me back to Lowell’s original concern. The Harvard and Obama situations have current behavioral consequences, and yet they are cut religious breaks. Mormons had, but no longer have, behavioral consequences, and therefore are the only group which should be accorded “the religious break” and yet they are not getting it. That is undeniably a form of bigotry.