I enjoy technology and talk about it a great deal. But there are more important issues. Today I’m going to talk about one of them. Freedom.
Now that I’m sixty and officially old I feel a certain compulsion to talk about “when I was a boy”. When I was a boy, the United States was often referred to as the land of the free. The state in which I spent a great deal of my childhood had the motto “Montani Semper Liberi”, Mountaineers are Always Free. When someone told you that you couldn’t say that or do that, it was considered almost patriotic to reply, “Why not? It’s a free country.”
But is that still true today? There is reason to think not. ABC news reports that Brandeis University has reneged on its decision to award an honorary degree on Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Why? Because she criticized Islam. Dan Cathy has stopped his financial support of groups defending the unborn. Why? Because, it threatened the expansion of Chick-fil-A into urban markets. The New York Times reported that CEO of Mozilla was fired. Because he failed at his job? No, because he had provided financial support to Proposition 8, a California ban on same-sex marriage. The LA Times reported that a photographer, Elaine Huguenin, who does not believe in gay marriage could be forced to participate in what she believes to be a sin. Why? Because she runs a business and as such cannot have her religious beliefs protected. The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear her appeal, is one indicator that Christians may have to deny their faith in order to run a business in the United States. Another indicator, is the provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires employers to provide healthcare that includes contraceptive means that some consider abortion – even if the employer believes that the taking of an unborn child’s life is murder. Hobby Lobby, a Christian business, has fought this all the way to the Supreme Court. Had they lost it would have meant that Christians would be denied their right to incorporate their business, if they want to remain consistent with their values.
Following their victory, the President has sought other ways to force this on Christian operated businesses.
The United States has long since passed into a secular, post-Christian culture. We have religions of every stripe, but none that dominate the civil landscape. Congress continues to be primarily those in the Judeo-Christian tradition, but includes Buddhists, Muslims, and a Hindu. 16 percent of Americans aren’t affiliated with any religion. Eighty percent are Judeo-Christian in name, but I doubt very many of those are even claiming to try to live consistently with their professed faith tradition. (How many Catholics do you know who agree with the official position of the church?) Nearly a third of our population seldom or never attends church.
I can’t say whether we have started a downhill skid in protecting freedoms because we no longer have a moral consensus. If that is the case, then we never really had freedom. We just had a dearth of people with whom we disagreed. But as our populace becomes more diverse and more polarized, protecting religious freedoms and freedom of speech should be a high priority if we want our democracy to survive.
Perhaps you are a defender of the political correctness police state. But what happens when you are in the minority? Will you be happy to give up your livelihood when your political or religious views are no longer in vogue? If we think less about our right to get what we want and more about another person’s right not to give it to us, maybe we’ll be able to take a step back from the edge. But today’s climate of culture wars seems to be all about different sides trying to force their point of view down their opponents unwilling throats. If we keep that up, it is democracy that will choke.