Why do we need religious freedom?

(Sorry for the light posting. I’ve been traveling for work.) Robert Tracinski rejects religious freedom for something more expansive:

The oldest rule of free speech is: I may disagree with every word you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it. Because if I don’t stand up for you, then by my silence I am accepting a system in which might makes right. I am helping to establish the rule of the jungle in the realm of ideas.

In sum, I’m for religious liberty because there really is no such thing as religious liberty. There is just freedom of thought and freedom of conscience, period. For all of us.

As you know I don’t do electoral politics here. But to the extent America is debating religious freedom, strategically it makes more sense to universalize religious freedom than keep it as something those Christians need. I’m no constitutional scholar, but I suspect the First Amendment was written the way it was for historical, contingent reasons. Today religious freedom is a subset of more basic freedoms.


  1. Will you provide more context for some of us not paying as much attention to US religious debates?

    1) Does the religious freedom you mention mean the same as religious liberty mentioned by Tracinski?

    2) Are people asking for religious freedom only for Christians, and you’re saying a law, bill, amendment should be made for religious freedom for all people?

    1. Hey. Thanks for the clarifying questions. This is what happens when you write a post early in the morning!

      1) I would say religious freedom is the same as Tracinski’s religious liberty.

      2) *I* (don’t know about people) am saying that religious freedom shouldn’t be the unit of analysis. Religious freedom should be subsumed under a more general ‘freedom of thought/conscience’.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *