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“Religious freedom” is not just for Christian conservatives.  The Liberals must take it back.

A nun in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican on March 21, 2021.

Religious freedom appears to be on a winning streak.

Victories pile up at Supreme Court: for churches to reopen unlike coronavirus restrictions, for faith-funded family placement agency to exclude gay caregivers, for Christian employers to benefit from duty exemptions provide certain contraceptives in workers’ health plans.

Politicians and activists aggressively claim religious freedom in their fight against LGBTQ acceptance, public health measures, and other perceived threats. One of the most innovative claims: A lawsuit filed by a Catholic school claiming that anti-COVID-19 masks hide faces made in the image of God and therefore constitute a violation of the religious freedom of those who are forced to wear them.

But something is wrong when the New York Times publishes headlines like the recent “What the Supreme Court Did for Religion.” As with so many other media coverage and public discourse around this issue, a rewrite is needed for the sake of specificity. This is not what the High Court and political actors are doing for “religious freedom”. This is what they do, for the most part, for conservative Christianity.

Liberal positions are rooted in belief

We must remember that religious freedom belongs to everyone – not just one faith or one side in our ongoing cultural conflict.

More liberals of faith and conscience should be like Jamie Manson and claim religious freedom themselves. A graduate of Yale Divinity School (my employer) and a former columnist for the National Catholic Reporter, Manson is president of Catholics for Choice, which advocates for the availability of legal and safe abortion for those in need.

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Contrary to the familiar and simplistic plot – the clergy are against abortion; secularists are in favor – Manson does not advocate legal abortion despite his Catholic faith. She is doing it because of it.

Political appropriations of Catholic education “cause enormous suffering to women,” Manson explained to me. “Especially poor women and women of color. I object to my faith being used in this way. It is about human dignity, about human freedom, which Catholicism promotes.

“Religious freedom” is not just for Christian conservatives.  The Liberals must take it back.

Protest against a Supreme Court case in Washington, DC on January 22, 2020.

Do abortion bans violate one’s own religious freedom? “Absolutely,” Manson says. “The abortion bans are part of a larger program aimed at limiting sex education, limiting access to contraceptives, and limiting certain medical procedures. The theology behind them is harmful – a theology that wants to limit women’s freedom, wants women to have strict gender roles and asserts that the primary vocation of women is to be mothers. These absolutely violate my religious freedom, which concerns freedom of belief and freedom of belief.”

Manson is right about freedom of belief: a person’s religion should not be promulgated into law in such a way as to force another citizen to live according to beliefs he does not share. But the particularly interesting part of the conversation – one that has too little airtime – goes beyond protecting against the beliefs of others and takes into account the deep meaning of religious and ethical belief that invariably motivates positions. and liberal behavior.

Christian ethics: Stop using religion to fight the COVID-19 vaccine. To take it is the Christian thing to do.

Take the “faithful providers” – the abortion practitioners whose Manson organization lifts the stories up to counter the conservative vanity that the anti-abortion stance is the Christian stance. One of half a dozen doctors featured on the Catholics for Choice website, Albert G. Thomas is a New York-based OB-GYN and Catholic, who sees himself as providing urgent patient support.

“These people in particular were really heartbroken about having the procedure, but they either had a medical or a very strong social reason why they needed an abortion,” says Thomas. “They didn’t need me to be pompous or judge them. They needed somebody who could hold their hand and tell them that everything would be fine … I think that’s what God would have us do.

Don’t run away from a constitutional advantage

Safe abortion is not the only liberal good pursued by conscience and conviction. When faith liberals take a public stand against threats to thriving life, like racism and climate change, it is more than appropriate for them to cite the beliefs that fuel them. It is the responsibility of government and the public to accept them as sincere expressions of religious belief.

When unjust laws and policies prevent religious liberals from living their faith – whether it is a pastor committed to supporting desperate migrants, or a gay couple called upon to care for children in families of host, or a trans person whose safety and divine dignity are violated by humiliating bathroom bills – they too should invoke their constitutional right to freely exercise their religion.

Religious freedom for all: Let female athletes wear unitards and hijabs.

This does not mean that all religious conservatives should be forced to live like liberals. It would be as wrong as the reverse. The reality is that rights clash and worldviews clash. The challenge is to find peaceful resolutions and accommodations for everyone to the extent possible while maintaining a functioning society.

For religious and secular liberals, it is understandable that the very sound of this term “religious freedom” sets off alarm bells. But instead of shying away from it, liberals of faith and ethical conviction should embrace religious freedom for themselves. Not only to confuse and thwart the conservatives’ claims of religious freedom (although that is a worthwhile side benefit), but to take advantage of a constitutional advantage that is rightfully theirs.

Religious freedom is not a conservative Christian thing, and it is time we stopped acting the way it is.

USA TODAY Contributor Council Member Tom Krattenmaker writes on religion and values ​​in public life. He is the author of “Confessions of a Secular Disciple of Jesus”. Follow him on Twitter: @krattenmaker

You can read various opinions from our Board of Contributors and other editors on the Opinion home page, on Twitter. @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, send a comment to

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Faith Liberals Must Be Clear That Religion Fuels Their Political Views

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