The Anchoress reacts to a Frank Bruni piece in The New York Times arguing for limiting religious freedom in the public square.
Bruni argues that our society would not tolerate a Muslim refusing service to an unveiled woman, or a Mormon refusing to serve a coffee drinker, but does he mean it? How far is he willing to take that supposition? If an African-American launderer refused to wash the sheets of a klansman, what would society say? I’m pretty sure society would say, “The conscience of the African-American launderer matters, and he is entitled to it, especially when the klansman has other launderers to choose from.”
That has nothing to do with a church. It is a matter of a person’s conscience.
I could be wrong. Society might surprise me and say, “the launderer has no right to his conscience and must serve the klansman.” And then we will have the same cause to be concerned about rights and freedoms in 21st century America, had the question involved a church. Once we start hammering away at conscience and religious freedom, where does it stop? Does Bruni have no worries that down the road a Muslim hal-al butcher, his religious freedom become fragile under repeated assault, could theoretically find himself compelled to serve bacon, because the neighbors really, really want it, and his shop is the closest?
I’m only half serious about that last bit. But it’s a serious half.
Bruni offers a conciliatory note, here:
I respect people of faith. I salute the extraordinary works of compassion and social justice that many of them and many of their churches do…
Does Bruni realize that these extraordinary works he so admires are born of a long-standing Christian conscience that demands a preferential option for the poor? Catholic men and women were the ones inventing social services and free hospitals and educational programs for women and for the masses before the government even thought about it. Those social services he supports, advocates and admires are a legacy of Catholicism, fully engaged with the world.
And I support the right of people to believe what they do and say what they wish — in their pews, homes and hearts.
And there they are, the brass knuckles hidden within the velvet glove of praise: Bruni supports not the free exercise of religion but a freedom of worship; keep it in the pews, in the home, in your heart, and he’s fine with you, but don’t bring your religious conscience into the public square, where he has to encounter it, because his tolerance does not extend too far.
Of course there's more and it's worth your time.
Elizabeth Scalia is always worth your time.