ON-Lion Letter

"Religious liberty is plainly essential for the endurance of our free society and for the protection of the rights and freedoms of the many millions of Americans who dissent from the caustic Gnosticism that increasingly dominates our culture," according to an article by Bradley Prize recipient Yuval Levin in the February 2016 issue of First Things.  "The cultural revival we yearn for is only imaginable if we fight now against the suppression of dissenting views on moral questions.

"But the unavoidable appeal to religious liberty is not without dangers of its own," he continues in "The Perils of Religious Liberty."  "The emphasis we are compelled now to put upon our first freedom risks distorting the moral message of religious and social conservatives in a number of important ways, and in the process undermining our case for liberty and tolerance.  A deeper appreciation of the nature of that message could help us understand and minimize these dangers, and might also bring us to a deeper appreciation of religious liberty itself."

Levin is the Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) in Washington, D.C.  The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports EPPC.

"The purpose of fighting to defend religious liberty," he writes, is "not only defensive but also missionary:  It is to allow the orthodox to meet their obligations, and to show the country a better way in practice.  And that better way can only be embodied in real, living communities.

"This broader understanding of what we seek to defend should make social conservatives both more and less political than we have tended to be:  We should be more political in that we do more than occasionally resort to legal appeals to protect our own freedom of action," Levin believes.  "We must also advance a compelling vision of society rooted in mediating institutions and a government that exists to sustain them.

"We should be less political, however, in that we need to invest more of ourselves in those institutions," he concludes.  "We need to build appealing subcultures rather than advance our own version of the Great Society or spend all our energy on roiling national debates that stand far apart from the everyday experience of those Americans who could most benefit from what we have to offer."

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