Freedom of Religion?

by | Nov 3, 2005

There is no "freedom of religion" to do what it pleases. The only type of freedom relevant to religion is the right to practice religion privately, without imposing force on other people.

Q: Dr. Hurd, I am tired of reading you bash religious conservatives! You defend the “right” to abortion and gay marriage, for example. You care about the freedom of abortionists and homosexuals. What about freedom of religion?

A: There is not, and there should not be, any such thing as “freedom of religion.” Think about what this simple little phrase implies. It implies that people have freedom not merely to privately practice whatever religion (if any) they choose; it implies that people have the “right” to impose the practice of religion on other people. Freedom OF religion is a blank check for religion being free to do what it pleases. The ultimate manifestation of this idea, that today we know all too well, is that of the militant Islamics.

There is no “freedom of religion” to do what it pleases. The only type of freedom relevant to religion is the right to practice religion privately, without imposing force on other people. If a religious person believes a fetus is a human life, then it’s his right to believe so and to try and persuade others of this religious belief; the line stops, however, at forcing women to bring unwanted pregnancies to term. If a religious person believes that only religiously sanctioned marriage is a valid context for sexual relationships, then it’s likewise his right to believe this; but again, the line stops at arresting or otherwise using the force of government to condemn non-religiously supported relationships (between consenting adults, of course) as immoral. If a religious person wants to put a nativity scene on his lawn, or at his church, for Christmas, this is certainly his right; the line stops, however, at requiring tax-supported courthouses and other government agencies to host religious scenes in the name of state-sponsored religion.

During the Clinton years, I strenuously argued against the growing statism I saw coming from the secular left. The Clintons tried to nationalize health care, turn doctors into slaves and to legally prosecute people like Bill Gates simply for being gloriously successful. Now, during the George W. Bush years, I proudly and boisterously oppose the religious statism of the right. Through it all, I hope people come to understand that the only way to restore full freedom to this society–and keep the great number of freedoms we still enjoy–is to oppose statism of every variety. I want church and state to be separate for the same reasons I want economics and state to be separate. Stay out of our wallets; and stay out of our wombs, our bedrooms and our personal lives.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at:

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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