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Liberty And Faith

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by Alan WolfeWhen David Greenberg pages you, you have to pick up the phone. So let me put in my two cent answer to the question of how liberals and Democrats ought to respond to the theocratic tendencies out there in the far regions of the religious right. My answer is this: It is not necessary to choose between liberty and faith. Conservative Protestants were once strong advocates of religious liberty. Their motives were not the noblest; anti-Catholic, they identified Rome with politicized religion and insisted on their purity of their faith by contrast. But they nonetheless contributed greatly to such liberal ideas as religious pluralism and free exercise. I do not believe that conservative Protestants have been well served by their more recent efforts to politicize themselves. They have not gotten all that many concessions from even so close an ally as George W. Bush. And they have soiled themselves in the form of Ralph Reed. Liberals ought to be making the strongest possible case that separation of church and state is as good for them as it is for us. Of course, conservative Catholics are another matter. Their historic traditions--thankfully overcome during Vatican II--link church and state in favor of enforcing orthodoxy. That is why I find conservative Catholics such as Fr. Neuhaus much more dangerous than conservative Protestants such as Rick Warren.

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