The staff of the Manhattan Declaration, a non-partisan statement of conscience in defense of human life, traditional marriage, and religious freedom, to which I am a signatory, does a good job of tracking trends in religious liberty in America and lately they report a rash of transgressions—teachers being removed from classrooms for expressing opposition to same sex marriage on their personal time, the Governor of Kentucky considering forcing a Catholic hospital to perform abortions, a group of atheists suing for removal of a cross from the 9-11 Memorial and Museum, etc. And as the Presidential campaign picks up speed, the Christophobes have begun to pour out of the woodwork, led by New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, who wants assurance that “religious doctrine does not become an excuse to exclude my fellow citizens from the rights and protections our country promises” and proposes that all candidates be asked “tough questions about their faith”, whatever that means. Of course his colleague Paul Krugman is not far behind with an essay on “Republicans Against Science”. Probably the most egregious transgression lately, however, is the decision by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that religious leaders and themes have no part or presence in the 10th anniversary commemoration of the 9-11 attack at Ground Zero. The free exercise of religion, the free market in religious belief, the tolerance of all faiths, and the role of religious faith in the public square informing the deepest values and commemorating the most sacred moments in our history are at the core of American life as we have known it. We disturb this tradition at our peril.
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