“O poor New England! There is a deep laid plot against your civil and religious liberties, and they will be lost. Your golden days are at an end. You have nothing but trouble before you. . . . Your liberties will be lost.” – George Whitefield
My sources indicate the above quote was from 2 April 1764. Whitefield was indicating to a group of ministers, long before the American Revolution, that there was a plot to end religious liberties in America. It seems that the Anglican church, wanted to exert its control over the religious affairs of the American colonies, which ran counter to the prevailing theme of religious liberty.
Who knows if Whitefield knew that the whole mess would end in revolution (that America would actually win!)? What is fairly clear, in fact obvious in hindsight, is that the potential threat to religious freedom was quite troubling to the colonials. So much so that in 1791 freedom of religion was ratified into the U.S. Constitution as part of the first amendment.
Fast-forward to several hundred years. There is a move afoot in San Francisco for a ballot initiative to outlaw the practice of circumcision; or, the practice of circumcision on non-adults (one of many stories is here). Proponents of the ban will say that circumcision is mutilation, and that it should not happen outside of consent of the offended party. Opponents will note that this is a religious rite, defended under the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.
I clearly agree with opponents of the ban – this is a religious issue for Jews. But, to be fair, I should note that I am not at all in favor of female circumcision, a form of genital mutilation practiced by certain adherents of Islam. For that matter, we could construct any number of hypothetical scenarios in which a parent makes a decision they fundamentally believe to be in the best interest of the child, but which causes the child future (or present) harm. These are messy. At what point does the defense of life and liberty intervene?
(Now, having said that, the opponents of circumcision seem, to me, to be on a religious crusade; continually overstating the detriments.)
To this we’d like to make two simple points.
The first is a simple jab at the subtle presumption of “default” status by progressives. “You are free to practice your religion, but your children are to be unaffected by it (since it’s wrong) until they’re old enough to choose for themselves.” Sure, the ballot measure is only a small, small hint in that direction, but the premise comes up in other places as well.
(One need look no further than the standard public school approach to social engineering, in which children are taught (on the public dime and with no countervailing viewpoints) a standard set of liberal-accepted social norms. But I digress.)
Second, and more interestingly, is that this is the plight of democracy versus republic. In a democracy, which is the form of government being utilized in San Francisco to push this measure, your rights are totally subject to the will of the majority. If the majority says that you must work 60 hour weeks to pay for their car detailing and personal chefs, then that’s just the way it is. If you want it to be otherwise, you either have to appeal to the masses and form your own majority, or have a system in which fundamental rights are protected (e.g., a republic). I know, that’s what we’re supposed to have in the United States … we’ll see how far this ballot measure goes.