July 21, 2012
The New Religious Intolerance
As Nussbaum notes, the American and European developments differ in important ways. Above all, she writes, nothing in the United States “even remotely approaches the nationwide and regional bans on Islamic dress in Europe, or the nationwide Swiss minaret referendum” — let alone an anti-Islamic massacre. In Nussbaum’s view, the difference in severity stems from divergent views of national identity. Whereas European nations tend to “conceive of nationhood and national belonging in ethno-religious and cultural-linguistic terms,” the United States associates citizenship with the affirmation of an ideal of freedom that explicitly precludes the persecution of religious minorities. She suggests that Europe migrate to “a more inclusive and political definition of national belonging, in which land, ethnicity and religion would be less important than shared political ideals.” In other words, Europe should become more like America. The core of the book explores three preconditions of securing religious liberty for minorities — and in all of them the United States does a much better job than Europe. First, a nation must commit itself to protecting the greatest possible freedom of conscience that is compatible with public order and safety — a principle that the United States codifies in the First Amendment’s disestablishment of religion and guarantee of religious free exercise.more from Damon Linker at the NY Times here.
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