Debunking 4 Myths About Religious Freedom

Russell Moore | October 28, 2015

It’s rather common in headlines and news articles these days to see “religious freedom” placed in scare quotes. Many seem to think religious liberty is just a Religious Right Trojan horse for Christian privilege.

Here are four popular myths about religious liberty I commonly encounter.

Myth #1: Religious freedom is about ending the separation of church and state.

This myth is grounded in a misunderstanding of church/state separation, held by many on the secular progressive Left and some on the religious Right. Church/state separation, as practiced in this country, was not supported simply by Enlightenment skeptics but by orthodox believers.

The Revolutionary-era Baptists, for example, were hardly “progressive” in theology or politics. Nevertheless, they knew the state shouldn’t have the power to establish a religion or to restrict the free exercise of religion. They knew Jesus had commanded his followers to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s (Matt. 22:21). This means taxation and the obedience of legitimate civil law. But the state is not given power of worship or power over the conscience, and a state that pretends to such power has overstepped its bounds.

Religious freedom isn’t about tearing down the separation of church and state; it’s about maintaining the separation. This doesn’t mean…

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