Wednesday, June 20, 2012

'Religious freedom' is just another word for 'nothing left to lose'

I think we're entering the phase where invocations of "religious freedom" are increasingly losing their meaning. The latest example is in Harrisburg, where the Catholic Church is backing a bill to eliminate Department of Public Welfare oversight of church-based day cares and give it to the state's Department of Education—which, incidentally, has no power or infrastructure to actually regulate those day cares:
"The committee chairman, Sen. Jeffrey Piccola (R., Dauphin), said the bill was needed because of "continuing encroachment that impacts the religious mission of schools and day-care facilities." 
When pressed by other lawmakers, neither Piccola nor a lobbyist for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, which supports the measure, could cite an instance where there had been an attempt by state officials to interfere with any religious curriculum."
We have enough battles over the appropriate spheres of public and private responsibility that I'd hate to see the term "religious freedom" turn into some Orwellian phrase that disguises more than it illuminates. Seems to me that if you're going to allege that the state is trampling such freedom, you ought to have at least an anecdote available to make the case. As it stands, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference looks plenty cynical.

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