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Sen. Ashcroft, President-elect George W. Bush’s nominee for attorney
general, is already facing the kind of liberal assaults that
characterized the total war against Robert Bork’s nomination to the
Supreme Court. At root, there is only one liberal objection to the
nomination of moral conservatives like Sen. Ashcroft to high office in
American government: Liberals understand that such men will not bow
down in worship to the spurious requirement that American law and
government adopt doctrinaire rejection of all religious influence. The
radical doctrine of the “separation of church and state” is really the
doctrine of the separation of morality from American life.

Liberals believe that it is unconstitutional for citizens to act on
their moral judgments, such as the view that homosexuality is wrong, in
their dealings with fellow citizens. They believe that the state has
the right coercively to dictate conscience on these points — and on a
civil rights pretext force citizens to accept what is contrary to their
religious conscience.

The clearest instance of this tyranny now occurs in the service of
the radical homosexual agenda. Liberals pretend that what is at issue
in our society now is what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms.
But when liberals attempt to use the government to force the Boy Scouts
to have homosexual Scoutmasters, the issue is not what goes on in the
privacy of somebody’s bedroom, but what will be imposed as a matter of
law upon the consciences of those whose religious beliefs cannot
countenance homosexual practices. The Boy Scouts have stood firm for
the principles of moral conscience they profess. They are not striving
to persecute anyone but merely to assert their right to establish, for
themselves, what shall be the positive principles of probity and
character their organization will represent. This is a matter not of
private morality but of public right, guaranteed by the First Amendment,
which states clearly that government cannot interfere in the free
exercise of religion.

Note the specific reference to action. The First Amendment is not
chiefly about beliefs and opinions. It is about the free “exercise” of
religion and exercise means action and activity. Liberal hostility to
Sen. Ashcroft is part of the ongoing attempt to intimidate Americans
into accepting government dictation of moral conscience, demanding that
we remove from the purview of moral judgment activities that have been
essential to the meaning of ethics and decent comportment from time
immemorial.

As liberals understand the Constitution, the Boy Scouts of America do
not have the right to act on their religious views. In other words, the
free exercise of religion does not mean that citizens actually get to
exercise religion. It means, rather, that we get to think about it.
But when we want to exercise our religious beliefs in a way that goes
against the politically correct requirements of those in power, we shall
face the coercive force of law. It will come down on our churches and
our Christian youth associations to dictate to us what shall be the
moral content of our religious conscience.

We simply cannot accept the coercive use of the law to force
Americans to accept as moral that which their religious faith and
conscience tell them is immoral. We can’t accept a specious civil
rights argument to remove from legitimate moral judgment human sexual
behavior — which must be subject to moral judgment if it is to remain
in the realm of human accountability and responsibility. And that is
why we must reject the whole radical homosexual agenda. To accept it is
to accept in principle that Americans may not shape their dealings with
one another according to the expectation of moral decency.

On the day we accept that view, we will rapidly discover that
homosexuals are not the only ones to clamor for release from
accountability. Are they the only folks who are subject to passions
that arise from their proclivities? Anger, jealousy, violence and many
other things are traceable in part to that law in our members which
reflects instinct and other inclinations that are not entirely under our
control. If we accept the notion that such influences free us from all
moral accountability, we haven’t liberated anybody. We have destroyed
the very idea of human freedom. Human freedom requires that we respect
in all human beings the capacity to choose between right and wrong. If
we are in fact, in our actions, simply determined by genetic or other
circumstances, then the very idea of liberty is a farce. The end of the
very notion of moral accountability would mean that our whole way of
life is also laughable. What will then be left of the rule of law and
of the true liberty which is its fruit?

This fate cannot be avoided if those who seriously intend the
secularization of American life have their way. Human history shows
clearly that the dominant motivation for individual men and women to
seek lives of moral rectitude — and to expect the same of others with
whom they live — has been the voice of religion and of moral reflection
inspired by religious faith. To sterilize moral judgment of religious
influence is, for most people, to kill it.

Jews, Muslims, Hindus, have come from all over the world to settle
here precisely because they knew that America was founded on Declaration
principles and would accordingly not interfere with their religious
freedom. But now we are told that having an attorney general who
believes that the Constitution and the laws protect the free exercise of
religion is a recipe for oppression and prejudice.

The opposite is true, of course. Radically secular liberalism is the
real recipe for oppression and prejudice, because although liberals
claim to rely simply on the Constitution as the limit to government
coercion, in fact they rely on their own personal judgment. The
tortured reading of the First Amendment that permits them to demand with
force of law that we make no moral judgment against homosexuality arises
from their own deep conviction that this is what the Constitution
should mean. And therefore we must conclude, I suppose, as have
many liberal judges and justices, that we no longer have a government in
which the Constitution is truly relevant. The only thing that is
relevant is liberal moral probity, liberal moral conscience, liberal
moral outrage, governed, as it seems, by no moral principles external to
their will.

Here indeed is rich ground for arbitrary government and state
sponsored coercion. Sen. Ashcroft should not be afraid to defend
America’s Declaration heritage of true religious liberty as the real
road of freedom and the rule of law, for the benefit of all people. It
is the Declaration, a non-sectarian but deeply religious document, that
gives us the ground for the real protection of human dignity. The
protection of equal rights must be afforded not just to today’s liberal
favorites but to everyone, simply because they are human beings created
by God.

This equal protection under the law is the blessing we receive for
founding our country on our respect for the authority of the
transcendent God. But it is impossible to secure this blessing unless
we acknowledge that even our judgments about right and wrong do not
constitute the ultimate tribunal of human dignity. The name of God was
invoked at the beginning of America’s life in order to free us from the
temptation to act like God. This is precisely the meaning of the
Declaration. It is precisely the influence of the Declaration that Sen.
Ashcroft should champion in defense of the role of religion in American
life.

The American statesman who understands his job would only appoint to
any position of responsibility in the United States Government
individuals who believed in and accepted the principles of the
Declaration of Independence on which this nation was founded. This is
to invoke no sectarian principle whatsoever. It is difficult to believe
that someone who denies the principle that the Creator exists will
accept the principle that the Creator gives all men rights. Sen.
Ashcroft will be challenged precisely on the grounds that he believes
that moral judgments invoking the Creator are constitutional. He should
invoke the Declaration in his defense and suggest that any alternative
account of American life is incoherent, historically fallacious, and
toxic to our liberty.

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