New American Charter Calls for a Public Policy of Pluralism

| February 14, 2019

The Christian Professional Network strongly supports the American Charter of Freedom of Religion and Conscience, which was released in November, 2018, which you can read in full here.  This article is from one of its signers.

The American Charter of Freedom of Religion and Conscience was released to the public on November 20, 2018 at a ceremony at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The Charter stands against polarization and divisions. It reaffirms America’s religious pluralism and commitment to freedom of religion and conscience for all. At the ceremony, I joined a diverse group of two dozen people and signed the Charter on behalf of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance.

A Call to Americans

We live in a time of deep polarization, growing disinterest in and opposition to religious freedom and increasing diversity of religions and moral values. The American Charter is written for just this time. It is a call to Americans—and to people of good will around the globe—to remember that the freedom of religion and conscience is indispensable if people are to live together in peace.

The American Charter reminds us of the passionate drive within each of us to live true to our deep convictions and our strong sense of our particular identity. These different core values and diverse identities can set us against each other, and surely will, if some are able to use the power of the government to suppress the rest. Instead, the American Charter calls us to respect those with whom we disagree, giving each other space to live. Rather than resorting to government compulsion, we should turn to constructive discussion. We should demonstrate through the way we live our lives what we are convinced is good. We should pray. And we should search for all the ways we can collaborate across divisions

Just a few decades ago, a call to mutual respect would have emphasized freedom of religion: the need for the government not to take sides on religious debates, and the need for adherents of each faith to respect the convictions of the adherents of other faiths. In the post-World War II era, it was important to stress freedom of thought and conscience, as well as the freedom of religion, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). The American Charter acknowledges that the diversity of views and convictions that needs protection and mutual respect is now even more complex,  particularly with regards to increasing moral heterogeneity and deep differences concerning human sexuality.

How can Americans live together – American Charter of Freedom of Religion

How can Americans live together, given our profound differences concerning God, conscience, the beginning and end of life, relationships, sexuality and more? The American Charter wisely does not propose any specific solutions, but instead shines a light on the only way forward: “[R]ather than relegating competing interests and rights claims to zero-sum conflict, litigation and judicial decrees, Americans of good will must work together to fashion reasonable accommodations for the good of all.”

IRFA has a term for that path: civic pluralism. That is our public policy commitment.  The American Charter rightly stresses that government must protect the exercise of religion and conscience via institutions and not only by individuals. It rightly aims for a healthy civil society and not only a civil public square.

IRFA salutes the American Charter of Freedom of Religion and Conscience, under the leadership of Os Guinness and Williams A. Galston. The Charter’s institutional homes are the Religious Freedom Institute and the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University.

Category: Faith

About the Author ()

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Email | Website | Stanley Carlson-Thies is the Founder and Senior Director of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance (IRFA), a division of the Center for Public Justice. As part of this role, he convenes the Coalition to Preserve Religious Freedom, a multi-faith alliance of social-service, education, and religious freedom organizations that advocates for the religious freedom of faith-based organizations to Congress and the federal government. In addition he is also a Senior Fellow at the Canadian think tank Cardus. He has served on task forces and initiatives under both President Obama and President George W. Bush. Previously, he was Director of Social Policy Studies for CPJ and directed CPJ’s project to track the implementation and impact of the Charitable Choice provision of the 1996 federal welfare reform law. He received the William Bentley Ball Life and Religious Liberty Defense Award from the Center for Law and Religious Freedom and the Christian Legal Society in October 2004. He holds a doctorate in political science from the University of Toronto. He lives in Annapolis, Maryland, with his wife, Christiane.