How we interpret any given right is strongly contingent on our understanding of a much wider, more complicated web of other rights. Take this recent allegation that the whole Sandra Fluke/contraception thing is about whether people respect "freedom of religion" and the first amendment or not.
Well, that really depends. If you don't think people can legitimately democratically regualte and intervene in the health care system, then a regulation that impacts religious institutions in a way they may not like probably looks like a violation of the first amendment. If, however, you think that people can legitimately democratically regulate and intervene in the health care system, then it's the special dispensation to religious institutions that starts to look like the violation of the first amendment!
Think about a more extreme case - a religion that practiced human sacrifice (or - for a more recent example - child marriage and rape). If the government doesn't provide a special dispensation to that group to go ahead and practice human sacrifice (or child marriage and rape), do we consider that a violation of the first amendment? Of course not. Why? Because of our understanding of how this web of rights fits together.
You really need to think about that before you go around saying things like "this Rush Limbaugh stuff is a distraction - it's really about the first amendment". We can play that game if you want, but don't presume that you're the one who's clearly and unambiguously standing up for the first amendment.
Practically speaking, I think a truly liberal society finds a middle ground precisely because there is disagreement about what these rights really mean. That's what reperesentative government is good at doing.
Dreher Is on to Rationalism in Religion
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