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America's Ten Commandments: The ACLU's mistake

Michael Novak

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The reason why there is religious liberty, or at least the sole reason given by three crucial Founding documents on the subject -- the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the Virginia Statute for the Establishment of Religious Liberty, and James Madison's famous and eloquent Remonstrance -- is this rare and precious conception: That prior to any obligation to the state, prior even to any obligation to civil society (prior both in time and in degree of importance), is the inalienable communion between the individual and the Creator, to Whom the human being owes a duty precedent to any he owes state or civil society. This duty cannot be fulfilled by any other than each individual, one by one. For each person, it is inalienable.

This inalienable relation between the individual and the Creator is the ground and foundation of the right to religious liberty, and through that first right, of all the other civil rights and liberties. From that human-divine relation emanates the spiritual power of the ACLU.

However, a deeper and more surprising turn in our reflections must now be taken. The conception of a Creator is specific only to a tiny handful of the world religions. The conception of a Creator Who demands to be recognized "in spirit and in truth," and not simply by outward actions (burning incense, bending the knee, reciting sacred formulae, performing certain ritual actions such as pilgrimages or prostrations, etc.) is specific to even fewer. The conception of a Creator Who, in addition, made every individual free, and glories in the friendship of free women and free men, seems in fact to be limited only to two: to Judaism and its offspring, Christianity.

Read the entire article on the National Review Online website.



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