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So Much for "Freedom of Religion"

by Christopher A. Ferrara

As Pope Leo XIII warned Catholics in his monumental encyclical on human liberty, Libertas Humana, the "modern liberties" of "freedom of conscience," "freedom of speech" and "freedom of worship" really mean, in the end, social chaos and freedom for only one thing: the spread of evil throughout the social order. For if political authority refuses to distinguish between truth and error, but rather insists upon treating truth and error alike before the law, then, Leo warned, "truth being gradually obscured by darkness, pernicious and manifold error, as too often happens, will easily prevail."

The folly of placing the true religion on an equal footing with false religions is demonstrated by the situation in France. As Reuters recently reported (October 7, 2004), "Determined to stand firm against Muslim fundamentalism without singling out Islam, French lawmakers this year banned ‘conspicuous religious symbols’ and indicated this meant the headscarf, the Jewish skullcap and large Christian crosses."

That is, French authorities did not have the courage to declare openly that they wished (rightly enough) to suppress the rise of militant Islam in that once Catholic country. So, instead, they pretended that all religions are equally offensive in their public manifestations, including Roman Catholicism  —  the very lifeblood of France before the French Revolution overthrew Catholic social order in 1789 and gave us the "modern" pluralistic state.

As a result of the French government’s refusal to distinguish between the true religion founded by Christ and the false religion founded by "the prophet" Mohammed, "the French law meant to banish Muslim headscarves from state schools is finding unexpected targets in southern France, where some principals have begun turning away Roman Catholic chaplains," says Reuters. As Reuters notes, "Five priests have been barred from state schools in the Var region despite the fact that French law has long allowed them entry to meet Catholic pupils there, according to the local diocesan spokesman Father Charles Mallard."

As one teacher at the state school where the priests were turned away put it: "How can you explain to pupils that the law is the same for everyone if we make an exception like that?" What a good little pluralist this teacher is: "the law" must not admit of any difference between the priesthood of Jesus Christ and the followers of Mohammed. No, "the law" must equally disfavor both, for "the law" applies to everyone. And so France  —  known as "the eldest daughter of the Church" since the conversion of Clovis, King of the Franks, in the 6th Century  —  France, wherein Catholicism was the religion of the state until 1789, now expels Catholic priests from state schools for the "offense" of wearing their cassocks.

This is the legacy of the modern notion of "religious liberty." They should have seen it coming. And they would have, had they only heeded the teaching of Pope Leo on the true meaning of social liberty: "Men have a right freely and prudently to propagate throughout the State whatever things are true and honorable, so that as many as possible may possess them; but lying opinions, that which no mental plague is greater, and vices which corrupt the heart and moral life should be diligently repressed by public authority, lest they insidiously work the ruin of the State." Behold the ruin of the great State of France.