Beginning with a quote from Philip Rieff is usually a good sign, and Thaddeus Kozinski does so in his Religious Freedom and the Triumph of the Therapeutic, published on the Center for Morality in Public Life’s Ethika Politika weblog. He argues, as have others, that opposing the Obama administration’s new contraception mandate primarily or solely as an attack on religious freedom is a mistake and perhaps a “disastrous” one for everyone, because that is to oppose Obama for being a bad Lockean liberal and to deny the Catholic Church’s claim to be who she is.
“When Catholics argue merely for their right to religious practice, that argument is necessarily heard by other Americans in Lockean terms, in which ‘every religion is orthodox to itself,’ and in which the sole power and authority over all matters pertaining to the things of this world is the secular state,” he writes.
Religion is, by this definition, strictly otherworldly, and there is no non-subjectivist way of knowing the truth of religious dogma or judging between conflicting doctrines and practices. In other words, religious relativism is the official lens through which all judgments on the proper bounds of church and state are made in America—ab initio, as William Cavanaugh, has recently argued. If religion is private, idiosyncratic, and otherworldly, not public, truth-embodying, and world-implicated, it cannot have an authoritative, public role in ordering common life.
Defined as a private cult claiming no authority over anything but its own private doctrines and practices, perhaps the Obama regime might concede the Church and its institutions the right to its rather bizarre and barbaric proscription against “responsible sexual activity,” but it would never do so for a Church defining herself as the Mystical Body of Christ and demanding from this regime and all governments the libertas ecclesiae, that is, a liberty prior to, and higher and more privileged, as Dignitatis Humanae makes clear, than the generic religious liberty accorded to persons, due to the Church’s unique divine identity and mission.