When is Freedom Not Freedom?

It never ceases to astonish me how the fringe political and religious right in America so often gives voice to promoting freedom and liberty while at the same time advocating public policy and law that would do just the opposite.

To date, all but one of the GOP presidential candidates have failed to issue a policy statement expressing even the slightest support for the freedom of the individual in America. Jon Huntsman did publicly state his support for civil unions for gays during the recent New Hampshire debate. Other  than that his only claim to individual rights appears to be his endorsement of a right to work law in New Hampshire. That in spite of the belief by many that right to works laws favor management and not the individual working person.

Ron Paul, who proudly wears the moniker of Mr. Libertarian, wouldn’t hesitate to use the power of the government he so strongly decries to attack a woman’s right to choice. He is a fundamental Christian and sees America as a such, rather than the diverse secular nation it is. He has issued position statements opposing rights for gays, lesbians and bisexuals as well as laws that keep the cops out of our bedrooms. His opposition to the Civil Rights Act, minimum wage laws, equal pay for equal work, etc. show he is willing to protect the freedom of business while ignoring those laws that protect the working-class from the power of business.

Rick Santorum seems interested in creating a government bent on enforcing the most conservative tenets of the Catholic Church on the mainstream of America. He has publicly supported the Church’s position on sex for procreation, contraception,  abortion, distribution of condoms for the prevention of the spread of HIV, making divorce harder to get, ignoring sexual proclivity, opposing same-sex marriages, and more. When the Supreme Court overturned Texas’s anti-sodomy law he told the Associated press that such laws are,

“there for a purpose. Because, again, I would argue, they undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family. And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does.”

Years ago I read Leon Uris’s novel Trinity and was stunned by the power the local parish priest wielded in Ireland of the early 1900s. I recently saw that same power employed by a Catholic priest in the HBO drama, Boardwalk Empire. Whatever society existed in Ireland or Atlantic City in the early part of the last century, it certainly wasn’t one that respected the separation of church and state or the rights of citizens. The election of Rick Santorum would risk the return of just such a limited and controlled society. Whether it be control by centralized government or control by extreme fundamentalist religions, it would still not be a free society in which the freedom of the individual was respected. As a matter of fact, Santorum has often expressed his disdain for the concepts of “individual autonomy.”

While I, nor most others, know where Mitt Romney really stands, there is no doubt where Rick Perry stands. He and Michelle Bachmann are poster children for what is known as dominionism, the firm belief that Christianity should be the one dominant world religion and our accepted national policy should be the expansion of Christian doctrine throughout the world. It is not a new idea, but one that goes back at least to the Manifest Destiny movement of the 1800s. If it be in their powers America would become a Christian theocracy in a gnat’s breath. Plus, given our religious history, I would be surprised if either the Catholic or Mormon religions found a comfortable place in an American dominionist theocracy.

To be less flippant about Romney, his religion is without doubt an issue he has not, nor ever will, flip on. Romney’s family has been devoutly Mormon since the early 1800s. Whether you believe Mormonism is a Christian religion or a cult isn’t important. What it really is, is a very conservative religious organization demanding strict adherence to its principles by the faithful. Those principles include, prescribing a limited role for women, limiting individual autonomy, opposition to gay rights and same-sex marriage, opposition to pro-choice, and more. Just as Americans must be concerned about the extremely conservative Rick Santorum taking his lead from the infallibility of the Vatican, they need to also be aware it would be difficult for either Romney or Huntsman to break stride with their religion’s hierarchy in Salt Lake City.

So far I’ve avoided discussing Newt Gingrich because Newt is a hard one for me. One moment he’s ranting about right-wing social engineering getting his fellow Republicans in a snit, and the next he’s advocating making school age children work in their school’s restrooms and garnering applause. Regarding religion, Newt’s seems to be something akin to that of Henry the 8th. Whatever faith he is at the moment is dictated by which will condone his behavior du jure. He wasn’t Catholic when he was out slippin’ ’round and springing divorce on a wife going through cancer treatment. He wasn’t living a God-like example when he led the charge to impeach Bill Clinton and then slid between the sheets with his mistress after a hard day’s at the dog pit. Once all that was behind him, and he had to align himself with his current mistress/wife’s faith, he had conservative Catholic tattooed to his right buttocks.

What church these candidates attend and what their fiscal views are doesn’t really concern me. What does concern me is how entrenched or extreme they are in their ideological positions, especially when it comes to individual social freedoms. There are about 330 million people in America. Most are not Catholic, not Mormon, not Pentecostal, not politically or religiously extreme, not in the Tea Party, not homosexual, not Democrat or Republican, and not a lot of other things. But, at some level of concern, each of the candidates mentioned in this article would be willing to attempt forcefully imprinting their beliefs and values upon the vast majority who just want to live their lives as our founders envisioned, free of interference wherever possible.

Right-wing conservatives love to talk about freedom and liberty. But, given what I see, their version of America would not be a land of the free. It would be a land of limited personal freedom, enforced theological thought, and legislated morality. It would not be an America where diversity was relished, tolerated or protected, and it would not be an America governed by the democratically agreed to rules of its citizens and mandates of its long-existing Constitution, but by laws based in imposed religious ideology.

Don’t tell me from one side of your mouth you want freedom and liberty while from the other side dictate what my wife and I can do in the privacy our bedroom. That sounds more like a Big Brother moment from Orwell’s 1984 than one from a free and open participatory democracy.

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