Dinesh D’Souza on government accommodation of religion

Dinesh D’Souza has some interesting commentary on the notion that religion is an important factor in people’s lives, and that consequently the government should not merely permit freedom of religious belief, but actually make religious practices an official part of how the people are to be governed. Surprisingly, D’Souza is against it.

What we are getting… is not religious craziness but liberal craziness, not theological error but multicultural reductio ad absurdum. The multicultural premise is that classical liberal rules that apply equally to everyone nevertheless discriminate against racial and cultural minorities that don’t want to play by those rules. Consequently equality of rights for individuals must give way to equality of consideration for groups. Otherwise minorities will feel disenfranchised even in a society where there is equal treatment for individuals under the law.

Having written so much about how the secular government is “oppressing” the Christian minority by refusing to allow them to incorporate their religious views into our nation’s laws and policies, what has happened to convince D’Souza that government accommodation of religion is “liberal craziness”?

It’s simple: this time the religion happens to be someone else’s.

Atheists can break out the champagne: there really are some wacky religious people out there. One of them seems to be Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury,. In a recent speech, Williams ruffled a lot of feathers… when he said it “seems unavoidable” that Muslim holy law or sharia is coming to Britain. Not only that, but our bearded, bespectacled cleric even thought that this would be a good thing because it would foster social cohesion.

D’Souza finds this outrageous, but is it really so remarkable? Let’s take a paragraph from his anti-Muslim screed, and substitute the word “Christian.”

Christians don’t just want to live in the West, they want to live in the West as Christians. This requires preserving Christian practices in Western society; otherwise, Christians must give up their religious identity for national integration. This is the context for Williams’ claim that Christians should not have to sacrifice cultural loyalty in order to be loyal to Britain.

Hmm, that sounds a lot like the kind of thing D’Souza would be cheerleading for instead of denouncing it as “liberal craziness.” But that would imply that D’Souza is a man of integrity and principle, who applied the same standards to all, equally. And sadly, his behavior is not entirely consistent with that conclusion. He’s only opposed to religious accommodations when it’s someone else’s religion; he heartily favors government accommodation, not to say open endorsement, of his own religion.

What makes this even more egregious is that Williams is only proposing that sharia be allowed among Muslims, not that it be imposed upon every Briton regardless of religion. Contrast that with the kind of religious accommodations D’Souza favors for American government: gay rights suppressed for all Americans regardless of religious preference, religion-based bans on abortion, religious veto power over the contents of public school curricula, etc, etc. It’s “liberal craziness” to let Muslims live as Muslims, but it would suit D’Souza just fine to force all Americans to live as Christians regardless of their personal beliefs.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Williams’ idea is bad craziness too. Society is made up of different people who need to live together and get along, and that means we need to find some common basis for our rules and practices. The one thing we all have in common is secular reality, and that’s what our laws, our public education, and our government programs need to be based on. Believe what you like in your own head, but if you want the benefits of secular society, you need to live by secular rules.

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