Progressivism's Troubling Religious Test

By Boyd, Hal | Deseret News (Salt Lake City), June 18, 2017 | Go to article overview

Progressivism's Troubling Religious Test


Boyd, Hal, Deseret News (Salt Lake City)


Editor's note: Jay Evensen is on vacation and will return next week.

The way that some progressives treat their fellow liberal politicians of faith has disturbing long-term implications for meaningful public participation by religious citizens.

Liberalism in the West, it seems, is becoming illiberal to faith.

Take, for example, the U.K.'s progressive politician Tim Farron. Hailed as the country's first overtly "evangelical" party leader in nearly a century, Farron was chosen in 2015 to head the Liberal Democrats, a party championing both social and economic progressivism.

This week, however, Farron resigned from his leadership post in part because of incessant questions regarding his personal religious beliefs. In recent months he's faced repeated queries about his views on abortion, and whether he believes homosexuality is a sin ("I do not," he replied before parliament):

"To be a political leader - especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 - and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible's teaching, has felt impossible for me," he said during his resignation.

To be clear, Farron was both public and profuse about his support for gay rights and abortion. However, it became increasingly evident that his country's commentariat - and vocal members within his party - were more interested in litigating Farron's theological views than his political ones.

It may be time for the U.K.'s progressives to consider the principles in the post-divorce document crafted by the U.S. founders after parting ways with the British in the 18th century - it reads: "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

Of course, many might take issue with the characterization that merely asking about one's private religious or moral views is a "religious test." But, the practical implications of publicly prosecuting theology in a political forum are disconcerting, to say the least.

It's worth pondering whether the likes of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose personal faith drove his politics, would survive the kind of ideological purity tests deployed by some modern Western liberalists.

"The measure of a liberal," Farron responded after a pressing television inquisition regarding his private moral views on abortion, "is someone who protects other people's rights no matter what your personal position is. …

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