Monday, April 19, 2010

Religious Freedom in the Obama Administration: Seeking the Common Ground

My Osgoode Hall classmate Barry Bussey has edited the 2008-2009 issue of Fides et Libertas, the journal of the International Religious Liberty Association. The issue includes several essays and reports about the movement by many countries at the U.N. to ban "the defamation of religion," a topic I may write about in the final chapter of my dissertation.

Barry also wrote an essay in the journal, Religious Freedom in the Obama Administration: Seeking the Common Ground. The thesis of the article is that, at least in the first eight months of his administration, Barack Obama has pursued a "common ground" approach to religious freedom by attempting to avoid strongly allying himself with either the religious left or the religious right. In areas like abortion, faith-based discrimination in federally-funded nonprofits, and foreign policy, Obama has consciously taken the middle ground between polarizing positions.

Much of this information is on the public record, but seeing a summary of Obama's positions in one place was quite helpful. I was particularly interested to learn about Obama's views on the role of religion in public debate, which strongly echo those of John Rawls (religious arguments should always be followed with secular reasons).

The article ends on an optimistic note, but with a reminder that the push for "common ground" can also lead to the silencing of strongly-held minority views.

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