This article explains why religious neutrality in a country is ultimately harmful toward Christianity. It explains the development of religious pluralism, where now the disagreements over moral princi­ples are much deeper than in the past.

Source: Reformed Perspective, 2006. 3 pages.

Losing Our Religion

Why the Government's "Neutral Stance" Hurts Christians and Our Country🔗

We live in a pluralistic society — we live in a country made up of many differ­ent groups that often hold to wildly differ­ing views on the most important matters in life. For example, in the religious realm, Canada and the other developed English-speaking countries contain Christians, Muslims, Hindus, secular humanists, Jew­ish people, as well as other groups.

In order for all these groups to peace­fully coexist, it is commonly believed that the government must be "neutral" on reli­gious and moral issues. If the government was to favor the perspective of one group, the other groups would suffer discrimina­tion or even oppression. Thus the existence of a pluralistic society requires the neutral­ity of the government.

Different Views, Same God🔗

In an earlier period of history, this arrangement seemed to work rather well for many Western countries. However, until relatively recently, the plurality of groups within the Western countries consisted al­most exclusively of variations of Chris­tianity. Pluralism meant that the government did not favor the Anglican Church, or Roman Catholic Church, or Re­formed Church, or whatever. The govern­ment was neutral in that respect. But despite the religious differences, the vast majority of people shared a basic Christian moral perspective. Generally speaking, the Ten Commandments formed the basis of a societal consensus on moral issues.

No Common Ground🔗

But in recent decades the influence of the various churches has declined substan­tially and large numbers of adherents of non-Christian religions now reside in the Western countries. So pluralism has taken a somewhat different connotation. Whereas the earlier pluralism relied on many shared moral principles, the newer pluralism can­not. The disagreements over moral princi­ples are much deeper now than in the past. This has important consequences as the government attempts to be "neutral" on moral issues.

One belief underlying the modern lib­eral and pluralistic state is that people should be free to make decisions about important moral issues for themselves. On substantial moral issues such as abortion and homosexuality, the government should not take a position. Instead, indi­vidual citizens can act according to their own personal views. But as political scien­tist Francis Canavan writes in his book The Pluralist Game: Pluralism, Liberalism, and the Moral Conscience, allowing individuals to act according to their own views on im­portant moral issues is not a "neutral" po­sition. Instead, it reflects a particular moral judgment itself.

In making a decision concerning what should be regulated by the state and what should be left to individual preference, the government is not being neutral but taking a definite stand.

Leaving a matter to indi­vidual choice is as much a public decision as deciding to regulate it and implies some public scheme of values quite as much as a decision to regulate does.

Canavan em­phasizes this point, noting that, "the decision to leave certain moral issues to individual choice is a public decision that reflects an underlying public moral judgment. Public deci­sions to leave certain matters to indi­vidual consciences may be and often are wise and right, but neutral they are not."

Deadly "Neutrality"🔗

Perhaps the clearest example of this is the abortion issue. In both Canada and the USA, governments have taken the suppos­edly "neutral" position of leaving decisions about abortion up to pregnant women. Women who want to keep their unborn children don't have to have abortions, while those who don't want their unborn children can obtain abortions. Women are free to act according to their own beliefs, and the government doesn't decide for them one way or the other.

But this kind of abortion policy is not "neutral" in the least. It reflects a harsh moral judgment about the value, or rather lack of value, of unborn children. The gov­ernments of Canada and the USA categor­ically reject the right to life of unborn children, and protect and assist the abor­tion industry. This is not a "neutral" pol­icy. Killing babies is never neutral. The governing politicians of Canada, the USA, and many other countries, have blood on their hands.

A similar point can be made regarding homosexuality. When the government gives all the status and benefits to homo­sexual couples that it gives to heterosexual couples, it is not being "neutral" about sexuality. It is taking a position declaring that homosexuality is just as good as heterosexuality, just as valid as a way-of-life. This is not "neutral." Instead, it is a public stand on an important moral issue.

The Trudeau Two-Step🔗

Canavan points to a two-stage argu­ment that is used by the secular human­ists to force their moral views on our society. The first stage is a libertarian kind of argument. On moral issues such as abortion or homosexuality, it is first ar­gued that these are areas where the gov­ernment should not be involved. "The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation," as Pierre Trudeau so famously put it. So the government ceases to regu­late these areas and thereby legalizes abor­tion and homosexuality.

Then comes the second stage. "These activities are now constitutional rights and, as such, are presented as positive claims on government."

Now that abortion and homosexuality are "rights”, the gov­ernment must uphold them. "What was originally withdrawn from the power of government should now, we are told, be­come an object of government policy."

And therefore the government begins "to use its power to promote or enforce new norms in the guise of leaving normative decisions to individuals. The net result is not no norms but different norms and a reshap­ing of the institutions of society."

So first we are told that the govern­ment has no business making distinctions about sexual behavior. The law should be "neutral" so that homosexuals can exer­cise the same rights as other citizens. Thus the government takes the "neutral" posi­tion that homosexuality is the same as heterosexuality, as far as it is concerned. But then the government becomes involved once again, this time using its power to suppress public expressions of opposition to homosexuality. Its claim to "neutrality" hides its commitment to a particular moral view in favor of homosexuality.

Government policies are never neutral. They are always based on moral principles, i.e., ideas of right or wrong. Certain poli­cies are adopted because they are consid­ered to be "good," while other policies are rejected because they are considered to be "bad." These are always moral judgments based on moral precepts.

There is in­escapably a public morality — a good one or a bad one — in the sense of some set or other of basic norms in the light of which the public makes policy decisions. These norms are moral norms to the extent that they in­clude fundamental judgments on what is good or bad for human beings, therefore on what it is permissible or obligatory to do to them or for them.

We live in a pluralistic society, but the government nevertheless always takes sides on the important moral issues, even while claiming to be neutral.

Canavan refers to what he calls "the pluralist game" which is "a confidence game by which certain groups press government into the service of their beliefs and goals under the pretense of preserving neutral­ity among all beliefs." This is indeed what has been happening.

The Myth of Neutrality🔗

Christians are told that they can't "im­pose their views" because we live in a plu­ralistic society and people should be free to decide how to live for themselves.

But when the government "tries or pretends to be neutral about certain issues, the pluralist game becomes a shell game by which peo­ple are tricked into consenting to changes in basic social standards and institutions on the pretense that nothing more is asked of them than respect for the rights of individ­uals. Much more, however, is involved: on the fundamental issues of social life, one side or the other always wins."

The pluralist game has been an effec­tive tool against the Christian foundations of the developed English-speaking coun­tries. Instead of "imposing" Christian views, the government is encouraged to be "neutral" on moral issues. However, this does not involve "the advent of a truly neu­tral state but the replacement of one view of man, with the ethic and the legal norms based on it, by another view" Secular hu­manism has been replacing Christianity as the basis of Western society through the use of the pluralist argument. Perhaps we should be more conscious of what's really going on here.

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