Thanks to the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol by a mob, some of whose violent members claim they took their cues from the forty-fifth president of the United States, the forty-sixth president will be inaugurated in a city whose governmental and monumental core more closely resembles an armed stockade than the capital of a mature democratic republic.
Shortly after the inauguration, the new president’s administration will begin an assault on the conscience rights of medical professionals, on the inalienable right to life from conception until natural death, and on religious freedom, which the administration’s nominee for secretary of health and human services believes is reducible to the state’s tolerance of certain weekend leisure-time activities.
In this unprecedented situation, what are the commitments to be re-affirmed by those promoting a religiously-informed public philosophy for the American experiment in ordered liberty? Here are my suggestions.
We should affirm that the United States is a national community of moral and political conviction, not a polity based on blood and soil, ethnicity or race.
We should affirm that democracy cannot sustain itself on the basis of a false idea of the human person that reduces men and women to mere bundles of desires, the satisfaction of which is the primary function of the state. We should affirm that expressive individualism and its playmate, moral relativism, are incompatible with democratic self-governance over the long haul. And we should commit ourselves to lifting up a truer, nobler vision of the human condition, one based on both reason and revelation.
We should affirm in the strongest possible terms that the method of persuasion is a moral and democratic imperative, and we should insist that violence is not an acceptable method of political protest in a democracy.
We should affirm that no grievance or ideology justifies a violent assault on persons or the profligate trashing of property, public or private.
We should affirm that public officials have a solemn obligation to maintain public order so that there is ample, protected public space in which to conduct the robust, candid, and civil debate that is the lifeblood of democracy.
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