First, Dingo presumes the First Amendment guarantees "freedom FROM religion where the government is concerned." Not so. The relevant Constitutional text does no such thing. The Constitution does not shield one from encountering religion any more than it protects from being hit by air molecules. Dingo's position is unsupported by precedent. See Employment Div., Ore. Dept. of Human Res. v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 890 (1990) ("Values that are protected against government interference through enshrinement in the Bill of Rights are not thereby banished from the political process."); Roberts v. United States Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609, 622 (1984) ("An individual's freedom to speak, to worship, and to petition the government for the redress of grievances could not be vigorously protected from interference by the State unless a correlative freedom to engage in group effort toward those ends were not also guaranteed. According protection to collective effort on behalf of shared goals is especially important in preserving political and cultural diversity and in shielding dissident expression from suppression by the majority. Consequently, we have long understood as implicit in the right to engage in activities protected by the First Amendment a corresponding right to associate with others in pursuit of a wide variety of political, social, economic, educational, religious, and cultural ends.") (citations omitted).
Second, Dingo's conceptual yardstick skews the result. The joker in the deck is defining neutrality as "a secular government - to me, that is one that neither facilitates, nor restricts religious expression." Whatever the merit of this claim in the abstract, it's plainly false today. As Jonah Goldberg observes (National Review, May 23, 2005 at 30), "Modern liberalism has taken on the trappings of a religion." Dogmatic secularism fits the bill.
Gary Gutting defined faith to require a "total commitment to the implications of what is believed and this is incompatible with continuing reflection on its truth." Religious Belief and Religious Skepticism, 1982, at 106. That covers the secularists today. Do they know when life begins? Don't question abortion on demand--unless you're prepared to be ostracized. Gay marriage? Boomr, another commenter, claims "neutrality" demands it. [Added 3pm] And liberal secularists know global warming is real; no need to prove it; skeptics must be either defeatists or fascists. All of which sounds like a catechism for the faithful--and a shared understanding of heresy.
Today's liberals are neither liberal nor tolerant. Liberal secularists rarely mix with those in different (red state) "congregations;" as a result, they demonize anyone with whom they disagree. In the blue states and the media, "[E]veryone knows by now that the prejudices of the powerful are labeled "rational," while the simple rituals of the peasantry are labeled "superstition." As Peter Wallison noted, "The fact that Christian fundamentalists hold different views from their own means that, in their eyes, the fundamentalists are divisive and intolerant." For post-Clinton liberals, "The 'comprehensive doctrines' of moral traditionalists and individualist free spirits alike, doctrines having millions of adherents, end up being effectively written off as 'unreasonable' from the egalitarian liberal point of view." The liberal view of religion "is stuck in century-and-a-half old Marxist hostility. Thus, despite their professed "tolerance," the left never plays fair." [Edited 3pm]
Moreover, secularists don't occupy the middle ground. Instead, as Jesse Walker (no fan of conservatives) concluded:
The dominant species of liberal doesn't just want to maintain the old taboos; it wants to introduce some new ones. For many Americans, the Democrats are the party that hates their guns, cigarettes, and fatty foods (which is worse: to rename a french fry or to take it away?); that wants to impose speed limits on near-abandoned highways; that wants to tell local schools what they can or can't teach.In other words, the secular seek to "swap one intolerance for another."
True neutrality requires even-handedness. I've no objection to Dingo's secularism--but not his delusion. Secularism and religion are opposites--each protected by the First Amendment, but neither neutral.
Tolerance, secular, illustration thereof, Garrison Keillor variety, about the right-wing, in The Nation:
They are evil, lying, cynical bastards who are out to destroy the country I love and turn it into a banana republic, but hey, nobody's perfect. And now that their man is re-elected and they have nice majorities in the House and Senate, they are hunters in search of diminishing prey.(via Bloggledygook)
Dingo replies, I answer.
* Jimmy, another commenter, is wrong about the scope of the Amendment--though the wording appears limited to Federal actions, the Supreme Court read the 14th Amendment to "incorporate" the First Amendment and thus apply to the states. Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652, 666 (1925). So a state cannot adopt an official religion.