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What Is US Democratic Party’s ‘Progressive’ Vision Of Religious Freedom?


By Matt Hadro


As the 2016 Democratic Party platform insists on a “progressive” notion of religious freedom, what might that look like in policy?

The platform’s language must be interpreted “within the wider context of both the platform and what they [Democrats] have actually done over the last eight years,” Dr. Matthew Bunson, an EWTN senior contributor, explained to CNA.

The platform, being a “far-left document,” he said, should be “seen through that lens of placing the rights of LGBT people at a clear legal advantage. Politically as well, and as far as they’re concerned, socially.”

As the Republican Party platform included two sections on domestic and international religious freedom, the Democratic Party platform featured two sections on promoting LGBT rights both at home and abroad.

Most of the platform’s focus on domestic religious freedom had to do with Republican nominee Donald Trump’s rhetoric towards Muslims, as well as his proposal of religious tests for immigrants and refugees looking to enter the country. Trump has previously advocated for an indefinite ban on Muslims from entering the country, for security reasons.


Although “conscience” was specifically mentioned in the 1996 Democratic platform on abortion – “we respect the individual conscience of each American on this difficult issue” – there is no mention of “conscience” in the current platform, Bunson noted. Clinton has gone so far as to say at the 2015 Women in the World Summit that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed,” after discussing “critical access to reproductive health care.”

After the party affirmed its support for “religious freedom” in 2008, the term disappeared entirely from the 2012 platform, only to re-appear in 2016 in a different light.

Within the LGBT rights section, one sentence mentioned religious freedom:“We support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate.”

As Bunson stated, a “progressive” take on religious freedom could cede the ground to LGBT concerns when they come into conflict with the free exercise of religion. This is already playing out – or has played out – in some cases, as when Catholic Charities adoption agencies in Illinois and the Distric of Columbia were forced to close because they wouldn’t match children with same-sex couples. A florist in Oregon had to shutter her business for refusing to serve a same-sex wedding.

Rights of conscience might be trampled by LGBT rights in courts and in federal regulation, Bunson explained. “So it’ll be enshrined in health care, it’ll be enshrined in civil rights legislation,” he said.

Earlier this year, the Office of Civil Rights proposed expanding anti-discrimination protections in health care under the Affordable Care Act. The proposals would include prohibiting discrimination for “sex stereotypes,” meaning that certain sex-specific treatments like for “gender transition” would have to be performed if requested.

Democrats have also been pushing the Equality Act, also endorsed by Hillary Clinton, in the House and Senate, though they have not had the majority needed to advance the bill. The act would set up sweeping anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in many areas, such as housing, education, and health care.

The problem with the bill’s language is that it is so broad it could easily infringe on the religious beliefs of those morally opposed to same-sex marriage or transgenderism, legal experts warned.

Elsewhere in the platform, the party condemned the GOP nominee Donald Trump’s rhetoric about Muslims, in the name of religious freedom:

“We reject Donald Trump’s vilification of Muslims. It violates the religious freedom that is the bedrock of our country and feeds into ISIS’ nefarious narrative.”

Regading religious minorities, the platform says the party is “horrified by ISIS’ genocide and sexual enslavement of Christians and Yezidis and crimes against humanity against Muslims and others in the Middle East. We will do everything we can to protect religious minorities and the fundamental right of freedom of religion.”

The platform also insists on promoting LGBT rights abroad. “Democrats believe that LGBT rights are human rights and that American foreign policy should advance the ability of all persons to live with dignity, security, and respect, regardless of who they are or who they love,” it stated.

“We will continue to stand with LGBT people around the world, including fighting efforts by any nation to infringe on LGBT rights or ignore abuse.”

The Obama State Department has already been doing this, Bunson explained, in putting LGBT rights “at the top of their list for international diplomatic initiatives.”

“If that’s the case, then we will see a continuation and probably an expansion of that, as an instrument of American diplomatic efforts that could equal the disenfranchising of countries that continue to support traditional marriage, that place limitations on certainly what the State Department and White House would view as LGBT rights,” he continued.


The Catholic News Agency (CNA) has been, since 2004, one of the fastest growing Catholic news providers to the English speaking world. The Catholic News Agency takes much of its mission from its sister agency, ACI Prensa, which was founded in Lima, Peru, in 1980 by Fr. Adalbert Marie Mohm (†1986).

One thought on “What Is US Democratic Party’s ‘Progressive’ Vision Of Religious Freedom?

  • July 31, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    I would like to stick with the title of the article and make this comment. Religion should be set aside as a personal piece of property of a person. As long as personal property is respected, then religion must be respected and left alone. But in the United States of America, many presidents of the country after President George Washington were anti Islam and thought the Nobile Quran, the Muslim Holy Book, as a text book for killing. Even President Jefferson was anti-Muslims, given the fact that many Muslims participated with President Washington in the Great American Revolution against British colonialism and exploitation. The Arab Muslims of Morocco may have been the first group to support President Washington and the American Revolution. All these were forgotten and let me put them aside. Over the last eight years President Obama has been against Muslims and has killed thousands of Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, and Libya. On the top of his killing he has given himself the authority to kill Muslims and American Muslims people by using drones without a due process. Moreover, his administration has created Daesh and cooperated with terrorist organizations and countries supporting terrorism to destabilize the Middle East and to kill more Muslims. Furthermore, the Obama administration has listed thousands of Muslim people on no-fly list. What his administration has done is that if you are a Muslim they let you take your flight and when you want to come back to the country, they will prevent you by telling you that you are on no-fly list. Thus, there is no other place to go. Finally, President Obama and Secretary Clinton do not mention the term Radical Islam used by other chauvinist imperialist politicians not because they love Muslims but because they are interested in using Muslims to kill other Muslims on Muslim land by using Muslim funds. By the way President Obama has recently called the late President Saddam Hussain, May Allah put Mercy upon him, as being a dictator, but President Hussain was not listening to people’s phones nor listing people on a no-fly list nor has killed people more than President Obama, given that President Hussain was the president of Iraq for about twenty-three years and that he was not awarded the Noble Prize in peace.


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