The Legitimacy of Religiously Based Arguments in the Public Square: The Moral Argument

Elsewhere, I develop this more fully as well as lay out historical, constitutional, and intellectual arguments for an alternative to the “separation” model for governing the relationship of church and state, which I call The Proportional Accommodation and Appreciation Model.[1] This article focus is only the moral argument.

The problem is that secularists often, successfully, seek to summarily dismiss religious arguments from the public square via an extreme “separationist” interpretation of the First Amendment. They advert to generally any idea as religious that is in some way associated with supernatural religion or not derived from secularism. In practical terms, this simply means that an opinion is determined to be religious and therefore unworthy of public policy because it is either a part of a religious worldview, is derived from one’s religion, has an element of faith involved, is partly based on religion, is merely consonant with religion, is an argument with religious implications, or many times simply because the person arguing for a contrary view is a Christian. Like biologist Paul Gross who “derides scholars critical of neo-Darwinism as ‘crackpots,’ ‘bogus scientists,’ or ‘scientific illiterates’ who are driven by religious fanaticism and who are part of a ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ against the separation of church and state.”[2]

For example, regarding the “Human Life Bill”, the membership of the National Academy of Sciences weighed in with a resolution declaring that the question of when human life begins is “a question to which science can provide no answer…Defining the time at which the developing embryo becomes a person must remain a matter of moral or religious value.”[3] Scientists, secularists, began to respond like one professor who argued, “As a citizen I find it abhorrent to contemplate the force of law being given to one set of religious beliefs.”[4]

After having rightly recognized the question as a moral/religious one, religious input was summarily suppressed by invoking separation of church and state. This is how science remains the sovereign of the public square even when naturalism is not surreptitiously presented as science. One wonders if there could have even been a Declaration of Independence with men like this in charge. I think not.

Thus, the question is: “Is it moral and rational to exclude religious opinions from our republic or democratic public square just because those opinions involve an aspect of faith–a faith assumption?” For the following reasons, my answer is NO.

  1. Everyone believes some unproven assumptions

Even the idea that the public square should be limited to what can be demonstrated by science, or that science should trump all other arguments including the religious just because it is science, is not a scientific concept. Scientists often make claims such as “the process of evolution is blind, mechanistic, purposeless, goalless, unplanned, and completely natural and material.”[5] That may or may not be true, but what is absolutely true is that it is a faith assumption because it cannot be proven.

Einstein said, “To the sphere of religion belongs the faith that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith.”[6] Thus, science is a faith endeavor. The very founding of the United States was premised upon the rational and yet unprovable faith assumption of God, without which America would not exist.

Every worldview bases some of its ideas on faith; ideas that cannot be proven now or may never be, but arguments need only to be rational, not proven; at the heart of this issue is the existence of God. His existence cannot be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, but neither can His non-existence. A state that values the reality of the immaterial world assumes His existence, as is demonstrably true in America, whereas a purely secular state like the Soviet Union, China…assumes that He does not exist. Neither can be proven, but both have comprehensive and profound political and cultural consequences.

The U.S. Constitution exempts Sundays from legislative work, Art. I, Sec. 7, which is why the U.S. Capitol building was available for church on Sundays; and this recognition of a Christian Sabbath in the U.S. Constitution was cited by federal courts as proof of the Christian nature of America.

Thus, it seems preposterous to assume that the Founders would smile upon our political, educational, and societal compartmentalization of religion and its concomitant hostility toward Christianity in today’s America. Therefore, since everyone argues from some unprovable assumptions, and our founding documents are premised upon the existence of God and they guarantee protection of that belief to be freely expressed in religious opinions both in private and public debate, it is to be particularly valued and protected.

  1. Both secularism and supernaturalism are worldviews

For supernaturalism, it is that God exists; and for secularism it is that God does not exist or is not knowable, or that secularism is the best way to address human concerns or needs. Since both worldviews address questions, either explicitly or implicitly, like where did we come from (big bang or God), why are we here (no teleological reason or to serve God), what is our problem (religion or sin), what is the essential solution to the problem (education or education and repentance), where are we going (nowhere, we don’t know, or to heaven or hell), and are humans valuable (based upon evolutionary scale, a certain quality, or created in the image of God)? Regardless of the answers to such questions, they have potential public impact, they are unprovable at the present and therefore require faith from which we formulate personal and imposable values, and other ideas. Both Christianity and secularism encompass the “Three primary areas (the nature of reality, the nature of the human person, the nature of moral and political values).”[7]

This question is at the heart of the abortion debate. Christians asseverate that human life begins at conception and is intrinsically valuable, whereas abortionists often base their views of abortion on evolution or Darwinism. “Ohio surgeon George Crile argued that the determination of when human life begins should be answered ‘through the eyes of Darwin and evolution.”[8] Also a letter that cited Haeckel’s work was used to justify abortion to the U.S. Senate.[9] The same could be said about racism and eugenics[10] even though others may have sought to justify the same on different grounds.

  1. Everyone argues from a worldview

Christianity and secularism are both worldviews, which are at play in all public debates regarding what laws will be imposed upon the citizenry.

Even at the most basic levels of developing publicly impossible ideas, these worldviews, whether recognized or not, are present. Take for example, debates regarding such everyday issues as appropriate speed limits. This debate actually involves ideas about what is a human and what is the value of a human life. Now, more than likely, no one will mention this, but at its core is the protection of human life, which leads to a spoken or unspoken perspective about the value of human life, property, etc. For example, few if any, care if cockroaches run into each other at 200 mph, except for maybe believing the more the better.

Consequently, since both secularists and the “traditional religions” rely on arguments that contain varying degrees of faith in such things as unproven assumptions, an authority, process, or tradition, neither should be excluded because of their faith.

  1. Suitable publicly debatable ideas need only to provide some publicly accessible rational evidence

This evidence can be empirical, logical, historical, philosophical, religious, or drawn from human experience.

The existence of God provides one example. Arguments for the existence of God are available to even non-adherents of a particular religion or any supernatural religion. Anthony Flew is a well known example of a world renowned atheist who came to believe that “there is a God,”[11] and by his own testimony, his belief was not because of an experience, but rather from “following the evidence.”

Consequently, while beliefs solely drawn from a religion’s authoritative text may not be imposed upon non-adherents, (the Trinity, virgin birth, salvation by faith in Christ, etc.,) this by no means justifies excluding all religious beliefs from debates regarding imposable knowledge. To wit, the presence of a public belief in God and that belief affecting publicly imposable knowledge is absolutely proper. The absolute reliance of the Declaration of Independence upon God’s existence and bestowal of rights as the raison d’etre for America’s existence and constitution provides an inarguable example of this. Therefore, the incorporation of “one nation under God” in the pledge of Allegiance is constitutionally proper, whereas “one nation under the Triune God” would be problematic since this nuanced statement is known from the Scripture alone.

As a result, the reality is that just because a belief is a part of a religious worldview–belief in God, marriage between a man and a woman, absolute truth, homosexuality is abnormal, stealing is wrong–does not thereby exclude it from being argued and considered in public debate or education any more than beliefs of the secularist are off limits because they are a part of his worldview, which contain faith or religious beliefs, e.g. morals are relative, big bang, matter is all there is, science can tell us all there is to know or can be known, there is a scientific answer to the origin of the universe, appeals to secular liberal tradition, or that humans are not different in kind but only in degree from animals, etc.

One additional thought. Even though beliefs drawn solely from a religion’s authoritative text may not be imposed upon non-adherents, these beliefs still have public debate appropriateness. For example:

A. If some or all of the citizens believe in the same faith, or a particular candidate espouses his worldview or religion, these become topics appropriate for public discussion.
B. Some beliefs about right and wrong are not merely personal. For example, the command to not murder does not merely mean that it is good that I do not murder, but rather that murder is not right; therefore if I want the good of society, I must seek to influence society to do what is good and in this case to not murder. I use murder as an example, Exodus 20:13, Romans 13:9, but the same can be said of stealing Exodus 20:15, adultery Exodus 20:14, etc.
I once presented this idea in a forum composed mostly of secularist, and a philosophy professor said he would like to see a list of these ideas first–apparently for prior approval of market place suitability by people like him. I responded that his very request (suggesting prior approval of ideas from Christians by people who disagree) is symptomatic of secularism’s bias and unjustified status as guardian of the public mind. Fortunately, the framers of the Declaration of Independence, First amendment etc, and their successors did not think such.
C. It is always appropriate for someone to argue a position drawn from or consistent with his deeply held faith, and to not do so is irrational.
D. Religion, worldviews, or “faiths” do not exist exclusively in the private world of an individual, and to require such is to require what is extraordinarily unreasonable.
E. If it is something that any free and equal person could be conceived of as believing based upon evidence.[12]

  1. The source of an idea is not a sufficient cause for aprioristic exclusion from public debate

The separation model not only delegitimizes religious opinions in the public square, government locales, it also has either the unstated goal or indubitable consequential effect of either seeking to exclude it from public dialog or at least make the scolding for expressing it such that few have the spiritual fortitude to withstand the backlash. Brit Hume’s recommendation to Tiger Woods to turn to the Christian faith provides an unsettling example.[13] Arguments can come from a source (whether religious or not) that others reject, e.g. recent study, opinion poll, scientific experiment, or the Bible, as long as there is evidence that is reasonable and accessible to all (history, archeology, logic, human experience, internal consistency) supporting the reliability of the source regardless if everyone agrees on the sufficiency of the evidence.

Further, to use an authority does not mean that everyone has to accept the claim of the authority, be it the latest poll, study, experiment, Bible, etc. In addition, one’s ideas should not be excluded from public debate because of his faith in God or because it is in part religiously motivated as though that is somehow a violation of the First Amendment or indistinguishable from seeking to establish a theocracy, which is at best faulty logic. While such tactics are often emotively persuasive, they are also subversive of the First Amendment and palpably undemocratic.

  1. Associated faith assumptions do not disqualify all associated beliefs

Religious opinions cannot be dismissed from the public square because the adherents have some beliefs derived solely from their authoritative text or because their opinions have moral and religious implications.

For example, Christianity’s beliefs like the virgin birth, salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, and the Trinity are derived from the Scripture. This however does not exclude one arguing from a Christian viewpoint in the marketplace of ideas those teachings which are so evidenced that even non-adherents can understand and believe them, e.g. stealing is wrong.

The void created by the expulsion of religious opinions is filled by secularism, and secularism is not benign. “Secularism is highly intrusive in the imposition of secular liberal values. It establishes public schools that systematically indoctrinate young people in secular humanism and prohibit the free expression of religion; it attempts to redefine masculinity and femininity by changing the culture of the family, the workplace, and the military; it launches its own versions of moral crusades, such as anti-smoking…in trying to restructure a private association like the Boy Scouts to diminish its moral opposition to homosexuality and to repudiate its religious roots [and so on].”[14] Secularism and materialism’s record for coexistence with religion should be enough to merit the sober embrace of religion’s place in the public square for all but the blindest of materialists–think Stalin, Mao Zedong, Hitler, eugenics, and abortion, etc.

  1. Faith cannot truly be excluded from the marketplace of ideas

Since the marketplace–education, law, politics, public morals–is a place of imposing one set of beliefs upon society, and by that necessarily displacing another set of beliefs, and since all argue from a worldview with faith assumptions, it is inevitable that ideas based upon or associated with one set of faith assumptions will be imposed upon all of society through public policy; therefore, it is thereby immoral and subversive to a republic or democratic society, to aprioristically exclude rationally accessibly evidenced ideas from public debate merely because of their derivation, which is the logical fallacy known as the “genetic fallacy.” For example, the acceptance of secularism in education results in ideas like “values clarification” which is premised upon the belief that there is no one standard of right and wrong that is suitable for public policy other than of course the standard of values clarification, which is actually a derivative of a scientistic view of the world. Since faith assumptions are always present in substantive deliberations and discussions, it is not reasonable or moral to summarily dismiss an argument in a democratic society because it is associated with a certain set of faith assumptions as long as the argument affords accessible evidence for its support or source.

[1] Ronnie W. Rogers, The Death of Man as Man: The Rise and Decline of Liberty. (Bloomington, IN.: Crossbooks, 2011).
[2] Robert H. Ebert as quoted by John G. West, Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007), 334.
[3] Cited in the testimony of Dr. Lewis Thomas in the 1980s, The Human Life Bill, 74, as quoted by West, Darwin Day, 333.
[4] Robert H. Ebert as quoted by West, Darwin Day, 334.
[5] Steven Schafersman, head of Texas citizens for science, as quoted by West, Darwin Day, 255.
[6] William F. Cox, Jr., Tyranny through Public Education, (Fairfax, VA: Allegiance Press, 2003), 334.
[7] Brendan Sweetman, Why Politics Needs Religion, (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 77.
[8] West, Darwin Day, 329.
[9] Letter from Milan M. Vuitch to Senator John East, April 22, 1981, in the Human Life Bill Appendix: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Separation of Powers of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Ninety-seventh Congress, first session on S. 158, a Bill to Provide that Human Life Shall be Deemed to Exist from Conception, April 23; May 20,21; June 1, 10, 12, and 18. Serial No. J-97-16 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1982), 105 as quoted by , Jonathan Wells, Ph.D., The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2006)163.
[10] Wells, Politically Incorrect Guide, 162-163.
[11] See his book by the same title.
[12] I believe I first saw this idea in Brendan Sweetman’s book, Why Politics Needs Religion.
[13] David Sessions, “Brit Hume: Tiger Woods Should ‘Turn to the Christian Faith'”, Politics Daily, 1/14/10,, accessed 1/11/10.
[14] Sweetman, Politics Needs Religion, 148.

Ronnie W. Rogers