Ross Douthat has done it again - put forward an important argument with bad evidence to support it. His worry is that there are some who wish to reduce freedom of religion to freedom of worship. Fair enough. As I have said before, one of the reasons the HHS mandate was seen as a Catholic issue is not just because of our position on contraception but because the Catholic Church, which did not deman the importance of works during the Reformation, employees so many people in its many and varied ministries.
But, after noting that the founders used the phrase "freedom of religion" not "freedom of belief" or "freedom of worship," he then concludes: "It’s a significant choice of words, because it suggests a recognition that religious faith cannot be reduced to a purely private or individual affair." Actually, I have not once encountered a shred of evidence that the choice of words was significant to the founders. And, most of the evidence does suggest that the founders wanted religion to be understood as a purely private matter.
Nor, as I have noted previously, was there any concern that freedom of religion was being circumscribed when Franklin Roosevelt cited "freedom of worship" among the Four Freedoms for which we were fighting World War II. If anyone has evidence that the founders or FDR were engaged in the kind of expansion or limitation of ideas about what religion is, please provide it.
That said, I agree with Douthat's conclusion. I am tired of people who are trying to restrict the rights of the Church protesting, too much, that they respect religious freedom. They don't, or they don't respect it as much as they respect the need to get campaign cash from Emily's List and the HRC.