Unwittingly and a bit carelessly, I stirred up some agitation at the Cato Institute. My column about government assaults on religious liberty, implied that many people writing and talking about the question of "legislating morality" in the U.S. aren't correctly seeing the lay of the land these days.
This is how the culture war generally plays out these days: The Left uses government to force religious people and cultural conservatives to violate their consciences, and then cries "theocracy" when conservatives object.
This truth needs to get out there. The media need to figure out who is imposing morality on whom. Libertarians need to reassess their allegiances on social matters. And cultural conservatives need to understand that government is inherently their enemy.
That last line struck a nerve with Walter Olson and David Boaz. They understandably thought I was saying that libertarians are on the wrong side of questions like contraception-coverage mandates. So let me state here that I've been very appreciative of the people at Reason Magazine, the Cato Institute, and other libertarian organs who have come to the defense of religious conservatives to live our lives as we please.
I also agree with Boaz that "conservatives earned the skepticism of liberals and libertarians on social issues over long decades" of supporting intrusions into individual liberty." I think I stated as much in my column: "Faithful Catholics have too often embraced government, either in the name of social justice or traditional values."
The need for reassessment is not in Cato's lobbying agenda or Reason's article choice, but it's in what I see on an individual, personal level: too many libertarians who see religion as itself an enemy to freedom. This isn't most libertarians in Washington, but I feel it's a lot of them. Since I'm not in the position to document this disposition rigorously, I'll leave it here: I wish that more libertarians would see the ways in which religious conservatives can and should be allies today, just as I wish more conservatives saw that the libertarian agenda in Washington is the wisest and most just path available today.