Contrary to popular belief, Progressives don’t all think alike. Much in the way that Conservatives and Libertarians are rife with infighting, Progressives have a fair share of contention within their ranks too. A few questions various Progressives would have various responses to are:
- Does free speech include hate speech?
- Is Islam compatible with Democracy?
- Is Obamacare working?
- Would getting government out of marriage be better than marriage equality?
- Should recreational drug use be completely decriminalized?
What one would be hard-pressed to find a variety of Progressive opinions on is the separation of church and state, otherwise known as Secularism. Keeping religion out of the public sphere is a cornerstone of Progressive ideology held in higher regards than nearly all other Progressive principles. Manifestations include:
- Calls to remove references to God from currency and public facilities
- Disapproving of the right of a private business owner (who, in their view, is able to operate mostly because of public police forces and roads) to refuse to provide a service due to religious convictions (such as a Muslim baker refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding)
- Demanding private companies (again, due to benefits from public works) provide birth control to employees regardless of the company’s religious underpinnings
- Undermining private education in large part because certain schools may decide to bypass evolution in favor of creationism
- Disregarding the religious convictions of taxpayers who do not want their government to subsidize organizations that perform abortions
- Seeking to eliminate tax exempt status from churches and other religious institutions
While I, as a Libertarian, am also a fervent proponent of keeping our nation Secular, I strongly support religious Liberty too. Because of this, I disagree with several Progressive conceptions of separation of church and state (particularly the ones involving private citizens and businesses). However, I generally respect the consistency of Progressives on their Secular positions despite our differences.
At a certain juncture, though, this Progressive consistency disappears.
A prime example of this is occurring as I write. Right now in North Dakota, a group of Indigenous people are protesting and disrupting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. According to their website, the pipeline is:
…a new approximate 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline that will connect the rapidly expanding Bakken and Three Forks production areas in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline will enable domestically produced light sweet crude oil from North Dakota to reach major refining markets in a more direct, cost-effective, safer and environmentally responsible manner. The pipeline will also reduce the current use of rail and truck transportation to move Bakken crude oil to major U.S. markets to support domestic demand.
The project has been green-lighted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but was recently halted by a federal judge after the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe issued an emergency motion. The motion states:
In the afternoon of Friday, September 2, 2016, the [Standing Rock Sioux Tribe] further submitted recently discovered evidence of an astonishing archaeological find. This find concerned historically, culturally, and religiously important stone features and grave markings to the successors of the Great Sioux Nation, including graves of chiefs, warriors and Bear Medicine healers. These formations and grave sites are adjacent to and in the pipeline’s proposed right-of-way approximately 1 to 2 miles away from the Lake Oahe crossing site. Less than 24 hours after SRST’s filing, Dakota Access desecrated and destroyed the sites described in SRST’s declaration.
Although the judge eventually rejected the motion, the Obama administration has wielded their might and decreed that construction will be temporarily halted.
The Progressive response to this situation has been predictable. Social media is being flooded with carefully edited videos attempting to show protesters being attacked by dogs, manhandled by police, and tormented further.
I have yet to see the dissenting view expressed in any of these clips.
The way I see it, Progressives are standing in solidarity with the Sioux for one of three reasons (or a combination of several): (a) minority groups, such as Indigenous people, must be made to feel good instead of treated as equals, (b) Secularism only applies to Judeo-Christian religions, or (c) building the pipeline violates Environmentalism, which we must legally classify as a religion.
Progressives are often called Cultural Marxists. This refers to their insistence that all cultures are equal, their treating of minorities with kid-gloves, and their obsession with equal representation in spite of individual merit. Due to this mindset, Progressives are more likely to believe and respect the claims of a minority group (such as the Sioux) than the claims of a privileged group (the company trying to construct the pipeline). They set the bar as low as possible for the former, and raise it to impossible heights for the latter. The Sioux need only consult themselves and their preconceived notions for their opinions to be legitimized while scientists and engineers are undemocratically assumed guilty until they can prove their innocence, an impossible task. As a result, Progressives, who are typically incessant about their adherence to science, accept the Sioux’s notion that constructing the pipeline would cause environmental harm over the findings of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This is clearly unscientific, but so are Progressives when facts get in their way.
On the religious side, imagine for a moment that the Sioux were a Christian or Jewish group. Imagine if the Christian or Jewish group demanded construction be stopped on so-called hallowed ground near their property. Progressives would laugh in their faces and cheer as the construction went underway. They would argue that religion is irrational or worse and dismiss notions of holiness. Juxtaposed with their empathetic response to the Sioux’s religious perspective, this illustrates how Secularism, as conceived by Progressives, is a reaction to Western religions, not faith itself. The Judeo-Christian religions preach objective morality, the value of the individual, the sanctity of human life, and personal responsibility. These values are incompatible with the Progressive movement. Religions that view nature as a God rather than a challenge and humanity as a collective rather than a collection of individuals correspond nicely with Progressivism, so Secular arguments are not made against them.
Lastly, enacting public policy with the sole ends of conserving a hunk of the environment in its current state is unjustifiable. The simple idea that the environment should not be changed because the environment should not be changed is circular reasoning caused by an abandonment of logic in favor of sentimental gratification. This is no different from arguing that electricity must not be used on certain days of the week because God said so. If one wishes to refrain from using electricity, one has the Right to do so, but not the Right to impose the mandate upon others. If one wishes to preserve a piece of land, one must own the piece of land. One cannot tell others what to do with property that is not his.
Of course, there are neighborhood effects that can result from one party’s irresponsible use of his property. If I’m barbequing in my backyard, and the smoke’s residue stains your siding, I am responsible and can be barred from allowing this to happen in the first place. But the burden of proof is on the accuser, not the accused. And since the Dakota Access Pipeline has been cleared by the highest authority on such issues, it requires a leap of faith or an admission of the fallibility of science to argue against the safety of the operation.
Appealing to faith and dismissing science are regularly associated with religion, and this situation should be no different. Environmentalism is a religion and should be legally classified as one as a means of preserving our First Amendment Rights. The government has no more Right to pass laws respecting Environmentalism than it does Mormonism or Scientology. Classifying Environmentalism as a religion would save us countless headaches and finally get our economy kick-started again. 3% GDP growth cannot become the new norm for the sake of Environmentalists’ feelings and faith.
I do not mean to imply that Environmentalism is evil or worse than other religions, and I do not intend to express my views on Environmentalism (or any other religion for that matter) in this piece. My personal views are irrelevant to my argument. All I mean to say is that Environmentalism should not be given preferential treatment in our society. It should be a private institution like all other establishments of religion.
And more importantly, Progressives are no more Secular or scientific than any other group in America. Bible bashing is fine in this country, and preferring religions and philosophies that go against the status quo is welcome too. But it is time we recognize Progressive inconsistency on Secular, as well as scientific, matters, so they lose their claim of the moral high-ground on separation of church and state.