RFI President Eric Patterson: Some Arguments for Religious Freedom Are a Poison Pill

February 1, 2024

“The elitist, top-down conception of rights in the modern era must, necessarily, advance the progressive revolution in redefining the human person, especially the framing of the self in sexualized terms,” writes RFI President Eric Patterson in an article published this week in WORLD. In it, Patterson explores how “some arguments for religious freedom are actually a poison pill used by its detractors.” He writes:

This is a crucial issue raised by a gathering this week of 1,000 religious freedom experts and activists for the annual International Religious Freedom Summit (IRF Summit) in Washington, D.C. The summit’s Charter declares, ‘That every government, every religious community, and every political and civil society organization in the world should strive toward the goal of achieving freedom of religion and conscience, for everyone, everywhere—protected in law and valued by culture.’ 

As former State Department official Tom Farr has written, religious freedom includes the rights of individuals and communities to fully live out their faith commitments, not just in private worship, but in all aspects of their lives. In the words of the charter, this means pursuing ‘the goods natural to religious communities, such as building houses of worship, training clergy, establishing religious schools’ and the like.

However, there is another approach emanating from the West that actually may be a poison pill to authentic religious freedom. This view is two-fold. First, it holds that human rights are a creation of law. Elites have created a human rights paradigm in international law, largely due to the depredations and destruction of World War II. These ‘rights’ are a human creation, not rooted in the natural law that comes from the way God structured the human person and our reality. 

Second, the way to expand human rights, in this view, is to impose them from the secular West through a system of lawfare—op-eds, speeches, journal articles—and then pressure through international institutions such as the World Health Organization, United Nations, and strings attached to humanitarian funding.

Read the full article: “A poison pill for religious liberty.”