This is the fourth part of a series designed to illustrate the progressive view on a wide variety of topics. It is presented so that conservatives, moderates, independents, and the apolitical will all have a better understanding of who we are and what and why we believe as we do. Again, I do not profess to speak for all progressives, but I think most of them will find a similarity between what I express here and their own beliefs.
There is a misconception out there that Progressives are anti-religion and simoly hate Christians. This is not at all true. Progressives believe in a large degree of individual social freedom. This includes freedom of expression AND freedom of religion. So long as the exercising of one's freedom does not hurt others or unduly infringe on their freedom or individuality, we generally oppose most restrictions on social freedom. This dedication to individual liberty means that Progressives respect the rights of all persons to believe, or not believe, as they wish; to join, or not join, a particular church or organization. We do not think a person's belief system should bar him or her from any type of employment or group.
Unlike theocracies, as in the case of Iran, where a specific religious belief dictates all law, modes of dress, and conduct, ours is a democracy, which gives its citizens the right of free action and expression within the structure of a broad legal framework. This legal framework is based in part on a long history of Judeo-Christian tradition. But neither the Jewish faith, nor the Christian faith (of any denomination), dictates or controls that legal system or the government it upholds. Unlike medieval Europe, we in the United States have no established state religion and instead follow a practice of strict separation between church and state. This wise measure prevents the occurrence of bloody religious pogroms and inquisitions which have arisen in other countries over the years. It is also an extension of what Jews and Christias alike believe was God's intention to give us all a Free Will. In Matthew 22:21, Jesus Himself even once advised those in the Temple to "give to Caesar that which is Caesar's, but give to God that which is God's." This notion of a separation between church and state is the basis for the banning of required prayer, or the display of religious icons, in public schools or government buildings. My own personal belief, and, I would think, that of libertarians and other true progressives, is that VOLUNTARY prayer in public schools, and the VOLUNTARY inclusion of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance", as well as mentions of "Christmas" and "Easter" should not be forbidden, as doing so restricts the rights of the religious to express themselves, and such expressions are not lengthy or disruptive in any case. But that is my personal view.
We Progressives believe that churches cross over an unacceptable line when they actively advise their flocks to vote for or against a specific candidate or party. After all, churches enjoy a tax-exempt status in this country, so we don't believe they should be biting the hand which gives them that freedom from taxation in such a way. Rather, since we believe that they, too, have the right of free expression, we believe their voice would be better directed at their flocks in terms of providing moral and spiritual guidance on issues as opposed to ideology.
Progressives do not believe there should be any discrimination against gays, lesbians, or transgender persons whatsoever. We believe it is wrong to deny anyone accomodation, employment, insurance coverage, hospital visiting rights, or anything else due to sexual preference. Unless engaged in disruptive or harmful behavior, or criminal acts with minors, we see no need to restrict those who are not heterosexual due to their private bedroom activities. After all, the state does not regulate or forbid dominant/submissive, blonde/redhead, overweight/underweight, tall/small, or any other type of physical and emotional relationship, so we believe the same standards should be applied here. And further, wee believe that what transpires in any bedroom between consenting adults is their business, and their business alone.
Progressives also believe in a woman's right to choice. We may not agree with her decision, but we recognize her fundamental and legal right to end an unwanted pregnancy as she chooses, without having to resort to old-fashioned, dangerous, back alley abortions. Being pro-choice, however, does NOT necessarily mean Progressives are pro-abortion.I personally hate abortion, and view it as the lowest act of personal irresponsibility when taken solely for matters of convenience or economics. Again, this is my personal viewpoint, and I do respect the legal precedent which has established a woman's right of choice. I only hope that each woman wishing to have an abortion would first give serious thought to the rights of her unborn child, and would make it a point for her and her partner to both engage in responsible sexual practices from that point onward, so as to prevent an unwanted pregnancy in the first place. Here is where churches and schools should and could play a tremendously beneficial moral, spiritual, and educational role in the initial shaping of sexual attitudes, we Progressives believe.
By and large, we share the Libertarian belief that the state should stay out of people's bedrooms, and in most matters of personal behavior, and that the church should be kept separate from the state.
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