The crowd erupted into disarmed laughter when Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson got to the point. “I have to say when it comes to religious freedom and the other great constitutional questions at the moment that are at stake: However bad you think things are, however bleak it looks, however dire it may seem—it’s almost certainly worse than you think.”
That’s as good a reason as any to be better equipped for the debates ahead. Hasson, founder and president emeritus of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, made those remarks nearly four months ago upon receiving The Heritage Foundation’s Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship.
His acclaimed 2005 book, The Right to Be Wrong: Ending the Culture War Over Religion in America, is just out in a timely paperback reprint from Image (with a new afterword).
Examples of government’s intolerance toward personal faith in the public square have multiplied since Hasson’s “it’s almost certainly worse” crack—from Obamacare’s Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that employers get over their faith and provide employees with “free” abortion-inducing drugs, to elected officials who threaten to make an entrepreneur’s religion a reason to deny a building permit in their cities.
Hasson’s The Right to Be Wrong, overflowing with real-life cases and reflecting the life’s mission of this Notre Dame-trained lawyer and theologian, is about why we need to protect religious freedom from tyranny in all shapes and sizes.
“We are manning the believer’s side of the barricades against the forces who believe in nothingness,” the essayist and scholar said in accepting the Salvatori Prize during an April 26 luncheon in Colorado Springs opening Heritage’s 35th annual Resource Bank gathering (watch the video). He added:
Therefore, we need to defend the rights of other people who believe in something—even if we think they believe the wrong thing. In so doing, we are sticking up for all believers against the nihilists. We are standing tall for those who are convinced there is a truth, against those who are opposed to the very idea of anybody making truth claims in public. That is the fight that we are in the middle of—repelling an assault by people who believe in nothing against the very idea of believing in anything.