Ed Brayton points to this article by Al Bedrosian, former political candidate for the Virginia General Assembly arguing against the notion of religious freedom.
If devout Christians honestly want to argue against religious freedom for non-Christian faiths, that's fine; but religious conservatives make fools of themselves when they try to drag the Founding Fathers as on their side. If they understood history better, they wouldn't do this. But they've been misled by the likes of David Barton, D. James Kennedy, and William Federer into believing the Christian Nation nonsense, where a central part of the myth is the Founders intended the religious rights to protect Christian sects only. As he writes:
When reading the writings of our Founding Founders, there was never any reference to freedom of religion referring to a choice between Islam, Hindu, Satanism, Wicca and whatever other religions or cults you would like to dream up. It was very clear that freedom to worship meant the freedom to worship the God of the Bible in the way you wanted, and not to have a government church denomination dictate how you would worship.
Ed Brayton points to the irony that this man is from Virginia and ran for Virginia General Assembly. That state, in 1786, passed Jefferson's landmark statute establishing religious liberty, a statute which claims to be based on "natural right," which is shorthand for "the laws of nature and nature's God." And Jefferson, in no uncertain terms, told which "religions" were protected under the statute:
Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.
Further not only did the key Founders -- Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin -- believe all religions were protected under the "unalienable rights of conscience," they also believed practically all of these religions were valid ways to God. As John Adams put it discussing how Hindus worship the same God Christians and Jews do:
Where is to be found Theology more orthodox or Phylosophy more profound than in the Introduction to the Shast[r]a [a Hindu Treatise]? “God is one, creator of all, Universal Sphere, without beginning, without End. God Governs all the Creation by a General Providence, resulting from his eternal designs. --- Search not the Essence and the nature of the Eternal, who is one; Your research will be vain and presumptuous. It is enough that, day by day, and night by night, You adore his Power, his Wisdom and his Goodness, in his Works.”
-- John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, December 25, 1813.
As I've shown in the past, Ben Franklin thought it appropriate for Muslims to preach Mohammedanism in Christian Churches. And Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, when they spoke to unconverted Native Americans used the term "The Great Spirit" for God, suggesting the Indians' Pagan God was the same one they worshipped.
The notion that all religions worship the same God and that all religions ought be endowed with equal rights sort of connects their theology with their politics; if all religions lead to the same God, it makes sense that all religions should have equal rights.
Indeed, as Mr. Bedrosian informs:
Christianity, by its own definition, does not allow freedom of religion. A Christian is defined as a follower of Jesus Christ.
Jesus clearly states all through Scripture that he is the way and the only way to God the father. The Bible is clear in teaching us that we should have no other gods before him. Our God is a jealous God.
I've read the Bible carefully and I'd say Mr. Bedrosian's interpretation is fair and reasonable. The problem, for him, is that it's not what our Founders believed. Their nature's God granted men the unalienable right to freedom of religion, not just to worship the God of the Bible, but to worship false gods or even no God at all. Indeed Mr. Bedrosian's view illustrates how Christians viewed the proper relationship between government and religion before America's Founders changed things.
How Christians like Bedrosian might want to reconcile the Founders' view of a nature's God who grants men the right to worship false gods with traditional Christianity is their dilemma. Students of political philosophy know this as "the theological-political problem." And, I think that the Bible can be reconciled with the notion of freedom of religion for all. Certainly nothing in the New Testament requires (or forbids, I might add) Christians to persecute non-believers if they should be in charge of government.
This information also helps demonstrates the extra-biblical character of "the laws of nature and nature's God." Whether Christians can permit non-believers to worship as they please, nothing in the Bible requires them to do so. The notion of a nature's God who grants men the unalienable right to break His First Command seems, to me, entirely extra-biblical, more characteristic of a benevolent, non-jealous, unitarian Deity, not the God of Scripture.
Finally, religious conservatives have legitimate arguments to make in terms of how to properly interpret religion clauses of the Constitution. I'd suggest the works of Daniel Dreisbach, Philip Hamburger, and Phillip Muñoz, or even some of Justice Thomas' thoughtful Church-State opinions.
Commentaries, like Mr. Bedrosian's, which rely on an abominable understanding of the history and political philosophy of America's Founding certainly do nothing to advance religious conservatism. I wonder what are the politics of the The Roanoke Times. Could it be that they featured this op-ed to make religious conservatives look bad?