Milton Konvitz American Ideals Lectures

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Locke’s views on religious toleration are a “tremendously important contribution” on this subject, which anticipated the First Amendment to the Constitution and subsequent Supreme Court decisions. Professor Konvitz argues that religious liberty is a prerequisite to all the liberties of the human spirit including freedom of speech, press, and assembly. He further asserts that, historically, revolts against oppressive governments often bring with the struggle for religious liberty. Locke’s basic concepts regarding religious freedom are explained. These include the right of individuals to maintain their personal religious beliefs free from the interference and persecution of either an established ecclesiastical order or the state, the nature of churches as voluntary self-governing organizations, the importance of the separation of church and state, and the importance of religious tolerance for the religious opinions that differ from the norm. For Locke, religious freedom is not absolute. Intolerant sects that call for the dissolution of the state unless it accepts their religious viewpoint, that serve foreign governments, that advocate practices violating the laws of civil society, or that deny the existence of God should not be tolerated.

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