The Myth of Government Neutrality

Published April 27, 2022

WORLD Opinions

One of the biggest myths many in our nation hold sacred is the idea that the government is neutral toward all viewpoints and worldviews. It isn’t. And the recent conflict pitting Disney against the Florida legislature demonstrates how, on some very important questions of morality, neutrality is not only impossible but also at odds with the ideals of a just political community.

It’s important to consider the claim of neutrality itself. A famous phrase from a 1943 U.S. Supreme Court decision, West Virginia v. Barnette, gets breathlessly invoked by civil libertarians as though it were American orthodoxy. In the opinion, Justice Robert Jackson wrote, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

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Andrew T. Walker is the managing editor of WORLD Opinions and serves as associate professor of Christian ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a fellow with The Ethics and Public Policy Center. He resides with his family in Louisville, Ky.

Photo by Adrián Valverde on Unsplash

EPPC Fellow Andrew T. Walker, Ph.D., researches and writes about the intersection of Christian ethics, public theology, and the moral principles that support civil society and sound government. A sought-after speaker and cultural commentator, Dr. Walker’s academic research interests and areas of expertise include natural law, human dignity, family stability, social conservatism, and church-state studies. The author or editor of more than ten books, he is passionate about helping Christians understand the moral demands of the gospel and their contributions to human flourishing and the common good. His most recent book, out in May 2021 from Brazos Press, is titled Liberty for All: Defending Everyone’s Religious Freedom in a Secular Age.

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