‘God’s ACLU’ Seeks Freedom for the Faithful

Article originally published on July 28th by The Wall Street Journal

By Tunku Varadarajan

Washington – Close your eyes and try to picture an activist for religious liberty. Maybe you imagine a noisily assertive Baptist, a beleaguered but intransigent Catholic nun, a militant rabbi or imam, or even a peyote-ingesting Native American. You’d be unlikely, I wager, to think of an amiable 30-year-old Mexican-American woman, who sees herself as a defender of all religion, on the front lines of America’s culture wars.

Montse Alvarado is the executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Washington-based nonprofit law firm. It’s named for Thomas Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury who was assassinated in 1170 for refusing to let the church in England do the bidding of King Henry II.

Advocates for religious liberty in America are part of what might be seen as the second wave of rights activism in the courts, the first being the wave that began in the 1950s and ’60s with litigation over the rights of minorities, women and criminal suspects, among others. In the past 25 years, conservative and libertarian groups have applied lessons that the liberal vanguard learned about how to select test cases for litigation as a way to steer the law. The focus today is still on the individual, but on his right to own guns, send his children to the school of his choice, or—Ms. Alvarado’s field of concern—worship freely and live a full religious life uncramped by the state.

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