Religion and Political Contempt

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Nathan C. Walker

Executive Director, 1791 Delegates

When officials use religion as a wedge issue, they erode a necessary component of a healthy democracy: political tolerance. We will examine how the United States has become not merely a politically intolerant society, where leaders shut down their opponents’ access to power, discredit their legitimacy, and deny them basic legal protections. There is evidence that our democracy exhibits political contempt—the refusal of those in power to acknowledge vast segments of society whose identities or viewpoints differ from theirs, and that segments of society are worthless, suitable for scorn, and beneath their consideration.

Nathan C. Walker is executive director of 1791 Delegates. Named after the year the Bill of Rights was ratified, 1791 Delegates are constitutional and human rights experts that consult on issues of religion and public life. He is a First Amendment educator and previously served as the executive director of the Religious Freedom Center at the Newseum in Washington, DC and the senior minister and executive director of the historic First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia.