January 8



Richard John Neuhaus dies.

Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009) was in his time a Canadian, an American, a liberal civil rights advocate, Lutheran priest, Catholic priest, magazine editor, conservative presidential advisor, and fierce defender of the role of religion in public life.

Born in Pembroke, Ontario, he moved with his family to the United States where he became, like his father, a Lutheran pastor. In the 1960s he became an outspoken critic of the war in Vietnam and marched with Martin Luther King in demanding greater rights for racial minorities. Neuhaus’s life took a different direction after the 1973 “Roe v Wade” Supreme Court decision on abortion; growing more conservative he sought to create a united voice for Christianity in social and political matters. He helped found the journal  First Things, where Protestant, Catholic and Jewish thinkers could “advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society” and wrote or edited influential books such as The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America, Guaranteeing the Good Life: Medicine and the Return of Eugenics and American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile. With Chuck Colson he produced Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission. In 1990 he joined the Roman Catholic Church and in the next year he was ordained into the priesthood. Few have done as much to bring religious thinking to bear in the public square.

On the question of absolute truth and religious tolerance he proposed “Neuhaus’s Law”, which states, “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.”

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