The late Justice Arthur Goldberg cautioned against an untutored devotion to the secular in delineating the respective roles of religion and government. The July 23 editorial "Religious Rights and Protections," which criticized the proposed Religious Liberty Protection Act (RLPA), would have done well to heed Justice Goldberg's warning.

The Post complains that the act might allow parties invoking it to "nix other individual rights that states may grant citizens," including civil rights. But what, other than an untutored devotion to the secular, requires that government always prefer those rights over the religious liberty rights of citizens?

The RLPA evinces no untutored preference. It calls only for government to justify burdens on religious practice. Particularly in civil rights cases, government will often -- but not always -- be able to do so. But only an untutored devotion to the secular would lead to the conclusion that the religious claimant should not only never win -- and there are cases where even a civil rights claim ought not to prevail over religious liberty -- but that her claim should be declared inadmissible.

The editorial's arguments about RLPA as putting at risk other civil rights laws suffers from a like bias. The RLPA relies on no power of Congress not already the basis of more than one civil rights law. Again, only an untutored devotion to the secular could accept invocation of those powers against other forms of discrimination but leave the religious liberty claims The Post acknowledges as valid without protection.



The writer, assistant executive director of the American Jewish Congress, was one of the RLPS's drafters.