By Linah Munem
If you ask an average American what the meaning of liberty is, they will search through the cobwebbed files in their brain and recover Patrick Henry’s quote, “Give me liberty or give me death!” which represents the homogenous idea of freedom and liberation in the United States. But the definition of liberty is not so cut and dry, the College’s Women’s History Month speaker, Cynthia Burack, explained on Wednesday, March 6.
Burack, a professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Ohio State University, presented her speech about the vastly different definitions of liberty that exist in modern political thought. The event was sponsored by the departments of phycology, women’s and gender studies and political science.
“When Americans talk about liberty today, we’re not necessarily talking about the same thing,” Burack said.
The political theorist used the ideologies of Christian conservatives and Libertarians, participants of the modern Tea Party movement, to explain this widely unknown idea.
According to Burack, the political party coalition advocates a limited government and economic conservatism as a way to possess true liberty, but that the Christian conservatives put a unique twist on the idea of freedom.
“For Christian conservatives, liberty is only possible when we are obedient to God’s will,” Burack said. Thus, by living under a limited potentially “Godless authority,” Christian Conservatives believe that there is no way to achieve true liberty.
Burack also addressed the Christian conservative’s “hidden agenda” during the Tea Party movement.
According to Burack, Christian conservatives have figured out a way to stop LGBT people from obtaining rights, such as protection from employment discrimination, receiving benefits of marriage, and having the ability to form families.
“Today the Christian right doesn’t just argue that same-sex relations are immoral and should be stigmatized and possibly punished … they argue that (LGBT) rights violate the liberty of Christians,” Burack said.
Christian conservative’s recent strategic shift from arguments of immorality to liberty proves to be extremely difficult to beat.
Burack reports that some LGBT people believe that the actions of Christian conservatives are even “zero sum,” meaning they strip the freedom of others in order to gain their own.
“I think that’s really interesting how people can use liberty as a defense against pretty much anything,” freshman history major Rebecca Flores stated in response to this aspect of Burack’s lecture.
Despite Burack’s strong disapproval toward the beliefs of Christian conservatives, she believes that it is improper to completely dismiss their opinions.
“It (instead) makes sense to keep in mind,” Burack said, “that any time we are forced to live under someone else’s conception of liberty that is not our own, we may indeed feel that we are living in a tyranny.”