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With the founding of America, especially through the First Amendment to the US Constitution, “government essentially said, Yes, be religious. We will not only tolerate it; we will respect it and we will encourage it. But we cannot take sides or put our thumbs on the scales. But the understanding of this has been lost to many in modern America.”1…
In his dissent in Obergefell, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, (citations have been omitted to enhance readability)
Aside from undermining the political processes that protect our liberty, the majority’s decision threatens the religious liberty our Nation has long sought to protect.…
Numerous amici [legal briefs advising this Court]—even some not supporting the States—have cautioned the Court that its decision here will “have unavoidable and wide-ranging implications for religious liberty.” In our society, marriage is not simply a governmental institution; it is a religious institution as well. Today’s decision might change the former, but it cannot change the latter. It appears all but inevitable that the two will come into conflict, particularly as individuals and churches are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.
The majority appears unmoved by that inevitability. It makes only a weak gesture toward religious liberty in a single paragraph. And even that gesture indicates a misunderstanding of religious liberty in our Nation’s tradition.
Writing for the majority of justices in Obergefell, Justice Anthony Kennedy had said,
Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons.
What?! Advocate with utmost, sincere conviction?! Teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths?! The “proper protection” afforded in the First Amendment clearly allows citizens to do things far more substantive than these! Justice Thomas continued in his dissent, poking holes in Kennedy’s weak view of conscience rights and religious liberty.
Religious liberty is about more than just the protection for “religious organizations and persons…as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.” Religious liberty is about freedom of action in matters of religion generally, and the scope of that liberty is directly correlated to the civil restraints placed upon religious practice.
On a side note, we need to be aware that it isn’t just the Supreme Court that is refusing to wholeheartedly affirm freedom of religion. Last year in New York City at the sixth annual Women in The World Summit, Hillary Clinton was talking about abortion when she declared that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” so women can have increased access to “reproductive health care.” One cannot dismiss the idea she feels the same way about convictions that homosexuality is a sin, because she also said, “We move forward when gay and transgendered women are embraced as our colleagues and friends, not fired from their jobs because of who they love.”
Unfortunately, we do not have to look far to find a growing number of examples of what Justice Thomas called “civil restraints…upon religious practice.” Let’s start with this video prepared by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
Erick Erickson and Bill Blankschaen highlight a great many more examples in their book, You Will Be Made to Care: The War on Faith, Family, and Your Freedom to Believe. In the first chapter alone, they tell the stories of
- Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran (video);
- Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin, photographer (video);
- Catholic Charities of Boston;
- Aaron and Melissa Klein, bakers (video, video);
- Jack Phillips, baker (video);
- Barronelle Stutzman, florist (video);
- Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) (video);
- Dick and Betty Odgaard, venue operators (video);
- the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a Methodist ministry, in Ocean Grove, New Jersey (video);
- Phyllis Young of Aloha Bed and Breakfast;
- Jim and Mary O’Reilly of the Wildflower Inn in Vermont;
- Jennifer Keeton, student at Augusta State University in Georgia;
- Angela McCaskill of Gallaudet University in Maryland;
- the chapter of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship on the campus of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee;
- the owner of Ralph’s Thriftway in Washington State and two of the store’s pharmacists;
- the Christian Legal Society on the campus of the University of California at Hastings; and
- the Evangelical Child and Family Agency in Illinois.2
The authors also cite two examples with encouraging outcomes, situations involving
- the Christian-owned t-shirt company in Kentucky called Hands On Originals; and
- Julia Ward, a student at Eastern Michigan University.
Although the above list is long, it isn’t exhaustive. Moreover, defenders of religious liberty continue to join the front lines, even since the recent publication of You Will Be Made to Care on February 22 of this year. Read here and here about Brush and Nib Studio and its owners, Joanna Duka and Breanna Kossi. Thankfully, Alliance Defending Freedom works with clients in proactive strategies as well as defensive ones. In this particular case, ADF is standing in opposition to an unjust Phoenix, Arizona law before it is used against these talented business owners.
Truly, these are men, women, and ministries of whom the world is not worthy (see Heb. 11:37-38). We can thank God for their stands!
Nearly all of these cases are about sex. Erickson and Blankschaen are forthright in their assessment:
Progressives are rabidly committed to expanding the freedom to express oneself sexually without consequences and without criticism. In fact, their right to feel good about their sexual expression trumps your right to express your beliefs about it. You are required to approve and even help them celebrate—or you can lose your job, your business, your chosen career, your home, and even your dog. The sexual revolution ideology of the 1960s means that personal feelings outweigh the transhistorical truths that have fostered the flourishing of all humanity.…4
But where are the actual examples of attacks on the rights of gays—to earn a living, to own a business, to finish a college degree, to create and maintain organizations defined by their beliefs, or to work as a pharmacist, baker, or photographer? No sexual identity, no amount or degree of even the most “transgressive” sexual expression makes you unfit for those rights in America today. No right-wing Christian zealot is trying to take them away. The Left cries “discrimination: against homosexuals and makes wild comparisons to Jim Crow Laws—a logically incoherent comparison that insults the great civil rights leaders of the twentieth century. But no one can point to any real incident in which a person has been denied service because of his or her sexual orientation. Refusing to help celebrate a gay wedding or to provide a bed in one’s own home for lesbian sex is simply not the same things as discrimination against persons. It’s simply a refusal to be drafted onto the opposing side. An objection to being made to care.5
All of this is, of course, un-American.
Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.
Websites and videos in this article have been cited for information purposes only. No citation should be construed as an endorsement.
1Eric Metaxas, If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty, (New York, Viking, 2016), 73.
2Erick Erickson and Bill Blankschaen, (2016-02-22). You Will Be Made to Care: The War on Faith, Family, and Your Freedom to Believe (Kindle Locations 136-314). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.
3Ibid., (Kindle Locations 323-330).
4Ibid., (Kindle Locations 317-320).
5Ibid., (Kindle Locations 332-339).