Religious Freedom in America – The Shield and the Sword

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Published on: April 3, 2015

Okay, so it’s not like the attack on religious liberty has come suddenly upon us… it really hasn’t been so sudden. But it does really feel like someone has recently been turning up the heat on our ability to practice our faith as we see fit.

Liberal commentators like Jon Stewart and Bill Maher like to mock conservatives and Christians who contend that American Christians are being persecuted. Their argument holds some water; we in America are not under attack the way our brothers and sisters in the Muslim world are. It’s also true that the generations of Christians who came before us might look at our trials as light, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t being persecuted.

One particular case in point, and the place that I want to focus my time in writing about, is the recent kerfuffle over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Indiana became the 31st state to codify something like the RFRA, and all of the RFRA’s across the country (including the federal RFRA signed in 1993 by President Clinton) share very similar language. However, for some reason, Indiana’s bill set of a firestorm of criticism from the left. The question is, why?

Substantively the Indiana bill is NO DIFFERENT from that of the federal government, or of Illinois, or Connecticut or any of the other RFRA’s… but it does come at a peculiar time in American history. Pro-sodomy judicial decisions have been coming fast and furious, local and state governments have been acting in accordance with those rulings at a dizzying pace, and the federal government is in no position to do anything about the shift in culture. This confluence of events has pushed the fascist homosexual movement to be ever bolder and ever more virulent in their attacks on conservative culture.

Which brings us to Indiana’s RFRA. The left is trying to pretend that Indiana’s RFRA is a license to discriminate, but that is just not the case. Gabriel Malor has an excellent piece explaining what RFRA laws actually do, and the truth of the matter is that they are specifically designed for defense, not offense. Or as David Benham (formerly of HGTV) explains, RFRA’s are a shield, not a sword.

So the RFRA is a shield, not a sword. It doesn’t get offensive and promote ‘hate’ as the hype said. But it’s a shield to protect companies, like, for instance, a Jewish-owned jewelry. It keeps the state from forcing him to create rings with the Nazi symbol on it. Or a Muslim-owned apparel company. It prevents the state from forcing him to maybe make T-shirts with the cross over the crescent.

“Or even a gay-owned apparel company from creating T-shirts that say Leviticus 18:22. Homosexuality is a sin.”

Very simply, “the state should never force business owners to promote a message or an idea that conflicts with their beliefs,” David Benham states.

Short and sweet and exactly right.

However, liberals, the media, and many uninformed Americans still seem to believe that protecting religious freedom is simply a subtext for conservatives to discriminate against others, particularly homosexuals. Honestly, I’m not sure there is any way to assuage those fears. We could point to the fact that we’ve not been discriminating against them up to this point, so why would we start now? But I don’t believe that would really do any good.

Even CNN’s Jake Tapper, a reporter I have much respect for, doesn’t seem to get the point.

So it would allow for them to discriminate? That’s what you’re saying? If would allow, if they feel their participation in the ceremony by providing pizza, by providing catering, by providing flowers, photographs, cake, whatever, that that is participating in the message, then they could refrain and refuse to serve the same sex couple? 

Tapper is right about one thing. There are two competing interests – freedom of religion and standing against discrimination. The RFRA’s are attempting to protect our right to live by the principles we hold most dear, and liberals are saying that we cannot do so if it means discriminating against others.

But I think this whole conversation begs a much deeper question. What do we believe about freedom? We supposedly live in a “free” society, and yet are we saying that the government can tell a businessperson that they MUST serve certain customers? What does that do to the free market? Leaving aside all religious questions, are we prepared as a society to tell someone that they must work for another person whether or not they want to?

What if a gardner refuses to work on a Saturday? Can the person wanting to hire him sue him for discrimination because he won’t work when the employer wants him to? What if a Baker refuses to make a cake glorifying child abuse? Can the person requesting the cake sue him for discriminating against his belief that child abuse is good and proper?

Folks, we discriminate all the time, and it’s not always a bad thing. Remember the “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service” signs? That’s discrimination!

The free market dictates that both sides of the transaction be free to decide whether or not they will be taking part in business. The person buying isn’t forced to buy, and the person selling isn’t forced to sell. Does that mean we might run into some disgusting and/or discriminatory practices? Yes. But if a local business won’t sell to someone based on their race, you can bet the local community will make that business pay. If an atheist printer doesn’t want to make my Christian banners, that’s fine, I’ll just go somewhere else with my money.

See, the truth is that discrimination in business always hurts the business more than the consumer. Every time the business discriminates, it loses money, but the consumer can find the goods elsewhere. Our government shouldn’t be in the business of forcing people to work for people they don’t want to work for… we used to call this slavery, or at the very least, indentured servitude — the 13th Amendment made both illegal.

Case in point is this recent situation in Georgia, where a court sided with the KKK after a baker refused to bake them a cake to celebrate the birthday of the KKK! Our personally held beliefs and our freedom to work for whomever we choose without the government getting involved trumps someone feeling hurt because they’ve been discriminated against. It may not always be fair, and it may not always be right… but it is better than allowing the government to force some people to act against their conscience, simply because the majority thinks they should. Not allowing that kind of oppression is the whole point of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The bottom line is that the 13th Amendment says that the government cannot force me to work for anyone against my will.

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” 

When a local or state government or judge tells a baker, a florist, a photographer or anyone else that they must work for someone else it flies in the face of the 13th Amendment.

Now, back to the RFRA’s. These bills seek only to ensure that people with religious convictions can continue to live by them in the USA without fear of reprisal from the government. Religious liberty, even when unpopular, is a hallmark of our nation and goes back to before our founding. Tucker Carlson gave a beautiful defense of religious liberty this past week when he blasted the fascism of American liberals for trying to crush our religious liberty.

The demagoguery around this is really nauseating I will say… We’ve always made exceptions for religious minorities. 

Quakers can become conscientious objectors. So you have a country where religious minorities get to choose which wars they fight in, but not whether to serve cupcakes at a wedding that would violate their religious principles? That’s insane. 

And I have to say, all the talk of tolerance that a lot of us took at face value in the ’90s and even last decade — ‘Why can’t we all just get along, you accept me, I’ll accept you,’ — they didn’t mean it at all. 

These are absolutists, these are jihadis, people who want to make you obey, that don’t brook any opposition to their world view at all. They will crush you. 

As one of my editors, one the smartest people in the office, Jim Antle said, ‘Today’s social liberals are very much like the stereotype of yesterday’s social conservatives. They set the societal norms, and anyone who deviates from them is punished.’ That is not tolerance, that’s authoritarianism.

Preach it, brother.

Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner made a similar point in a recent op-ed.

Religious liberty is the terms of surrender the Right is requesting in the culture war. It is conservative America saying to the cultural and political elites, you have your gay marriage, your no-fault divorce, your obscene music and television, your indoctrinating public schools and your abortion-on-demand. May we please be allowed to not participate in these?

But no. Tolerance isn’t the goal. Religious conservatives must atone for their heretical views with acts of contrition: Bake me a cake, photograph my wedding, pay for my abortion and my contraception…

As stunning as their ambitions of total victory is their continued pretense to be fighting a defensive war. It should be obvious to all that the Left long ago dropped its love of pluralism and tolerance — if that ever was their goal.

Christianity in America is under attack, whether the liberals in Hollywood and New York want to admit it or not. We are no longer allowed to believe what we believe, we are no longer allowed to express our opinions, and we are most certainly no longer allowed to live in accordance with our faith. If we do… we risk the wrath of the prevailing culture that surrounds us. So the liberal elites can mock and deride us for feeling abused, but we both know the truth. And we both know what comes next for conservative Christian America will likely be much worse.


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