The Left is not generous in victory. The ink on the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges was barely dry before a vicious assault on organized religion in this country was launched, a multipronged offensive with the clear intention of marginalizing Christians and banishing them from the public square.
The first shot was fired by the American Civil Liberties Union, which—barely a day after Obergefell was handed down—announced it was rescinding its support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The RFRA was fine, explained ACLU deputy legal director Louise Melling, as long as it protected the right of Native Americans to ingest peyote as part of their religious rituals and allowed Sikhs to wear traditional turbans and refrain from shaving their beards while serving in the military, but the ACLU draws the line when it comes to Christians. Melling cited the Hobby Lobby case, which involved the company’s refusal to subsidize contraceptive devices for employees on the grounds that doing so would violate the owners’ religious beliefs:
Religious liberty doesn’t mean the right to discriminate or to impose one’s views on others. The RFRA wasn’t meant to force employees to pay a price for their employer’s faith, or to allow businesses to refuse to serve gay and transgender people, or to sanction government-funded discrimination. In the civil rights era, we rejected the claims of those who said it would violate their religion to integrate. We can’t let the RFRA be used as a tool for a different result now.
If religious liberty excludes “discrimination,” then on what grounds could Saint Patrick’s Cathedral refuse to host the wedding of two lesbians? Isn’t the position of the Catholic Church (that there can be no such thing as a gay marriage) itself a form of discrimination—and isn’t their abjuration of same-sex marriage ceremonies a form of “segregation”?
Make no mistake: Targeting “religious freedom” is the next step. Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, protests that
Religious freedom is still guaranteed by the constitution. There is nothing about marriage equality that forces any single religious person to perform a marriage that they [sic] are against, based on their belief. To continue saying that we need freedom of religion and freedom of conscience laws, that’s offensive. That’s saying that those of us who believe in equality have no conscience and that’s incredibly offensive.
Mr. Obergefell may find it offensive, but it is also true. The principled refusal of the Church—any and all churches—to back down in the face of this secularist lynch mob will result in yet another and even fiercer offensive: a campaign to deprive religious institutions of nonprofit status. Commenting on the introduction by Sen. Mike Lee of the First Amendment Defense Act, which protects the nonprofit status of churches opposing same-sex marriage, Michael Oppenheimer, editor at large of the Tablet and Beliefs columnist for the New York Times, opined:
Liberals tend to think Sen. Lee’s fears are unwarranted, and they can even point to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion . . . which promises “that religious organizations and persons [will be] given proper protection.”
But I don’t think Sen. Lee is crazy. In the 1983 Bob Jones University case, the court ruled that a school could lose tax-exempt status if its policies violated “fundamental national public policy.” So far, the Bob Jones reasoning hasn’t been extended to other kinds of discrimination, but someday it could be. I’m a gay-rights supporter who was elated by Friday’s Supreme Court decision—but I honor Sen. Lee’s fears. I don’t, however, like his solution. And he’s not going to like mine.
Oppenheimer’s solution is to end tax exemptions for all religious institutions. He argues that everyone else is “forced” to “subsidize” them—a view based on the specious premise that the government has a rightful claim to 100 percent of everyone’s income, and that any exemptions are therefore an outlay of government funds. Forget those soup kitchens—countries that really care about the poor let the government take care of that. And current law imparts to the IRS the task of deciding what’s a religion. You’d think a hardcore statist like Oppenheimer would like this, but no: Scientology has gotten in under the rules, which are apparently not strict enough by Oppenheimerian standards.
“So yes,” concludes Oppenheimer, “the logic of gay-marriage rights could lead to a reexamination of conservative churches’ tax exemptions. . . . But when that day comes, it will be long overdue.”
Given the atmosphere in this country at the moment, that day may come sooner rather than later. If you think I’m exaggerating, then look at what happened to Aaron and Melissa Klein, the bakers who refused to bake a wedding cake for two lesbians. Days after Obergefell became the law of the land, the Kleins were held liable for damages in the amount of $135,000 for “emotional, physical, and mental suffering” inflicted on the Sapphic couple. The great extent of this alleged “damage,” the bureaucrats averred, came from the publicity surrounding the case. The fact that the Kleins protested this attack on them from the government, and sought public support in order to resist and defeat it, was deemed a criminal act, for which compensation had to be paid. Furthermore, the Kleins are forbidden to publish or communicate any “notice” that they intend to resist this ruling by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.
We are one step away from hate-speech laws, such as those in Britain and Canada, where any criticism of government-privileged “minorities” is a crime. This is the logical extension of the “emotional damages” doctrine, which has been used as a bludgeon here against people of faith. The feelings of two lesbians, who look as if they have already had too much cake in their lives, trump the First Amendment rights of anyone who looks at them cross-eyed.
This attack on religious liberty must be met with determined resistance, and not only by people of faith but by every American who cares about the Constitution and the future of this country. We are heading toward a time when Christians will be relegated, once again, to the catacombs, refugees from a political class that aims at nothing less than their eradication. It is vitally important that the broadest possible coalition for the protection of religious liberty be built, including religious organizations, conservative activists, libertarians, and—yes—honest liberals and progressives who understand what’s at stake.
Many libertarians misunderstand the issue involved here. “Live and let live,” they cry. But the left doesn’t adhere to their laissez-faire philosophy. The militant secularists, who are now going on the offensive, won’t be satisfied until they have destroyed the power of organized religion in this country. We haven’t seen this kind of antireligious campaign since the Bolsheviks tried it in 1917.
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