Utahns should have been riled up when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their state’s plea to keep its marriage amendment intact, but no. They didn’t take to the streets in protest like the nearly million people in France did in May 2013 when same-sex marriage was legalized. They didn’t scream that their constitution amendment passed by a strong majority had been trashed—or at least not very loudly. If a recent poll is to be believed, what many did is change their mind.
A recent poll by UtahPolicy.com shows that since the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to take the case the numbers opposing same sex marriage have dropped from 61% to 58% and those with the strongest opposition have dropped from 53% then to 44%.
Some of these Utah citizens are undoubtedly Latter-day Saints—and they may have expressed these sentiments in trying to co-exist peacefully. It is fair to say that Latter-day Saints are more likely to grieve and worry politely about a radical social change, than protest. Or they just may feel helpless before this same-sex marriage juggernaut that topples anything in its way. After all, didn’t they just see their collective voice discounted by one unelected judge?
But it’s a mistake to be quiet. Sad experience shows us that the political elite too often do what they can get away with. Without vigorous and enlightened opposition, they can get away with a lot.
Yet, it may be that too many Latter-day Saints, wherever we live, are simply unaware of the train that is barreling our way at high speed with no brakes. Same-sex marriage is on a collision course with religious freedom, and we should make no mistake about that.
In the many years that this issue has been debated, those who voiced fears for its impact on religious freedom have been dismissed as “hysterical” or “bigoted”. They have been disdained, ridiculed, belittled as if their fears were an attack of paranoia, where they should be isolated from the public debate because of their “extremism”.
Not Imaginary Fears
That these were not just imaginary fears, however, was demonstrated when in 2006, the Becket Fund, a public interest law firm, dedicated to defending religious freedom, convened a conference of legal scholars on civil rights, representing both sides of the same-sex marriage debate. They may have disagreed on same-sex marriage, but they agreed on one thing–if same-sex marriage became legalized, clashes were coming with religious freedom and according to Marc D. Stern, who had spent many years handling cases for the American Jewish Congress, “this is going to be a train wreck”.
Chai Feldblum, then a law professor at Georgetown University and a LGBT activist agreed. A crash was coming. In her view the conscience and concerns of those with deeply-held religious convictions should always give way before the “dignity and equality” of gay people. The honest position she said is to admit that “we are in a zero-sum game in terms of moral values.”
A zero-sum game is a stark description. That means for LGBT activists (and those are the ones who drive this issue) there is no “live and let live.” They believe somebody has to win and someone’s point of view is going to decimate the other.
Can Religious Freedom and Same-Sex Marriage Co-exist?
Why? Why can’t we just all get along, respecting each other? Robert P. George, an expert on this topic, from Princeton University, said in a recent lecture, “Gay marriage proponents will not allow for religious freedom of their political opponents because their belief system does not allow for the fact that dissenters can be reasonable people of good will.”
He said that “most of those arguing in favor of redefining marriage to include same-sex couples do not understand, or even know the arguments of those who oppose the redefinition of marriage. They assume there are no reasonable arguments against gay marriage and those who oppose it are simply driven by hatred of gays.
“The whole [gay marriage] argument was and is that the idea of marriage as the union of husband and wife lacks a rational basis and amounts to nothing more than ‘bigotry,’ reflecting animus against a certain group of people,” he said. “Therefore, no reasonable person of goodwill, we are told, can dissent from the liberal position on sex and marriage, any more than a reasonable person of goodwill could support racial segregation and subordination,”
Justice Anthony Kennedy said that same idea in the Windsor decision last year that invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and added that “the principal purpose …of this law [is] to demean those persons who are in a lawful same-sex marriage.”
What? The principal purpose of a law passed by 85 senators and 342 representatives was to demean a group, rather than to buttress traditional marriage? Certainly one group getting demeaned by this statement was the majority of Congress itself who were defined by the justices as bigoted and petty.
But there you have the very reason that those who rally for same-sex marriage and those who stand by traditional marriage are in a zero sum game. The idea goes that if you are the hateful and the bigoted, you have to be wiped clean of those ideas or hammered into the hidden places of the community. You do not deserve to have those ideas protected in any way, even if they are the result of your deepest religious conviction. What you do deserve is to be fined, disdained, fired, boycotted, or subpoenaed. In their thinking, there can be no excuse for standing for traditional marriage.
Can There be a Grand Bargain?
Robert George said that while some liberals and conservatives believe there can be a “grand bargain” in which gay marriage is allowed and the religious freedom of dissenters is supported, George pointed out that he has long argued that could never be the case, because liberal secularism is a comprehensive doctrine.
George said, “Nowhere is the reality of contemporary liberalism as a comprehensive doctrine, a secularist religion, more plainly on display than in the moral-cultural struggle over marriage and sexual morality. Liberal secularism will tolerate other comprehensive views so long as they present no challenge or serious threat to its own most cherished values.”
In other words, its impulse is totalitarian. In their view rights should be stripped away from those who cherish traditional morality which has been redefined as “extreme” and “hateful.” You had us in the closet, and now we’re going to put you there, they have admitted.
In this new climate jobs are lost and professional prospects are narrowed to those who support traditional marriage.
Earlier this year, Mozilla’s CEO, Brendan Eich, was shown the door after it was discovered he gave $1,000 to Proposition 8’s campaign to ban same-sex marriage in California. Those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community conducted a “witch hunt” against someone with whom they disagreed and they knew how to create an atmosphere of intimidation to make it stick. The message was clear—if you don’t stand with us we will find a way to punish you.
Consider the jobs and opportunities that could suddenly become off-limits to one who held on to scriptural ideas about marriage. Gene Schaerr, who represented Utah’s bid to the Supreme Court, had to quit his prestigious Washington DC law firm to take the case.
Thus, we have begun to see religious freedom and freedom of speech assaulted. Viewpoint is punished. The train wreck is here and the debris is flying everywhere.
For those who have a secular mindset, they cannot understand how it skewers the conscience of a believer who is asked to do something he or she believes puts him at odds with their God. They even make belittle conscience claims, thinking it’s just an excuse for bigotry. For instance, Marci Auld Glass sneered that the solution for those who were suddenly being persecuted for their beliefs is, “You could..let go of the self-righteous indignation and moral outrage.”
Donald and Lynn Knapp
Perform same-sex weddings or go to jail. That was the choice offered to Donald and Lynn Knapp, two Christian ministers, who have owned a for-profit wedding chapel for 25 years in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. This is the day liberals have promised would never come—the stunning development that ministers would be go to jail or face fines or both if they refused to marry a same-sex couple.
Those assurances seem wobbly now. Once Idaho had its marriage amendment steamrolled, their The Hitching Post wedding chapel ran up against the city’s non-discrimination ordinances and the city arrived at the door with threats of $1,000 a day fines and/or as much as 180 days in jail—because the couple said that performing same-sex weddings violated their conscience. The couple reached out to the Alliance Defending Freedom for help and the city has since backed off—for now.
But the question remains: Can the law require someone to conduct a homosexual “wedding” if it violates his or her Christian beliefs? Their attorney said, “People don’t give up their First Amendment rights just because they open a business.”
Masterpiece Cake Shop
For two decades Jack Phillips has made signature cakes and cookies for his Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. He said of Jesus Christ, “It’s the most important thing that I think about throughout the day. When I wake up, when I go to work, I want to know that what I’m doing is pleasing to Him, that I honor Him and His Word, because that’s the most important thing.”
With that conviction, he said, “I’ve chosen not to make cakes for same-sex weddings.” When a homosexual couple came in to request a wedding cake he said, “I would sell them cookies and brownies and birthday cakes and shower cakes. I just don’t do the same-sex wedding cake. So I did not discriminate against them, just that event I’ve chosen not to participate in.”
The Civil Rights Commission didn’t see it that way and ordered him to re-educate and sensitize his staff. In addition, he will submit quarterly “compliance” reports to the government for two years, citing the number of customers declined a wedding cake or any other product.
He must also include why it was declined “so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from is business.”
Liberty Ridge Farm
Cynthia and Robert Gifford, owners of Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, New York, mainly grow vegetables, but they occasionally host marriage ceremonies in the lower level of their house and outdoors in a field. When a lesbian couple asked to book their farm for a wedding, Cynthia declined because it was against her conscience.
It was a game of Gotcha. The couple secretly recorded the phone conversation and then filed a complain with the New York division of Human Rights, who in turn fined the farm $13,000 and ordered them to start having same-sex weddings or do none at all.
They chose none at all, a blow to their wedding reception business. You can’t very well have a reception if you haven’t had a marriage. They have appealed their case to state court. Who’s the victim here? The business owners who just took a considerable hit to their livelihood.
Houston’s Overreaching Mayor
Houston Mayor Annise Parker ignited a fire of indignation when she subpoenaed 17 forms of communications from five ministers in her city including their private emails, texts and other communications related to the Mayor’s office and the city’s so-called bathroom bill.
Under her a LBGT Houston Equal Rights Ordinance had been passed that would allow men to use women’s restrooms and public showers. These five ministers were among those opposing the bill and they helped gather 50,000 signatures to put it on the ballot, thousands more than were required. The city tossed out petition effort with thousand of signatures invalidated.
When citizens sued, Mayor Parker’s office sent a subpoena to the ministers, none of whom were a party to the lawsuit. It was a fishing expedition to intimidate them. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said, “”Some in the media ridicule that threat saying there is no danger of the government coming after pastors. That is the usual response.” But he adds: “The specter of government trying to determine if what pastors preach from the pulpit meets with the policy views or political correctness of the governing authorities, that prospect is real and happening now.”
Under public pressure, she has since backed off these subpoenas, but Houston City Attorney David Feldman poured gasoline on the fire. “The fact that you happen to be a pastor and you happen to be at a church doesn’t provide you with protection.” But the First Amendment does. To think that clergy’s views would be subject to intimidation, or worse, coercion from the government is terrifying.
A British Chiller
Here is a chilling idea. In the arena of gender orientation issues, the United Kingdom is usually about two years ahead of us, we were told by a friend at the Christian Institute who handles these cases. Watch there to see what will happen here.
Is the next step for those who want to undermine religious liberty to inspect religious schools? Could a government body exact compliance to ideas that are in direct contradiction to the religious school’s mission?
It is already happening in the United Kingdom, according to an article in The Telegraph where schools are being “inspected” or in the case of one school “downgraded” for violating new education guidelines that the government refers to as “British values.”
You can imagine what “British values” include about sexual orientation. The goal of such inspections according to a government spokesman is “ensuring that schools provide a broad and balanced education for their pupils” and that inspectors are there to evaluate “the effectiveness of the school’s provision for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and how the school’s leadership and management ensure that the curriculum actively promotes British values.”
Complaints have been filed. One orthodox Jewish school said that female students from strict traditional backgrounds were asked if they were being taught enough about lesbianism. One Christian school was demoted from a “good” school to an “adequate” school because is wouldn’t invite a leader from another religion, such as an imam to lead its assembly.
Now like a bad infomercial we can say, “But wait, there’s more.”
Britain’s Home Secretary, Theresa May “unveiled plans last month for so-called Extremism Disruption Orders, which would allow judges to ban people deemed extremists from broadcasting, protesting in certain places or even posting messages on Facebook or Twitter without permission.” Who are those extremists? Critics complain that the New Extremism Disruption Orders would class secularists or evangelical Christians alongside Islamic state or Boko Haram because they oppose gay marriage.
In their estimation, opposing gay marriage is an extremist idea.
The Telegraph reports, “George Osborne, the Chancellor, has made clear in a letter to constituents that the aim of the orders would be to ‘eliminate extremism in all its forms’ and that they would be used to curtail the activities of those who ‘spread hate but do not break laws.’ He explained that that the new orders, which will be in the Conservative election manifesto, would extend to any activities that ‘justify hatred’ against people on the grounds of religion, sexual orientation, gender or disability.”
Won’t Happen in America?
Americans like to think that the First Amendment’s religious freedom protections are so basic, so fundamental to our nation’s ethos that nothing can erode them. They are already being severely eroded and Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council said
“religious liberty is on the wane in a post-Christian America.
“What we see from those who deny this is an infringement on First Amendment rights is that they have a very narrow view of religious freedom,” he said. “It’s what I call the ‘four walls view’ of religious freedom.”
That view suggests that a Christian has a right to religious liberty as long as they stay inside their church or home.
“But as soon as you step outside of those four walls you no longer have any freedom to believe what you want. You don’t have the freedom to act on those beliefs,” Sprigg said. “And that was not what our founders had in mind at all. The First Amendment says you have the ‘free exercise’ of your religious beliefs and if you’re just gathering for services but not practicing your faith in your everyday life, how is that religious freedom?”
“The homosexual activists will say, ‘Oh you want to take us back to the way it was in the Jim Crow South.’ We’re not in any way saying anything like that. The cost to the same-sex people is they go to the next business down the street. There are no shortage of businesses that will be happy to take their money,” Sprigg said. “But the cost for the Christian business owner is to offer their services in a way that violates their conscience or go out of business and that’s a far more serious threat.”
He said, “I’m afraid it is going to gain steam because the ultimate goal of the homosexual activist is not just to obtain equal legal rights but they want to obtain a society where nobody ever says anything, anywhere, that implies their relationships are different in any way from heterosexual relationships or in any way harmful,” he said. “They really want to stifle any of that discussion in the public square.”
So what do we do about it? We have to understand that a basic right like religious freedom, once earned, is not necessarily permanent. If the rising generation grows up with a shadow of religious freedom, a badly eroded version of the original robust right, they will scarcely understand what they lost. They will have accommodated to a world where their rights are diminished.
Religious freedom can no longer be taken for granted, and in the current political climate, standing up for religious freedom will mean you have taken the time to monitor the problem and mounted the courage to use your voice. We cannot be asleep while basic rights are eroded, but sometimes we are just fatigued.
William Shakespeare said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” As Paul Mero said, “Our era doesn’t give any of us room to be cowards. Fatigued, maybe. But where there is fatigue, there must be resilience.”
Too many of us are afraid to stand up for traditional marriage. Too many of us are quiet when religious freedom is trampled. We wither when people point fingers at us, but we can’t afford to be quiet or shy about our religious freedom. We must be bold.
These are our times. This is our call.