In a time of triumphant secularism, politicians treat the religious with increasing contempt. It was only a matter of time before headlines about government demanding the sermons of pastors appeared in the United States. Seeing themselves as superior to the religious, secularists feel entitled to bully pastors who impede their political plans.
Secularists have grown far more dogmatic than many of the religious. They are the ones who now hold the view that “error has no rights,” while circles within the Catholic Church now see “positive aspects” in error.
The openly lesbian Houston mayor Annise Parker clearly adheres to secularist philosophy. Outraged that pastors would dare challenge her transgender bathrooms ordinance through a referendum drive, she unleashed lawyers on them. Her lawyers demanded of five influential Houston pastors “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”
Reeling from public backlash, Parker has now distanced herself from this demand. But she adopted a different stance last week before the criticism started to mount. She tweeted out, “If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game.”
It is telling that the Left will resort to the extreme measure of examining the sermons of pastors for a trivial cause like upholding a transgender bathrooms bill while refusing to examine the sermons of jihadist imams for the weighty cause of protecting national security. One can’t imagine a progressive mayor like Parker tweeting out that “If imams use their pulpits to preach jihad, their sermons are fair game.”
Parker’s latest statement says that religious freedom and LGBT rights can coexist: “We don’t need to intrude on matters of faith to have equal rights in Houston, and it was never the intention of the city of Houston to intrude on any matters of faith or to get between a pastor and their parishioners.”
But they can’t coexist, as her own conduct shows. She intruded upon the rights of Houston pastors because they threatened the survival of her law. In her mind, LGBT rights trump religious liberty. So why not demand the sermons of pastors who were turning the city against the bill? Parker’s ploy is perfectly consistent with the logic of secularism, which authorizes the state to referee disputes between the religious and homosexuals in favor of homosexuals.
Secularists only leave Christians alone if they remain irrelevant to public affairs. That’s the only scenario of peaceful coexistence the Parkers can abide. But the moment Christians thwart the accomplishment of a secularist goal—such as universal free contraception or the spread of gay marriage—secularists, provided the political climate is right, will seek to restrict their liberty.
The Founding Fathers valued religious freedom because they valued religion. They acknowledged the existence of God and the existence of an objective morality based upon his creation. But atheistic and morally relativistic politicians have no reason to respect religious freedom. For them, it is simply an obstacle to the construction of what they consider the perfect society. Other than political considerations, nothing motivates them to grant public space to religion, except the most feckless and privatized ones.
For propagandistic reasons, they often cast the religious as busybodies fretting over gay-rights legislation that “will have no impact on them.” But as time passes, the impact of such legislation on religious liberty becomes clearer and clearer. Assurances that passage of gay marriage laws wouldn’t affect the religious have proven empty. It was reported recently that in Idaho a Christian couple that runs a wedding chapel has been ordered to marry gay couples or face fines and jail time. Such cases multiply with each passing month.
Where gay marriage exists, religious freedom gradually disappears. Obama has said that he will not meddle with the sacraments of churches. But even that weak assurance can’t be taken seriously, since the Left will surely use indirect pressure on such churches over time, denying them public benefits and ostracizing them until they perform gay weddings.
As Obama might say, Parker got out “ahead of her skis.” But the stunt she tried is sure to appear again as the imperatives of secularist morality deepen in American society.