Any meaningful concept of religious freedom within public life continues to shrivel under the mau-mauing of the cultural left. It appears that Indiana’s attempt to protect religious freedom will now occasion a hapless diminution of it, as cowed Republican politicians seek to appease secularist bullies by amending the new law to their satisfaction.
The coming amendment will apparently make it clear to Christians and other religious who own businesses that they may not opt out of providing services at gay weddings. Under existing Indiana law, they can opt out in many parts of the state. So in a cruel irony that testifies to the power of the cultural left, Indiana’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act will end up making the religious more vulnerable to lawsuits.
On Sunday, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos repeatedly hectored Mike Pence, Indiana’s governor, with the question: “If a florist in Indiana refuses to serve a gay couple at their wedding, is that legal now in Indiana?” Pence declined to answer the question. But the truth is that it was already legal before this new law passed. And why shouldn’t it be? Pence should have thrown the question back at Stephanopoulos: Do you believe that Indiana should change existing law to force owners of businesses to participate at gay weddings?
Coercing conscientious objectors into supplying a service at a gay wedding is a blatant violation of a historically Christian country’s tradition of religious freedom. Calling that conscientious objection “discrimination” is absurd. Discrimination connotes an act of unquestionable immorality. But there is nothing immoral about declining to serve at a gay wedding. A country not in thrall to gay activism would recognize that as an obvious and reasonable exemption from nondiscrimination laws.
Perhaps holding the view that such an exemption is legitimate, Pence avoided giving an answer to Stephanopoulos’s bullying question. But now under constant pounding from secularists and financial pressure from the business community, Pence is waving the white flag. He implied at a Tuesday press conference that he should have given Stephanopoulos the answer he wanted. He assured reporters that no denial of gay wedding services will be permitted under the new law. He then went back to singing the praises of religious freedom’s vitality. But how vital can religious freedom be if it doesn’t even apply to Christians dragooned into aiding and abetting gay weddings?
That is a far more serious violation of religious freedom than laws interfering with Peyote-smoking or the design of Amish carriages. Liberals can accept a trivialized conception of religious freedom that makes them feel like large-minded benefactors of “religious minorities.” But doctrinal Christians are a different story. They don’t count in the eyes of liberals as a religious minority, even though they increasingly are, and their supposedly eccentric views don’t command any sensitivity whatsoever.
Under the guise of eliminating discrimination, the cultural left seeks to purge Christians from public life. It cannot abide any dissent from the new morality. The goal is not to increase access to business services but to destroy the remaining Christian witness against gay marriage. This drive won’t stop at the doors of a few holdouts within the wedding industry. The cultural left will bust those doors down and then move toward the doors of churches and religious organizations.
Societal banishment awaits any religion that clings to traditional belief. It is not hard to imagine localities, states, and the federal government in time cutting off all benefits and ties with religions that refuse to perform gay weddings or fail to affirm in their teachings and practices all things LGBT as morally good.
The standard of religious freedom grows weaker by the year. The religious are supposed to feel grateful that its ministers haven’t yet been forced to preside at gay weddings. According to Obama, that is proof he respects religious freedom. But even that laughably low standard of religious freedom will be breached at least indirectly, when the cultural left starts to clamor for the denial of tax-exempt status to such ministers.
The temperament of the cultural left is totalitarian. There is no reason to think that it will accept any space between church and state. It views the state as morally above the church and considers it the prerogative of the state to secularize religion. Just as it has forced conservative states like Indiana to capitulate to the new morality, so it will pressure conservative churches into succumbing as well.
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