In 1804, Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Ursuline Sisters to reassure them that the U.S. government would not violate their religious freedom. Allaying fears they had conveyed in a letter to him, Jefferson wrote that the “principles of the constitution and government of the United States” would permit the religious order to “govern itself according to its own voluntary rules, without interference from the civil authority.”
The Ursuline Sisters had been running orphanages, hospitals, and schools in French-controlled Louisiana since 1727. They sought reassurances from Jefferson after his Louisiana Purchase that they would not suffer in America a fate similar to their confrères in France, who were then facing persecution and property loss under the secularist measures that followed the French Revolution. Jefferson, in effect, told the nuns that the American Revolution was not the same as the French Revolution, and that they would not have to live under the strictures of secularism. He guaranteed them “all the protection which my office can give” and concluded the letter, “I salute you, holy sisters, with friendship & respect.”
In his conception of “human rights” trumping religious freedom, Biden draws his inspiration not from 1776 Philadelphia but from 1789 Paris.
Could anyone imagine Joe Biden writing such a letter to nuns today? Biden’s secularism is alien to the American Revolution — “The establishment of civil and religious liberty was the motive that induced me to the field of battle,” said America’s first president, George Washington — but very akin to the spirit of the French Revolution. In his plans to persecute the Little Sisters of the Poor and other Christian groups, Biden resembles not the Founding Fathers but the French secularists who bowed before the “Goddess of Reason.” They, too, wanted to drive Christians from the public square; they, too, thought that the claims of secular morality should supersede the tenets of Christianity.
Like Obama, Biden casts himself as a revolutionary, working to “transform” America. But to what revolutionary tradition is he appealing? It is not the God-fearing American one. It is more like the coercive, starkly anti-religious French Revolution that viewed Christianity as an impediment to progress. In his conception of “human rights” trumping religious freedom, Biden draws his inspiration not from 1776 Philadelphia but from 1789 Paris.
Indeed, Biden’s planned violations of religious freedom surpass even the secularist imagination of a Voltaire. The LGBT-promoting “Equality Act” that Biden espouses, which is working its way through Congress, would mark open season on Christians if it is signed into law. The legislation is so outlandish that even some liberal legal scholars oppose it. University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock, a supporter of gay marriage, commented to National Review that the legislation would “crush” the religious:
It goes very far to stamp out religious exemptions. It regulates religious non-profits. And then it says that [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] does not apply to any claim under the Equality Act. This would be the first time Congress has limited the reach of RFRA. This is not a good-faith attempt to reconcile competing interests. It is an attempt by one side to grab all the disputed territory and to crush the other side.
The U.S. bishops, meanwhile, warn that the “Equality Act” would trigger the following dire consequences for the religious:
forces religiously operated spaces and establishments, such as church halls, to either host functions that violate their beliefs or close their doors to their communities
requires women to compete against men and boys in sports, and to share locker rooms and shower facilities with men and boys
forces faith-based charities that serve all people to violate their religious beliefs, and threatens the welfare of thousands of beneficiaries of charitable services such as shelters and foster care agencies, by forcing a multitude of them to be shut down
jeopardizes existing prohibitions on the use of federal taxpayer funds for abortion, likely pressuring or even mandating the performance of abortions by health care providers in violation of their consciences, and ultimately ending more human lives
hinders quality health care, by forcing health care professionals, against their best medical judgment, to support treatments and procedures associated with “gender transition.”
For Biden, “nondiscrimination” is a euphemism for violating the First Amendment, which the Founding Fathers established not to protect Americans from religion but to protect the religious from an overweening federal government. What Biden considers progress — forcing the religious to violate their consciences and beliefs in the name of his version of “rights” — the Founding Fathers would have regarded as the height of tyranny. The worst fears of the Ursulines, expressed so long ago to Jefferson, have been realized under Biden.