Religious Liberty in America: The Next Chapter


Religious Liberty in America: The Next Chapter
Michael Needham


In the minds of many moderate American voters, and certainly the political class in Washington, the Republican Party has a big problem: Whenever it seems to have figured out a formula for success, uncomfortable debates over so-called social issues raised by party-base activists seem to get in the way. In 2012 and 2014, it was the Republican Party’s supposed fixation with contraception. More recently, the issue du jour has been gay marriage.

Buying into the theory that active engagement on these issues is a losing battle that will do more harm than good, the Republican leadership has tried to avoid these thorny issues without alienating its base, to little avail. In 2010, for example, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels argued that Barack Obama’s successor in the White House “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues.” The base never got over Daniels’s remark, and Daniels never mounted a presidential campaign.

Alas, moving on is not so easy for some Americans. Moving on wasn’t an option for the Catholic Church a decade ago, when the Massachusetts Supreme Court imposed a new definition of marriage equating same-sex unions with those between husband and wife. After that decision, the Church was forced to abandon its adoption services due to laws requiring that it place kids with same-sex couples in contravention of its teachings. Moving on has not been an option for Aaron and Melissa Klein, the owners of an Oregon bakery who were forced under state anti-discrimination law to shut down their business because they could not in good conscience violate their Christian faith by participating in a same-sex wedding.

Looking ahead, moving on is not an option for religious schools all across the country. Note carefully that during the oral arguments in the Obergefell case, Solicitor General Don Verrilli openly acknowledged that those schools’ tax-exempt status might at some point be revoked if they refuse to endorse the redefinition of marriage. In response to questioning from Justice Alito anticipating that the government would analogize religious universities opposed to same-sex marriage to the case of Bob Jones University for the latter’s opposition to interracial dating, Verrilli admitted that “it’s certainly going to be an issue. I—I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito.

As at least one former member of RO demonstrated, in a couple of areas, people who don’t make use of a constitutionally recognized right often place no value on that right, and slide easily into believing that right should not be at all.

This is on such instance. Same-sex marriage is being used as a wedge to dislodge the Free Exercise from the First Amendment. It could also become a wedge between religious conservatives and non-religious conservatives, especially those who preen themselves for their “moderacy” on social issues.

I’m not thinking, hysterically, that I’ll be herded into a coliseum and fed to the lions. But theologically conservative Christians and Jews (and maybe Muslims?) being driven and barred from a wide variety of professions based on opposition to abortion or same-sex marriage is already being attempted.

Bakers and caterers who won’t do same-sex wedding receptions are being sued into bankruptcy. If it hasn’t happened already, the same will happen to wedding photographers. Doctors? Make performing abortions a mandatory part of residency - no abortions, no MD, plus massive student loan debt. Public safety? Being on the record as viewing homosexuality has already cost a very senior police officer and a very senior fire fighter that I’m aware of their careers. A charity that receives government $$ or receive government $$ indirectly through people the charity serves? They will have to toe the line or be shut down (like that Catholic charity on Boston the article cited). Hotels? Owners of even one residential property? To “ask” is to answer.

The R Party needs to understand that buying “peace” with homosexual activist groups will have a huge, maybe even existential, price and the “peace” won’t last.


I.E. In an Immoral country … Morality is not a top selling point.