Religious Freedom Requires War With Bullying, Ignorant Media

AP Photo/Michael Conroy
AP Photo/Michael Conroy

A Muslim caterer refuses to cater a pork festival.

A Jewish caterer refuses to cater a cheeseburger eating contest.

Believing it contradicts the teachings of Jesus, a gay Christian (think Andrew Sullivan) who runs a public relations firm refuses to take on a client who wants to promote traditional marriage.

An American Indian publisher refuses to publish a book about the dangers of peyote.

A Christian baker refuses to bake a wedding cake for a same sex marriage.

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which is broader in who it protects but virtually similar to the RFRA that passed the United States Senate 97-0 in 1993 before being signed into law by President Clinton, is about ensuring that a persona’s religious beliefs and conscience are treated as rights in situations like those listed above.

Nevertheless, Indiana’s RFRA does not guarantee or allow or sanction discrimination. The law does not take a side in any of the hypothetical’s listed above. Because the law properly recognizes religious beliefs as a right (See: Amendment, First), it sets up a dynamic of competing rights where in a dispute the government is still the ultimate arbiter.

According to people smarter than me, it all then comes down to the burden placed on the Religious versus the furthering of the state’s interest (e.g. non-discrimination). Here’s some clarity from legal scholar Daniel O. Conkle, a same sex marriage advocate:

The bill would establish a general legal standard, the “compelling interest” test, for evaluating laws and governmental practices that impose substantial burdens on the exercise of religion. This same test already governs federal law under the federal RFRA, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. And some 30 states have adopted the same standard, either under state-law RFRAs or as a matter of state constitutional law.

Applying this test, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that a Muslim prisoner was free to practice his faith by wearing a half-inch beard that posed no risk to prison security. Likewise, in a 2012 decision, a court ruled that the Pennsylvania RFRA protected the outreach ministry of a group of Philadelphia churches, ruling that the city could not bar them from feeding homeless individuals in the city parks.

If the Indiana RFRA is adopted, this same general approach will govern religious freedom claims of all sorts, thus protecting religious believers of all faiths by granting them precisely the same consideration.

But granting religious believers legal consideration does not mean that their religious objections will always be upheld.

The outright lies the media, and companies like Apple and Angie’s List are spreading come from ignorance of the law, anti-Christian bigotry, or a mixture of both.

Apple CEO Tim Cook outright lied in the Washington Post when he wrote that the Indiana law “would allow people to discriminate against their neighbors.” Angie’s List canceled a $40 million expansion plan with the harrumph, “Angie’s List is open to all and discriminates against none.”

Obviously both Apple and Anglie’s List are being disingenuous about opposing discrimination. Both want to see the Faithful discriminated against. Both want to see the Faithful forced by the government to violate their religious conscience.

The media of course have followed right along. For propaganda purposes, the only scenario the media have imagined is one intentionally meant to invoke the horrors of Jim Crow: a gay couple being refused service in a restaurant. Forget that this never happens — even though it would be legal in much of the country (states where gays have not received status as a protected class),  Indiana’s RFRA is a blanket law meant to give legal standing to the Faithful of all religions, including ancient American Indian traditions.

What this all comes down to is the simple question of government coercion and competing rights. In a country with a First Amendment, in a country that was literally founded on the idea of religious freedom, are we going to force the owner of a Muslim deli to choose between bankruptcy and his faith because he won’t cook a pork chop? In pursuit of equality, should a gay Christian public printer be burdened with the same choice if the Moral Majority comes calling?

Asking a Christian to take part in or officiate (you can bet this is next) a same sex wedding, even through their business, is like asking a Muslim to eat a pork rind.

Christians see marriage as a sacrament. A same sex marriage therefore is the sacremantalization of a sin. The government forcing the Faithful to participate in sin goes well beyond serving someone a meal. There’s nothing sinful about eating. Jesus ate with and spent time with sinners.

Jesus never participated in or enabled anyone’s sinfulness.

Using misinformation and lies, all fueled by their own hatred and ignorance, the media is using a perfectly reasonable Indiana law to launch a hysterical bullying campaign against the Faithful, specifically Christians.

The Left and media are outright gleeful at thought of either forcing Christians out of the public square or forcing Christians to violate our religious conscience.

The bigots at work in this debate are not the Christians.


Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC               


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