This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published February 26, 2017 by The Washington Times.
Post-modern progressives, contrary to popular belief, are not irreligious. They worship at the altar of government power, lifting the chalice of “diversity” and eating the bread of “tolerance.”
Under their arms they carry certain portions of the U.S. Constitution, plus copies of court rulings that are considered sacred and “settled” — but only if they advance progressive notions of progress. All others are open to revision.
For example, progressives have pledged to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling that recognizes the individual right to collective political speech in unions and nonprofits.
But the same progressives tell us that the Obergefell same-sex “marriage” ruling in 2015 is “settled law” and thus in stone. The same goes for the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973 that legalized abortion in all 50 states regardless of what happens in state legislatures or at the ballot box.
The progressive divines claim to value individual liberty above all, selectively citing the First Amendment. They ignore altogether the Second Amendment, which they regard as the crazy uncle in the constitutional attic.
Paying lip service, progressives sometimes accord religious liberty a degree of constitutional protection nearly equal to pornography and obscenity, the free exercise of which constitutes an important part of their rites. For anyone paying attention, their cultural agenda has been obvious. Decades ago, C.S. Lewis remarked that the goal of the left is to “make pornography public and religion private.” Except, of course, for the progressive brand. And they are almost there.
Concerning religion itself, progressives draw sharp exceptions. They give a pass to more recent faiths in America such as Islam, for example, while putting public expressions of Christianity and sometimes Judaism, whose tenets constitute America’s foundational values, under a magnifying glass.
In recent years, progressives have used the courts to establish newer classes of protected behaviors that effectively trump the explicit constitutional protection of religion. What is not written takes precedence over what is. You’ve heard of fake news? Welcome to fake justice.
A prime example is the Washington state Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling last week against a Christian florist, Barronelle Stutzman, who declined to service a same-sex wedding, citing conscience reasons. Like the New Mexico photographers, the former Colorado bakers, and the former Iowa wedding venue owners before her, the 72-year-old grandmother was told to comply or face ruinous legal costs.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represented the plaintiff, a longtime homosexual customer named Robert Ingersoll, argued that he had a right to force Mrs. Stutzman to service his ceremony.
The back story is important. Mrs. Stutzman has never refused to sell flowers to Mr. Ingersoll or any other customers. In fact, she counted Mr. Ingersoll and others among her friends and employed some openly homosexual people. She said she still would sell him flowers tomorrow. But helping to facilitate a ceremony celebrating what her faith calls sin was a bridge too far. She suggested three other florists who could do the job, to no avail. The Washington high court ruled that Mr. Ingersoll’s claim of discrimination based on “sexual orientation” cancels Mrs. Stutzman’s claim to religious liberty. If allowed to stand, this is an extremely dangerous precedent that paints a target on every Christian-owned business. Which is the whole idea.
Chai Feldblum, an Obama appointee to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, famously declared that civil rights are “a zero sum game.” Somebody wins, somebody loses. During a public forum, she was more specific: “Gays win, Christians lose.”
Indeed. When “sexual orientation” laws began in the 1970s, most Americans regarded them as little more than extensions of current civil rights laws to include more groups. What could it hurt? They had no idea that the phrase would effectively supplant religious liberty whenever the two collide.
The Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling was followed by a slew of heavy-handed policies imposed by the Obama administration that favor all things sexual over religious liberty. These include the Corporal Klingerization of the military, penalties against military chaplains for defending biblical morality, and an order by the Justice and Education departments to America’s public schools to allow boys and men who think they are female into girls’ locker rooms and restrooms. This past week, the Trump administration rescinded the order, setting off progressive howling from Maine to Seattle.
As Mrs. Stutzman’s plight reveals, we are not witnessing a civil rights expansion but a severe contraction of religious liberty and an entirely different worldview — a new religion — imposed on an unsuspecting populace.
The only cure for this existential threat is to assert strongly the unalienable rights granted to us by nature and nature’s God. We need to work and pray so that real justice replaces the fake variety.