Americans must not allow the cultural left to edit the concept of religious freedom to exclude the requirements of chastity, the traditional morality of not only Christianity, but the wider humanity, which restricts sexual activity to that in the marriage of man and woman. This is because chastity is central to the moral life of traditionally religious people, and protecting conscience, which concerns what is ultimately right and wrong, must be a cardinal principle of any free society.
For this reason, religious freedom appears first in the First Amendment, and reasonably informs all other freedoms. The frequent claim that religious freedom could be used to justify racial discrimination should really be mute, since it was a cultural preference, not a religious doctrine. Therefore the exclusion of conscience protection related to chastity is unprincipled, a shameless exception made to a moral principle for the sake of injured feelings. This terrible infringement of religious freedom seriously affects the free character of our society, allowing state interference in personal life on the basis of an ideology, namely sexual, and especially, homosexual liberation.
Editing the concept of religious freedom is precisely the objective of homosexual activist groups and their allies among the Left’s legal service organizations and think tanks. Their earlier Employment Nondiscrimination Act bills, already an infringement on the conscience of private employers in whom they hire, was withdrawn when sponsors could not get exemptions for religious organizations out of it. The passion against conscience protections for sexual morality then was carried over into the proposed Equality Act, which covers, at a national level, all areas civil rights deals with: employment, housing, and the supply of goods and services. The goal of this sadly misnamed bill is certainly not full equality before the law, which everyone has, but immunity from adverse judgment in personal behavior, which no one else has. Unlike race and the natural sexes of male and female, which have immutable characteristics, or even religion, which to the law of the state is a matter of affiliation, homosexual identity is based on nothing more than personal behavior. As this writer has argued, only race is truly superficial, and thus an irrational, unjust basis for discrimination. But to forbid discrimination against personal behavior really amounts to the state decreeing what morality is acceptable for the American people. The goal here is obviously not merely the already achieved goal of the legal practice of homosexuality and having homosexual acts and relationships regarded as equal in law (which they certainly are not in biology), but social acceptance of homosexuality by all of society, so that homosexuals will not experience condemnation in personal life.
That this is a thoroughly illiberal project should be obvious. No one is, or should be, immune from condemnation in personal life. Yet behavior based antidiscrimination requirements lie at the heart of the concept of homosexual rights. If behavior can be taken to be part of personal identity, and if people are truly free to define their own realities, as the Supreme Court infamously declared in the Casey decision (1992), then all crimes would have to be legal, and all laws declared unconstitutional, since all restrain human behavior. Public order is only possible by picking and choosing when to apply this unworkable principle. But the government of a free society does not endeavor to prescribe a correct way of life, only to maintain public order without regard to the beliefs of its citizens, whether they are religious beliefs or ideologies. This cannot be done if the government itself is attempting to enforce an ideology, which in the present conflict over liberty of conscience is homosexual liberation. The legal right of conscientious objection against homosexuality is integral to religious freedom because the condemnation of homosexuality is integral to Christian and other traditional religious morality. And yes, there must be “the right to discriminate” on the basis of conscience. Not to grant that right amounts to making the state the final arbiter of morality. Nothing, as this writer has urged in an earlier article, can be more important to a free society than protecting religious freedom and liberty of conscience. That people may, and in most modern societies do, have sharply differing beliefs, offensive to one another, must clearly be respected as a basic principle of any free society.
The cultural left – feminists, homosexual activists, and secularists who seek public religious expression suppressed – simply judges its objective, a society without the fear of God and with unrestricted sexual choice, to be more important than classic liberal commitments to religious freedom and liberty of conscience. Notice that this does not, at least in this point in our history, merely involve claiming the right to live without God and sexual restrictions, but preeminently to require people who do not believe what the liberal/left does about sexual morality to conform to its liberationist ideology.
If we accept the classic liberal commitment to freedom to live by one’s convictions as primary, it is easy to see what needs protection. Churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and any other houses of worship must be free from antidiscrimination law and policy; to carry out their functions, they must discriminate on a religious basis. In the case of a church, believers in a highly confessional church will regard all its activities as religious in nature, and all service connected with the church as religious in nature. A church secretary, organist, or custodian is not a mere employee, providing a service to the church, but an organic part of a religious body, performing a service to God. Likewise, all that the church does must be in conformity with religious principles, precisely because it cannot serve God in disobedience to what are taken to be His commands. Thus an orthodox Christian church cannot hire or retain a homosexual organist (who might be regarded as a minister of music, in any case), secretary, or custodian, nor can it pay for abortion coverage, as such activities are gross compromises with sin, and thus forbidden by Jesus (Matt. 18:7).
Likewise, religious organizations providing social service, which are not houses of worship, deserve the same protection, because they too are services to God. Religious colleges, universities, primary and secondary schools, and home schools must function according to religious standards, and in the case of orthodox Christians, Jews, and Muslims, this means excluding homosexuality (and other departures from chastity) and abortion, both in the beliefs and activities of whom they hire and retain, and in their all their teaching and organizational activities. And similarly, religious hospitals, charities, publishing houses and broadcasting organizations must be able to function by their own religious standards, however pained or discriminatory anyone finds them. Not to allow this requires that they be unfaithful to their reason for being, which is service to God. Pre-1990 America would have clearly understood that a church (or synagogue, temple, or mosque) should not be required to conform to antidiscrimination law, health insurance coverage, or disability requirements that conflicted with its beliefs, and neither should a religious social service, broadcasting, or publishing agency.
Finally private businesses need a measure protection which would be afforded by making clear that any antidiscrimination requirements pertaining to sex (and the present writer believes that there really should be none) should at least be identity based and not behavior based. This would mean that discrimination would be prohibited based on whether or not one is male or female (meaning biologically male or female) or even on one’s self-perception as homosexual, but not prohibited for housing, employment, or good and services pertaining to behavior. This would eliminate the conscience crisis for bakers, photographers, florists, and the growing number of professions and occupations which are affected by the requirement to facilitate homosexual behavior, and also give freedom of choice in housing and employment based on behavior. But this is the freedom that Americans have always known; it has to be emphasized that homosexual activists are demanding that homosexual behavior alone be exempt from adverse judgement (i.e., that homosexual behavior alone be free from private discrimination).
While Christians and social conservatives are well aware of the threats to the Christian subculture, and are endeavoring to protect it, we must also face the fact that success is by no means assured, and that the kinds of requirements that make authentic Christian personal and corporate life impossible may by legislative, executive, or judicial action be made into binding rules, as to some degree they already have been in more liberal jurisdictions. Then the Christian individual or organization must face the choice: compromise or noncompliance. Noncompliance can mean ceasing activity rather than breaking a rule, but sometimes one must take the penalty where a rule is already enacted concerning an ongoing activity.
And noncompliance is the only alternative which is within the will of God, and thus not sinful. By the same rule of not contributing to sin that mandates noncompliance, as noted above (Matt. 18:7), it can also be seen that participation in or support for compromised organizations is also forbidden to faithful Christians. Depending on how successful the cultural left is in further enacting its antidiscrimination requirements into rules, the Christian subculture may be substantially reduced or worse yet, compromised. Again, this denial of liberty would occur both individually, with a variety of business and professional opportunities closed to faithful Christians, and organizationally, with Christian educational and social service organizations either closed or compromised, in which later case they are not authentically Christian and must by shunned, in obedience to God.
Lamentable as the possible demise of the Christian subculture is, we must keep this possibility – and our determination to live faithfully as Christians in its absence – firmly in mind, as another Democratic presidency and a resulting liberal Supreme Court may well follow after 2016. The cultural left will then surely move to enact a regime which denies liberty of conscience, with such tools as the Equality Act, which would make adverse actions against homosexuality illegal in business, the professions, employment (including religious organizations), and as far as possible, in personal life. A fair idea of what the Left would want to see may be judged by, for instance, the constitution of Ecuador, which specifically states that religious freedom is subordinate to other rights guaranteed in the constitution (which includes references to abortion and homosexuality). Similarly Bolivia’s constitution, praised by the academic legal world in the West, holds to be seditious anything that is contrary to national “unity.”
Becoming an underclass was hardly what Christians anticipated in the last generation. Particularly with the fall of communism and the end of the Cold War, it was anticipated that a world of freedom and prosperity lay ahead into the indefinite future, with the lessons of the past concerning totalitarianism, and the lessons of the attack on morality which occurred in conjunction with the social revolutions of the 1960s now learned as correctives for the future. Post-Cold War America would even be more of an example to the world than ever before. What we face instead is the staggering possibility that the freedom to live in obedience to God, which inspired the original colonists and was the “first freedom” that generations of Americans fought and died for, will in the future be penalized, and suppressed as far as possible. In particular, our right to train our children in an unedited Christian faith will be denied, and Christian faith and morals widely attacked in society.
We must not fear that Christian faith will disappear from the earth, as we know there will be Christians on earth until Christ’s return (I Thess. 4:17), but what God has in the future is something that we can only affirm by faith will be for the greater good in the end. How we regard the Christian civilization of the past is also unclear, although we can say that however imperfect, it aimed at virtue and achieved freedom. But our unchanging commitment must be to God’s revealed truth. Perhaps a firm commitment to orthodox Christian faith and morals will have an unexpected and surprising result. But even if we remain an underclass, we know that we are being faithful to God, and that our faithfulness will glorify Him. And we know that He will prevail in the end.