No cry in the culture war is so impassioned as the cry that social conservatives are “imposing their views” on society, yet the threat to liberty of conscience makes clear that it is social liberals who are “imposing their views” on anything they really care about.
Officials of the United Church of Christ (UCC), long in the vanguard of social liberalism, offered two excellent examples of this in recent days. UCC clergy are supporting a legislative proposal in New Hampshire that would ban “reparative therapy,” for minors, i.e., counseling to enable a homosexually inclined person to overcome their inclination and develop an orientation to the opposite sex. Secondly, an article by the UCC General Minister and President, John Dorhauer, declared that American religious freedom was never intended to protect conscientious objection against homosexuality or abortion, because the freedom of homosexuals and women who want abortions requires that they be assisted in what they want.
How it happens that liberal/left partisans cannot see the incoherence and hypocrisy in their claims is difficult for this writer to understand. Perhaps the claims are only being advanced for rhetorical effect. Do people have a right to self-determination, to the life and view of reality they want, without others “imposing their views?”
Most societies, including our own before the mid-twentieth century, would have said no, some things are so clearly wrong that they cannot be tolerated. And even our own society cannot practically accept the plea of “who are you to judge” – murder and theft, for instance, cannot be tolerated.
But on sexual ethics, it’s held, as the Supreme Court has since 1965, that things are just too personal for judgment by any external authority. It does no good to speak of possible physical or emotional harm from sexual liberation, instead life and society should be ordered to make sexual choices safe. And this self-determination is protected to the extent that even the taking of unborn or newly born life is allowable to secure it. It would seem that sexual self-determination is an absolute right for anyone who can make it past the womb (or a day or so, or six months, or three years, or whenever the arbitrary cutoff point is set for sanctioning what would otherwise be recognized as homicide).
But apparently not for homosexuals wishing some other inclination. The attempt to ban reparative therapy is not necessary for homosexuals who do not wish reorientation, but is directed at counselors, patients, and parents who are acting on their sincere religious convictions and giving voice to their beliefs as the Constitution guarantees them the right to do in order to determine what their lives will be. What they are determining is to live in obedience to God, as they understand his commands to be. It matters not whether liberal opinion and the psychiatric profession (under intense pressure to accept and advance homosexual liberation since the 1970s) consider this to be oppressive; by social liberals’ own doctrine of self-determination it must be legal.
At this point in the incremental and frighteningly successful struggle against any freedom that conflicts with homosexual liberation, it is the counseling of minors which is under assult. Focusing on minors simply raises additional contentious questions about parental care versus state care. The cultural left considers the religious education of children to be a form of “child abuse,” a claim made especially by atheist polemicist Richard Dawkins. But if parents do not have ultimate educational authority for their children, the state does. And the state cannot be expected to be any more unbiased than parents, and certainly less caring. Minors are not being forced into therapy, and remedies already exist to deal with any situation where that might be the case. Banning reparative therapy is thus a wedge which will be useful in a larger effort by the state to come between parents and their children. It is also noteworthy that Hilary Clinton, long a subversive of parent directed education, proposes a ban on reparative therapy for minors.
The threat to religious expression and free speech will, of course, not stop with minors. Recently a New Jersey judge ordered an Orthodox Jewish ministry focusing on reparative therapy shut down. This represents a gross violation of both freedom of religion and freedom of speech. If people are not free to pursue therapy they want, what about ordinary conversation, especially if it involves a minor, in which one party at least endeavors to dissuade another from homosexual activity or inclination?
The bias in professional standards is doubly apparent when one realizes that therapists are being intimidated. If the cultural left gets its way, they will be prohibited from assisting willing patients in attaining a natural desire for the opposite sex. These are same cultural liberals (feminists, homosexual activists, and secularists in general to a large degree) who want to require health care professionals to participate in and refer abortions, perform sex change operations, and dispense drugs which they cannot do in good conscience. It would be lunacy for patients to prescribe their own treatment in any non-sexual area, but they may have exactly that right on any sexual matter.
UCC President Dorhauer’s statement against religious liberty in the name of religious liberty carries the social liberal denial of freedom a step further. Not only are faithful Christians and other social conservatives to be denied their own sexual self-determination (which indeed no one should have, but according to social liberals everyone should have), but they must also take action they believe to be evil which contributes to abortion and homosexuality. The self-determination of others demands that the self-determination of social conservatives be denied.
If we look at the specific points Dorhauer made it can easily be seen whose liberty is being infringed. As many have carefully noted, merchants who decline services that contribute to homosexuality are objecting to homosexual behavior, not to serving homosexual persons. To make behavior, rather than some fixed characteristic such as race or sex protected from discrimination would, as this writer has said before, make all crimes legal, since any behavior could be claimed as essential to one’s personal identity. But like other liberals, Dorhauer does not mean that “civil rights” is the same as anarchy, but only that it should protect what he deems to be right, and homosexual behavior is deemed to be right. To put the judgment that homosexual behavior is right into law is to impose it on all society.
Similarly to claim the religious conscience inhibits women’s health is nonsense. Pregnancy is a normal life process; rarely, if ever, is it necessary to take the life of the child to save the life of the mother. The “health” that is damaged is the mother’s “quality of life,” judged more important than the life, let alone the self-determination, of the child. Even if abortion were often necessary for health, it remains wrong to require action believed sinful. One person’s “quality of life” should not require another to take action believed immoral. There is no conflict between “religious rights” and “the rights of others,” because no one should have a right to require another person to take an action the other believes is sinful.
Dorhauer’s claim that he is being true to his ancestors who came to America to find religious freedom is true in a sense and false in a sense. It is false in the most important sense that the Puritans came to America to find a place where they could live in accordance with their consciences. They could not, being strict Calvinists, submit to the high church Anglicanism that was established in England, and knew that their most important duty was to God, not to the state. But Dorhauer is true to his Puritan forbears in wishing religious freedom for himself and likeminded people, while persecuting those who disagreed, just as the Puritans did with Baptists and Quakers.
With the recent death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, we may be seeing the end of religious freedom for traditional Christians. Many religions will continue to be publically practiced, including orthodox Christianity, but any claim to liberty of conscience in the public square, liberty from requirements which violate Christian faith in the interest of advancing the social liberal agenda, may be denied. It is to be expected (although we should fervently pray otherwise) that Little Sisters of the Poor and Westminster Theological Seminary will not now prevail at the Supreme Court in their religious liberty claim against the requirement that they help in the provision of abortifacients in their medical plans. If we are required to sin, then it will be necessary to take the penalty, which for an individual may mean ruinous fines, or worse, and for an institution may mean that it will cease to function. Our whole life is to be a service to God, and we are to seek first His kingdom and righteousness.
Against the claim that religious dogma is harming ourselves and others, we must insist that it is the secularist vision of the good life, not shared by many other persons, which will deny society the service and talents of Christians. Religious freedom should protect all, even the adherents of exclusivist religions, not merely those who agree with the liberationist vision of the cultural left.Google+