One may reasonably wonder whether the militant left in this country is solely dedicated to manufacturing issues to keep the nation in a constant state of uproar, angst and disharmony. We’re seeing lots of negativity and intolerance from those so concerned that we all love one another.
Their most recent cause for hysterical urgency is Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The left has gone absolutely bonkers attempting to paint that legislation as a license for Christians to discriminate against gays for sport and is smearing anyone who supports it as a reactionary bigot.
Don’t you long for those days when words had meaning? Now we have propagandists whose principal job is to deceitfully distort word meanings to promote their causes.
A few examples in the context of the issue at hand are “hate,” “homophobe,” “discrimination” and “anti-.” People who oppose same-sex marriage do not fear or hate people who are gay. They are not advocating discrimination against them, and they are not against them.
These calculated distortions have had an enormous impact on our culture, infecting even people who should know better. Now enshrined in our popular culture, these misrepresentations affect the way people think (which is the whole point, of course) and lead to imputed motives with no basis in fact.
Consider U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s unfortunate language in his opinion in the Windsor case, in which the court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional.
Kennedy said the government’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages imposed a “stigma,” codified a “separate status” into law and “humiliate(d)” a certain group of people. He said, “The principal purpose and the necessary effect of this law are to demean those persons who are in a lawful same-sex marriage.”
Those were grossly unwarranted accusations. In fact, Kennedy’s reckless language could cause the exact harm he professed to be condemning, for he flagrantly stigmatized, humiliated and demeaned proponents of DOMA in presumptuously imputing motives to them they don’t possess.
Somewhat similarly, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, in walking back his position on Indiana’s law, said, “No one should be harassed or mistreated because of who they are, who they love or what they believe.”
That was a profoundly regrettable choice of words that only lends credence to the dishonest activists who are attempting to vilify people who support a law that protects one of this nation’s most basic and sacred freedoms, the freedom of religion. Under no reasonable construction of language can business owners’ refusal to perform services or sell products for events that celebrate causes that violate their religious beliefs be considered harassment.
The only people being harassed on this issue are the business owners, because of their religious beliefs.
The Indiana law doesn’t authorize businesses to deny services to gay people at will. Neither the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act nor any of the state RFRAs have been used as a license for merchants to refuse to do business with gays. But there is a qualitative difference between refusing to serve gays in general and declining to provide services for the very event that solemnizes their legal marriage.
We should expect better from Kennedy and Pence, but not White House press secretary Josh Earnest, who said the Indiana law “could reasonably be used to try to justify discriminating against somebody because of who they love.” That incendiary language completely distorts the motive of those who don’t want to service same-sex marriage ceremonies, and he knows it.
Leftists also want to marginalize Christians who support such legislation as hateful kooks and outliers, but the truth is that Christianity sanctifies marriage as between one man and one woman, and that is not only in the Old Testament. Those who claim that Jesus never condemned homosexuality should know that he did affirm marriage as between a man and a woman. Reciting Genesis, he said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4-5).
Let’s not forget what the federal and state RFRAs, as construed by the courts, do. They seek to balance sometimes-conflicting interests. They say the government can’t force people to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs unless it can prove it has a compelling interest in doing so, and only then if it does so by the least restrictive means.
Again, RFRAs recognize potential disagreements and provide for a reasonable balancing of those interests. But the ugly truth is that opponents of RFRAs don’t want there to be a balancing test. They don’t believe that the religious convictions of Christians on same-sex marriage deserve any protection. They are the extremists in this conflict, not the Christian merchants who choose to respectfully decline performing services for a very minute fraction of transactions involving gays.
What people should keep in mind is that any real hatred involved in this latest hot-button issue is emanating from the people who are falsely claiming to be victimized by hate. The nasty, mean-spirited rhetoric, the desire to harm people for exercising their religion and the efforts to smear a certain group of people are coming from leftist activists against Christians, not Christians against gays. Those are the facts.
The question is, Will our Republican politicians have the backbone to stand up for what is right on this issue and vindicate religious liberty?
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Photo credit: “RFRA Indianapolis Protests – 2015 – Justin Eagan 02” by Justin Eagan – Facebook. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
David Limbaugh is a writer, author and attorney. His latest book is “Jesus on Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel.” Follow him on Twitter @davidlimbaugh and his website at www.davidlimbaugh.com.