The Demeaning of Religious Liberty--A Tale of Two Belief Systems
February 9, 2015
To say that our country is headed the way of Sodom and Gomorrah may be a cliché, but it certainly appears to be true. The incomparable speed with which the acceptance of same sex marriage has risen in America over the past decade is alarming to those of us who hold to the supposedly antiquated belief of personal morality. Biblical morality? That’s even worse to popular culture- that’s frighteningly specific.
Kerry Livgren, the mastermind behind the rock group “Kansas,” once complained that the general public is okay with those who are on spiritual journeys, but when those searchers find an answer, that same general public nervously turns away. In Livgren’s case, when he wrote songs of his spiritual odyssey, “Kansas” was celebrated; when lyrics changed to subtle expressions of the joy he found, the unhappiness from the public and radio stations began.
Times have changed, but not for the better. Today, the general public seems to believe that recognizing behavioral limits is “judgmental,” and that “whatever you’re into” is okay. Concepts of self-discipline and limits are verboten.
The specific battle of the last few years has evolved into that of religious liberty versus homosexual “rights.” Truth be known, homosexuals already have full rights of society. If two heterosexuals of the same sex want access to the other’s health care, they are out of luck; if two homosexuals are allowed to “marry”- of course, that is not what marriage is- then they have gained a special right not available to heterosexuals. This “right” becomes “rights” when factors such as spousal benefits are factored into the equation.
The heart of the problem is: when does religious liberty trump homosexuals’ “rights”? At first blush, the question does not seem to be a tough one; they should be able to coexist. However, when examined deeply, philosophically, the conundrum becomes clear. Ask the baker or photographer who believes that it is against his religion to take actions that support same sex “marriage.”
The next question is, what is acceptable for children to be taught? When parents choose to teach morality at home, then the local school not only teaches to the contrary, but ridicules moral teaching, there is conflict first within the home, then within society. Further, any public official who stands on the side of morality gets pilloried by the national press with a ferocious barrage of character assassination.
Current commissioner for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and former Georgetown law professor Chai Feldblum got to the point when writing about the friction between religious liberty and homosexual rights: “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.” “First Things” editor R.R. Reno has pointed out that our society’s politically correct narrative states that “when religious individuals and institutions don’t conform to the new consensus about sexual morality, their freedoms should be limited.”
In other words, any time religious liberty and homosexual rights clash, religious liberty must be limited. Personal restraint is a bother, not a virtue. Millions who crossed the Atlantic centuries ago in pursuit of religious liberty would have disagreed.
Interestingly, for Bible believers, frequently some of our biggest opponents are church-goers and others who claim Christianity as their faith. Ignorance of the Bible is the driving force with these folks, who make claims such as Christ never spoke out against homosexuality. The problem is that they do not understand that “sexual immorality,” in Jesus’ time, clearly referred to multiple types of sexual sin. In the Jewish society at the time, it was not necessary to explicitly detail every kind of sexual immorality; the people understood what that entailed.
The same people talk about God’s love in a way that leads one to believe that it is the only quality they understand of the Creator’s many attributes. Love is but one facet; the hatred of sin is another.
For those who are moral but are not as inclined to base their morality on the Bible, most understand that societies are held together by the glue of morality. The more immoral a populace, the more laws needed to keep that populace from tearing itself apart. The more laws needed, the more government intrusion there is; more government intrusion means fewer liberties. So what liberals and many libertarians claim is freedom actually leads to the degradation of freedom.
Benjamin Franklin, imperfect human though he was, as we all are, neatly packaged the argument: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” George Washington understood the importance of morality in society when he said, in his Farewell Address to the nation, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” Indispensable supports. An entire book could spring forth from that one sentence.
One does not have to be a Christian to understand that as the EEOC Commissioner states correctly, when religious liberty and homosexual rights collide, in the minds of those who eschew America’s moral foundation, religious liberty is not only unimportant, but unwelcome. Religious liberty allows people to cast aside certain wants and harmful desires for the sake of society. The immoral hate God, hate morality, and believe that limits are unnecessary because limits imply that the concept of right vs. wrong is valid- and the immoral know what side of the ledger this puts them.
Along with the right to own property, religious liberty is the most important of our liberties. Some may fall to one side (property), and some to the other (religious liberty), but there is no denying, when examined closely and scholarly, that these two God-given rights are indispensable for a free society to survive. Now, one of these rights is under unceasing attack.
Let us hope and pray that the Sodom and Gomorrah cliché remains just that. To remain so, we have to support those who stand up for religious liberty. That means standing against immorality, which includes same sex marriage. If we do not strongly support those who understand these principles, the immortal words of Benjamin Franklin, albeit in a different context, will apply: “We must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
One does not have to be a Christian to understand morality or the detriment to society that will result from same sex “marriage.” Sodom and Gomorrah cannot coexist with morality--one must take precedence over the other. The next ten years will determine which belief system will win.
Brian W. Peterson has been a columnist for a mid-size California newspaper, is a veteran of political campaigns, and was a member of the publicly elected Republican Central Committee of Los Angeles County. His psychological thriller Dead Dreams
and sci-fi adventure Children of the Sun
are currently available through Amazon.com. You can follow Brian on Twitter @cybrpete.