Religious Liberty RulesApr 04, 2016
The hypocrisy of the left is astounding. For the past week, the left has cheered the Governors of Virginia and Georgia for vetoing legislation designed to protect the religious liberty rights of pastors and faith based organizations. At the same time, the left cheered a new set of federal regulations establishing a “religious liberty rule” governing faith-based organizations operating in the social services realm.
Under this new “religious liberty rule,” a person receiving social services benefits can request an alternative provider if they disagree with the religious beliefs of the organization providing the social services. The rule also provides that those receiving services cannot be required to attend or participate in religious activities.
In this case, what is good for the goose is certainly not good for the gander.
You see, it is religious liberty right for an individual receiving services or benefits, such as adoption, welfare, or job search, to choose to receive those services from a non-faith based organization. But, it is discrimination when a county clerk requests that she not violate her religious beliefs and offers to have a deputy clerk issue the marriage license.
It is religious liberty for a beneficiary of social services to choose not to participate or attend a religious ceremony. But, it is discrimination when a baker or photographer chooses not to provide services that would require their participation or attendance to a same-sex marriage ceremony.
For the left, “religious liberty” only exists to protect an individual from ever being influenced by religion. It chooses to protect freedom from religion rather than freedom of religion.
Believe Not, Lest Ye Be Judged
Believe Not, Lest Ye Be Judged
In Wyoming, judges can no longer speak about legal hypotheticals, or at least if he or she happens to reach a hypothetical conclusion that strays from the Left’s strictly-enforced cultural orthodoxy. Accordingly, judges have no right of conscience, and their faith can play no role in the carrying out of their duties – or even apparently when they’re not engaged in any judicial duties at all.
This week, the Wyoming Supreme Court decided to publicly censure Judge Ruth Neely, a municipal judge in the small town of Pinedale, WY, for a comment she made back in 2014 in response to a reporter that she wouldn’t preside over same-sex “marriages” as a magistrate because doing so would cause her to violate her religious beliefs. On that basis, formal charges for ethics violations were brought against her, culminating in Tuesday's decision by the state’s Supreme Court.
According to the 3-2 majority decision, "This case is not about imposing a religious test on judges." (Gee, could have fooled me. Glad you made that clear.) "Rather,” the Court said, “it is about maintaining the public's faith in an independent and impartial judiciary that conducts its judicial functions according to the rule of law, independent of outside influences, including religion, and without regard to whether a law is popular or unpopular." (emphasis added)
That sounds reasonable enough on its face. After all, judges exist to apply the law impartially, as written. But what’s particularly troubling about this case is that when Judge Neely made her comments, no same-sex couple had ever asked her to perform a marriage ceremony for them. In fact, same-sex marriage was not even legal in Wyoming at that time! The U.S. Supreme Court did not impose the concept of “same-sex marriage” on all 50 states until June of 2015. This was a pure hypothetical, which wasn’t even legally possible at the time of her comment.
Furthermore, "Wyoming law does not require any judge or magistrate to perform any particular marriage, and couples seeking to be married have no right to insist on a particular official as the officiant of their wedding," Justice Keith Kautz wrote in the dissent. So even if same-sex “marriage” had been legal, Judge Neely was under no obligation to solemnize any particular marriages. In other words, no judge could be compelled to perform a wedding ceremony - for any reason or no reason at all. Well there you have it. End of story, right??? Wrong.
So much for the “rule of law” – the Court’s insidious justification for silencing a conscientious judge. Judge Neely’s only error was failing to realize that she should never count on the law to stand in the way of the cultural Marxist agenda (within which the “LGBT” agenda rests). (See Chief Justice Robert’s famous last words in his Obergefell v. Hodges dissent: “[The Constitution] had nothing to do with it.”) See, when you’re a judge, you’re supposed to look past the law any time it dictates or permits a result inconsistent with the prevailing liberal orthodoxy, which Judge Neely neglected to do. That’ll teach her.
But perhaps what is most frustrating about the Court’s statement is that it misrepresents the nature of “religion” and thereby dismisses its legitimate place in civil society, including in the lives of civil servants. Thankfully, one of Virginia’s own, Thomas Jefferson, had the foresight to articulate its meaning and significance, and his words stand as a pillar of freedom in Virginia’s Bill of Rights to this day:
Bill of Rights - Article 1, Section 16. “That religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and, therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other. No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” (emphasis added)
Well said, Mr. Jefferson. I shudder to think where we might otherwise be today without your wise words. Judge Neely, you're welcome in the Commonwealth anytime. And don't worry - you won't have to check your conscience at the border when you come.
McAuliffe Attacks Faith
McAuliffe Attacks Faith
Yesterday, Governor McAuliffe issued an Executive Order declaring that the state government would no longer contract for goods or services with anyone unless they sign a form stating that they will not “discriminate” based upon “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”
In essence, the Governor is saying that you can't do business with the state unless you allow men into women's bathrooms and fully embrace the administration’s view that there are no distinctions between male and female, as well as its definition of marriage. This affects hundreds of entities that provide goods and services to or on behalf of the state, including many churches, charities, and other faith-based institutions.
This unconstitutional act of intimidation and bullying of businesses and charities that are operated by people of faith, from Christians to Jews to Muslims, is not only unnecessary but dangerous. There is no evidence of discrimination in Virginia by any businesses or charities that work with the state, and this executive order could require the state to investigate the personal, private beliefs of business owners, an action that should frighten anyone who believes in protecting civil liberties.
Sadly, this action was predictable as Governor McAuliffe and Attorney General Herring are far more interested in divisive politics and appeasing their base in a crucial election year than they are in providing real economic leadership. Instead of providing real economic leadership, they are advocating government discrimination against people of faith, Christians, Jews and Muslims, simply because they disagree with their beliefs.
It is also in direct violation of the Virginia Constitution, which states that “...the right to be free from any governmental discrimination upon the basis of religious conviction...shall not be abridged." Virginians should be free to earn a living, care for the poor, help the sick and serve their communities in accordance with their faith without being attacked and discriminated against by state government.
Virginians should be appalled by this act of blatant religious bigotry. As Virginia continues to slide further down on the list of states in which it’s best to do business, the Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General have no real solutions other than pandering to their base.
But rest assured, we intend to fight this unlawful order by every available means. With the stroke of a pen, the Governor just “upped the ante” on religious liberty in our Commonwealth, and he cannot be allowed to get away with it.
You can read more about this story here and here.
Freedom = Discrimination
Freedom = Discrimination
I hear a lot of faulty rhetoric these days repeated ardently in the public square - rhetoric that is often self-contradictory and so intellectually weak that it hardly merits retort. Among the clearest examples of this sort of rhetoric can be heard all around us in the following phrase, or similar versions thereof: “Discrimination is discrimination, period, and discrimination of any kind is wrong.” Without exception, this statement is followed up with: “Therefore, the government should prevent and/or penalize all forms of discrimination.”
No doubt you’ve heard this line before. It has quickly become one of the favorite talking points of those who seek to impose every radical perversion of sex and gender ideology onto all those remaining who have not yet gotten on board with their “progressive” thinking. Elevating the concepts of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to specially protected classes is just the most recent crusade of these immoralists.
At surface level, the rhetoric sounds great, right? It appeals to our better side, which tells us (correctly) that we should treat all people with equal dignity and respect. At an emotional level, we would personally feel bad to treat a person differently than others for fear that it might be unfair or even hurtful to that person. And understandably, most of us don’t want that. But once past the surface, the rhetorical value ends.
As with all things, we must take the next step and actually think about what is being said and ask ourselves: Is it true? Is it sound? Is it consistent with objective reality? Does it foster and promote a better and freer society for all?
On all counts, the answer must be “no.” In fact, nothing could be more absurd to the habits of a free people.
After all, freedom itself requires discrimination because it necessitates an endless series of choices, and a choice is nothing if not the exercise of discrimination – for any number of a million different reasons – in favor of some things to the exclusion of others. I choose pizza over salad. You choose women to be your close friends over men. I choose to buy a house in a particular neighborhood instead of others. You choose to practice this religion over that one. And regardless of whether or not we agree with everyone's choices, we should all agree that each person should be free to make those choices. Not only do those choices enable us to live freely, but they also highlight our uniqueness as individuals.
In reality, every single conscious decision each of us makes in life is an act of discrimination. We weigh our values, convictions, preferences, and interests with every scenario we encounter, and then we apply them in making decisions about how we will live our lives, with whom we will interact, and what things (or people) we will avoid. We are always discriminating. There is no freedom without it. And we all love freedom, don't we?
Simply put, freedom IS discrimination.
It can be of no value then to simply say that “discrimination is discrimination,” since you are not really saying anything at all except what is already obvious. (e.g. 2 = 2) A reasonable person might then suspect that what the declarant is really doing is injecting some unknown definition of “discrimination” into his statement, without ever bothering to define it. Thus, what he puts forward as obvious is actually anything but obvious, and knowing this, he hides behind the purposeful confusion he has created since the truth simply will not support his agenda.
Moreover, he cannot really mean that all discrimination is wrong and should therefore be unlawful. To say this is to say that we ought to have a totalitarian state that makes all the decisions rather than a free one in which individuals make their own decisions according to their own values. Yet as I consider the actual direction this rhetoric is taking us, I’m beginning to think that a totalitarian state in which the declarant makes the decisions for all people is precisely what he’s after. Getting his way means that you lose your freedom. He knows this, but he isn't about to state it openly - preferring instead to declare that he is against all "discrimination." Ironically, this “anti-discrimination” for which he advocates is exactly the kind of discrimination that free societies cannot tolerate without ceasing to be free.
At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that individuals sometimes abuse their freedom in ways that are hurtful to others. As neighbors and fellow citizens, we ought to find constructive ways to address and correct those abuses. Freedom, rightly understood, comes not only with rights, but duties also - both to God and our fellow man.
In light of this understanding, as a matter of public policy then, the relevant questions when it comes to discrimination are these:
1) Which, if any, bases for discrimination should be prohibited by the government (and by which government)? And if any,
2) In what contexts and to what degree should those bases for discrimination be prohibited?, and
3) Since freedom is itself the ability to discriminate based on various self-determined criteria, does the claimed need for the prohibition of a particular basis of discrimination in a particular context outweigh the corresponding loss of freedom?, and
4) To what extent do our federal or state Constitutions guarantee the protection of certain freedoms so as to make the answers definitive?
But these questions are virtually never even acknowledged since they require a thoughtful and reasoned analysis, along with a recognition that these issues are not always so cut and dry as some would like you to believe. It’s high time for “progressives” to be honest about the issue of discrimination because only then can we begin to reach any common ground on how best to deal with it. Their faulty rhetoric thus far has served only to distort the real issues while resulting in a mass deception. Despite how pathetically shallow the rhetoric is, it has nevertheless continued to captivate the simple-minded. But in a free society, although freedom cannot be said to exist where not all ideas are permitted, the same freedom can only be sustained where the faulty ideas are being constantly challenged, scrutinized, and demolished.
Let’s hope more sensible minds prevail in demolishing this particular rhetorical nonsense, since the freedom of us all depends upon it.