By Aaron Weaver
Religious liberty is a two-way street.
This is a point that far too many conservative Christian leaders can’t seem to grasp.
Rep. Raul Labrador – a Republican who has represented the 1st Congressional District of Idaho since 2011 – recently introduced a bill called the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act” to protect individuals and organizations “from discrimination by the federal government” when it comes to viewpoints about same-sex marriage and homosexuality.
Labrador’s bill, which he deceptively calls a “narrowly-tailored piece of legislation” is a response to the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision earlier this year, striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional per the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. This latest conservative attempt to safeguard the religious liberty has the support of more than 60 House Republicans and even several Democrats, including Reps. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina and Dan Lipinski of Indiana.
The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act has the backing of the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, National Organization for Marriage, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation writes in a column endorsing the bill: “Policy should prohibit the government from discriminating against any individual or group, whether nonprofit or for-profit, based on their beliefs that marriage is the union of a man and woman or that sexual relations are reserved for marriage. Policy should prohibit the government from discriminating in tax policy, employment, licensing, accreditation, or contracting against such groups and individuals.”
This quote from Anderson sums up the rationale behind the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act. Public policy should protect opponents of same-sex marriage from discrimination, with discrimination being defined as the opponents of same-sex marriage perceive it.
I’ve long believed that we should put a face to public policy. Academic-speak should be shelved. Public policy discussions should be real.
So, I’ll be personal.
My best friend of many years is gay. She’s an awesome, smart, creative person and completely devoted to her partner and their life together. She’s an ordained Baptist minister too. More specifically, she’s part of a faith tradition that affirms same-sex relationships and champions marriage equality.
Why does her religious freedom as a progressive Baptist not matter as much as the conservative Baptist?
Let’s revisit the rationale for the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act and flip things.
Why shouldn’t public policy also prohibit the government from discriminating against any individual or group, whether nonprofit or for-profit, based on their beliefs that marriage can be a same-sex union?
Should I make a list of all the ways that my best friend’s government currently discriminates against her and her partner at the local, state and federal levels?
Why do religious liberty arguments not extend to gays and lesbians? Do conservative Christians think that gays and lesbians have no religious conscience?
If these Christian leaders are really serious about religious freedom, why not acknowledge that both supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage have legitimate conscience claims? Why not concede the obvious – that religious freedom is a two-way street?
Conservative friends, consideration the implications of the truth that religious freedom is for all.
The religious conscience of my conservative Christian friends is not superior to the religious conscience of my gay best friend.
At his inauguration as president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Russell Moore called for a shift in conservative Christian political engagement approach away from the “moral majoritarianism” of the Religious Right to a “moral communitarianism.”
I’m not entirely sure what Moore meant by “moral communitarianism” – but a moral communitarianism would necessarily need to respect and safeguard the religious liberty of the entire community, specifically the individuals that comprise that community.
How can a “moral communitarianism” be achieved when both sides of the same-sex marriage debate continue to talk past one another, refusing to recognize that religious liberty cuts both ways.
Religious freedom for me AND thee.