We see it everywhere—on bumper stickers, t-shirts, railroad boxcars, and abandoned buildings. The word “COEXIST,” embellished with an assortment of religious symbols intended to promote the peaceful comingling of varying types of religious sentiment, conveys to us the fallacy of esteeming one religious ideal to be superior over others.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Live and let live. Tolerate others who believe differently. Above all, don’t impose your version of morality on others.
That sounds an awful lot like religious liberty, an inherent right recognized by our Constitution and held dear by adherents to many religions. Hey, let’s just all get along!
There’s one problem, and it’s a big one. Coexistence, tolerance, liberty, or whatever you want to call it has its limits. Sure, we should support every person’s right to believe what they want—Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, and even your everyday generic “Christian.” With all of our righteous toleration and ideals of coexistence, however, there is one group that we just cannot tolerate—those right wing ultra-conservative Christians who adamantly defend biblical authority and believe that the Bible must dictate not only what we believe, but how we should act.
Unfortunately, I’m not making this up.
In September of 2016, the United States Commission on Civil Rights released a document entitled “Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties.” Much of the document focused on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993 which prohibited government from excessively burdening a person’s exercise of religion. The primary concern of the members of the Commission was to offer their own interpretation of RFRA, a mere twenty-three years after its passage.
Here is their opinion of the scope of the law: “RFRA creates First Amendment Free Exercise Clause rights only for individuals and religious institutions and only to the extent that they do not unduly burden civil liberties and civil rights protections against status-based discrimination.”[i]
In other words, not only are secular corporations left unprotected by RFRA (according to the Commission), but individuals and religious organizations only have the right to “discriminate” when they don’t cause too much of a burden for the freedoms of others.
I wonder what they mean by “too much of a burden.” Is it too much of a burden on the freedom of others when a corporation such as Hobby Lobby refuses to provide abortion drugs in its employee healthcare package? Is it too much of a burden for a gay couple to seek out a sympathetic florist that will be willing to provide flowers for a wedding? Is it too much of a burden for guests at a church service to use the bathroom that corresponds to their God-given gender?
According to current American culture, the answer is “yes.” In our society it is fashionable to simultaneously stand for everything and stand for nothing. Believe what you want, just don’t really believe it. Because if you really believe it, you will think you are right. If you think you are right, you will reject what you believe is wrong.
That’s discrimination, according to the modern use of the term.
Martin Castro, the chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights that designed the aforementioned document, revealed his hatred for religious liberty for this very reason. He wrote that “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.”[ii] Affirming the Bible’s teaching on sin, according to Castro, is nothing more than “Christian supremacy,” which cannot be tolerated.
He could have saved time and ink by simply stating that the only people who can be legally discriminated against are Christians. After all, they have the audacity to really believe what they say they believe. We just cannot tolerate that in a tolerant society.
Castro’s statement reveals the true intention of the Commission: stripping the rights of Christians to act upon what they believe. He continued his tirade by asserting that
Religious liberty was never intended to give one religion dominion over other religions, or a veto power over the civil rights and civil liberties of others. However, today, as in the past, religion is being used as both a weapon and a shield by those seeking to deny others equality. In our nation’s past religion has been used to justify slavery and later, Jim Crow laws. We now see “religious liberty” arguments sneaking their way back into our political and constitutional discourse . . . in an effort to undermine the rights of some Americans. This generation of Americans must stand up and speak out to ensure that religion never again be twisted to deny others the full promise of America.[iii]
We might be tempted to stick our heads in the sand and think that we will never lose our freedom to worship and evangelize freely. Such thinking, however, is short-sighted and naïve. The religious liberties we enjoy are on the fast track into oblivion, thanks to LGBT activism and its convoluted definition of discrimination.
In our society, it’s fine to COEXIST. That is, unless you happen to really believe the Bible.
[i] “Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties” (United States Commission on Civil Rights, September 2016), 27, http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/Peaceful-Coexistence-09-07-16.PDF.
[ii] Ibid., 29.