By Bob Unruh
The turmoil over religious freedom in Indiana is generating a response that, if successful, could do a lot to settle the controversy over government demands that Christians violate their faith by supporting homosexual “marriage” in a way that has not yet been tried.
It’s a “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act” that would bar government discrimination against individuals or groups because they believe in biblical marriage. It also calls a halt to federal actions to deny or revoke a group’s tax-exempt status over that issue, and it would ban the government from using someone’s sincere faith convictions to deny distribution of a federal grant, contract or employment.
The limits all appear to be aimed at government, unlike most laws, which either prescribe or proscribe what a person or company must do, but there’s a reason for that – according to those support the plan.
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The government has been doing the discriminating.
“Government didn’t create marriage and has no business redefining it,” said an announcement from Family Research Action, a relative of the Family Research Council, which is condemning efforts in Indiana to strike a simple, straightforward religious freedom act that already exists in nearly 20 other states – and at the federal level. FRC Action is working with elements in Washington on the plan.
The Indiana law allowed business owners to use their faith convictions in a defense should a discrimination complaint be raised against them over such disputes as wedding cakes for “gay marriages.” It would let a judge balance the competing interests.
The national media largely misrepresented the bill, saying it codified discrimination against homosexuals. So the Indiana legislature came up with a change, which the FRC said actually would deprive Americans in the state of their constitutional rights.
The governor signed the bill into law Thursday evening.
But the FRC said it’s time for Christians to get their offense going.
“This is no longer a matter of our government being merely indifferent to our biblical view of marriage, but rather hostile to it. People are losing their jobs, losing their businesses, being fined, losing their homes – because of the redefinition of marriage!” the group told supporters.
“When the federal government attempts to dictate how people live their lives, we must take action,” the message continued. “This president – as a lame duck without the restraints of an upcoming election to campaign for – is escalating his attacks on our freedom of religion, our freedom to believe and to live according to those beliefs.”
The marriage issue is just the tip of the spear, the statement said. “This is nothing less than an attack on our ability to live our lives according to our Christian beliefs, whether it’s in our homes, in our employment or in public.”
The Obama administration, FRC said, is “pushing values in direct conflict with that of Christian parents. … Having a president who displays indifference, if not outright hostility, toward the core teachings of Christianity is dangerous for the future of this country.”
The statement, signed by FRC President Tony Perkins, noted Obama doesn’t even agree with Christians on what freedom of religion is – instead calling it “freedom of worship.”
“But what the Constitution is intended to protect is our freedom of religion, the freedom to believe and live according to those beliefs,” he wrote.
The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, in development now, would have as its goal: “No discrimination whatsoever – no more bullying by the government – based on your religious beliefs about marriage.”
Even if Obama would refuse to sign it, the message would be there, as a “‘green light’ giving [states] incentive to pass similar legislation,” the group said.
Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth also had some harsh words for Indiana, saying, “This is the equivalent of asking a Jewish guy to make a cake for (former Ku Klux Klan official) David Duke, right? You would never expect a Jewish photographer, for example, to have to take pictures at a Ku Klux Klan rally or a neo-Nazi rally. You should not expect people of faith to endorse a pro-homosexual marriage if they believe that homosexual marriage is sinful.”
Commentator David Limbaugh joined in the conversation: “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.”
He continued, “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.”
BarbWire chief and lawyer Matt Barber, in an open letter to Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, said of the “fix,” “What was intended as a shield to every American’s First Amendment-guaranteed religious liberty, as proposed, will now become a sword used to destroy it. What was designed to defend people of faith against being discriminated against and bullied will, instead, codify anti-religious discrimination and bullying into law. It will unconstitutionally force people of faith, under penalty of law, to affirmatively violate their sincerely held religious conscience.”
Officials at Liberty Counsel, who have worked to support biblical marriage most recently in Alabama, noted the deception that the campaign against Christians has used to advance itself.
“The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act is not novel. These laws have been around for two decades, and prior to that for several decades in Supreme Court case law,” said LC’s Mat Staver. “So what has changed to stir up the present controversy? The law provides the same historical protection for religious freedom. What has changed is the homosexual lobby has come out of the closet with its agenda – to trample religious freedom and elevate sexual behavior to a preeminent status.”
He pointed to a then-state senator named Barack Obama who supported the same plan in Illinois. Later the federal law drew the support of the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and more.
“I personally wrote the same law that was overwhelmingly passed in Florida in the 1990s. There is not one case in the country that the homosexual lobby can point to as an example of the bizarre discrimination they now claim the law will inflict, because their distortions are intentional lies,” said Staver.
“The Indiana controversy reveals what we have known about the homosexual lobby. Homosexual advocates have no tolerance for religious freedom. This is a zero-sum game with a winner and a loser, and the homosexual lobby has no room for religious freedom or people of conscience who disagree,” noted Staver. “The religious freedom law does not need clarification or fixing. There is nothing to clarify or fix. Gov. Mike Pence should stand against the lies and the bullying and move on with the law that has been tested for decades. The intent of the homosexual lobby is to vilify and intimidate so that, in the fog of distortion, they will try to push through a law that elevates sexual behavior to a privileged status.”
Commentary writer Laura Hollis noted, “We have moved from calls for the elimination of laws that forbid private conduct to calls for laws that mandate public expressions of approval of private conduct. The evident motivation behind these laws is not the advancement of liberty, per se, but the elimination of widely held – often (though not exclusively) religiously based – views about sexual behavior.”
On same-sex “marriage,” she wrote, “The legality of gay unions does not create a legal obligation to participate in those events for others who do not share the same views about the morality of a gay relationship. For the law to say otherwise is to create a host of untenable positions, not in any way limited to homosexual unions.”
She continued, “Back when one’s sexual conduct was considered private, it wasn’t necessary to splatter your choices everywhere and sue people in a desperate cry for public approval. This reticence is now considered a hallmark of ‘shame,’ but in retrospect, it looks like simple good manners. Do what you like, but do not insist that everyone else behave as if they approve of your infidelity, your philandering, your abortions or whatever other choices you have personally made.”
“This legislation sets the same minimum standard for burdening the exercise of religion. Under the various RFRAs, a state or the federal government – by law or other action – may not substantially burden an individual’s exercise of religion unless the burden is in furtherance of a compelling government interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. Twenty states, including Indiana, and the federal government have RFRAs.”
The explanation continued, “It’s a lot more nuanced than the news media has allowed. It’s a balancing test for litigation. It puts exercise of religion on one side of the scale and then government interest on the other. If the government’s interest is not important enough – literally compelling – it cannot outweigh an individual’s right to practice his religion as he sees fit.”
The explanation continued, “It can be used to defend oneself against lawsuits or administrative action. It can’t be used affirmatively to try and deprive others of the protections of law.”
Specifically on point, it said, “The words ‘gay,’ ‘lesbian,’ and ‘sexual orientation’ don’t appear in any of the RFRAs. Until now, the most controversial RFRA case was last year’s Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, which was about whether the federal government has a compelling interest in forcing religious business owners to pay for abortifacents. (It doesn’t.)”
It continued, “This big gay freak-out is purely notional. No RFRA has ever been used successfully to defend anti-gay discrimination, not in twenty years of RFRAs nationwide.”
In fact, the cases that have arisen have almost unanimously gone against Christians, whose main goal has been simply to not be ordered by the government to participate in an event that violates their deeply held religious faith.
On point are several cases:
This case developed when homosexuals demanded a Christian baker provide a “wedding” cake for their event, and he declined on the grounds it would violate his Christian faith.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission eventually ordered the baker, Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to use his artistry to celebrate homosexual unions in violation of his Christian beliefs, but the case is on appeal in the courts.
In that case a state commissioner, Diann Rice, likened Christians to slavers and Nazis.
Her words, “I would also like to reiterate what we said in the hearing or the last meeting. Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust, whether it be – I mean, we – we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to – to use their religion to hurt others.”
Hear a recording of Rice’s statement:
There was no claim in the case that the homosexuals were unable to get a cake, only that they were unable to get it from Masterpiece. Colorado officials also suggested the baker’s alternative would be to quit his work. The wedding chapel Also, the Hitching Post wedding chapel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is under fire. The city is demanding the Christian ministers at the chapel perform same-sex “weddings” in violation of their faith, and WND just reported recently the fight is headed back to court after negotiations between the parties failed. “The government can’t tell ministers they must perform same-sex marriages under threat of jail time and crippling fines,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “That’s exactly what the city did to pastor Knapp and what the ordinance allows the city to do to others. In the absence of a settlement agreement, we look forward to vindicating our client’s freedom in court.” The florist In Washington state, florist Barronelle Stutzman already has been penalized $1,001 for declining to support a same-sex “wedding” with her floral talents. And the judge ruling in the case has opened her savings, personal possessions and even home up as a target for the homosexuals who wanted her artistic talents and now may claim her assets as damages. Alex Ekstrom, the judge, said Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, must pay $1,001 to the state prosecutors who charged her with discrimination for refusing to use her talents to promote same-sex “marriage.” But the Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Stutzman warned that the precedent, not the dollar figure, is the problem. Kristen Waggoner, ADF senior counsel, said the award to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson boils down to a government threat to Christians: “Surrender your religious liberty and free speech rights, or face personal and professional ruin.” Stutzman refused to provide flowers for a same-sex ceremony, which she believes conflicts with biblical teaching. The man who made the request and then filed a complaint was referred to several other willing florists and even was offered free flowers. Ekstrom’s latest order also said the “defendants and their officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys, and those persons in active concert or participation with them … are permanently enjoined and restrained from violating the Washington law against discrimination.” Ekstrom also said the homosexuals, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, “are entitled to an award of actual damages,” but he reserved determination of the amount until after any appeal has been exhausted. The Benhams The Benham brothers, known as businessmen extraordinaire, were en route to a new HGTV television show on their work when homosexual activists made an issue of their belief in traditional marriage defined in the Bible. The network canceled their show, which was to be called “Flip it Forward.” Jason and David, who just weeks ago began writing an exclusive WND column, posted on Facebook a video supporting the Indiana law:
The video explains: “So the RFRA is a shield, not a sword. It doesn’t get offensive and promote ‘hate’ as the hype said. But it’s a shield to protect companies, like, for instance, a Jewish-owned jewelry. It keeps the state from forcing him to create rings with the Nazi symbol on it. Or a Muslim-owned apparel company. It prevents the state from forcing him to maybe make T-shirts with the cross over the crescent.
“Or even a gay-owned apparel company from creating T-shirts that say Leviticus 18:22. Homosexuality is a sin.”
Very simply, “the state should never force business owners to promote a message or an idea that conflicts with their beliefs,” David Benham states.
In a New Mexico dispute, courts ordered that a photographer could not refuse to use her talents to memorialize a homosexual “wedding.”
Elaine Huguenin, co-owner with her husband, Jonathan, of Elane Photography, had declined to provide her artistic talents to Vanessa Willock.
Willock, who found another photographer for the event, filed a complaint with the state under its anti-discrimination law. The state Supreme Court said the photographer had no right to not be forced to express statements through her work that violated her Christian beliefs. She was ordered to pay about $7,000.
Giving up one’s religious faith, the court said, was “the price of citizenship.”
An Oregon baker also was caught in the same fight, as well as several other venue owners, and there’s even the same conflict in the United Kingdom.
Over the Atlantic, the Christian Institute reports that a trial for the owners of Ashers Baking Co. is over, and owners are awaiting a ruling from a judge.
A case was brought by the government when the Christian-run bakery declined to produce pro-homosexual products. Government officials there suggested the owners change their career.
It could mean your job
He was attacked by homosexual activists, and eventually lost his position, for donating $1,000 to support the 2008 Proposition 8 marriage-definition initiative that was approved by the majority of voters of progressive California.
According to WND CEO Joseph Farah’s commentary on the issue, “Apparently, according to this new litmus test of the ‘tolerance’ police, anyone who supported the popular proposition no longer deserves to work in California.”
Threats from ‘gays’
WND reported in 2012 that Frank Schubert, who had worked on a number of campaigns to defend traditional marriage from attack, explained how anyone who adopts that position is in a bull’s-eye.
In fact, a report by National Review explained how a well-known Canadian television anchor was fired for tweeting support for “the traditional and TRUE meaning of marriage.”
And a player’s agent to was getting death threats for refusing to support a “gay” marriage campaign.
And Fred Henry, the Roman Catholic bishop of Calgary, was threatened with litigation and charged with a human-rights violation after he wrote a letter to local churches on the church’s own teaching on marriage.
Schubert told WND Christians in business, “will find themselves being forced by the power of government to participate in same-sex ceremonies or give up their government licenses.”
Churches, too, will be targeted. “There’s no room for religious conscience in this type of debate. It’s not live and left live. It’s a one-way street,” he said.
California’s Proposition 8
When the arguments were pending over California’s Proposition 8, a voter decision to define marriage as one man and one women, before a homosexual judge threw the law out, the vitriol erupted against Christians.
There, documented threats against those supporting traditional marriage included:
- “I’m going to kill the pastor.”
- “If I had a gun I would have gunned you down along with each and every other supporter”
- “We’re going to kill you.”
- “You’re dead. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon … you’re dead.”
- “I’m a gay guy who owns guns, and he’s my next target.”
- “I warn you, I know how to kill, I’m an ex-special forces person.”
- “Get ready for retribution all you bigots.”
- Burn their f—ing churches to the ground and then tax the charred timbers.”
There, “gays” demanded to have the names of those who signed the petition, and the U.S. Supreme Court allowed it.
“What is becoming increasingly evident,” said James Bopp of the James Madison Center, “is that some groups and individuals, certainly a minority, have resorted to advancing their cause, not by debating the merits of the issue but by discouraging participation in the democratic process itself.”
“The First Amendment was designed to ensure that all groups, whatever their persuasion, could participate fully in our republic,” he said. “That breaks down when some groups or individuals are cowed into silence for fear that they or their families will be targeted or threatened if they speak up.”
Court records in that case indicated, “When some activists could sense that intimidation was not working … they resorted to threatening the families – even the children – of [traditional marriage] supporters. In one case, the perpetrator threatened to ‘kill’ the supporter’s child and the whole family; in another, to ‘harm’ the supporter’s family; and in another, to rape the supporter’s daughter.”
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.