David French at a speech last month in Washington, D. C. sponsored by Hillsdale College (hillsdale.edu) spoke of the “Battle of Indiana,” winners and losers, and “What’s next for religious liberty in America?” He sees a “cultural stalemate” in the incessant war by leftists to change “historical doctrines” of the Christian church, but has reasons to believe they won’t prevail.
Mr. French is a Harvard Law School graduate; a former president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE); a college teacher; a columnist and author; and a major in the U. S. Army Reserve.
Regardless his credentials he has some worthwhile insight into the religious front of the cultural wars raging in our American States and at the federal levels of our legislative and judicial branches of government. He believes it will be a “long war.” Further, he understands that religious liberty is a stake in this fight; not with so-called “gay rights” but, more broadly between a sexual revolution and Christianity.
Mr. French believes that the cultural leftists hoping to dominate Christian culture are overreaching their limits of power. He says, categorically, “In the fight over religious freedom, the Left will not prevail.” One of the cases he discussed involves the State of Indiana.
Recently, Indiana’s legislature passed its version of the 1993 federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA)—enthusiastically endorsed by Democrats. Nineteen other States have similar laws. Further, the federal Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case—in its objection to the Obamacare contraception mandate— that for-profit businesses could assert their religious liberty rights under the federal act. The Indiana statute simply allowed a religious person to use the State act to defend against a personal lawsuit. Many federal circuit courts allow the federal RFRA to defend against a private legal action. So this is not an uncommon legal standard.
In fact, as Mr. French points out, the 1993 federal RFRA was passed “to restore religious freedom to the same level of protection it received prior to the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Employment Division v. Smith (1990). That bad ruling rejected decades of precedent and caused Congress to pass the RFRA with overwhelming and bipartisan votes.
But, says Mr. French, “the Left’s definition of ‘civil rights’ has expanded” beyond class-based discrimination in public places; “it now requires conscription into the (sexual) revolution itself”—unwilling business citizens are expected to facilitate behavior offensive to them, for example, homosexual relations.
Predictably, militant homosexual activists (someone has suggested that this gang consists of a very small number of them connected to the press with social media) on Twitter and Facebook along with a few cowardly business people and some leftist government officials flew apart. They predicted dire discrimination against homosexuals in an “avalanche of hate.” Some of these supposedly tolerant people made threats of violence toward those who might defend their right to religious freedom. These radicals were temporarily appeased when the Indiana legislature adjusted the law.
In addition to the homosexual movement, “abortion battles continue to rage,” and lurking in a future gender quagmire are battles “over the very definition of what it means to be male or female,” says French. The sexual revolution “questions everything” about sexual morality and identity. These revolting people “demand changes in every aspect of traditional sexual morality and, consequently, orthodox Christian theology.”
“The battle may be over, but the war rages on.” Yet, says French, there is reason to believe that cultural conservatives have the resources and will to win.
He believes four “truths” emerge in this cultural war. First, Christians face “wholesale changes” to their historical doctrines not merely insignificant theological tweaks. Second: despite the Twitter and Facebook chattering “battlefields” no orthodox denominations are caving in to the sexual assaults. Third: cultural conservatives are opposing the leftist campaigns and show grassroots strengthening “bypassing politics to support those most embattled by radical hate campaigns.” Fourth: grassroots and conservative intellectuals are uniting.
A religious liberty movement shows increasing cultural strength. The apparent battles won by intolerant leftists on college campuses and in the mainstream media are outnumbered by their failures:
The Left’s attempt to boycott Chick-fil-A backfired with a huge “buycott” of kindred customers.
The leftist attack against the Hobby Lobby company failed; the company won a Supreme Court case.
The Left’s efforts to drive Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson off cable TV—after his blunt but honest comments about sexual morality—failed.
Leftist government officials in Houston backed off after public outrage about issuing subpoenas to area pastors demanding they turn over their sermons and other communications for a political witch-hunt.
Grassroots supporters of Memories Pizza in Indiana (when asked by a reporter if he would cater a homosexual wedding, the owner replied no)—that received hateful comments and threats by bullying leftists—gave the company $800,000 in small contributions.
Through all this, conservative intellectuals continue to defend life and religious freedom. There is consensus that the Left “had become illiberal and dangerous,” according to Mr. French. He notes that most politicians “are cultural followers, not cultural leaders.” If the cultural conservative core remains unified, politicians will “eventually bend.” For example, for years the pro-life movement has been gathering power. A pro-abortion institute estimates that more pro-life bills have been passed in the last three years than in the previous decade.
Mr. French concludes: “For the time being, however, neither side looks ready to yield. Conservatives should be prepared for more confrontations on campuses and in the marketplace. We may not want this strife and tension, but for Christians it’s “far better than isolation, censorship and marginalization.”