Can we reason together honestly for a second, folks?
Did anyone really think that when the Republicans moved forward on religious liberty that they would continue doing so, even in the face of opposition? If you did… then you really haven’t been paying attention to the GOP in recent years. Folding is what these Republicans do best. Over at the Federalist, David Harsanyi has written an epic takedown of the Republican’s recent weakness on religious liberties.
What excuse does Mike Pence have for flubbing a simple question about discrimination on national television last Sunday? What’s his excuse for pledging to “fix” a law that’s already straightforward, innocuous, and ubiquitous? He’s not alone, of course. When Arkansas legislators passed the same bill by a wide margin (what the media calls “controversial”), Gov. Asa Hutchinson threw it back to lawmakers and asked them to rework it to guarantee that the make-believe concerns of his MoveOn.org-mimicking son could be “fixed.”
I hope you’ll excuse me, my faithful friends, but if this is your leadership you are screwed. By claiming that RFRA bills can be “fixed,” Republicans are only corroborating the false impression that these bills allow wanton discrimination against gay patrons. By claiming that you can fix this, you are only pretending that there is a compromise available that would make it OK for Christian business owners to refuse participation in gay weddings. None exists. You will be hounded until you are made to coexist.
The religious freedom debate is one of those times when you just kind of wish that Republican politicians would throw caution to the wind and forget about getting reelected. You just wish, just once, they’d fight – not because it looks good in the polls, but because it’s the right thing to do. (And oh, by the way, it looks good in the polls too. But we’ll get to that in a minute.) We conservative Christians don’t want to marginalize or discriminate against homosexuals. We just want to live out our faith freely without fear of government or civil reprisal. It’s what the First Amendment is all about.
Yes, when a baker refuses to bake a cake for a gay wedding, it is discrimination. But it’s our right to choose when and whom we’ll work for. The same goes for the photographer, the florist, the wedding planner and the facilities manager. But you know what… I also don’t think a gay baker should have to bake a cake for an anti-gay organization. I don’t think a Jewish florist should have to provide flowers for a Neo-Nazi dinner, or that a black photographer should have to take photos for a KKK anniversary celebration. Why? Because this is America, and we should be able to choose who we work for.
Talking about America… Republican Illinois Senator Mark Kirk couldn’t jump on the anti-Christian bandwagon fast enough. He put out a statement on Thursday calling Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) “un-American”. Apparently, Mr. Kirk thinks that it is “American” for the government to force citizens to participate in events that run counter to their religious beliefs. With friends like Mark Kirk, we conservatives might as well vote Democrat. In fact, dear Republican readers in Illinois, please do me the favor of calling Kirk’s office and letting him know that you will be abstaining from voting if he is the Republican candidate in the next election. Republicans like Kirk don’t deserve our support.
But here’s something else about the whole Republican weakness on this issue. There’s no reason for them to worry! The vast majority of Americans agree with Republicans on the religious liberty issue! I kid you not. Over 60% of Americans agree with RFRA laws and believe that religious freedoms must be protected at ALL costs. (And still the GOP loses their spine.)
It’s now expected for Democrats to denounce RFRAs, just as large corporations are denouncing them. In doing so, all of the critics are on the wrong side of public polling. According to a March edition of the Marist poll, 54 percent of Americans agreed with “allowing First Amendment religious liberty protection or exemptions for faith based organizations and individuals even when it conflicts with government laws.” By a two-point margin, 47-45, even a plurality of Democratic voters agreed with that.
The margins were even larger in opposition to laws that proposed “penalties or fines for individuals who refuse to provide wedding-related services to same sex couples even if their refusal is based on their religious beliefs.” No Democrat is seriously proposing this; the nearest cultural analogue may be the story of Memories Pizza, the Indiana shop whose owner said that he would decline to provide pies to gay weddings, and saw its Yelp! page firebombed with angry comments. (The popularity of delivery pizza at gay wedding ceremonials is well known.) Still, according to Marist, Americans oppose penalties on businesses like Memories by a 65-31 margin. The margin among Democrats: 62-34 against.
Republican presidential candidates may have gotten over their skis, and backed the current version of the Indiana law before Pence (and Hutchinson) started scrambling to change it. Democrats are endorsing something more radical than voters are comfortable with.
Don’t you get it, GOP? You’re on the winning side of this issue. Most Americans believe that ensuring religious freedom is vastly more important than making sure a few Christian business owners don’t “discriminate” against gay couples looking to get married. Even more the majority of Democrats agree with you too!
So why has the GOP seemingly folded so quickly?
I think it has everything to do with the unwarranted media backlash that followed the Indiana RFRA approval. As loud as the media cacophony grew, the GOP actually believed that defending religious liberty might be a losing proposition. I’m not sure which bothers me more – that the GOP would give up defending religious liberty simply because it looked like a losing battle, or that the media worked so hard to turn this “nothing-burger” of a bill (the Indiana RFRA) into a big deal. (Honestly, I’m more upset with the GOP than the media.)
Wake up, Republicans. Defending religious liberty is almost always the right way to go. The USA was built upon the idea that people should be free to do as they wish, so long as their actions don’t result in hurting others. No Christian is asking for anyone to be hurt, or even marginalized; we’re simply asking that our rights be as valuable as the rights of others.
Stop being so weak-kneed, GOP. Stand up and be counted.