As noted a couple of days ago (link), Bill Maher recently poked fun at the notion that members of the dominant religion in the U.S. are being persecuted. This provoked a response from Sean Hannity and his guests Monday night on Fox News. Mediaite has the segment, headlined “Christians Under Attack,” here.
One of Hannity’s guests, Pastor Robert Jeffress, said the persecution is real, giving as examples unnamed Christians who had lost their business simply because they believed in traditional marriage and a Marine had been court-martialed for having a Bible verse on her desk. The former probably refers to the Oregon bakery that closed in December of 2013 after being investigated for violating a non-discrimination law. The Marine was actually court-martialed for some pretty serious insubordination (see this report from Military Times). It started with her insistence on posting multiple copies of a paraphrased Bible verse, but that wasn’t the basis for the court-martial.
Jeffress said that such incidents reflected “the same attitude” that allows for ISIS beheadings and compared the treatment of Christians in the U.S. to that of Jews in Nazi Germany prior to the Holocaust.
In a blog post on Saturday (link) Steve Benen cited a number of examples of Republican presidential candidates claiming Christians are under attack, though I suspect most of them don’t seriously believe this but are simply trying to excite support among conservative primary voters.
For example, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has based his (not yet formally announced) presidential campaign to a large extent on appeals to the religious right. In the current issue of Decision magazine from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Jindal is quoted as saying that liberals are attempting “to essentially outlaw firmly held religious beliefs that they do not agree with.” He also insisted that “The left is now in full battle mode against the right to religious freedom that is guaranteed by the First Amendment, and we’re seeing it firsthand in my state,” a reference to a bill rejected by a Republican-controlled committee of the Louisiana House of Representatives. (That Decision article isn’t available on the the magazine’s website, but it’s summarized here.)
The same issue of Decision has an article by Charles Chandler titled “Marriage in the Balance” (this one available on line here) that makes similarly overblown claims in connection with Obergefell v Hodges, the same-sex-marriage case the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on this month. According to Chandler, “A decision in favor of same-sex marriage would set off an unprecedented avalanche of threats on religious liberties, potentially affecting virtually every church, pastor, ministry and Christian-owned business.” He continues,
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee warns that it could even lead to the “criminalization of Christianity.”
“When you elevate a lifestyle to the status of a civil right, I don’t think a lot of believers fully understand or comprehend that once it’s risen to that level and our government accepts it, then anyone who disagrees with it could be at least civilly liable, but more than likely would be criminally liable,” Huckabee, a Republican presidential candidate, told Decision during a recent visit to the Billy Graham Library.
“The impact is this: A pastor getting up in the pulpit and proclaiming God’s Word that marriage is the act of one man and woman joining together for life would violate the civil rights of a same-sex couple. … That would make it a criminal act.”
In the same vein, the article quotes Kelly Shackelford, head of the conservative Liberty Institute, as saying that if the Court rules in favor of marriage equality, “holding the sincerely held religious view that marriage is the sacred union of one man and one woman will be equal with racial discrimination, and what you cannot do legally regarding race today, you may not be able to do legally with regard to same-sex unions or sexual behavior.”
Actually, while it may no longer be as socially acceptable as in the past to express racist views, it’s still legal to do so, and as anyone familiar with the Internet is well aware, it goes on all the time without fear of the thought police.
Moreover, same-sex marriage is already legal in most of the United States, in many of them based on federal district or appellate rulings of the sort expected from the the Supreme Court, and Christians in those jurisdictions who are opposed to the practice continue to speak out without any fear of being hauled away in shackles. Yes, a few businesses have been sued for violating state and local rules against discrimination, but no one is being prosecuted for expressing an opinion.
Six of the nine justices on the Supreme Court are Catholics, and while one can hope that they rule on the basis of law rather than religion, it’s highly unlikely that they would do anything to damage the First Amendment rights of their own faith.