What is it about freedom of religion that progressives do not seem to understand? Progressives regularly speak of “freedom of worship”—which to them seems to mean that we have the freedom to worship whatever god we want as long as it stays in the privacy of our homes, churches, synagogues or mosques and does not affect our lives outside of those places. For example, some progressives would like to force Christian doctors or nurses to perform or assist in abortions or lose their jobs. Some progressives seek to force Christian bakers to bake cakes for gay weddings, or to photograph gay weddings, etc. Some progressives would like to force Christian organizations like Christian charities, missions, colleges and schools, to hire people whose behavior violates deeply held Christian beliefs.
This may or may not be freedom of worship but it is not freedom of religion! The difference is that freedom of religion protects religious conscience. One of the reasons our forefathers came to this county was because their government was attempting to force them to violate deeply held religious beliefs.
Progressives don’t seem to understand that religious conscience is not just a matter of ethical principles. It is a matter of belief in the existence of a creator who mandates or forbids certain behaviors. For example, in the ancient world the Syrian government under Antiochus IV once forced Jews, on pain of death, to eat pork. Modern progressives may undoubtedly think, “So what is the big deal?” The big deal is that Orthodox Jews are convinced that God himself commanded against eating pork. For Orthodox Jews to eat pork is not just violating some deeply held principles. It would be disobeying a direct command of God! Forcing someone to violate their conscience by doing something they deeply believe to be displeasing to God is egregiously oppressive and a violation of the most fundamental of civil rights.
It is irrelevant whether you or I think it is no big deal to eat pork. The point is that there are people who sincerely believe that such behavior would be deeply displeasing to God and whose conscience would be terribly violated if forced to do so. The right not to have one’s conscience and deeply held religious beliefs violated is one of the most basic fundamental human rights.
This also applies to Conservative Christians. Progressives think that women have a fundamental right to choose to have an abortion. Regardless of whether that is true or not, it is an oppressive violation of civil rights to force some religious medical personnel, for example, to choose between their jobs and performing a procedure they believe to be in serious violation of God’s law.
Progressives believe that gay people should have the right to marry. Regardless of whether that is true or not, to it is an oppressive violation of civil rights to force people of faith to do things that support behaviors they believe God condemns. For example, Christian bakers and photographers are being coerced, contrary to their deeply held religious convictions, to provide services in support of gay weddings.
Frankly, if I, as a conservative Christian, owned a bakery, I’m not sure I would think it was necessarily sinful just to bake a cake for a gay wedding or to photograph that wedding. But that is irrelevant. The point is that there are some people who do believe providing such support is deeply displeasing to God. To coerce people—whether though legal means or threats of fines or even loss of their jobs or businesses—to do something they believe is displeasing to God is oppressive and tyrannical. This is especially true in light of the fact that there are many other bakeries or photographers, etc. that would love to have gay couples’ business!
It is difficult to understand everyone who still believe in individual liberty, and especially people of faith, aren’t absolutely outraged at this trashing of the Constitution and violation of civil rights. Our freedom of religion is being re-defined out of existence. If we don’t stand up and demand freedom of conscience protections in our laws, our government will rob us and our children of one of the most fundamental freedoms our forefathers fought and died to provide.