Commentary

An UnFreedom Summer: LGBT rights are not a threat to religious freedom

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To Lori and other Christian Right leaders, religious freedom is synonymous with opposition to abortion and marriage equality. Lori also said the bishops are “concerned” for people who run businesses and for government officials “who do not want to become implicated in supporting same sex ‘marriages.’”

Lori and his colleagues want to have it both ways: to be both for and against freedom. So we get increasingly Orwellian definitions (or redefinitions) of religious freedom used to turn policy differences into histrionics.

A classic of the form, highlighted on the Fortnight for Freedom web page, was an address given April 26, 2015 by Thomas Farr, a leading Catholic neoconservative who heads the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University. His talk was titled “ISIS and Indiana: The Global Crisis of Religious Liberty and Catholic Responsibility.”

Note Farr’s insinuation that the Middle Eastern Islamic terror group ISIS has some bearing on the recent battle over LGBTQ discrimination in the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  In the speech itself, Farr suggests that religious liberty is in danger of being “lost in America.”

His claim is of a piece with a favorite rhetorical device of the Christian Right.  There are indeed serious religious freedom concerns in the world, and people are sometimes killed or otherwise persecuted for their faith. But these things are not happening to Christians in America. Not even close.

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Dire situations elsewhere are being used to suggest a trend that does not exist in the U.S., and thereby to justify a domestic public policy agenda that seeks dramatic exemptions from civil rights laws intended to protect LGBTQ people.

Here then are two good responses to the claims we are likely to hear during the Fortnight for Freedom:

First, the advance of civil rights for LGBTQ people is not to be conflated with religious persecution and martyrdom. Second, no one gets to choose which laws they are going to obey. Not even conservative Christians.

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