Shouldn’t Liberals Defend Religious Liberty?

Matt K. Lewis | Senior Contributor

No matter where you stand on the issue of gay marriage, gay rights, etc., one would expect liberals, by definition, to be the most passionate defenders of religious liberty and free expression.

For years now, I’ve cautiously nodded in agreement when liberals and civil libertarians said things like, “I might not agree with you, but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it!” — and when they defended some horrific people under the premise that we all have “a right to be wrong” — and that “even the most unpopular opinion — no, especially the most unpopular opinion — must be protected.”

Sure, they defended and glamorized pornographers like Larry Flynt and “artists” like Robert Mapplethorpe, but that was really about defending speech — yours and mine — you see. These were, I thought, fundamental liberal values. They were ostensibly philosophically and politically neutral — not merely reserved for those hoping to upend traditional American culture.

But maybe that was just talk? In case you missed it, here’s the latest from the Houston Chronicle:

“Houston’s embattled equal rights ordinance took another legal turn this week when it surfaced that city attorneys, in an unusual step, subpoenaed sermons given by local pastors who oppose the law and are tied to the conservative Christian activists that have sued the city.”

This feels like another example of liberals attempting to silence dissent and coerce Christians to violate their rights of conscience. Fortunately, a lot of people are speaking out.

With his “You Will Be Made To Care” headlines, RedState’s Erick Erickson has popularized the notion that it’s impossible to be a conscientious objector in the culture war. In so doing, he has frequently cited Archibishop Chaput’s admonition that evil preaches tolerance until it is dominant, then it tries to silence good.

Could it be that all this talk about tolerating diverse viewpoints and opinions was merely a political tactic employed by the left — just so long as their viewpoints were out of political power and out of touch with mainstream opinion?

I’d like to think they’re wrong. I’d like to think that the ACLU will jump on this right away, pointing out that this sort of intimidation is an obvious infringement of the First Amendment. But even if they do give this issue lip service, I’m not holding out too much hope.

And that’s not just because the ACLU of Texas (based in Houston) currently has nothing up about this on Twitter or their website, but also because they seem to have taken sides in the culture wars.  While I was writing this post, this media advisory hit my inbox:

“For the first-time ever, transgender military personnel from around the globe will convene on U.S. soil to share lessons learned and best practices for open and inclusive military service. The Palm Center and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will host a daylong conference, Perspectives on Transgender Military Service from Around the Globeon Monday, October 20th, 2014.”

Let’s see if they’re interested in simultaneously defending the Constitutionally-protected opinions of people who might hold a different view. My suspicion has always been that, once the low-hanging fruit was picked, the battle between gay rights and religious liberty would have to become a zero-sum game.

There’s an old saying that if the facts are against you, argue the law and if the law is against you, argue the facts. I think a similar situational rule applies to activists. When in the minority, they stand pure on noble principle. But once they gain power, they squash their enemies.

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