Chip and Joanna Gaines have become the latest victims of a never-ending cultural inquisition because of their pastor’s statements about natural marriage. However, while they join a list of high profile victims of this type of inquisition, its reaches are far deeper and threaten far more professions than just HGTV stars.
It all began Tuesday morning with a story at Buzzfeed that delved into the religious beliefs of the Fixer Upper host couple’s pastor. According to a tweetstorm on editor-in-chief Ben Smith’s timeline after the piece’s publication, the focus of the story is really supposed to be about whether or not the couple would feature a gay couple on the show, which they have not done to date. However, the piece only devotes about three paragraphs to the angle, while spending the rest of the time discussing the fact that a Christian pastor, with whom Christian people worship, believes Christian things about marriage and sexuality. Shocking!
If it reads like a hit piece and breaks down like a hit piece, it might just be a hit piece. Just a thought.
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Fortunately, for now,the smear effort appears to have backfired.
But while the current discourse over the Fixer Upper hosts brings back troubling memories of the public inquisitions of other TV stars like Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson or the Benham brothers, Chip and Joanna are just the latest faces of a largely under-reported trend.
Anyone paying attention to the current state of religious liberty is well aware of the danger that government courts and agencies pose to our first freedom in the workplace [Read: Christian bakers, florists, photographers, etc.], but the threats posed by extrajudicial intolerance are growing as well, far away from the TV cameras.
Earlier this week, The Stream reported on a recent article in Bioethics Magazine titled “Doctors Have no Right to Refuse Medical Assistance in Dying, Abortion or Contraception,” which makes the case that pro-life doctors should be denied training and kept out of the field of medicine altogether.
“The problem with conscientious objection” to things like abortion, euthanasia, and contraception, the authors write, “is that it has been freely accommodated, if not encouraged, for far too long.”
“If society thinks contraception, abortion and assistance in dying are important,” they continue, “it should select people prepared to do them, not people whose values preclude them from participating.”
What they’re saying is, there is no room left for doctors or nurses of any religion or belief who are “precluded from participating” in whichever services a society may deem necessary. Why even waste everyone’s time educating them?
Take, for instance, a recent amendment to the American Bar Association’s rules which could have disastrous results for Christians lawyers who believe the same as the Gaines, or dare take up the case of anyone else who does.
Opponents of the measure claim that the amended rule’s provisions — which extend outside the courtroom to “business or social activities” — would create a de facto “speech code” for attorneys and law students.
“[B]randing certain opinions on matters of race and socioeconomics, certain religious-based beliefs on marriage, abortion, and moral judgments on various subjects, as so deplorable that they should trigger draconian sanctions is truly noxious to the foundational principles of a free society,” reads a letter by former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese and First Liberty Institute President Kelly Shackelford. “It is not an overstatement to say that this proposed rule borders on fascism.”
For Christian mental health counselors, things are even worse.
The current version of the American Counseling Association code of ethics contains sections that prohibit counselors from “imposing … their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors … especially when the counselor’s values are inconsistent with the client’s goals or are discriminatory in nature,” and bar mental health professionals from “referring prospective and current clients based solely on the counselor’s personally held values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.”
Ergo, if a gay client wants a Christian counselor to help them work towards goals that are inconsistent with the latter’s deeply-held views on marriage, abortion, contraception, etc — regardless of what those views are — tough luck. If you refer the client, you can lose your license and your livelihood. The state of Tennessee passed a law earlier this year to rectify this problem, but for many counselors elsewhere in the Country (Julia Ward’s case being one prominent example), the inquisition is already here, and has been for some time now.
Add all this to the fact that attacks on religious freedom are on the rise overall, and you start to realize that Chip and Joanna Gaines have just found themselves at the tip of a very, very large iceberg.