There are times in history when American patriots need to call a time out and bring all hands on deck to deal with a raging fire. We are now living through one of those times.
Imagine if a prophet were to approach Sam Adams before the revolution and warn that in less than 250 years state governors would ban official travel to states that don’t allow men into women’s bathrooms?
Imagine if someone told James Madison, the man who referred to religious conscience as the “most sacred of property,” that individuals would be forced to use their own property and livelihood to service something that violates their consciousness and is condemned by every major religion?
Our founders could never have imagined a person’s private property becoming the national property of a pagan inquisition, and federal and state governments, which were intended to encourage religious virtue (although not coerce it), serve as a conduit for compulsory servitude to the idols of hedonism. Yet, that is exactly what is happening. And frankly, there has not been enough discussion about this existential threat among conservatives even in the presidential race.
Here are just three examples of the raging fire from the past week:
1.Last week, during oral arguments in Zubik v. Burwell, in which the Little Sisters of the Poor are suing the federal government for coercing them into covering abortifacients in employee health insurance plans, Justice Sonia Sotomayor demonstrated the following illiteracy of fundamental rights:
Because every believer that’s ever come before us, including the people in the military, are saying that my soul will be damned in some way. I’m not naysaying that that is a very substantial perceived personal burden by them. But if that’s always going to be substantial, how will we ever have a government that functions? How will we ever have anything that the government can demand people do in objecting…that won’t be a problem?
Gee, how will our government ever function if they can’t coerce private businesses to cover abortions or sex change operations with their own private health insurance compensation plan? The real question is how can the government and society function if they can coerce such activity? As John Witherspoon warned, “There is not a single instance in history in which civil liberty was lost, and religious liberty preserved entire. If therefore we yield up our temporal property, we at the same time deliver the conscience into bondage.
Perhaps Sotomayor should go back and study the impetus for our founding and read the Pennsylvania Charter of Liberty:
That all persons living in this province, who confess and acknowledge the one Almighty and eternal God, to be the Creator, Upholder and Ruler of the world; and that hold themselves obliged in conscience to live peaceably and justly in civil society, shall, in no ways, be molested or prejudiced for their religious persuasion, or practice, in manners of faith and worship, nor shall they be compelled, at any time, to frequent or maintain any religious worship, place or ministry whatever.
Or perhaps she would do herself a favor by studying Madison:
The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right… It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.
Or maybe she should read the speech of Sam Adams in Philadelphia just weeks before the start of the revolution when he framed the fight for independence as a “contest” over whether “there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty.”
After studying our founding, hopefully this wayward justice will not treat the issues of religious liberty so callously.
2. In one of the few acts of sanity by a Republican controlled state government, the GOP legislature in North Carolina passed a law preventing cities like Charlotte from enacting ordinances allowing men who say they are women to use female bathrooms. But now the entire homo-fascist mafia is coming after the state. The governor of New York has banned state officials from travelling to North Carolina on official business. The ACLU is suing the state in federal court, believing it is the role of the courts to overturn the democratically elected legislature and redefine the definition of gender from the bench. Meanwhile, the state Attorney General is refusing to defend the law in court.
3. Yesterday, Georgia governor Nathan Deal announced his intent to veto a religious liberty bill, which, among other things, would have prevented the state from forcing religious leaders to officiate gay weddings or coerce religious institutions to engage in activity or hire individuals that violate their religious beliefs. It’s now clear that even most Republicans are unwilling to defend the most foundational of unalienable rights.
What is clear from all of these events is that the status quo is not working. We cannot rely upon the states to defend religious liberty. We certainly cannot come crying to the courts who have largely been responsible for creating this nightmare by flipping the concept of fundamental rights on its head. It’s time for federal legislation, in the mold of civil rights legislation, preventing the state or federal governments from coercing an individual to use his private property or business in a way that violates his religious conscience.
While states have wide latitude to regulate activities within their jurisdictions, a state has no right to violate the preamble of the Declaration, rooted in religious liberty and property rights, the same way they had no right to usurp the liberties of African-American citizens. Congress must also strip the courts of the power to adjudicate any case overturning religious liberty protections. At its core, this is why our founder created a federal union – to better secure the blessings of liberty from states that would infringe upon them. As George Washington told a group of Quakers in 1789, “[T]he liberty enjoyed by the people of these states of worshiping Almighty God agreeably to their conscience, is not only among the choicest of their blessings, but also of their rights.”
However, whereas our founders feared individual theocratic states coercing individuals to service a particular religion with their private property, they never fathomed a day when the government itself would be run by secularists and force individuals to worship the pagan inquisition. They always envisioned religion as part and parcel of our national fabric. Alexis de Tocqueville observed that, “The Americans combine the notions of religion and liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive of one without the other.” And that “[F]rom the earliest settlement of the emigrants, politics and religion contracted an alliance which has never been dissolved.” He warned that “[D]espotism can do without faith but liberty cannot.”
Nobody is even asking for government to downright promote the spirit of religion in a voluntary way; we want government to at least refrain from coercing individuals into secularism with their own private businesses. As early as 1988, Reagan explained what we were up against:
To those who cite the first amendment as reason for excluding God from more and more of our institutions and everyday life, may I just say: The first amendment of the Constitution was not written to protect the people of this country from religious values; it was written to protect religious values from government tyranny.
Long before transgendered bathrooms, the redefining of marriage and gender, Kim Davis being thrown in jail for being a Christian, and involuntary servitude for homosexual weddings, Reagan warned that “the most essential element of our defense of freedom is our insistence on speaking out for the cause of religious liberty.” The time has come for our leaders to treat this issue with the seriousness it deserves.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.