Not the country I grew up in...
I think we’re now at the point where there are enough people out there who believe that whatever harms their enemy is good that we can expect to see popular support for whatever violation of religious freedom is directed at the Catholic Church—especially if this violation can be cast as defending the “rights” of a group portrayed as a victim. Let’s face it. When a Church affiliated institution (like a school or hospital) can establish a policy making clear that all potential employees are called to live publicly and privately in accordance with Church teaching, and the employee willingly signs said agreement and then is fired for violating it, and successfully sues the institution involved, we are seeing the establishment of rule of law being replaced by arbitrary judgment. When a business is established by a Christian who wants to run his or her business in accordance with Christian moral principles can be sued or prosecuted when the business refuses to do something against those principles, we’re seeing the rule of law being replaced by arbitrary judgment.
It’s kind of alarming seeing the comments of people online who have no problem with self-contradiction. Champions of freedom say that they just want the freedom to do what they want without interference, but when we try to claim the same rights for doing what we ought, suddenly freedom is nowhere to be found. No, we can’t say same sex “marriage” is wrong without risk of legal action. No, we can’t refuse to distribute contraceptives against our conscience without risk of legal action. No, we can’t hold people accountable for breaking a signed agreement without risk of legal action—even if they’re directly working for the Church.
It Will Be a Different From The Totalitarian Version
Now America prides itself as being a land of freedom, so I doubt we’ll directly see it move to overt persecution of Christianity of the type seen in Communist nations unless we fall much further into the rule by decree mindset. What I expect that we’ll see is government misusing the rule of law to portray Christian moral teaching as a violation of the rule of law. Then, by changing the meaning of things, the Church is suddenly portrayed as violating the law by standing by her fidelity to Christ. Marriage is redefined, and suddenly we’re accused of violating the civil rights of people with same sex attraction. Abortion and contraception are redefined from a crime to a right and suddenly we’re accused of violating the rights of women.
The Accusations Used To Justify It Are Not Rational
The usual tactic is to make use of the question begging analogy fallacy and point to the real racism of American history, alleging that the opposition to certain things as being sinful is based on intolerance, just as whites were intolerant of blacks in the past (and tragically, some still hold today). This attack tries to link two things with an alleged (but not proven) motive, failing twice as the comparison is not true and the alleged motive used to link the two is not proven. So opponents point to the real evil of racism, allege our motives for Christian moral teaching as being equally intolerant and declare that the government must oppose this “intolerance” just as they opposed the ethnic racism of American history.
But the problem is, there is no material advantage to being a Catholic, as opposed to being an atheist or a Protestant. Nor is one’s membership in a religion the same unchangeable thing as being a member of an ethnic group. People are not (and never were, contrary to popular belief) forcibly converted to Catholicism. One is free to join the Church if they accept what we believe is true. If they reject that what we believe is true, then it makes very little sense to want to join, remain in or work for the Church that says, if you would follow Christ, you are called to avoid sin to live rightly.
Because of this reality, it is unjust to attempt to legally harass us for being true to what we believe is part of following Christ. We do not seek to violate the laws of this nation (but we may be forced to choose between our faith and the state when the state tries to put itself above God), though we use our constitutional rights to try to change laws we believe are unjust. We don’t use the tactics of those who hate us because they strike us as unjust (Matt 7:12). Yes, some individuals among us may do evil, but they do evil against the teachings of the Church, not because of the teachings of the Church.
There are basically two issues in the debate on religious freedom. The first is making laws which reflect what is right and just. The second is insisting on the freedoms which others try to deny us while demanding it for themselves. Because there are two issues, we need to keep track of which one applies where. When we call for laws to be passed which have the proper understanding on the nature of humanity and what is good for it, we are making reference to the first issue. When we oppose attempts to restrict our freedoms to practice what we believe is right, we are making reference to the second issue.
Freedoms Now Applied Only to Favored Views Despite Claims of “Tolerance"
The response to these two issues makes me wonder what happened to the country I grew up in. The prevalent attitude by those cultural and media elites is that these freedoms are only applicable to certain types of freedoms—the freedoms they approve of. The beliefs of people they disagree with are not considered protected and what they would consider unjust if it were applied to them is considered perfectly acceptable when applied to those they dislike. That’s why it is considered perfectly acceptable to have a person forced out of his job for supporting a position such as traditional marriage (such as Brendan Eich), but intolerance if a person was forced from his job for supporting same sex “marriage."
See, the first issue is an issue of what is true and how we should behave on account of what is true. Yes, there will be conflicts in these beliefs of what is true. But if one person says “X is morally wrong,” and the other person says “X is not morally wrong,” the proper response is the seeking of truth. On what basis do you make your claim? The response of accusing people of homophobia or a “war on women," is not an exchange of ideas. That’s an attempt to bully, vilifying the person who dares disagree. If a Christian believes that the good of society means one has to protect the building block of society (the traditional family), he can do so peacefully, operating within the law, with the right to peacefully try to convince people willing to listen that this is worthy of a law.
The second issue is the issue of allowing a person to live as they believe their conscience commands them to do—which is quite different from the person who says they “don’t see anything wrong with it.” The person who believes contraception is morally acceptable is not having their rights imposed on if she works for an employer who refuses to pay for it out of moral obligation, but the person who believes contraception is morally wrong is having their rights imposed on if the courts decree he or she must pay for these contraceptives. In other words, the person whose conscience is lax enough to see contraception as morally OK is not being forced to do something evil when the employer says, “Fine, but I’m not paying for it.” But forcing people to pay for what they think is evil is a violation of conscience.
Counter-Accusations Do Not Actually Fit Our Behavior, Except in Extremists That We Disavow
So, this is why religious believers must be more and more active in defending what they believe, while seeking to reach out to others in showing them why Christian beliefs are true. We are being told both that we have no right to seek laws which make the society live in a way that is just and true and that our beliefs are not covered under the freedoms all citizens claim. Objectively, we must say that some things are always wrong, while still treating our opponents with human dignity. On the other hand, we must say that even if our opponents disagree with our claims to truth, that doesn’t mean that they have the right to strip us of our human dignity.
This is the issue that is being ignored. The elites are actually behaving in a corrupt way, where consideration of rights and right don’t figure into things. Self-Contradiction is apparently acceptable so long as it helps them and harms us. But if we insist that they apply the same standards to themselves as they apply to ourself, it’s suddenly unfair.
Now, it some people do accuse us of holding a double standard. Either they point to the infamous Christian groups which are a good bogeyman to unjustly tar all Christians with to make the Christian teaching look bad (most Christians who oppose same sex acts don’t support the unjust treatment for those with that inclination), or they accuse us of being motivated by hatred when we say, “Hey, practice what you preach.” Yes, unfortunately, you will find Christians who don’t practice what they preach. But they are not the majority of Christians, and most of us recognize that those who act in this way are doing wrong even if they agree with us that X is wrong. So, it’s unjust to blame us for the actions of people we repudiate and it is wrong to accuse us of bad will because we disagree the popular views.
But people tend to accept the accusations of “guilt by association” and bald assertions of intolerance that we deny. That’s basically why religious freedom and the ability to do right is looking bleaker for 2015. Is there a remedy? Sure. It requires men and women of good will to stand up against the governments, the courts and even in places of business and point out that what is being alleged of us is unjust. It requires people to distinguish between what is alleged about Christian belief and the motive for it and the truth of Christian belief and why we hold it. In other words, religious freedom is in danger so long as people are willing to tolerate (or approve of) attacks on other people.