The old quote of Santayana goes, Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it. That certainly seems to be the case here where, in the name of equality, the secular society has invented virtues for itself which matches what they think their society should be. Historically speaking, whenever a society identifies with their self-invented virtues, they tend to be very hostile towards groups that exist within their society which already has virtues they refuse to give up. In fact, such groups tend to be viewed as the enemy of the state and are targeted because they refuse to surrender their beliefs.
Once upon a time, America recognized the freedom of such groups to do what they felt morally obligated to do and limited the power of the state to dictate behavior that went against the moral obligations of the person. In short, when a religious group held, “I must not do this,” the state recognized that it had no right to force a member of this group to do what he believed was morally wrong. This was in contrast with other nations where the government could compel membership in one religion and forbidding membership in a different one (the State Church of England for example), or the attempt to control a religious denomination’s schools and appointed ministers (the Kulturkampf of Germany). To drum up support for the attacks, the state would focus on the behavior of members of the Church who were living scandalously and seek to transfer the disgust over their behavior into an indictment of the whole Church.
America recognized those behaviors by government as something condemnable and, even if a majority of the population disapproved of a religion, it never directly sought to control what religious behaviors were acceptable, dictating to the Church what beliefs could be followed or not. That’s why what is happening to America today is so tragic. In seeking to promote certain “virtues,” the government is seeking to force the disagreement by members of certain religious bodies out of the public square and into a ghetto of “freedom to worship.” But Freedom of Religion ≠ Freedom to Worship. Freedom to Worship is part of the Freedom of Religion, but the Freedom of Religion is far more than worship.
America has a rather ugly tendency nowadays to deny the freedom of religion to individuals who run a business or work for the government. Such people are told that their wish to refuse to do certain things that they believe are morally wrong is a violation of the civil rights of others. To justify their position against religious freedom, people dredge up the segregation in the South, with the “Whites Only” establishments, separate drinking fountains etc. It is argued that the religious faith of business owners and government employees that forbids them to do something is the same motive used by segregationists to bar non-whites from their establishments.
But this is a false analogy. The appeals to religious freedom by the business owner or government employee is not rooted in a prejudice against a certain subset of people. It is rooted in the belief that We may not participate in something we believe to be morally wrong—not at all the same thing. That is apparent by those targeted businesses which say they are perfectly willing to serve a person whose moral behavior they believe is wrong in the normal course of business—but they are not willing to have their business cause scandal by appearing to approve of something the business owner thinks is morally wrong.
In other nations, priests and even bishops were imprisoned or even martyred because they would not compromise with what was wrong—a virtue widely recognized even here except when it comes to the Catholic Church living that way. Then it is labeled as a case of being “rigid” or “bureaucratic” or “hateful.” But that is just propaganda aimed at encouraging people to think of the Church as harmful and needing to be opposed.
America claims to remember the lessons of history. Yet the behavior exhibited here shows that our nation seems to be doomed to repeat the mistakes other nations have made—mistakes it spoke out against in other contexts.