When President Obama visited Rochester, N.H., last week, he asked the Sisters of the St. Charles Children Home to sit behind him; an offer they declined. And when the president’s staffers said they’d be using the home as a backdrop for the president’s rally, Sister Mary Agnes covered the organization’s sign with a new message: “Pray for Religious Freedom.”
As I join the Sisters in prayer for our inalienable natural right to religious liberty, which is protected by both our state and federal constitutions, I thought the Sisters’ statement deserved a bit of public meditation to clarify exactly how severely this right has come under attack by this president and those who agree with him.
It is with great sorrow that I can so easily point to the shooting last week at the Family Research Council in Washington as an example. On Wednesday, bigot Floyd Lee Corkins II opened fire in the council lobby, stating, “I don’t like your politics.” He injured the building’s security guard, who stopped what could have easily become a massacre. Reportedly, the homosexual-rights activist also had the address for the Traditional Values Coalition on his person, along with a full box of ammunition. Both organizations defend religious liberty and advocate for traditional marriage as the bedrock of society, which it is.
If only this were an isolated incident. My counterpart at the Family Institute of Connecticut Action, Peter Wolfgang, said he has been receiving death threats from a homosexual activist, who has finally been charged and will appear in court this week. It’s really sad commentary that we have to wait for tragedy before anyone takes people’s hateful threats seriously. It would be even more tragic, however, if these attacks silenced the political debate about religious freedom that led to these attacks.
In a sense, these actual attacks symbolize the problem facing religious liberty in today’s America. Whether it’s a leftist lunatic with a gun or the government with its laws and regulations, liberals are now using coercion in an attempt to drive faith out of the lives of citizens and business owners. It is not politically correct, or physically safe for that matter, for citizens to openly express their deeply held religious beliefs, unless of course they are practicing secular humanism, which is now the well-established religion of our government.
Thanks to the president and his Obamacare law, the government is now forcing business owners to violate their deepest held beliefs just to make a living. This isn’t about access to contraception or abortion pills; two medical treatments that are available to people who want to pay for them. This is about government inventing a right to force religious people to pay for that contraception or those abortion pills even if they morally object. This is about government declaring by fiat that the fake right it now recognizes supersedes the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Rights of Conscience clause in the N.H. Constitution.
To fully grasp the significance of this stance, consider for a moment whether you would think it’s OK for government to force a Quaker manufacturing company to produce weapons that will be used in the war on terror. Should government force the owner of an animal-rights conscious cosmetics-supply company to pay for torturous experiments using chimpanzees and kittens? Should government force a state prison employee to administer an execution drug to a convicted capital felon even though the employee has a conscientious objection to the death penalty?
Are these scenarios really any different than the government forcing a photographer who disagrees with the homosexual lifestyle to photograph a homosexual “commitment ceremony”? The New Mexico Human Rights Commission did just that when it fined Elane Photography more than $6,000 for refusing to participate in a gay ceremony. The government also tried to force Bill Newland at his Denver-based Hercules Industries to pay for his employees’ abortion pills. And Boston Mayor Thomas Menino as well as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told Chick Fil-A it wasn’t welcome because of the owner’s open statements that homosexual “marriage” should not take place.
In the end, it doesn’t matter what ethical issue is at stake. Government should not be able to force people to do something that violates their freedom of conscience. Government should not be able to fine people or prohibit people from earning a living simply because they choose to exercise their religious liberty. These concepts are dangerous in a free society, and could ultimately lead to the end of freedom itself.
All Americans, whether acting as individuals or business owners, should be able to express and live out their religious beliefs in their public life without sacrificing their hard-earned dollars or their freedom. And it is for this type of religious liberty that we all need to pray.
Shannon McGinley is the acting executive director of Cornerstone Action.