Carol King, UK Correspondent
A controversial issue that will feature prominently in campaigns for the 2020 election, is the “militant secularism” or “modern activism” growing in the Democrat party. In a recent speech at Notre Dame University, Attorney General William Barr highlighted irreligion and secular values being forced on people of faith. He noted that neutrality is being redefined so it may only be achieved through forced secularism. Citing America’s founding era, he remarked that it was replete with efforts to preserve space for people of faith, independent of the government. As minister and prominent early American religious leader John Leland stated, “all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.” Such historic toleration is what should rightly be called “neutrality.”
Democrats used to care about tolerance. However today they advocate forced conformance to government, and this position abandons any mask of neutrality. Consider some examples from the previous Democrat administration under Barack Obama: Government agencies forced Aaron and Melissa Klein in Oregon to align with a government-approved message or lose their business. Cambridge Christian School in Tampa, Fla., was denied use of a loudspeaker for pre-football game prayers, censoring religious speech in preference to government-imposed silence. The Internal Revenue Service demanded that an Iowa pro-life group tell them about the content of their prayers, and Dr Eric Walsh in Georgia, was fired from his government job for something he said as a lay preacher. That is hostility toward religion, not neutral tolerance of it.
Among the 2020 Democrat candidates, none have indicated that they will respect religious liberty if it conflicts with the growing secular mindset. They ignore that the Bill of Rights protects speech, association, and religious rights; whether they are popular with the political ideology in power or not. They are protected and inalienable.
On Aug 24th, 2019, in San Francisco, California, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) unanimously passed a resolution praising the values of “religiously unaffiliated” Americans as the “largest religious group within the Democratic Party.” They should advocate for “rational public policy based on sound science and universal humanistic values,” said the resolution. In essence, they are forcefully pushing religious people and religious expression aside and placing them outside what they consider the mainstream.
How they propose to accomplish this frat, was clearly visible at CNN’s recent Equality Town Hall. There, the Democrat Presidential candidates talked about faith, LGBTQ people, and marginalized communities, and pledged to fight for non-discrimination protections in federal law.
The crux of this debate is laid out in the Equality Act, which is supported by every Democrat candidate running in 2020, and passed by the House in May, 2019. The Equality Act would elevate sexual orientation and gender identity to protected classes in federal anti-discrimination law but would therefore defy the purpose of anti-discrimination laws, by discriminating against those who disagree with these new ideologies about human sexuality. The issues raised by the Equality Act and new anti-discrimination laws are complex, but Democrats seem determined that if they gain power, they will use government control to compel people in accordance with their view.
Examples at the state and local level show exactly how sexual orientation and gender identity policies may cause harms to Americans from all walks of life. Consider the following:
In Ohio, a judge ordered a biological girl to be removed from her parents’ custody after they declined to help her “transition” to male with testosterone supplements. The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s Transgender Health Clinic recommended these treatments for the girl’s gender dysphoria, but the parents wanted to pursue counseling instead. The parents were charged with abuse and neglect by the family services agency and the judge terminated their custody, awarding the child to the grandparents. Arguments surrounding how to treat transgender kids are still inconclusive and controversial, but there are other cases similar to this with children as young as 6 years old.
Or consider the Downtown Hope Center, a women’s homeless shelter that provides a safe place for women who’ve survived sex trafficking, rape, and domestic violence in Anchorage, Alaska. Here a case was brought by a transgender woman the Hope Center turned away twice in 2018. The shelter officials had paid for a taxi to take her to a hospital for treatment of a forehead wound from fighting at another shelter, but she showed up the following day and again was denied entry. The woman filed a complaint with the Anchorage Equal Right’s Commission, which bars discriminating against a person based on, among other categories, their gender expression. The Hope Center filed a complaint in U.S. District Court claiming the faith-based non-profit’s constitutional rights were being violated.
Hope said, “everyone should be free to live and serve others according to their faith, without the fear of unjust government punishment,” and the organization has a legal right to set policies on who can stay. For example, Hope Center mandates their shelter only house adults, and they must be clean and sober. And, “Because of its religious beliefs and its limited space, Hope Center accepts only persons who were determined to be female at birth into its overnight shelter.”
From the city of Anchorage’s perspective, much of the legal dispute centered around whether non-profit shelters fall under “public accommodations” in the city’s code. When the court indicated it did not favor their position, they agreed to settle, paying out $100,000 to the shelter’s legal counsel. The women’s shelter will be free to deny overnight admission to trans women.
Even parents with traditional values, or who simply want to raise their kids with their own values have been targeted. Following an aggressive push by secular fanatics in Californian public schools, parents were shocked last year to find out that they could not opt out of a controversial gender identity curriculum they believed was not age appropriate nor medically accurate.
Activist groups such as Planned Parenthood had provided materials for the curriculum, and parents were outraged to find discussion of graphic sexual practices in classes that previously only discussed traditional human reproduction. Large rallies in opposition took place in throughout Orange County, Ca last summer to defend parental rights. Similar curriculums have been mandated in New Jersey and Illinois.
For parent Pascha Thomas, a nightmare scenario started to play out. She heard her five-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted in her school restroom by a male classmate who identified as “gender fluid.” Relying on its Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity policy, the Decatur, Georgia school district had allowed him to use the girls restroom.
Democrat 2020 hopefuls like Cory Booker are supportive and say they would use the federal government to target schools who resist this agenda. He declared that “schools should allow people to use the bathroom that conforms with their gender identity, but we can’t stop there. We must use our department of Justice, Dept of Education, and civil rights divisions to go after the schools that are denying people equal rights, and equal protections.” Democrats again, would use government as a weapon against the people.
Other state laws have been used, prominently, to compel people working in the wedding industry, like florists, photographers and bakers, to provide their services for same-sex ceremonies in violation of their religious conscience.
To contemplate whether such businesses should be forced to provide services for celebrations which violate their religious beliefs, it is helpful to flip the scenario around: Should a lesbian designer or graphic artist be force to provide a flyer for a religious groups’ rally opposing same sex marriage? In both cases the answer is no. There are plenty of other bakers that can provide cakes for same sex weddings and there are other designers a religious group can hire. Additionally, in neither example is a person or group being denied a service because of who they are, it is because of the specific service they are requesting. In these cases, there is not a compelling interest for the government to interfere.
That is very different from Jim Crow laws which mandated segregation based on racial supremacy. These laws prevented all individuals and businesses regardless of their personal belief to provide their services to African Americans. These laws enforced widespread discrimination and denied African Americans basic necessities. The government absolutely had a compelling interest to interfere. As such the Supreme Court has said the federal government may limit religious freedom, but only when it has a compelling interest to do so.
One organization familiar with Supreme Court battles is the Little Sisters of the Poor. This international congregation of Roman Catholic women serve the elderly poor by providing them homes in over 30 countries around the world. Since 2010, they have been fighting in court against Democrats who attempted to force them to provide free abortion-inducing contraceptives to their employees under Obamacare.
The Catholic Church opposes artificial birth control, and in Zubik v. Burwell, in May 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Obama administration from trying to impose fines in the range of $70 million on the Sisters. The ruling was narrow and did not address arguments that applying the mandate to the Little Sisters violated the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which allows exemptions from federal laws to those professing “sincerely held” religious beliefs.
The Trump administration rewrote regulations addressing “conscience-based objections” to Obamacare’s free-contraception mandate in line with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) which should have ended the Little Sisters trouble. But that did not happen. Democrats in blue states: California, Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Virginia, days after the new interim order was issued, filed a lawsuit in a federal district court in San Francisco. They sought a nationwide injunction against its enforcement, on grounds that technical requirements for notice and comment had not been properly followed.
The suit was spearheaded by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is known for his litigation against abortion opponents. Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr., a 2014 Obama appointee, promptly issued the requested nationwide injunction. Further action by Becerra among others, included a motion on Dec 19, 2018 for Judge Gilliam to issue an injunction barring enforcement of the permanent rule. Gilliam duly complied but was struck down in a higher court, to make the ban nationwide. Nevertheless, a similar suit from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with Democratic attorneys’ general in twenty-one other states secured the nationwide injunction. The Little Sisters’ legal battles continue, and they will be in front of the Supreme Court again soon.
A rich religious social network service exists in the US. Around 350,000 religious congregations operate soup kitchens, schools, hospitals, drug addiction programs, pregnancy resource centers, adoption agencies and homeless shelters throughout the US. These efforts serve 70 million American each year, and the value of their services is worth over an estimated $1 trillion annually. Acts such as the Equality Act risk stopping all of that good.
Discrimination and disagreement are not the same. Using the force of law and judge shopping to go after churches and organizations with the sole purpose of stifling disagreement attacks the very foundation of diversity which makes America strong. As AG Barr said in his speech: “licentiousness is another form of tyranny.”
In closing, Justice Anthony Kennedy in his decision for the Supreme Court in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado, spoke eloquently about the dilemma courts face when they seek to uphold the right of gay people to be treated with “dignity and worth” and the right of individuals to hold “religious and philosophical objections” to gay people. Justice Kennedy said he did not seek to diminish or belittle either of these rights. He stated simply and clearly that sometimes these rights are in conflict and therefore courts must decide, or legislatures may choose, perhaps differently in different cases, how to resolve that conflict.
Justice Kennedy’s opinion in this case was permeated with respect, dignity and nuance. In real life 21st century electoral politics by comparison, Leftists decried this outcome and vowed to fight on against religious “bigotry” and “prejudice.” The Democrats “winner-takes-all” mentality is one that refuses to accept the complexity of Justice Kennedy’s words in ‘Masterpiece Cakeshop’ and always insists on an outcome in which they must be victorious, and their ideological opponent must always lose. If one believes there is only a “win-lose” battle, then everyone must be painted as a radical advocate for one side or another. That is not a constructive way forward, but the Left seems determined to make that their strategy.
Carol received a first class BA (honors) in History and Politics from Stirling University, along with an exceptional commendation for a study on US public opinion and Foreign Policy. She also completed a year of study at University of London before taking up a Graduate Proctor Fellowship at Princeton University USA. She further completed a MPhil in American Politics at Dundee University. Aspiring to be a writer/commentator on American politics, she now writes for UncoverDC.