Religious Liberty and Consistency

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Under the headline “Religious Liberty Hypocrisy,” Mark Joseph Stern writes at Slate:

On Monday, the United Church of Christ brought a federal lawsuit against North Carolina’s marriage laws, which were amended in 2012 to ban gay unions. What interest does the United Church of Christ have in toppling the state’s homophobic ban? Under North Carolina law, a minister who officiates a marriage ceremony between a couple with no valid marriage license is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor and can be thrown in jail for 45 days. . . .

I’m not certain why Ross DouthatRamesh Ponnuru,Mollie Hemingway, and other vociferous conservative defenders of religious liberty aren’t vocally outraged about this fact. . . .

Actually, there’s an obvious reasons why conservatives aren’t clamoring to endorse the UCC’s lawsuit: The battle cry of “religious liberty” is only valuable to the American right insofar as it protects their own values—like animus toward gay people or rejection of reproductive rights.

Let me offer an alternative explanation for my silence on this issue: Until reading Stern’s article five minutes ago, I hadn’t heard of it. As soon as I read it, I came to the conclusion that the law making officiating at an unrecognized marriage ceremony a misdemeanor should be repealed. Similarly, I opposed applying the HHS mandate to religious objectors as soon as I heard about it — but not before I had. This seems to me to be a single standard.

But I appreciate being called a vociferous defender of religious liberty.

Update: See my follow-up post.