Politics & Policy

God Talk Is Not Enough Anymore

(Scott Olson/Getty)
What should social conservatives ask of a GOP nominee?

If Republicans win all three branches of government in 2016, what legislation will get passed?

Economic growth, ending middle-class stagflation, reversing the debt divide in college students, repealing Obamacare. Into the policy mix, social conservatives have an important question to ask themselves: What is it we want for our country from a potentially historic GOP victory in 2016?

Russell Moore laid down an important marker in a recent Wall Street Journal article, which I would translate as God Talk Is Not Enough:

In recent years candidates have assumed that they can win over evangelicals by learning Christian slogans, by masking political rallies as prayer meetings, and by basically producing a long-form new birth certificate to prove they’ve been born again. This sort of identity politics is a luxury of a past era when evangelicals were part of a silent majority in the U.S., with our First Amendment freedoms assumed and guaranteed. That is not the present situation.

Indeed it is not. Let me speak for traditionalists of all religions for a moment.

A few months before the Supreme Court is likely to rule on gay marriage, the incidents causing concern about what gay marriage will mean for dissenters (especially traditional Christians, Orthodox Jews, and Muslims) multiply:

Gordon College students are banned from tutoring public-school students, because of the college’s embrace of standard orthodox Christian rules (no sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman); the request of its college president for a religious exemption from President Obama has now triggered a possible threat to its accreditation.

Meanwhile, Marquette University (a Jesuit institution) is attempting to strip Professor Scott McAdams of his tenure and his job because he blogged critically about the way a college instructor (and grad student) treated an anti-gay-marriage student.

Kelvin Cochran, whose rags-to-riches rise from Shreveport poverty to police chief of Atlanta is as inspiring as any, was fired for self-publishing for his Bible-study classa book that contains two paragraphs exhorting his fellow Christians to live by Biblical sexual values.

In Lafayette, Calif., parents of 14-year-old public-school students are suing because their children were asked in English class whether their parents would embrace them if they were gay — and then these Christian students were publicly shamed and humiliated when they supported their parents’ values.

A Ford Motor Company worker (contractor) was invited to comment on pro-gay-rights material circulated by the company — and then fired for leaving an anti-sodomy comment on the blog.

Note the similar strategies here: invite or force public comment and then discipline those who say the “wrong” thing.

Angela McCaskill was disciplined by her federally chartered university for simply signing her name to a petition putting same-sex marriage to a vote in Maryland.

A judge in Washington State was found guilty of an ethics violation for saying privately in chambers (in response to a staffer’s question) that he would not perform same-sex marriages.

The great god of gay equality demands a sacrifice of $150,000 from Oregon bakers Melissa and Aaron Klein for the sin of refusing to bake a gay-wedding cake.

More than 70,000 people signed their names to a petition saying Mozilla founder Brendan Eich must either publicly recant his opposition to gay marriage (evidenced solely by a relatively small donation to the Prop 8 campaign) or be fired.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it points to where I think the greatest threats lie: closing down educational and work opportunities to traditionalists who dare to speak.

If the GOP would like to leave a legacy that makes a difference, I would argue for generous anti-discrimination protections for those who favor or oppose gay marriage (unless they work for an organization whose substantial purpose is to favor or oppose gay marriage).

A new poll shows 57 percent of Americans believe small-business owners should not be forced to provide wedding-related services. It also shows 44 percent of Americans favor gay marriage, 39 percent oppose it, and a whopping 15 percent are unwilling to offer an opinion in the current environment. Threatening people with losing their jobs is a very effective way to silence and intimidate.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gave a high-profile press conference offering to provide substantial new protections for gay people provided that robust religious-liberty protections are part of the deal. Live and let live is the offer on the table. So far the official voices of gay rights don’t like it: James Esseks, who directs the LGBT project of the American Civil Liberties Union, told ABC news that the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom “does not give any of us the right to harm others, and that’s what it sounds like the proposal from the Mormon church would do.”

One important marker will come out of Utah, where we will find out if it is possible to craft live-and-let-live legislation or whether gay-rights supporters value legislation primarily as a club to suppress dissent.

The report on the poll includes this comment from a respondent: “Why make an issue out of one florist when there are probably thousands of florists?” asked David Kenney, who’s 59. “The gay community wants people to understand their position, but at the same time, they don’t want to understand other people’s religious convictions. It’s a two-way street.”

Not yet. If social conservatives want to be taken seriously as a political force, we need to do what a handful of Common Core moms have just done: push our concerns into the presidential race.

And for me, if I were to prioritize, the right not to lose my job or my tax exemption because I publicly oppose (or support) gay marriage should be at the top.

— Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project. She blogs at MaggieGallagher.com.

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