A&E enjoys rights to free contract and free speech in determining whom they employ and what they allow them to say. But just because you have a right to do something doesn’t make it the right thing to do.
In a series of instances we have seen the gatekeepers of civil society attack those who hold Biblical views about marriage and sexuality—Chick-fil-A, Barilla Pasta, Craig James who was fired from ESPN, and now Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty.
It is even worse, of course, when it is the government that penalizes those who hold Biblical views. That should be anathema in America. While A&E exercised its rights, in a growing number of incidents, government has not respected the free-contract and free-speech rights of Americans.
In August, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment does not protect a photographer’s right to decline to take pictures of a same-sex commitment ceremony — even though doing so would violate the photographer’s deeply held religious beliefs as a Christian.
Christian adoption and foster-care agencies have been forced to stop providing those services because they object to placing children in same-sex households. Other cases include a baker, a florist, a bed-and-breakfast, a T-shirt company, a student counselor, the Salvation Army, and more.
These and other laws are creating a climate of intolerance and intimidation for citizens who believe that we are created male and female, that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and that sexual relations are properly reserved for marriage. These state and local laws are used to trump fundamental civil liberties such as freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion.
Policy should prohibit the government from discriminating against any individual or group, whether nonprofit or for-profit, based on their beliefs that marriage is the union of a man and woman or that sexual relations are reserved for marriage.
Protecting religious liberty and the rights of conscience fosters a more diverse civil sphere. It encourages tolerance amongst citizens and promotes peaceful coexistence even in the midst of disagreement. Our First Freedom is at stake.
— Ryan T. Anderson is the William E. Simon Fellow for Religion and a Free Society at The Heritage Foundation and co-author, with Sherif Girgis and Robert George, of the book What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense.