Georgia state Senator William Ligon asks but does not answer a question on today’s Wall Street Journal op-ed page: “Why Are Companies Taking Sides Against Religious Liberty?” The question is raised by the ferocious corporate response to attempts in Georgia and other states to reinforce at the state level religious protections already guaranteed by federal law. The New York Times, a former newspaper, has scurrilously and dishonestly labeled these “Anti-Gay Laws,” because they would prevent priests and pastors from being forced to perform gay marriages against their faiths and consciences.
Ligon notes that businesses have been quick to bring pressure to defeat such laws:
Disney and Marvel threatened to pull production of the “Avengers” film franchise from the Peach State, and the cable channel AMC vowed to take its “Walking Dead” series elsewhere. The NFL warned that it might drop Atlanta from consideration to host a Super Bowl. Dozens of Georgia companies urged Gov. Nathan Deal to veto the bill, which he did on March 28.
This is, by now, a familiar playbook. Last year the furor was enormous after Indiana Gov.Mike Pence signed a religious-freedom bill. Indiana employers called for its repeal, and the NCAA threatened to pull the Final Four tournament from the basketball-crazed state. Under intense pressure, the legislature quickly passed a “fix” that undermined standard RFRA [federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act] protections.
North Carolina finds itself targeted over a common-sense new law blocking cities and counties from forcing businesses to give transgender people access to the bathroom of their choice. If a restaurant owner wants to allow transgender people to use their preferred bathroom, that’s no problem. The new law simply prevents local governments from forcing business owners to adopt such a policy.
Yet the Tar Heel State now faces an onslaught. More than 120 corporations have demanded the law’s repeal, and the Obama administration is reviewing federal aid to the state. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has banned travel there by state employees, even as he promotes travel and trade with communist Cuba.
Apparently puzzled by all this, Ligon quotes a study showing “economic competitiveness is stronger in countries with fewer government restrictions on religious liberty.” But what on earth makes him think corporations are interested in competition? Corporations and other successful businesses love big government precisely because it stifles competition. The big guys can pay lawyers to cut through government red tape while the little guy with a better idea and a cheaper price is crushed beneath taxes and regulations.
What big corporations hate is freedom of the individual conscience, internally governed families, and churches powerful enough to stand up to the make-believe righteousness of government decrees. All of these things tend to generate independent action and thoughtful morality which can get in the way of profits. People who think for themselves and pray with others tend to be a little less quick to watch the latest soul-degrading film or half-time show or to buy a product simply because it’s the going thing.
Freedom is good for business in general, but it is not good for an individual business that has already made it to the top. Where freedom and competition thrive, prices fall and good ideas rise. Where government coerces, where government pays the freight, where government grants you “rights” to the labor and products of others, prices soar and good ideas that threaten the status quo are trampled under and left behind.
Virtually every founding father declared that American-style freedom could not exist without true religion. “It is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand,” as John Adams put it. As true religion fades, as families cease to operate as independent governing units, the power of the powerful to coerce grows stronger. And when the powerful can coerce the powerless, big business profits.
Thus the left — which always accomplishes exactly the opposite of what it says it intends — serves big business with its ethos of “inclusion,” which is really an ethos of coercion in disguise. Of course corporations will fight to defend that. It’s meat and potatoes to them.
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