Many are beginning to recognize that there is more to the so-called “culture war” issues than mere disagreements over abortion and gay marriage. It’s becoming increasingly clear that something more basic is afoot. In many cases our most treasured American rights — freedom of speech and freedom of religion — have been diminished as the czars of political correctness desire to create a nation where tolerance is redefined to mean tolerance only of culturally acceptable viewpoints. Those of us on the outside of this new cultural orthodoxy find ourselves not only marginalized from the public square of ideas, but increasingly, on the wrong side of the law. We’re warned to keep our religion in our churches as many attempt to make a distinction between freedom of worship and freedom of religion, the former allowing only for private expressions of faith.
Liberals — I like to call them illiberal liberals — are often the most vocal perpetrators of intolerance against unpopular viewpoints, but a fair number of those who profess to be of the libertarian persuasion also have a penchant for trying to silence those with whom they disagree on certain issues. The justification for this squelching of speech is usually some version of “sticks and stones may break my bones…and your words are mean, so you have forfeited your right to speak in public.” The libertarian version of this is (paradoxically), “You’re embarrassing us and making our side unelectable. Knock it off.”
It’s not uncommon in our modern political discourse for ridicule to replace dialogue and open hostility to replace genuine debate, to the detriment of our country and our humanity. Those who demand silence from those with whom they disagree dishonor the principles of liberty upon which our republic was founded. Those who use the courts or who pass laws to force Americans to violate their religious principles trample on the graves of those who fought to defend our liberty through the ages.
And so it is that I am grateful for our friends who truly value liberty and can see the big picture and where this all is heading, even if they don’t agree with us. I appreciate friends who don’t share my faith who have, in recent months, expressed support for my right to express my views on controversial subjects. I appreciate the atheists, agnostics, libertarians, and the handful of liberals who have the integrity to defend free speech and freedom of religion unequivocally because they know how quickly political and cultural tides shift. What is the prevailing wisdom and popular view today may one day become a persecuted minority view tomorrow. Liberal writer Camille Paglia, commenting on the controversy over Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson’s comments on homosexuality told Laura Ingraham the attacks on Robertson were “punitive PC, utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist.” Paglia said, “I speak with authority here, because I was openly gay before the ‘Stonewall rebellion,’ when it cost you something to be so. And I personally feel as a libertarian that people have the right to free thought and free speech.”
This is not a Republican, Democrat, or libertarian issue. It’s my freedom of speech and freedom of religion today — it may be yours tomorrow and I will stand with you to defend your right to speak your mind and practice your religion. I’m sobered by the implications of that statement, but nevertheless, our principles of liberty are non-partisan and apply to all Americans without qualification. We can — and will — have major disagreements about the social and cultural issues of the day. The way to solve our disagreements is never to call for less speech or to force those with sincere religious beliefs to huddle in church ghettos, fearful of cultural bullies or lawfare. Rather, the answer is free, robust debate and a country where religion is unhindered by government regulation and intimidation.
Many of us who now feel the weight of the culture (and sometimes the law) against us on a variety of issues base our beliefs on sincere religious convictions. Those of us who are Christians are told in the Bible not to be surprised by opposition to our faith, but I think I probably speak for many who have been surprised at how quickly the attacks have come from within the Republican Party and the so-called conservative and libertarian movements. They seem oblivious to the dangers of ignoring incremental threats to liberty and have joined in the choruses of those calling for us to be silenced. The true defenders of liberty, whether on the left or the right, understand how a nation can suffer a death by a thousand cuts. For those who are willing to defend the rights of all Americans — even the rights of those with whom they disagree — I am grateful.