Last month, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) passed a resolution praising the religiously unaffiliated, saying their values align with those of the Democratic Party and recognizing them as the largest religious group in that party. Yet the resolution also took up arms against “misplaced claims” of “religious liberty,” warning that religious freedom threatens the “civil rights and liberties” of many liberal interest groups.
“[T]hose most loudly claiming that morals, values, and patriotism must be defined by their particular religious views have used those religious views, with misplaced claims of ‘religious liberty,’ to justify public policy that has threatened the civil rights and liberties of many Americans, including but not limited to the LGBT community, women, and ethnic and religious/nonreligious minorities,” the DNC resolution states.
The DNC likely intended this clause to appeal to the religiously unaffiliated — better known as “nones” — but it also represents the cementing orthodoxy of the Democratic Party. Democrats have united around H.R. 5, the so-called “Equality Act,” which would enshrine in American law a vision of gender identity as more important than biological sex. A broad coalition of feminists, pro-lifers, and religious freedom advocates have united to oppose this bill, including outspoken Democrats like feminist lawyer Kara Dansky.
Senate Democrats have launched attacks on the religious faith of Trump nominees, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) infamously saying, “the dogma lives loudly within you.” Former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) compared a conservative Christian law firm to the Cambodian dictator Pol Pot, and many Democrats have repeated the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) “hate group” accusation against conservative Christian groups, something that’s been outed as a cynical fundraising scheme.
The type of religious liberty the DNC attacked as “misplaced” likely refers to the very public court battles over whether or not religious artistic professionals can opt out of endorsing same-sex weddings.
Christian baker Jack Phillips, for example, refused to bake a custom cake for a same-sex wedding, although he gladly sells all sorts of pre-made cakes to LGBT people in his shop. Yet the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that he had discriminated against people on the basis of sexual orientation. He appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court and won — because members of the commission displayed animus against his religious faith, comparing his views to those of the Nazis.
Even after this Supreme Court victory, Phillips again faced the commission. A transgender lawyer asked him to bake an obscene custom cake celebrating the lawyer’s gender transition. Phillips refused, citing his free speech right not to be forced to endorse a view with which he disagrees. The commission again found him guilty of discrimination, but it dropped the complaint in March 2019. The lawyer promptly sued Phillips.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) represented Phillips and many similar cases. The SPLC has accused this group of being a “hate group,” leading Franken to demonize it on the scale of Pol Pot. Yet ADF’s ideological opponents — former ACLU president Nadine Strossen and Mikey Weinstein, current head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (a secularist group) — have insisted that ADF is not a “hate group.” The demonization rapidly gaining steam in the Democratic Party goes too far for some outspoken secular lawyers.
Of people like Phillips and those who defend them, like ADF, LGBT mega donor Tim Gill said, “We’re going to punish the wicked.”
The DNC also mentioned attacks on women, likely a reference to the religious liberty of doctors, nurses, and Catholic medical facilities to opt out of performing or assisting in abortions in violation of their consciences. Yet pro-abortion activists have dressed up as handmaids from The Handmaid’s Tale in protest of such liberties, suggesting that any restriction on abortion is tantamount to a misogynistic dystopia where women are ritualistically raped in order to bear children at the dictates of a conservative Christian government.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), a 2020 Democratic presidential contender, compared the Trump administration’s refusal to pay for an illegal immigrant woman’s abortion to — you guessed it — The Handmaid’s Tale.
According to research by sociologists George Yancey and David Williamson, animus against conservative Christians is just as strong as animus against other religious groups besides atheists. This “Christianophobia” is mostly directed against “fundamentalism,” and those with such animus “are more likely to be white, well educated, and wealthy.” The factor most connected to Christianophobia in their study was politics: “Nearly half of the anti-fundamentalists in our sample were political progressives.”
In fact, one of Yancey’s studies showed that some people who did not have a high view of LGBT people nonetheless supported LGBT activism while reporting high levels of animus against conservative Christians. Yancey suggested that “hatred of Christians” can lead to “support for sexual minorities.”
Many liberals do genuinely fear that religious liberty protections will make it impossible for LGBT people to find and keep a job, to find a place to live, and to flourish in society. Current activism goes far beyond these legitimate concerns, however.
Cases like that of Jack Phillips represent an overreach far beyond a “live and let live” compromise. These cases are less about making sure that LGBT people can thrive and more about forcing Christians to violate their consciences.
Liberals often claim that religious liberty is a tool to protect religious minorities, and it seems that argument is on full display in the pro-nones resolution. Indeed, it is fundamentally important to protect the religious liberty of all.
But the logic of opposing religious liberty for Christians — who are nominally a majority in the U.S. despite the stigma against conservative Christians — would also result in a loss of religious liberty for religious minorities like Muslims, Jews, and even nones.
Last year, lawyers for the State of Minnesota argued that the state should be able to force a Christian media company to make videos celebrating same-sex weddings in violation of its Christian beliefs. In arguments before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, those lawyers admitted that if the state could force Christian filmmakers to violate their religious beliefs, it could force a Muslim tattoo artist to write a message that tattoo artist disagrees with, like inking “Jesus Christ is the Son of God” on a Christian customer.
Religious liberty must be for everyone or no one. Democrats want to excoriate Christians when they want to live according to their consciences, but they want to champion religious minorities in the same struggle. This is rank hypocrisy.
The DNC could have welcomed religious nones into the party without a gratuitous attack on the religious liberty claims of conservative Christians. Instead, it arguably appealed to a Christianophobia that has gone too far, even for prominent secular lawyers like Mikey Weinstein.
And some people wonder why evangelicals are flocking in droves to Donald Trump.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.