Conservative radio personality Dana Loesch joined former Democratic congressional candidate Jessica Ehrlich on The Kelly File on Friday night (with host Martha McCallum) to discuss the Benham brothers, who were allegedly dropped by HGTV for expressing their religious views on abortion and homosexuality. Earlier in the day, the North Carolina brothers announced that SunTrust had pulled — and then reinstated — all of their listed properties and those of several franchisees across the country.
Jessica Ehrlich defended Sun Trust’s original decision to dump the brothers, saying, “I think that’s fully within the right of Sun Trust to do, depending on the contractual agreement they had with the brothers.” She criticized Sun Trust, however, for reversing their decision. “What’s sad and disturbing is that really, what you have here, are two attention-seeking reality television wanna-be-appearing brothers who have an extreme agenda and are trying to cloak it in this sort of religious freedom characterization and using that as a way to get their own business and drive that and I find that disturbing.”
Dana Loesch accused Ehrlich of being an anti-Christian bigot.
“There is no anti-Christian bigotry here,” Ehrlich shot back. “They have cloaked their political views, which are radical in the— these are not Christian views.” She added, “They have taken their anti-choice — they are anti-abortion and they are anti-homosexuality and those are their positions. Those are not the views of all Christians. And for you to say that is outrageous.”
Do you see what Ehrlich is doing here? She is reframing the debate about religious liberty and making it about the Benham brothers’ political views. Because not all Christians agree with the Benhams, Ehrlich (apparently now a self-appointed arbiter of Christian orthodoxy) comes to the conclusion that their religious views are irrelevant and the Benham brothers and others who share their beliefs must be viewed only as craven political animals. Because their religious beliefs spill over into the public policy arena, Ehrlich thinks that their speech isn’t covered by religious liberty protections, particularly on topics she thinks are “extreme” and “radical.”
Perhaps you’ve noticed how liberal propagandists are trying to slyly replace “freedom of religion” with “freedom of worship” in discussions about religion in America. During his recent commencement address at Hillsdale College, author Eric Metaxas explained the difference:
“Freedom of worship” says you may do what you like in that building on Sunday mornings or whenever you like, but when you come out you will bow to the secular orthodoxy of the state. That is the antithesis of what the Founders meant in guaranteeing “freedom of religion.” They knew that a robust exercise of religion was necessary for America to survive. That people exercising their religious convictions was vital to the success of this fragile experiment in liberty called America.
Metaxas noted that they have “freedom of worship” in China and “it is meaningless and it is vile.”
This seems to be Ehrlich’s view — that religion must not enter into political dialogue or inform public policy. The only proper place for it is in the church.
Alexis de Tocqueville disagreed, observing when he visited the United States in the 1830’s that, “The safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law as well as the surest pledge of freedom.” He said that, “Religion in America…must be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of it.”
Those who would defend meaningful and robust religious liberty — the free exercise of religion — must never accept the premise that an American forfeits his religious liberty when his religious beliefs influence his political opinions. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.