By Cathy Keim
To those of us old enough to remember 1993 like it was yesterday, all of the hysteria over the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) seems a bit overplayed. That was the year that Congress passed the federal RFRA with a unanimous vote in the House and a 97 to 3 majority in the Senate. President Bill Clinton happily signed the bill with not a protest or complaint.
For those of you that were not around then, the bill came about because Native American Indians were having trouble protecting their sacred grounds from intrusions such as roads and also were getting into trouble for using peyote in their religious ceremonies and then testing positive for drugs at their place of employment.
Many groups across a broad spectrum from the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Association of Evangelicals united behind this law. And hold on to your hats: then-Congressman Chuck Schumer of New York introduced it into the House!
So, if we have a federal law protecting us from being substantially burdened from our free exercise of religion, then why do 19 states have their own RFRA? In 1997 the Supreme Court ruled that the federal RFRA could not be applied at the state level, so some states enacted their own RFRA to cover issues at the state level. These state laws are essentially the same as the federal law.
How did 19 states pass their RFRA laws without any protest, but suddenly when Arizona passed an amendment to their existing law in 2014 there was such a ruckus that the governor vetoed it? In an action foreshadowing the NCAA threat to remove their basketball tournaments from Indiana, the NFL threatened to move the Super Bowl XLIX from Arizona if the law stood.
The thing that changed in the intervening 22 years was that gay marriage went from not even being on the horizon to an accomplished fact in many states. An example of how incredibly fast this sea change occurred is right here in Maryland. The gay marriage law was defeated in 2011 by a close vote mainly because black lawmakers from Prince George’s County and Baltimore declined to accept the argument that homosexuals were being discriminated against in the same way that blacks had had their civil rights denied.
In February 2012, the bill passed by a narrow margin. In response, petitions were circulated and signatures obtained to place this bill before the voters on the November elections as a referendum for its repeal. This is where it got very interesting. On May 9, 2012, President Obama publicly stated that he was for gay marriage. Once he changed his position, the opposition to gay marriage in the black community decreased markedly and Maryland became the first state to pass gay marriage by a popular vote with 52.4% voting to maintain the state law permitting it.
The change in the last 22 years was one-sided. The conservative Christian voters and the orthodox churches did not change their position. They are still standing squarely on their Christian beliefs as stated in the Bible, which they believe is the infallible Word of God.
The liberal churches and politicians are the ones that shifted. Governor Martin O’Malley, a Catholic, decided that he favored gay marriage. The Catholic Church did not budge. For the first time in history, sexual orientation has become the most important defining factor in our society.
Christians have been the acceptable group to ridicule; in fact, the only politically correct group that can be ridiculed for some years now. Christians that actually believe the orthodox tenets of their faith are considered to be bigots, rubes, stupid, and pathetic.
Homosexuals are defined only by their sexual orientation. Think about it: it doesn’t matter whether they are male or female, black or white, old or young, beautiful or ugly, intelligent or stupid – the only characteristic that counts is their sexual orientation. No other group wants to be so rigidly defined by only one characteristic.
Once that one characteristic is made known, all other people are to acknowledge that being gay is the best choice, not only for the homosexual, but for everyone. They are not equal; they are more equal.
My preference is that I would know somebody by their many attributes, not just one. I don’t know of heterosexuals that make this the defining factor of their existence. We are all sexual beings to one degree or another, but it is not the highest or most important part of our being.
Since homosexuals insist that this is the most important piece of their identity, they leave the rest of us little room to go our merry way. Despite most people not wanting to engage on the issue, we are forced to declare where we stand.
For orthodox Christians, there can be only one position. The Bible declares in both the Old and the New Testament that homosexuality is wrong. I know that this is hurtful to our friends and relatives that are gay, but the Bible leaves no room to wiggle. Trust me, I do not know any Christians that are gleeful about the difficulty that this truth brings to anyone that is struggling with their sexual identity.
So now we are at the point of the RFRA laws. The gay agenda and the orthodox Christian beliefs are on a collision course that cannot be avoided. Indeed, it would seem that the gay agenda is devised with this end in mind. No other course of action is acceptable except that everyone agree that the homosexual lifestyle is equal to the heterosexual lifestyle.
This is why we are seeing so many religious freedom lawsuits across the land. When orthodox Christians are pushed to choose between their religious beliefs and the law of the land, they will choose their religious beliefs, even if it means losing their business as several have.
These cases are not as simple as have been reported in the media. For instance, the florist in Washington state, sold flowers to the gay man on a regular basis, ostensibly a nonreligious transaction. What she refused to do was to use her God-given artistic talents to create special floral arrangements for his marriage to another man, which her conscience could not allow.
The wedding photographer in New Mexico refused to use her God-given artistic talents to create photos for a gay wedding that would have required her to be an integral part of the ceremony. These people were unable to violate their conscience by participating in a ceremony that their religious convictions and all of history said was wrong.
So, whose beliefs are more important: the gay couple that wants to force people to participate in their wedding – a religious event – or the people that respectfully decline and refer the gay couple to another business?
How it is answered will determine whether our country is still a land of religious freedom as outlined in our First Amendment.
In Indiana there is an overwhelming flood of coercion from many companies that say they will not do business in Indiana if the governor does not veto the law. This is another case where the conservative politicians need to stand their ground. Once they have chosen their position based on their principles, then they should stand no matter the pressure that is exerted.
The presidential candidates had better be looking at this issue and deciding where their principles lead them because this question will be tossed at them. In fact, it would be helpful if they would intervene now and let everyone know where they stand. Rather than cowering before the media, let the conservative politicians play offense and stand for their principles and support Governor Pence.