Don’t Surrender Religious Liberty to Fascists

Republicans in Indiana and Arkansas bow to beatings of the “tolerant.”

In a race to see who can cave the fastest, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson reneged on his promise to sign his state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), instead sending it back to state legislators with a request to “recall it and change the language.” Perhaps he was upset that Indiana Governor Mike Pence was getting all the attention for wimping out on his own state’s religious freedom protections. Why should Republicans cave once when they can cave twice? Clearly, the beatings have been effective.

The brouhaha in Arkansas stems from the RFRA bill that passed the legislature on Tuesday and dares to assert, “[N]o human authority can, in any case or manner whatsoever, control or interfere with the right of conscience.” Furthermore, the state “shall not substantially burden a person’s right to exercise of religion … unless it is demonstrated that applying the substantial burden … (1) Is essential to further a compelling governmental interest; and (2) Is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

Sounds reasonable enough, but when has reason ever stopped the Left? Indeed, to the ever-classy New York Times, such a bill can only be “driven by bigotry against gays and lesbians.”

Never mind that neither Arkansas’ bill nor Indiana’s says a whit about the “LGBT community.” To a hammer, everything is a nail, and to the Left, everything is anti-gay. And leftists have deliberately hijacked the term “religious liberty” in order to redefine it from a God-given right to be cherished and preserved into a smoke screen for hate and discrimination. Indeed, the Times continued, “Religious-freedom laws, which were originally intended to protect religious minorities from burdensome laws or regulations, have become increasingly invoked by conservative Christian groups as gay rights in general – and marriage equality in particular – found greater acceptance nationally.”

It’s all well and good until Christians are protected.

And the Times isn’t alone. The leftist cultural assault on religious liberty has extended from the mainstream media to social media, to the point that laws in no way permitting discrimination are being framed as driven by discrimination.

Corporate CEOs have joined in the hazing, with Apple’s Tim Cook blasting Indiana’s law and Walmart’s Doug McMillon taking on Arkansas’. Both companies, of course, have no problem doing business in nation’s like China that have horrendous human rights records.

Hutchison’s and Pence’s inglorious retreats only give credence to the Left’s claims. By ceding the point that their state’s RFRAs require clarification and fixes, the gubernatorial duo practically endorsed the Left’s claim that the bills are discriminatory and allowed the opposition to define the laws. While the best offense might very well be a good defense, a pathetic defense with no offense is a recipe for loss, and that’s exactly what Republicans offered this past week.

Instead of rushing to retreat, Pence, Hutchinson and Republicans across the country should have gone on an immediate and aggressive offense, publicizing the multiple cases of small business owners who have been penalized, fined and even forced out of business for refusing to participate in same-sex ceremonies in direct violation of their faith and conscience. Republicans should have shown how advocates for the homosexual agenda are working relentlessly to take away 70-year-old grandmother Barronelle Stutzman’s business and are also threatening her home and life savings. Or how the supposed “tolerant” pro-homosexual crowd targeted Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a family-owned bakery that may now have to pay up to $150,000 in fines. Or how the Left cheered when a Catholic couple, Robert and Cynthia Gifford, were fined and ordered to put their staff through sensitivity training (a.k.a., re-education camp) for declining to host a same-sex marriage ceremony at their farm.

But instead of pointing out not only the utter hypocrisy but also the blatant fascism of the “tolerant” Left, Republicans asked, “How high?” when Democrats hollered, “Jump!” With a losing strategy like this, who needs enemies?

Meanwhile, Republicans’ inability to communicate effectively is racking up losses. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, Americans are divided on this issue, with 49% saying businesses should be required to serve same-sex weddings and 47% saying businesses should be allowed to decline service for religious reasons. A public that understands Liberty would never be so evenly split.

Unfortunately, the Left has translated religious liberty – and most other rights, for that matter – into something Americans enjoy at the pleasure of the government rather than something government infringes at its own peril. And this translation is a danger to all Americans.

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