Yesterday I posted the results of a conversation I had with a senior conservative Evangelical religious liberty activist who endorses the ‘Fairness For All’ proposal put forward by some prominent Evangelicals. FFA purports to be a middle ground between those seeking LGBT rights and those defending religious liberty.
Today, over at the Daily Signal, Ryan T. Anderson says that FFA is unacceptable. Excerpts:
Rod Dreher reports on a conversation he had with “a prominent conservative Evangelical political strategist” who requested to remain anonymous. Dreher writes: “He simply believes that ethically and politically, this is the right thing to do. In Smith’s view, in a pluralistic society like America 2018, do unto others as you would have them do unto you is a good rule for religious liberty advocates and gay rights supporters alike.”
The Golden Rule is always a good rule for all people. But the public policy being proposed doesn’t embody the Golden Rule. Making “gender identity” a protected class in federal policy, for example, could impose a nationwide transgender bathroom policy, a nationwide pronoun policy, and a nationwide sex-reassignment health care mandate.
This is anything but the Golden Rule. And imposing bad law on everyone else while exempting yourself is the exact opposite of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Dreher summarizes the anonymous insider’s perspective: “He said there really is a question of justice within a pluralistic society that conservative Christians have to face. We may sincerely believe that homosexuality is morally wrong, but at what point does the common good require that we agree that gay people have a right to be wrong?”
But that’s not what this policy debate is about. In the United States of America, people who identify as LGBT are free to live as they want. But SOGI laws, including Fairness for All, are not about freedom—they are about coercion. SOGI and Fairness for All are about forcing all Americans to embrace—and live out—certain beliefs about human sexuality. They are not about protecting the freedom of people to live as LGBT, but about coercing everyone else to support, facilitate, and endorse such actions.
This is one fundamental problem in equating coercive antidiscrimination laws with permissive religious freedom laws. And imposing a bad coercive policy on everyone while exempting select faith-based institutions is anything but fairness for all.
Antidiscrimination laws are about the government coercing people to live according to the majority’s values. Religious liberty laws are about removing government coercion and allowing people to live by their own beliefs. While there can be good justifications for certain antidiscrimination policies, there is no human right to them. Religious freedom, however, is a human right. Fairness for All mistakenly conflates these rather different concepts.
He poses a good question:
Does anyone even really know what elevating “gender identity” to a protected class in civil rights law will mean long-term? What does “discrimination” on the basis of “gender identity” entail?
Activists currently claim that combating “discrimination” requires new bathroom, pronoun, and health care policies. But when you consider the fact that most Americans hadn’t even heard the phrase “gender identity” five years ago, it seems premature to suggest that elevating it to a protected class status is a “basic human right” and a requirement of the Golden Rule. Now is not the time to rush to conclusions, but to think critically and prudently.
As I said yesterday, I welcome thoughtful commentary from people on both sides of the issue. I’m genuinely not sure where I stand. I favor compromise in principle, but the devil really is in the details — and as Anderson says, FFA could require more than people (religious conservatives and others) who do not support the new concept of “gender identity” should be expected to give. Is the situation faced by LGBT folks in 2018 so discriminatory that it requires taking liberties away from religious people whose (now unpopular) faith convictions prevent them from affirming whatever LGBTs want?
As longtime readers know, back in 2008 or thereabouts, I said that religious and social conservatives had lost the gay marriage fight, and that we had better start figuring out ways to protect religious liberty in the face of the inevitable. Many of us instead tried to fight politically and in the courts — and lost. I don’t have any patience for pro-LGBT folks who say, “If you had only offered us a compromise back then, you’d be sitting pretty now.” I don’t believe it. California had civil unions for gay couples, but that wasn’t enough for activists. I am deeply cynical about these things, and don’t trust the progressives to bargain in good faith.
On the other hand, as “Smith” told me yesterday, he has been in the room with top leadership of gay rights organizations, and he believes that they are negotiating in good faith, because they too are tired of the culture war. I have to be honest about my own cultural pessimism and cynicism on these matters, and admit that Smith has far more experience than I do. He might be right. I am trying to consider his case fairly. I don’t in any case believe that conservative Christians who are backing FFA are bad or unfaithful Christians because of it. At worst, I would think that they are wrong, but not evil.
That said, conservative church people by now are used to the game in which progressives say they just want “dialogue” and “compromise,” and use what ground conservatives cede to them as a beachhead to launch an all-out assault on the people they promised five minutes earlier to tolerate.
That said x 2, there is no chance that conservatives are going to prevail in post-Christian America. The best we can do is delay, I think. That might be enough. If FFA is truly as bad as Anderson says it is, then I would fight it even if I believed that at some point in my lifetime, the battle was going to be decisively lost. I would battle it because it was the right thing to do, and because the delaying tactics would give wise Christians time to prepare for job loss and other forms of persecution. That’s not nothing.
Again, I welcome thoughtful commentary from both sides.