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Cancelling Lee Chatfield

Lee Chatfield, former Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, and religious liberty advocate (To The Point)

This is an important Live Not By Lies story, because it tells you where things are headed in this society: religious liberty is being seen by elites as nothing more than a cover for bigotry. Excerpt:

The Kalamazoo Community Foundation is the latest organization to end its membership investment with Southwest Michigan First, citing a misalignment of values and vision.

Southwest Michigan First has taken heavy criticism after the regional economic development nonprofit hired former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield as its CEO last week.

Chatfield, who served as a Republican in the House for 6 years, has taken fire for his policy stances while in the legislature, including in 2019 when he said he would not allow civil rights legislation to come before the House because it would restrict religious freedom.

“We are proud to support the LGBTQ civil rights advocacy agenda,” the Kalamazoo Community Foundation said in a Thursday, Feb. 18 statement. “Our vision of Kalamazoo County as the most equitable place to live can only be realized by centering equity in all our community strategies including economic development.

“Southwest Michigan First’s values and vision for economic development do not align with the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. We have ended our membership investment with Southwest Michigan First effective immediately,” the statement continued.

Chatfield’s job at Southwest Michigan First is nonpartisan. The Kalamazoo Community Foundation is punishing Southwest Michigan First for stances its new CEO took in the legislature. Like this:

Chatfield said previously, during a 2019 media interview, that he would not support a change to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act expanding anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The former lawmaker noted at the time he does not believe anyone should be discriminated against, but said he believed the proposed change would have infringed on religious beliefs.

Chatfield is right about that. What the Kalamazoo Community Foundation is saying is that religious liberty does not matter when it comes up against civil rights claims for sexual orientation and gender identity. The president of Western Michigan University has also denounced Chatfield’s hiring. 

The Kalamazoo City Commission has withdrawn its contribution to Southwest Michigan First, in protest of Chatfield’s hiring.

Lee Chatfield is the son of a conservative Bible church preacher. Again, he is absolutely correct to say that adding SOGI to civil rights law is going to adversely impact religious liberty. But his views on SOGI and religious liberty have nothing to do with the job he has taken now. This is 100 percent about punishing a Christian for his Biblically orthodox views on LGBT. What these intolerant elites in the region are doing is canceling him, making it impossible for him to work in the public sector because of the kind of Christian he is. They are saying that Lee Chatfield’s accomplishments in the legislature don’t matter. He will never be good enough to lead an economic development organization because of the value he places on religious liberty.

This is not happening in coastal blue America. It’s happening in Michigan. The message it sends is that people are going to have to decide whether their religious convictions matter more to them than worldly success. Again, Chatfield’s new job has nothing to do with LGBT rights. They are punishing him for his religious beliefs. Someone who holds Chatfield’s religious beliefs, and concern for religious liberty, is now not welcome in elite leadership positions.

Pastors, if you are not preparing your people for these realities in this world, you are doing them a disservice. Parents, if you are not preparing your children for the fact that they will be entering a world of employment in which their faith convictions will likely cause them to be discriminated against, and their career advancement checked because they cannot in good conscience sign off on certain principles, then you are failing them. Seriously, it’s coming. When a politician as accomplished as Lee Chatfield — who was Speaker of the Michigan House! — is deemed radioactive by the woke civic leadership class because of his Christian faith convictions, it is a sign of the times. For the people who run Kalamazoo, an elected representative who prizes religious liberty is nothing more than a bigot.

In Kalamazoo, anti-religious bigotry is a job requirement for elite leadership roles.

UPDATE: Well, well, well, now we know something about Lee Chatfield’s character:

Former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, a Republican who’s the new leader of a southwest Michigan economic development organization, says he will support expanding the state’s civil rights act to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The man he replaced in that role made over $720,000 per year.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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