GOP Puts Social Conservatism on Ice Floe, Pushes
A large group of Republicans have signed a “friend of the court” brief supporting same-sex marriage. The conservative friend who tipped me off to this says:
It’s quite the litany of GOP staffers, politicians, and consultants. It’s getting increasingly harder to contend that social conservatives have any home in the GOP. I think we’re in the process of transitioning from “useful idiots” to “political liability.” Social conservatives like to ask, “Why would you want a ‘bigot’ to bake you a cake anyway?” Well, why would you want to be part of liberal party anyway?
Let any social and religious conservatives who have eyes to see recognize that this list represents the GOP Establishment. You have likely heard of only a few of these folks, but the list represents the people who actually make the party work. The social liberals have won decisively. Let there be no more illusions.
The only names that surprised me on the list were my friend Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist (but then, he’s a libertarian, so this makes sense), and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, more on which later. As I have been saying since at least 2008, social and religious conservatives have to grasp that we have lost this issue resoundingly, and the only thing we can realistically hope for is the right to be left alone. The young libertarian journalist Charles C.W. Cooke speaks truth here:
The Federalist: What about the broader concerns social conservatives have regarding the foundations of a strong civil society? What about the slippery slope argument surrounding gay marriage? How long before evangelicals are coerced to bake cakes at gay weddings or go out of business? Even if social conservatives accept federalist answers as a means of survival, it’s impossible to believe that progressives would have respect for process.
Charles Cooke: Well, I would say that traditional conservatives have no better friends on the question on conscience. If there should be any coalition in modern American politics that is ironclad, it should be that one. The real fight on the question of gay marriage is not over marriage anymore; that one has been lost. For better or for worse, the public opinion has reached a tipping point. The court is almost certain to rewrite the Fourteenth Amendment and pretend that it means something it doesn’t.
That is to say the new problem is Brendan Eich. The new problem is Elane photography in New Mexico. And if libertarians can’t make their argument in favor of conscience rights and religious liberty to those conservatives, then they are hopeless. In my view, this is going to be the great struggle of the next 20 years, socially – preventing the question of gay marriage of morphing overnight into question of whether it is acceptable for anyone to disagree.
If Cooke is right — and I believe he is — then social and religious conservatives would still be compelled to vote Republican if the GOP were the party that stood for leaving us alone, because we have a right to be wrong.
The same-sex marriage issue is all about religious liberty now. If the Republican Party accepts the progressive line on opposition to SSM — that it is equivalent to racist bigotry — then we are going to see Republicans supporting things like University of Oklahoma president David Boren kicking the SAE fraternity off of campus because some of its members engaged in racist speech. I admit that I shed no tears for the fate of that fraternity, but David Harsanyi sees an ominous precedent:
With that said, in his statement, Boren seems to adorn his condemnation of racism with extras that might assist him legally in the future. He claims that the students created a “threatening” atmosphere and “hostile learning environment.” Now, I’m not a lawyer, but this seems like a difficult thing to prove, and the sort of retroactive accusation that would allow public university presidents to expel nearly anyone who makes controversial statements.
For example, opposition to gay marriage is now considered a form of bigotry among many liberals. So could a public university president expel students who publicly oppose same-sex marriage or staged protests or made proselytizing YouTube videos? Surely a gay student could claim that a pro-traditional marriage protest was creating a threatening environment. Should we just trust that universities won’t? Could Jewish students who are exposed to ugly anti-Israel marches argue that the protesters are fostering a hostile learning environments for Jewish students? Considering the ugliness that often goes on at those protests, I imagine they would have a pretty strong case.
Moreover, Boren tweeted after the protest: “To those who have misused their free speech in such a reprehensible way, I have a message for you. You are disgraceful.” Whether people “misuse” free speech or not doesn’t change the protection it offers. The university acted quickly, no doubt, because it wants to avoid being painted as an institution filled with bigoted yahoos. But there are broader implications in the decision. And it seems that the initial reaction from most lawyers is that OU can’t expel students for the things they say.
Yes, the SAE racists are disgraceful. But is it really the case that people who have said disgraceful things should be expelled from a university, and their fraternity house closed down? Again, I don’t have any sympathy with the SAE people being condemned by the university and suffering stigma for their behavior (though I would hope and expect the community to give them a way to make amends), but for an institution to throw the entire fraternity off campus ought to focus the minds of orthodox Christians, both individual and groups, whose views on homosexuality are thought by progressives (including progressive-minded Republicans) as being indistinct from racism.
Anyway, I look forward to Ben’s explanation of why he signed the friend of the court brief. I mentioned Gen. McChrystal’s name being significant, and here’s why: the US Navy is reportedly attempting to dismiss a highly regarded Navy chaplain because of his orthodox Christian views on homosexuality. From the Military Times:
A Pentecostal chaplain once assigned to elite Navy SEAL units may be kicked out of the Navy for allegedly scolding sailors for homosexuality and premarital sex.
Lt. Cmdr. Wesley Modder was given a “detachment for cause” letter on Feb. 17 after his commanders concluded that he is “intolerant” and “unable to function in the diverse and pluralistic environment” of his current assignment at the Navy Nuclear Power Training Command in South Carolina.
Modder is fighting the dismissal with attorneys from the Liberty Institute, which advocates for religious expression in the military and in public institutions. Modder has served more than 19 years and could lose his retirement benefits if the Navy convenes a board of inquiry and officially separate him before he completes 20 years of service.
He told service members that premarital sex — homo and hetero — is wrong. This is basic orthodox Christian belief. But it is no longer acceptable in the US military, apparently. More:
Modder’s 19 years of service includes many glowing fitness reports. He spent several years providing spiritual counsel to Navy SEALS, and in December received a letter of commendation from the head of the Navy Special Warfare Command, who called Modder the “best of the best” and a “talented and inspirational leader.”
Modder’s Liberty Institute attorney, Michael Berry, said the effort to fire him reflects a broader cultural change in the military.
“I think what we are seeing is a hostility to religious expression in the military now,” Berry said. “What we’re seeing is this new modern, pluralistic, Navy where service members are encouraged to be hypersensitive, especially about issues of faith, marriage and family.”
From a Fox News account, which makes it sound like Modder was victim of a witch hunt:
“We are starting to see cases where chaplains have targets on their backs,” Berry said. “They have to ask themselves, ‘Do I stay true to my faith or do I keep my job?’”
He said Modder is being punished because of his Christian faith.
“They want chaplains to be glorified summer camp counselors and not speak truth and love into people’s lives,” Berry told me. “There are some anti-religious elements in our military. Anytime somebody wants to live their faith out – there are people who say that is offensive.”
Modder told me he was devastated by the accusations. He believes charges have been trumped up.
“The military now wants a 2.0 chaplain instead of a legacy chaplain,” Modder said. “They want a chaplain to accommodate policy that contradicts Scripture.”
Modder’s troubles started on Dec. 6 when an assistant in his office showed up to work with a pair of Equal Opportunity representatives and a five-page complaint documenting grievances against the chaplain.
The lieutenant junior grade officer went on to detail concerns about Moody’s views on “same-sex relationships/marriages, homosexuality, different standards of respect for men and women, pre-marital sex and masturbation.”
Modder said the young officer had only been working with him for about a month and would constantly pepper him with questions pertaining to homosexuality. He had no idea that the officer was in fact gay – and married to another man.
“His five page letter of complaint was unconscionable,” Modder said. “He said I had a behavioral pattern of being anti-discriminatory of same sex orientation.”
The chaplain was not even given a chance to defend himself. He was immediately removed from duties and told to clean out his office.
If Modder’s expulsion is upheld, it is clear that there is no place in the US military for orthodox Christian chaplains (or Muslim, or Jewish ones). When you have lost the military and the Republican Party, you have lost. The hounding of religious conservatives from public life over homosexuality is just beginning. The religious liberty issues that will arise when SCOTUS constitutionalizes same-sex marriage this summer will focus the minds of religious conservatives intensely. We will need friends wherever we can find them. We had better hope that there are some principled libertarians in the GOP.