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Tim Farron: Christian Canary In The Coalmine

Tim Farron resigned his post [1] as leader of the UK’s Liberal Democratic party. You might say that he quit because the party took a walloping in the recent election, which it did. But Farron quit because the UK’s secular establishment hounded him constantly about his Evangelical Christian faith. Here is his resignation speech [2] in full:

This last two years have seen the Liberal Democrats [3] recover since the devastation of the 2015 election.

That recovery was never inevitable but we have seen the doubling of our party membership, growth in council elections, our first parliamentary by-election win for more than a decade, and most recently our growth at the 2017 general election.

Most importantly the Liberal Democrats have established ourselves with a significant and distinctive role – passionate about Europe, free trade, strong well-funded public services underpinned by a growing market economy.

No one else occupies that space. Against all the odds, the Liberal Democrats matter again.

We can be proud of the progress we have made together, although there is much more we need to do.

From the very first day of my leadership, I have faced questions about my Christian faith. I’ve tried to answer with grace and patience. Sometimes my answers could have been wiser.

At the start of this election, I found myself under scrutiny again – asked about matters to do with my faith. I felt guilty that this focus was distracting attention from our campaign, obscuring our message.

Journalists have every right to ask what they see fit. The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader.

A better, wiser person than me may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to have remained faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment.

To be a political leader – especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 – and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me.

I’m a liberal to my finger tips, and that liberalism means that I am passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me.

There are Christians in politics who take the view that they should impose the tenets of faith on society, but I have not taken that approach because I disagree with it – it’s not liberal and it is counterproductive when it comes to advancing the gospel.

Even so, I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in.

In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.

That’s why I have chosen to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

I intend to serve until the parliamentary recess begins next month, at which point there will be a leadership election according to the party’s rules.

This is a historic time in British politics. What happens in the next months and years will shape our country for generations.

My successor will inherit a party that is needed now more than ever before. Our future as an open, tolerant and united country is at stake.

The cause of British liberalism has never been needed more. People who will fight for a Britain that is confident, generous and compassionate are needed more than ever before.

That is the challenge our party and my successor faces and the opportunity I am certain that they will rise to.

I want to say one more thing: I joined our party when I was 16, it is in my blood, I love our history, our people, I thoroughly love my party.

Imagine how proud I am to lead this party. And then imagine what would lead me to voluntarily relinquish that honour.

In the words of Isaac Watts it would have to be something ‘so amazing, so divine, (it) demands my heart, my life, my all’.”

Farron supports same-sex marriage and supports abortion rights, but that was not enough for his media inquisitors. They wanted to know if he thought those things were sinful. It wasn’t enough for him to pledge to defend gay rights and abortion rights. It wasn’t even enough for him to clarify that no, he doesn’t think that gay sex is a sin [4](a heterodox position for a Christian to take, but he took it.) No, Farron had to think correct thoughts, and to have thought them at all times, clearly, or be shamed and hounded out of public life. As he has been.

At least in the end, he learned that it profits a man nothing to gain the world if he loses his soul.

Michael Brendan Dougherty: [5]

We live in an age in which our liberal media elite and most people who call themselves Christian in social surveys treat liberalism and Christianity as strangers to themselves and each other. Farron sought relief from his public trial by recalling the proud history of his faith in the reformation of British politics. No one wanted to hear it. He called upon the decency and forbearance that are supposed to mark British society. There is none left.‌

Unlike Tim Farron, I think the creative tension between political liberalism and Christian orthodoxy has ceased to be creative and is now just tension. But it is hard not to respect his witness. Today is the day Tim Farron landed on a truth in his statement: “We are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.” The truth has set him free.


You saw last week Sen. Bernie Sanders declaring that an Evangelical Christian nominee for a budget office position in the Trump Administration was unfit for public service because of a private theological opinion he holds about the fate of Muslims in the afterlife. You saw a Christian colleague of Sanders’s, a Democrat who is a theological universalist, agree with him; the Evangelical nominee is the wrong kind of Christian, apparently, at least for these two Democratic senators.

We are not yet in the same place as Britain regarding Christianity and liberal, Democratic party politics. But we’re getting there very quickly. Ask yourself: what stands in the way of the US devolving into British-style bigotry? No laws were broken in the hounding of Tim Farron from political life. It was just the relentless pressure from secular bigots in the media, and, one presumes, at least some liberal voters.

A couple of years ago, columnist Damon Linker — himself a liberal — denounced liberal intolerance of Christianity. [6] He wrote:

Contemporary liberals increasingly think and talk like a class of self-satisfied commissars enforcing a comprehensive, uniformly secular vision of the human good. The idea that someone, somewhere might devote her life to an alternative vision of the good — one that clashes in some respects with liberalism’s moral creed — is increasingly intolerable.

That is a betrayal of what’s best in the liberal tradition.

Liberals should be pleased and express gratitude when people do good deeds, whether or not those deeds are motivated by faith. They should also be content to give voluntary associations (like religious colleges) wide latitude to orient themselves to visions of the human good rooted in traditions and experiences that transcend liberal modernity — provided they don’t clash in a fundamental way with liberal ideals and institutions.

In the end, what we’re seeing is an effort to greatly expand the list of beliefs, traditions, and ways of life that fundamentally clash with liberalism. That is an effort that no genuine liberal should want to succeed.

What happened to a liberalism of skepticism [7], modesty, humility, and openness to conflicting notions of the highest good? What happened to a liberalism of pluralism [8] that recognizes that when people are allowed to search for truth in freedom, they are liable to seek and find it in a multitude of values, beliefs, and traditions? What happened to a liberalism that sees this diversity [9] as one of the finest flowers of a free society rather than a threat to the liberal democratic order?

It’s going away, fast. Today the Democratic Party will tolerate Christians like Tim Kaine, a Catholic who supports abortion rights [10]though he is personally opposed to abortion. For how much longer will they? And is it possible for any Democrat to succeed in national party politics without being 100 percent on board with every gay rights claim, even those made at the expense of religious liberty?

If it is, it won’t be much longer. There are no restraining forces in liberal politics, or in the institutions of liberalism (media, academia, etc). As I’ve said again and again: there are conservative Christians who may not like Donald Trump or approve of him, but who voted for him because they are confident that the Democrats hate them and would seek to do them harm. I believe they are correct in their judgment of the Democrats, though not necessarily of Donald Trump. The point is that these Christians are not afraid of a phantom here. This liberal intolerance is real. Britain is farther along the road than we in the US are, but we’re getting there.

It’s not only going to be in politics. What does gay rights have to do with soccer? A Christian female soccer player quit the national team [11] last week rather than wear the gay pride jersey the team decreed its players must wear. Believers who work for companies are going to be required to declare themselves “allies” of the LGBT community, either formally or informally, or fall under suspicion. If you think you can declare yourself an ally and retain your faith-based dissent quietly, think again. One day, you will be asked why you attend a bigot church if you aren’t a bigot yourself. And so on.

Liberals will say it won’t happen here. Don’t believe them. There is no reason to believe them at all. None. True, there are some liberals who oppose this intolerant, illiberal trend within their tribe, but they are not the determinative factor.

Hear me clearly: Christians have to fight this politically and legally with all we have. But we also have to prepare for serious and painful trials ahead. The grounds for political and legal victories in the future are fast eroding. From The Benedict Option [12]:

The practical challenges facing us are unlike any that most believers in this country have ever dealt with. Schools and colleges—morally, spiritually, and vocationally—will have to prepare young believers for some increasingly harsh realities.

Because of florists, bakers, and photographers having been dragged through the courts by gay plaintiffs, we now know that some orthodox Christians will lose their businesses and their livelihoods if they refuse to recognize the new secular orthodoxies. We can expect that many more Christians will either be denied employment opportunities by licensing or other professional requirements, because they have been driven out of certain workplaces by outright bigotry or by dint of the fact that they cannot in good conscience work in certain fields. What will they do?

If we aren’t thinking about these questions and talking about them seriously within our churches and Christian communities, we are fools. We don’t have a lot of time here. Tim Farron is a Christian canary in the coal mine. We had better have a Plan B.

141 Comments (Open | Close)

141 Comments To "Tim Farron: Christian Canary In The Coalmine"

#1 Comment By CMPT On June 17, 2017 @ 7:04 pm

MichaelLF: “In the end, despite his many, rare virtues, the thrust of Rod’s work is divisive, creating a culture of resentment.”

This statement reminds me of someone I know who works at a talk radio station. This person, a Christian if ever there was one, is a paragon of both humility and virtue, yet he’s worked for over 20 years in an industry that is utterly poisonous. It never seems to cross his mind that his support of talk radio, like this blog, counteract so many of the values he holds dear.

[NFR: If this blog offends you, don’t read it. I don’t care to hear your nannying. — RD]

#2 Comment By Dave On June 17, 2017 @ 7:09 pm

It’s impossible to see the struggle between LGBT and Christianity as anything except a power struggle. Christianity caused the dis-empowerment and marginalization of the gay population and now the opposition is returning the favor. For Christians who can only see the present world as their reward, it will surely be distressing indeed.

#3 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 17, 2017 @ 7:23 pm

As long as conservative Christians are determined to take away and/or limit the rights of others, they should not be surprised when others want to limit the rights of conservative Christians.

Which simply goes to show that Lisa doesn’t understand beans about what “rights” are. They don’t accrue based on good behavior, they are codified in law or constitutions because it is neither your neighbor’s nor our government’s damn business to decide which speech is worthy of begin protected. (This, incidentally, is one reason I hoped that Elena Kagen’s nomination to the Supreme Court would be rejected. She doesn’t understand it either.)

It also appears that when Lisa hears “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” she rejoices to see it coming.

Anti discrimination law won’t protect poeple who hold “discriminatory” views. It doesn’t protect racists, it protects people from racists. The same reasoning will apply to those who don’t affirm same sex “marriage”, and the other lgbtxyz rights issues.

In what alternative universe did you generate that misbegotten muddle? That may be your personal vision of a perfect dystopia, but its not what either our constitution or the civil rights laws say.

All such laws are “viewpoint neutral,” so your views have nothing to do with the extent of your rights. And civil rights don’t protect anyone “from racists.” What they mostly do is provide that the artificiality of “race” is not a valid reason to treat anyone differently from anyone else, no matter what your motive.

Raven Silverstein’s notion of religious liberty is indeed very close to that of Rod Dreher, but I don’t think it conforms to the liberties inscribed in our constitution. I also suspect that our good Franklin Evans will be offended at such blatant racism being promulgated under the banner of Wicca, albeit he has clearly distinguished between pagans, heathens, and Wiccans.

First Amendment jurisprudence does not reserve the right of individuals to splash their religious preferences all over their potential customer base. It provides that government shall not weight in on what religion or doctrine is True, or even what is the precedented doctrine of any given denomination. It provides that government shall not infringe individuals in the practice of their own religious faith. And some subsequent civil rights laws restrain individuals and organizations from intimidating people who exercise a constitutionally protected right — meaning that if the government can’t forbid it, coercion to stop a fellow citizen is likewise prohibited.

Silverstein could probably secure herself by not doing “custom made” decorations, and putting little inscriptions about purity of blood on each of the standard floor models sold. What inter-racial couple wants decorations inscribed with slogans about not diluting The Blood?

But what should, when all the dust settles, protect Elane Photography and Barronell Stutzman et al. is not “religious liberty,” but the holding that government authority cannot be employed to coerce speech or expression, to put words in the mouth of someone who abhors the message. See, e.g., Hurley v. Irish Gays and Lesbians of South Boston.

There is a world of difference between ‘I’m sorry, I can’t celebrate your wedding, because I don’t believe what you are celebrating is a wedding,’ and, ‘I know you’re having a wedding, I just think you picked the wrong partner.’

This is the fundamental difference between Loving v. Virginia on the one hand, and the line of cases from Goodridge to Obergefell on the other. Nobody said that what the Lovings shared wasn’t a marriage. Their crime was that they married. The plaintiffs in all the same-sex marriage cases said ‘We know what we share isn’t recognized as a marriage at all… but we want it to be.’ And the refusal is based on ‘That just isn’t what marriage is, and I cannot celebrate is as such when I believe that to be false.’

No doubt Lester Maddox had beliefs bordering on the religious about separation of the races… but that wasn’t a valid basis to refuse service to anyone. (And Elane Photography never refused served to gay individuals because they were gay.) Now if someone asked Maddox to host a fundraising dinner for a campaign to promote civil rights laws… he could refuse to host it. Not that the NAACP would have asked him in the first place.

#4 Comment By Perichoresis On June 17, 2017 @ 10:13 pm

Ain’t Benedict: “The modern Republican Party simply does not allow open atheists or the “wrong” kind of believers among their leadership or candidates. Feel free to waste your afternoon trying to find one.”

Only took me two seconds to think of one–Mitt Romney, Mormon, Republican nominee for President in 2012. Evangelicals (who stringently disagree with basic Mormon theology) voted for him overwhelmingly.

#5 Comment By Winston On June 17, 2017 @ 10:34 pm

What about the orginal Christians-the ones in the ME?


Israel’s Yinon Plan, Saudi Wahhabism & US Wars: Arab Christians Pushed Into Mass Exodus

#6 Comment By EngineerScotty On June 18, 2017 @ 12:54 am

No, they won’t have to repeal anything. Anti discrimination law won’t protect poeple who hold “discriminatory” views. It doesn’t protect racists, it protects people from racists. The same reasoning will apply to those who don’t affirm same sex “marriage”, and the other lgbtxyz rights issues.

Which is important to separate the issue of religion, with the issue of discriminatory conduct. Nobody should be discriminated against on account of their religious identity or faith. Discriminatory conduct should not be protected, however.

A corporation should not be able to fire someone for being a Roman Catholic or a devout Wahabbi Muslim or a conservative Evangelical. A corporation should be able to discipline an employee who lectures his co-workers that they are going to Hell, or a manager who mistreats gays or women under his charge. And by the same token, companies shouldn’t be able to fire gay employees for simply being gay (this is still legal in many states, I remind you, and attempts to change this are routinely opposed by conservative Christians), but ought to be able to punish a worker who engages in sexual misconduct or harassment in the office. Where the line is between (protected) identity and (unprotected) conduct, though, is the crux of the debate.

Rod, and other religious conservatives, engage in a risky gambit when they attempt to conflate the two things. If it is argued, essentially, that observance of their religion requires them to engage in discrimination of some form, and that laws/rules seek to prohibit discrimination are themselves working discrimination–it seems to be hoped that they can receive an exemption from such rules. But there’s already a boatload of jurisprudence on this–this debate was thoroughly hashed out when Title IX and such were passed, and women came to the workforce en masse, and many theological arguments that God commands women to stay in the kitchen were put forth–and laughed out of court. There’s a slight difference, I suppose, in that some view homosexuality as a matter of behavior rather than identity; but the important point is that religion, with a few important exceptions (such as churches and other religious bodies), is not a get-out-of-jail-free card as far as antidiscrimination laws are concerned.

The danger for Christians in declaring “our faith requires us to discriminate” (a dubious theological claim, even if one stipulates that homosexual acts are sinful in Christian teaching), is that rather than garnering religious protection for discriminatory conduct; they instead may cause their faith to be discredited. There are plenty of examples of people (not Rod) who on one hand fret about Christian officials and professionals being mistreated, but on the other hand insist that Christian officials and professionals be exempt from the material duties and responsibilities of their office or profession. While reasonable accommodations should be made, y’all can’t have it both ways.

#7 Comment By Thrice A Viking On June 18, 2017 @ 2:21 am

Ain’t Benedict, I don’t know your religion and why you think it disqualifies you from being a Republican candidate. But I believe that it’s mainly party primaries that determine who the candidate, with a few caucuses thrown into the mix. Given that these voters elected a man for POTUS of very dubious religiosity, why do you think your chances are doomed other than for being a lousy candidate?

#8 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On June 18, 2017 @ 1:21 pm

Thrice A Viking says:
Ain’t Benedict, I don’t know your religion and why you think it disqualifies you from being a Republican candidate. But I believe that it’s mainly party primaries that determine who the candidate, with a few caucuses thrown into the mix. Given that these voters elected a man for POTUS of very dubious religiosity, why do you think your chances are doomed other than for being a lousy candidate?

Republican primary voters are what prevents an atheist or even an agnostic Republican candidate (Muslim and maybe Jewish candidates as well). There is a long list of third rails that prospective national party presidential candidates cannot touch and remain viable. Saying your not a Christian is certainly one of them for Republicans (possibly still for Democrats too). McCain and Trump certainly proved you don’t have to be a particularly good or sincere Christian, but they still felt compelled to pretend they felt strongly about being Christian. You’ll note that any time a Republican vying for the nomination slips up and implies they believe in evolution they feel compelled to qualify it or walk it back. The Democrats are similar in regard to abortion rights or gay rights, they have to pay lip service even it’s clear they are not sincerely strong supporters.

The Mitt Romney example brought up by Perichoresis is not a terribly good counter example because Romney thinks he’s a Christian and could easily be argued to be much more “christian” than Trump or McCain.

#9 Comment By CMPT On June 18, 2017 @ 1:39 pm

“If this blog offends you, don’t read it.”

The point I make is not about whether the blog offends me. I already know I have the option to read it or not read it. My point was about whether the blog can be counterproductive to the values you hold dear. Unless you believe you are infallible, it would seem that you, too, would believe that the possibility exists that your writings do, at times, counteract Christian values even if that is not your intent.

[NFR: Seems like concern trolling to me. — RD]

#10 Comment By VikingLS On June 18, 2017 @ 2:48 pm

“It’s impossible to see the struggle between LGBT and Christianity as anything except a power struggle. Christianity caused the dis-empowerment and marginalization of the gay population and now the opposition is returning the favor.”

Oh yes it is quite possible.

In reality the mainstream left at best saw gay people as cute eccentrics until a couple few decades ago and most were telling gay people to be happy with civil unions. After all it’s not like you could look around and see a lot of societies anywhere, Christian or not, that recognized homosexual RELATIONSHIPS (not just sex) as normal. American liberals didn’t either.

Now, the LGBT movement having ascended rather quickly liberals desperately need a scapegoat. Christians, having not all come around yet, provide one. SO all of a sudden it’s “Christians denied gay people rights! It wasn’t us! We were always on your side!”

I suspect I will get a lot of knee-jerk denials on this from the left. Who cares?

Conservatives Christians, we have to stop accepting this narrative.

#11 Comment By Perichoresis On June 18, 2017 @ 3:19 pm

CMPT: “This demonstrates that the questioning of Farron was not anything new, or inappropriate, in politics. Almost 40 years ago, we were asking similar questions of Gov. Cuomo. Roughly 60 years ago we asked similar questions of JFK. And, if a Muslim ever runs for President we’ll ask similar questions or him/her.”

I’m afraid you’re not getting the point. Cuomo was being attacked by *conservatives* for holding that personal view. It was *liberals* who were defending the idea that his personal religious views could be separate from his policy views and he could still lead a national liberal party. Same with Kennedy. With Farron, it is now liberals in the press and in his party who reject that fundamental liberal principle of pluralism.

“More importantly, it seems strange to suggest that no deeply held religious belief should ever be taken into consideration by voters or party members.”

It is only strange from a mindset that says whatever is objected to morally must fall within the purview of state action. For example, one can be morally opposed to smoking cigarettes, using marijuana, gambling, and prostitution but believe those things should be legal. To say that there is some moral flaw in a politician who holds that position is ridiculous. The whole point of liberalism is to tolerate that with which we disagree.

#12 Comment By MichaelLF On June 18, 2017 @ 8:52 pm


“The reason for that is that such bridge-building is useless. IT does not matter, because, from the perspective of a traditional social conservative, which is where Rod is coming from, there are really almost no bridges to be built with almost anyone on the left about anything that matters to us. The worldview and priorities are diametrically opposed.”

Don’t be such a quitter.

I hear the same comment from some of my leftist friends, including those who hate what we’re seeking at Berkeley and Evergreen.

One thing that matters a great deal to every conservative Christian here is the promotion of religious liberty. And to win that fight you need to enlist everyone you can who believes in liberal toleration.

I read an article on Vox tonight about Fallon that worries about growing illiberalism. Which shows that you have allies on the left.

The allies are out there if you look for them, but you have to look and be willing to build something with them.

Until you’re part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

#13 Comment By Hibernian On June 18, 2017 @ 8:59 pm

@CMPT: Talk radio is poisonous, in your view, and he’s worked for talk radio a long time, but he’s a paragon of virtue. That doesn’t add up.

#14 Comment By MichaelLF On June 18, 2017 @ 9:02 pm

[NFR: If this blog offends you, don’t read it. I don’t care to hear your nannying. — RD]

I can’t speak for CMPT, but I don’t find the blog “offensive.” Far from it. I think you have some confused ideas about the relation of the faith to church, state, culture, and nation. I’ve got confusions of my own I’m trying to sort out.

#15 Comment By Hibernian On June 18, 2017 @ 9:05 pm

@ Thomas Hobbes: Certainly things have changed dramatically in the GOP in recent years regarding this type of issue when in 2012 the Mormon GOP Presidential nominee chose a Catholic running mate.

#16 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 18, 2017 @ 10:04 pm

Republican primary voters are what prevents an atheist or even an agnostic Republican candidate (Muslim and maybe Jewish candidates as well). There is a long list of third rails that prospective national party presidential candidates cannot touch and remain viable.

And exactly what do you want to do about that? In an electoral democracy, with a secret ballot, there is no way to constitutionally regulate “You may not think about the following things when choosing what candidate to vote for.”

I think there were a few feminists who tried to insist that Roman Catholics may not consider whether a candidate or pro-life or pro-choice because Roe v. Wade … which is one of many species of civic ignorance and vapid wishful thinking swirling through the American polity. Each individual voter can consider whatever they damn well please when casting their ballot. But, they can change their choice of criteria without the permission of any ward boss too.

#17 Comment By DEC01 On June 19, 2017 @ 12:13 am


I think you misunderstood what I meant about anti-discrimination law. To clarify, I was referring to employment situations only. Some others previously had basically said the religion category in anti-discrimination law will protect faithful Christians that do not affirm LGBTXYZ from being fired. The point I was trying to make is that if the law really does equate Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality with racism, then this won’t hold. As I understand it, an employer is perfectly free to terminate an employee who they find out is involved in a white supremacist group on social media.

If Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality are the legal equal of racist beliefs, then it would follow that an employer would be free to terminate an employee who they find on social media is involved in an “anti gay” church.

None of that would require repealing any previously past laws.

I am not at all advocating this is how things should be. It just seems to me that what had been legally settled has become unsettled. I dont see any reason to believe that the “religion” category in anti-discrimination law will certainly protect faithful, small-o orthodox Christians.

#18 Comment By BillWAF On June 19, 2017 @ 2:58 am

Here is another interesting piece re Farron.


#19 Comment By Rob G On June 19, 2017 @ 7:24 am

“How did you feel after reading Rod’s post? Did he inspire you to work harder at reaching out to liberals and reminding them of what their tradition of tolerance means? Or did his post deepen a conviction that liberals are fools unworthy of working with?”

You’re dealing with two very different sorts of liberals here, and that’s part of the problem. Not all liberals embrace a “tradition of tolerance” and it’s futile to “reach out” to those who don’t, i.e., the products of the “New Left” who knowingly or unknowingly have got Marcuse in their socio-political DNA.

As Jason Peters put it in a Front Porch Republic essay a few weeks back, “the doctrine of tolerance is going to end in intolerance — unless in your tolerance you can manage to tolerate people who… don’t regard tolerance as a transcendent value.”

The older sort of liberal gets this. The newer post-Marcuse specimen, not so much.

#20 Comment By CMPT On June 19, 2017 @ 9:31 am

Perichoresis: “It is only strange from a mindset that says whatever is objected to morally must fall within the purview of state action.”

I’m not arguing everything that is immoral should be subjected to regulation. I’m arguing that a politician who promises to do or protect what he is morally opposed to is straining credibility.
Therefore, it is appropriate for voters and journalists to question him thoroughly and to satisfy themselves that his past conduct is consistent with the promise he’s now making. The politician should not be able to avoid that scrutiny merely by claiming that his belief is religiously based. I

This is neither a novel nor controversial argument and it is widely practiced across the political spectrum. Objections to it arise only when one’s own ox is getting gored.

#21 Comment By Franklin Evans On June 19, 2017 @ 12:01 pm

I hold to the perspective that Raven Silverstein, like others, is a racist who happens to be Wiccan (fill-in-religion as it suits, for others of her ilk).

For the record, there are no socio-political tenets in Wicca, Gardnerian or other.

Raven, should you wish it, ask Rod (via his amcon email address) for my contact information. I live in Philadelphia, have been a social activist in this region for many years, identify as Pagan, and have close ties to people who belong to Assembly of the Sacred Wheel covens. I believe in dialogue, but this is not a good forum for a Wiccan-Pagan dialogue.

Siarlys, I’m not offended. Raven honestly expressed her opinions here, and I commend that honesty.

#22 Comment By Bowl of Petunias On June 19, 2017 @ 2:33 pm

I’m not thinking so much of being terminated for bogus reasons as not being hired in the first place. In that case, proving religious discrimination will be like proving age discrimination. H.R. departments can always claim “we found someone more qualified”. Nobody has to be explicit about “no dogs, Jews, or Christians need apply”. There are plenty of ways to discriminate that don’t leave enough evidence for a credible lawsuit.

#23 Comment By Donald On June 19, 2017 @ 3:12 pm

I was out of town and didn’t see rick 67’s response to my post. Since this is late, he probably won’t see mine. Here it is —

That term “no moral equivalence” ( you phrased it slightly differently) is morally poisonous. I have never seen it usd except by people who are whitewashing the sins of their favored side. In the case of Evergreen, it seems pretty obvious that people on both left and right are disgracing themselves. Full stop.

People who say otherwise are displaying their own intolerance and hypocrisy. I read Rod to learn about the intolerance of my own side, the left, because I have found that I simply can’t trust the left in most cases ( there are always honorable exceptions) to tell me about it. But people on the right who see their side as innocent victims and not participants in this downward spiral are delusional.

#24 Comment By bkh On June 19, 2017 @ 3:32 pm

@midtown said: “50-75 years”

That is a conservative time frame. I would venture 10-15 years before things get much worse. This Pandora’s box is open and will not be abated. There are people on both sides of the spectrum with their heads buried in the sand of what has been unleashed. And once the “Right” is subdued, it will turn on those on the “Left” that are not in agreement 100%. We are seeing a glimpse of that now. It is not about SSM or Abortion. Those are just flavors of the day.

#25 Comment By Thrice A Viking On June 19, 2017 @ 6:15 pm

Thomas Hobbes, I didn’t say anything about national politics. If, as Ain’tBenedict mentions, (s)he couldn’t get elected as dogcatcher, then clearly local politics were on her/his mind as well. And those vary widely from district to district. Why, Republican voters even elected a gay US representative! (From Wisconsin, IIRC.) So I wouldn’t put too much reliance on your knowing every Republican electorate. In any event, AB spoke of the Republican establishment, not the party’s primary voters. After the last POTUS primary schedule, there would appear to be some distinction between the two.

#26 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 19, 2017 @ 6:39 pm

If Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality are the legal equal of racist beliefs, then it would follow that an employer would be free to terminate an employee who they find on social media is involved in an “anti gay” church.

Again, you are wrong. You should study jurisprudence more instead of consulting with your personal impressions. I will concede this caveat: to the extent that employment is “at will” an employee can be fired for any reason or no reason, with or without an explanation. To what extent “at will” employment is restrained or repudiated is indeed a bit of a muddle, because its been done in so many different increments for so many different motives. So perhaps employment law is in that sense a poor measure of general civil rights.

What I favor, and this is not presently the state of the law, is that no employee may be fired but for just cause. That would include gay people, but would not create the opportunity for whining that ‘you shouldn’t get special rights because of the way you have sex.’ Rather, the way you have sex would be one of an almost innumerable list of ‘reasons’ that have nothing to do with competence for your job (unless you work at a legal brothel in Nevada).

But to the extent an employee cannot be fired based on their religion, the fact that their church holds “anti-gay” tenets will not create an exception. This is a bit like the worker at a plant with defense contracts who was fired because he was a member of the communist party. The Supreme Court ordered him reinstated, reasoning that he individually may not be involved with any illegal activities or espionage some components or individuals in the party may be engaged in, or may not even approve of such activities.

To give a short answer, guilt by association doesn’t cut it. Now if the individual employee goes around at work denouncing known gays as bound for eternity in the lake of fire unless they repent, he can be fired for disrupting the work place. If he claims his religion requires him to proselytize, he can be told to do that on his own time.

But he can’t be fired because he belongs to a church that won’t admit someone actively engaged in homosexual contact to communion.

I might add that some churches do hold racist beliefs, although far fewer than in the recent past, and mere membership in such a church is not, per se, good cause to fire anyone.

#27 Comment By Hibernian On June 19, 2017 @ 7:57 pm

@LMS: What was the Republican political view you disagreed with at the Bible school? Just curious.

#28 Comment By Hibernian On June 19, 2017 @ 8:00 pm

@Donald: The moral equivalence of the United States and the Soviet Union was once a widely held view… …until the Soviet Union was no more.

Not to mention those who believed the USSR was morally superior to the USA.

#29 Comment By Hibernian On June 19, 2017 @ 8:02 pm

@bkh: Right on!

#30 Comment By Mike On June 20, 2017 @ 3:00 am

I’m in a similar dilemma as the poster Raven. I am actually atheist, and two weeks ago my company which is made up of just four fulltime staff was asked by a local Catholic church to help with remediation services. I would prefer not to take on this contract because I disagree strongly with Catholicism and I don’t want to participate in helping to further the goals of an institution that has hurt so many people. I will be directly forced to repair the actual foundations of a church that in my opinion actively engages in immoral activity.

We tried referring them to another remediation company just two towns away but they recently came back to us saying that company doesn’t deal with the specific type of remediation that they require for their property. Do you think we would be legally liable if we declined to serve them? This has really been stressing me out. We could say that we are backlogged but this isn’t true and I don’t see why we would have to lie to decline service.

Does anyone know if atheism counts as a “religious” group too so that we get protections?

#31 Comment By Franklin Evans On June 20, 2017 @ 12:57 pm

Mike, you have it backwards.

If you are an ethical person, committed to doing business ethically, your first act should have been a public announcement that you would not accept the business of this church, clearly enumerating the reasons why.

As it stands, your first ethical response would be a clear “no” to this church, again with the reasons.

That you even considered lying to them gives me little motivation to have any sympathy for your situation. I’ve applied the very same argument standard to people like Raven, with whom I share a close religious affiliation, so please don’t take this personally.

#32 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 20, 2017 @ 1:33 pm

Mike, are you talking about physical remediation of a building, drainage, tuck-pointing, reinforcing foundation, things like that? Or are you talking about some kind of psycho-social services to help regain their standing in the community, reach out to a new demographic, settle disputes, resolve a legal dispute with angry plaintiffs?

If its the latter, you should have wide latitude to say, I couldn’t do a good job of representing you, I have too many biases.

If its the former, you might just possibly get by with a policy that “We don’t work on church buildings,” although I could think of good arguments for any church that sued over such a policy. If you generally take any customer but single out the Roman Catholic Church for “I won’t work on your buildings,” that’s probably unlawful discrimination in interstate commerce on the basis of religion.

#33 Comment By DEC01 On June 20, 2017 @ 1:41 pm


I have a quick question for clarification. Does at will employment law allow an employer to terminate an employee after discovering said employee is involved in racist groups on social media? I have assumed that they can, and following that…assumed it is possible to apply the same reasoning to someone involved in a “homophobic” group.

Otherwise, I agree with you that it would be better to not base employment protection about being in a “protected class” but instead just that one cannot be terminated for what has nothing to do with the job.

I may be misunderstanding the present law, or be wrong about what the law could become because current precedent (unknown to me) already would prevent that possibility, but I believe I basically share your views in this area.

#34 Comment By a commenter On June 20, 2017 @ 2:11 pm

Let me put this another way. How did you feel after reading Rod’s post? Did he inspire you to work harder at reaching out to liberals and reminding them of what their tradition of tolerance means? Or did his post deepen a conviction that liberals are fools unworthy of working with?

As much as I like this blog, it heightens partisanship and actively identifies and cultivates disdain for the other.

“To his credit, he likes some liberals like Linker, but I’m talking about something deeper than cordiality. We need more groups and communities that bridge our divisions. Rod devotes much time and energy to identifying groups and communities that do the much-needed work of cultivating Christianity but is virtually silent about groups and communities cultivating bridges.”

“In the end, despite his many, rare virtues, the thrust of Rod’s work is divisive, creating a culture of resentment.”

I don’t think it is Rod who has done this, I think liberals have done it. Perhaps Rod isn’t fixing it, but it’s not his job to fix it.

I read many things in the mainstream media and I’m shocked by how hostile they’ve become to Christianity or, for example, pro-life issues. The fawning treatment of things like wealthy women lawyers touting the great things their abortions allowed them to accomplish in life, or of things like “shout your abortion,” the extremely biased presentation of transgender females’ total access to high school locker rooms of the opposite sex without any consideration whatsoever of the privacy or dignity of teenage girls (those born as girls), the use of unbelievably manipulative emotionalistic language in such pieces, these are the things that made me distrust progressives. Rod had nothing to do with it.

Rather, his blog is like a respite from the seemingly unhinged people who seem to be driving our cultural mores.

#35 Comment By VikingLS On June 20, 2017 @ 6:19 pm


Okay I’ll take the bait. I presume you wanted to be called a bigot for your anti-Catholicism? Yes, much as a person who can ONLY see terrorism in Islam, or ONLY see the flaws of another race, you are a bigot.

That said, I don’t hate you, want you publicly humiliated, and certainly would not threaten to go burn down your business. I would like you to be able to act on your feelings to deny the Catholics your services without legal repercussions.

And NOTHING would make me happier than to see atheism legally recognized a religious group that gets religious protections. That would be wonderful. No more “atheism is religion like bald is hairstyle!”.

#36 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 20, 2017 @ 8:42 pm

I have a quick question for clarification. Does at will employment law allow an employer to terminate an employee after discovering said employee is involved in racist groups on social media? I have assumed that they can, and following that…assumed it is possible to apply the same reasoning to someone involved in a “homophobic” group.

In Anglo-Saxon common law, all employment is “at will,” unless a contract is signed that binds both parties to some other standard. At will means literally that — an employee can quit, or can be fired, for any reason or no reason. No explanation is needed.

So if “at will” employment is unimpaired by any statute or contract, an employer can terminate an employee because they are involved in racist groups on social media, or because the employee is black and had the temerity to register to vote against God and nature and social custom. Any of that. Or is someone is involved in a homophobic group, or if someone is gay. And the employer doesn’t have to state any of these reasons, at will employment means all the employer has to say is “You’re fired.”

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 definitely restricted the concept of “at will” employment. As a result, courts trying to find practical ways to try cases invoking the law came up with the concept of “protected classes.” With 20/20 hindsight, I think that was an error, but at the time, the law basically said, employment decisions may not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, religion, or national origin. Those had all been significant problems in American history.

Other laws have, from time to time, nationally or in certain states, set forth other prohibitions. But nobody has ever forthrightly ended “at will” employment. So employment is “at will” except to the extent that its not. This is why “pretextual” reasons have become a hot issue. If you want to refuse employment to someone who is black, you have to prove that it was not BECAUSE he was black — and its not hard to come up with another reason. Then the court has to test if that reason is supported by substantial evidence.

In my state, it is illegal to discriminate in hiring and firing against a person on the basis of a criminal conviction or prison record (except if the crime directly relates to the nature of the employment). This makes sense. If you want someone to earn an honest living upon release from prison, someone better hire them for an honest job. But, its not hard to come up with another reason, or say ‘oh we had 20 applicants, you just weren’t the one we hired.’

#37 Comment By Reena On June 21, 2017 @ 6:10 am

Wow, can totally sympathize. Two years ago, a religious group approached us for a bid on a foreclosed property. It wanted to move to a smaller space and sell off the parish property as the congregation was aging and smaller. Since this was during the time of the gay marriage decision, none of us wanted to work with them.

We felt that as an ethical matter, we just couldn’t help those who were anti-gay rights secure another building as it would force us to be associated with their positions. Essentially it would force us to say that we were comfortable with institutions that were anti equal rights for lgbt people. So we declined the substantial commissions during a time when we could use the money.

Last I heard from Dad the religious group had disbanded completely because they were unable to find another broker familiar with the specific challenges of filing paperwork for foreclosed properties in our region. Weirdly enough, one of the junior associates is now dealing with the foreclosure of this church property, as it is hard to find buyers for the building and the land is not worth as much as it used to be. But our group decided we were ethically comfortable with processing the sale now that the church no longer existed.

It is not a pleasant situation for everyone involved, and I sympathize. My advice to people is just be kind, keep it professional, and no need to give reasons for declining service.

#38 Comment By Franklin Evans On June 21, 2017 @ 1:20 pm


We felt that as an ethical matter, we just couldn’t help those who were anti-gay rights secure another building as it would force us to be associated with their positions.

Before I jump into my critical response, Reena, I want to thank you for your honest disclosure of the events and thinking behind your decisions. I understand you well, but I introduce my response with this societal delusion: understanding necessitates agreement.

I highlighted that part of my quote of your post, because it is an expression of that delusion. It is a lie to make any association, to insist upon any equivalence between tolerance and support or advocacy. You write exactly how that works, and this societal attitude is insidious.

Did the ACLU agree with the Nazi organizers of the march in Skokie, IL? There can be no rational argument for yes. I understand that a business is subject to its market’s attitudes, I get that your business might have suffered had you accepted the church’s initial request for service, but in the end your citation of ethics is false.

You denied a service you provide, those to whom you denied the service were injured by that denial, and you will subsequently profit from their injury. I see nothing resembling ethics in that logic.

I hasten to concede that my criticism can be challenged as righteous posturing. I’m not the ACLU, but I am a citizen. It should not be difficult to see what the ACLU did and still does as ethical despite the righteous anger they generate from opponents of people and issues they legally support.

#39 Comment By DEC01 On June 22, 2017 @ 12:52 am


Thanks for the clarification. That is how I understood things. I admit I am not exactly sure where I was wrong when I suggested it may be possible for employers to legally, openly fire employees that they discover are part of “bigoted/homophobic” churches without the no discrimination on the basis of religion part of the Civil Rights Act being repealed. With this being possible on the grounds that judges could basically declare that religious belief is not an excuse for holding “bigoted/homophobic” views in the same way that religion is not an excuse for holding racist views is.

If that is not really possible, I trust your legal judgement over mine. I am not a lawyer nor have any legal background. If I understand your previous comments, this comes down to whether or not mere involvement in a “homophobic” or racist group constitutes support for those views. If so, then instead of it being possible for an employer to terminate an employee openly and directly because they discovered that employee is involved in a “homophobic” church, they still could if they discover that employee expressed any “homophobic” beliefs without discriminating on the basis of religion. I believe that may be an issue at stake in the Kelvin Cochran case.

#40 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 22, 2017 @ 1:26 pm

Religion is not an EXCUSE for any belief or action. Religious doctrine simply is not within the JURISDICTION of civil government.

The LDS church barred blacks from the male priesthood until 1978. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had no bearing on this at all, because congress had no jurisdiction to tell any church who could or could not be admitted to the priesthood.

The Church of Jesus Christ, Christian remains racially exclusive to this day, and no civil authority can require them to admit people on any ground whatsoever.

I know a lot of infantile, civilly-uneducated, young “activists” today don’t know about this, are shocked and viscerally reject it when its pointed out, but it IS the law of the land.

I don’t know of any law that used the term “homophobic.” It is strictly a propaganda buzz word. Judges actually can’t pass on the propriety of “holding views” at all. Freedom of expression is well entrenched in First Amendment jurisprudence.

For a court to have jurisdiction, there has to be an actual injury from an ACT that discriminates on a basis prohibited by law.

I have no doubt there are people who would TRY to fire employees for being members of “homophobic churches” — just as for many years, there were people who would fire black employees if they tried to register to vote. People do violate applicable law, and sometimes get away with it for longer or shorter periods of time. But then can and should be challenged vigorously.

If an employee expressed opinions at work that other employees found offensive and distracting, this could be a basis to fire them no matter WHAT the opinion is.

Note: I’m not a lawyer either, although I know my way around a law library, have researched certain subjects, drafted briefs and petitions, and done administrative advocacy I am legally allowed to do.

#41 Comment By JonF On June 26, 2017 @ 1:30 pm

Re: Today the Democratic Party will tolerate Christians like Tim Kaine, a Catholic who supports abortion rights though he is personally opposed to abortion. For how much longer will they?

For a long time to come, as long as public opinion remains deeply conflicted and divided on the subject. Just as the GOP will try to straddle the fence between those who oppose SSM and those who celebrate it. Politics is politics.