Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Indiana: The Holy War of the Left

Crusading, illiberal liberalism shows how far it will go to suppress a fundamental American value

Today’s Indianapolis Star front page uses the headline approach usually reserved for war. Because that’s what this is: culture war, and the mainstream media, as a vital part of the progressive movement, is waging total war for a cause they believe is holy. I’m not exaggerating. To most of the media, there is no other side in the gay marriage debate, or on anything to do with gay rights. There is only Good and Evil. And so we have the spectacle of a moral panic that makes a party that is a chief beneficiary of the First Amendment — a newspaper — taking unprecedented steps to suppress a party that is the other chief beneficiary of the First Amendment: religious dissenters. In my experience, it is impossible to overstate how sacred this cause is to American elites, especially journalists.

If you thought this was ever about fairness, justice, tolerance, or reason, you now ought to have had your eyes opened.

The spirit of jihad has so overtaken the left that the Democratic governor of Connecticut has forbidden his state government to travel to Indiana on state business. Has that ever happened in America? Back when there was actual segregation, did states do that to each other? And get this: Gov. Dan Malloy is such a crusading idiot that he doesn’t even realize that his own state has a version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that it passed in 1993!

Malloy’s act, like the Indy Star‘s, are characteristic of liberalism’s unhinged reaction to Indiana’s law. If you are not watching this and seeing the future of religious liberty in this country, if you are not observing and taking note of the power the Establishment — political, media, big business — is deploying to crush a law that even a pro-gay liberal like Boston University’s Stephen Prothero says is a fair and necessary measure to support a fundamental liberal value (religious freedom), and if you are not thinking about the Supreme Court and the next presidential election — if you are not watching and learning, you are a fool.

Ross Douthat is watching, and as he wrote a while back, all that’s left is to negotiate the terms of our surrender. We now see that the left is not content to win the culture war; they’re going to shoot the prisoners and bounce the rubble. In a blog post, he puts some questions to liberals, to clarify where they’re planning to take this thing next. Among them:

1) Should religious colleges whose rules or honor codes orcovenants explicitly ask students and/or teachers to refrain from sex outside of heterosexual wedlock eventually lose their accreditation unless they change the policy to accommodate gay relationships? At the very least, should they lose their tax-exempt status, as Bob Jones University did over its ban on interracial dating?

2) What about the status of religious colleges and schools or non-profits that don’t have such official rules about student or teacher conduct, but nonetheless somehow instantiate or at least nod to a traditional view of marriage at some level — in the content of their curricula, the design of their benefit package, the rules for their wedding venues, their denominational affiliation? Should their tax-exempt status be reconsidered? Absent a change in their respective faith’s stance on homosexuality, for instance, should Catholic high schools or Classical Christian academies or Orthodox Jewish schools be eligible for 501(c)3 status at all?

Ross further says:

One of the difficulties in this discussion, from a conservative perspective, is that the definition of “common sense” and “compromise” on these issues has shifted so rapidly in such a short time: Positions taken by, say, the president of the United States and most Democratic politicians a few short years ago are now deemed the purest atavism, the definition of bigotry gets more and more elastic, and developments that social liberals would have described as right-wing scare stories in 2002 or so are now treated as just the most natural extensions of basic American principles. (Rod Dreher calls this the “law of merited impossibility,” in which various follow-on effects of same-sex marriage are dismissed as impossible until they happen, at which point it’s explained that of course they were absolutely necessary.)

Understand the propaganda war here: things that were supported the day before yesterday by many on the mainstream left have now become “hate,” and their former positions have gone down the memory hole, shamelessly. It is by now clear that nothing is impossible with the left on this issue, because they have adopted the kind of scorched-earth attitude that scared so many of them when Barry Goldwater voiced it in 1964. The left’s version: “Extremism in defense of gay rights is no vice.”

Religious and social conservatives had better wake up and recognize the stakes playing out in Indiana right now. The people who hate us don’t want compromise. They want total victory, no matter how it tears this country up, and no matter how it eviscerates what was once a sacred value in this country: freedom of religion.

And watch the Republican Party’s presidential candidates. Jeb Bush and others have, thankfully, come out in defense of Indiana’s law. But nine Indiana CEOs have issued a letter to Gov. Mike Pence demanding that he change the RFRA. This is a time of testing of GOP leadership mettle, as the party’s business wing and its social-values wing clash. The Republican Party has got to stand firm for an American value as fundamental as religious liberty against the left’s witch-hunting hysteria.