A Catholic reader in Kansas sends in a sign-of-the-times column from his diocesan newspaper. The piece’s author is Michael Schuttloffel, who heads the Kansas Catholic bishops’ lobbying arm. He mentions The Benedict Option in connection with a striking — even shocking — recent debate in the Kansas state legislature. Schuttloffel writes:
Many of Dreher’s arguments about the extent to which Christians should “withdraw” from mainstream society continue to provoke sometimes heated debate, and not without reason. One of his claims, however, should strike anyone paying the least bit attention as patently obvious.
Surveying the tide of secularism washing over America, Dreher witheringly lampoons the idea that “there’s nothing here that can’t be fixed by continuing to do what Christians have been doing for decades — especially voting for Republicans.” Kansas is a case study in this reality.
Kansas Republicans — do they get any more Republican than the kind they grow in Kansas? Is it really the case that Kansas Republicans are unreliable protectors of religious liberty? It sure is. More:
On March 29 of this year, the Kansas House of Representatives voted down legislation (HB 2481) that would protect faith-based adoption providers like Catholic Charities from the fate that has befallen them in Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington, DC, and elsewhere.
In those places, government agencies forced Catholic Charities to close because of their policy of placing children only in homes where they would have a married mom and dad.
Because of this worrying trend, and because the ACLU — when not overly busy suing Catholic hospitals for not performing abortions — has begun casting its litigious gaze upon religious adoption agencies, seven states have passed laws protecting those agencies’ work.
Oklahoma seems poised to follow in their footsteps, but Kansas is a different story. Here, 27 House Republicans voted no on the bill.
Stunningly, four of the six members of House Republican leadership voted with the ACLU against Catholic Charities. Joining them were four Republican chairmen of major House committees.
Fortunately, the Kansas Senate acted first, and 28 out of 40 senators voted yes. However, the Senate floor debate was the scene of an ugly remark that you undoubtedly would have heard about before now had it been directed at any other group than Catholics.
There, Republican Sen. Barbara Bollier, after laying out a farcical understanding of what the “Catholic religion” believes about the seven deadly sins, took the mic again and called those beliefs “sick.” She closed by saying, “I know bigotry when I see it.”
Turns out you can see the debate on an archived YouTube clip from the official state legislature’s livestream. If you start around the 7:43 point, you can hear an exchange in which
the Senate president, Susan Wagle, Sen. Molly Baumgardner says she’s a Lutheran, but she believes this legislation is important for the sake of protecting adoption services — and because it is, in her view, not discriminatory. The bill would not prohibit gay couples from adopting. It would only forbid the state from closing down church-related adoption agencies that, for religious reasons, will not adopt out children to same-sex couples.
Got that? It will not prevent any gay couple from adopting, nor will it prevent any agency from facilitating a gay couple adopting. It will only protect, say, Catholic Charities, which will not participate in gay adoptions. As Sen. Wagle points out, the state has more children up for adoption than there are adoptive parents. It needs all the help it can get adopting kids out.
That’s not good enough for opponents of the bill, including the aforementioned Sen. Barbara Bollier. At the 7:46 mark, Mme. Bollier, a member of a pro-gay Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation, delivers a theological discourse on the Seven Deadly Sins that is hardly less informed than if she were talking about Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths. And then, starting here, she denounces Catholic belief about the family as “sick discrimination.”
In his column, Schuttloffel says that the Kansas House will be voting on the bill again sometime in the next few days. If orthodox Catholics and other small-o orthodox Christians stay silent, the bill will die. If not, maybe not. A point for those outside Kansas to observe, though, is that this is a classic example of why Christians cannot assume that Republicans will have our backs when social liberals try to shut down our institutions. In some cases, those Republicans are social liberals.
The pastor of Sen. Bollier’s church has written that their progressive congregation is “paying attention to what God is doing next in the PC (USA).” I would similarly encourage orthodox Christians to pay attention to what the Zeitgeist is doing next in the Republican Party (KS), and elsewhere.