The attacks, disdain, and disregard towards religious liberty are only becoming more brazen.
In case you were wondering how bad things have gotten for the First Amendment, it’s come to this: Houses of worship are now having to plead for the right to espouse biblical truth inside their own buildings.
Earlier this week, four churches filed federal suit against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts over its now-infamous “bathroom bill,” contending that it infringes upon their basic First Amendment rights.
Religious Liberty in the Crosshairs
The law, which went into effect at the beginning of the month, comes alongside guidance from the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD):
“Places of public accommodation may not discriminate against, or restrict, a person from services because of that person’s gender identity … Even a church could be seen as a place of public accommodation if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public.”
A similar case in Iowa popped up over the summer, where the government quickly backpedaled after enough public pressure. However, Massachusetts is a whole new ball game. Despite the protests and media coverage that blanketed the issue, it would appear that everything is going forward as written and that houses of God are now required by law to keep their views on the nature of man and woman to themselves, lest they face fines and/or up to a year in prison.
“The government shouldn’t encroach on the internal, religious practices of a church,” reads a statement from Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal representatives of the churches. “Neither the commission nor the attorney general has the constitutional authority to dictate how any church uses its facility or what public statements a church can make concerning a deeply held religious belief, such as on human sexuality.”
The problem, as I have previously written, is that there’s very little need for these laws in the first place. In Massachusetts specifically, state Sen. Jim Lyons (R-Andover) pointed out that this law was especially unnecessary when it was up for a vote in the statehouse in June:
I have heard attorneys get up here and say there are not protections, well we’ve done some research. If you can show me in the last 25 years where someone who was transgender was allegedly discriminated against and then went to court and then had that case thrown out based on a lack of statutory authority, then I would agree.
But the fact remains that Mass. Commission Against Discrimination in their own testimony [before the legislature] states that they enforce this law. And in one of their rulings they go back as early as 2001 to say that transgender is protected under the sex discrimination part of 151.b.
So the notion that these people are not protected under the law is absolutely inconsistent with the facts that go back as far as 1995.
But let’s just pause for a moment and think about where this puts the current state of religious freedom, shall we?
The Four Walls of Religious Liberty
First Amendment advocates have long criticized the Left for a view of religious freedom that is little more than “freedom of worship.” The difference here, the critics claimed, is that the latter only applies within the four walls of a church. That this case goes beyond inside those walls, and that MCAD has refused to amend its guidelines only goes to show that even the impoverished idea of “freedom of worship” was a little more than a platitude to cover up the true scope of the political agenda behind the law.
When the U.S. Supreme Court passed the 2015 Obergefell decision on same-sex marriage, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that “the First Amendment ensures that religions, those who adhere to religious doctrines, and others have protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.” However, the list of ongoing court cases regarding the clashes of conscience and the demands of the sexual revolution show that “those who adhere to religious doctrines” shouldn’t expect much respite from Kennedy’s concession.
Now, just over a year later, the social Left’s next phase of attack — transgender bathrooms and other “non-discrimination” laws — has already pitted itself directly against houses of worship in the court of law. No place is truly sacred, it would seem.
A few weeks ago, in light of the controversial statement from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights chairman, claiming religious liberty was simply a “code word” for discrimination, I wrote that the anti-religious fig leaf of an idea that LGBT concerns and conscience rights would be properly balanced is falling away from the Left’s rhetoric. The development of this bill and its manifestation in Massachusetts are a mere continuation of this trend.
Because, the mindset that pushes these sorts of things on churches is one that cannot comprehend what religion really is. A policy that would force a church to abandon its prophetic mission is one that believes religion is a simple hobby to be coerced and molded by the shifting sands of public opinion. It’s not something that people would sacrifice their livelihood, their freedom, or even their lives to follow that truth.
But it is for this reason that the latest development in the Bay State is disturbing — but not at all surprising. This is the same mentality that allows an administration to sue nuns; it’s the same thought process that anticipates a “Catholic Spring” to change unchangeable Church doctrine on issues like contraception. At the core of all this by the Left is the indignant disbelief that someone might believe in something other than the pillars of progressivism.
If it wasn’t already obvious, the plight of these churches in Massachusetts ought to fully display that promises of compromise and respect for liberty were little more than a sham to assuage concerns and discredit the voices who warned of the impending slippery slope ahead.
Looking back, however, it’s pretty easy to see that things have indeed slipped very far, very fast.