Religious Liberty

Barber: Gay Marriage is a Weapon Designed to Destroy Religious Liberty

On Liberty Counsel's "Faith and Freedom" radio program, Mat Staver and Matt Barber discussed a lawsuit filed by a lesbian couple against the owners of Liberty Ridge Farms in upstate New York after they refused to allow the couple to hold their wedding on the grounds, citing religious objections. 

For Barber, this was proof that the push for marriage equality is not actually about marriage or equality, but simply nothing more than "a political and legal calculus that is being used as a weapon to destroy religious liberty": 

Election Is Mandate for Policies Grounded in Progressive American Values

The American people have made their choice -- a resounding victory for President Obama and Vice President Biden and a mandate for their policy agenda.
PFAW

Young Progressives Endorsed By People For the American Way Win Big on Tuesday

Washington, DC – More than three-quarters of the young progressive candidates for state and local offices endorsed by People For the American Way’s Young Elected Progressives program won their election bids on Tuesday, People For the American Way reported today. The Young Elected Progressives program, in its first year, endorsed 79 candidates in general elections in 28 states and the District of Columbia, with 60 winning their bids.

“We started this program to boost promising young progressives, many of them making their first bid for elected office,” said Randy Borntrager, Political Director of People For the American Way. “We’re helping to build a lasting movement by providing young progressives with the resources they need to start their careers in public service. We are thrilled that our endorsed candidates did so well on Tuesday, and are looking forward to growing and strengthening the program in future elections.”

Eighteen of the endorsed candidates, many in particularly close races, were given extra attention through the new "On the Way" program. Fourteen of those candidates were successful on Tuesday, including:

  • Stefanie Mach, an alumna of affiliate PFAW Foundation’s advanced leadership programs, pulled out a victory in a hotly contested state House race in Tucson.
  • State Sen. Angie Buhl of South Dakota won reelection to a second term representing Sioux Falls, where she has been a strong progressive leader.
  • Cyrus Habib won a seat in the Washington state House, making him the first Iranian American elected to a state legislature.
  • Jacob Candelaria became the first openly gay legislator in New Mexico, winning a state Senate seat representing Albuquerque.
  • Steve Hansen of Sacramento is poised to win a seat on the City Council, his first elected office, ahead by just 28 votes.

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A Real-Life Halloween Scare From Mitt Romney

Forget ghosts and goblins. Americans' biggest Halloween fear should be a Supreme Court chosen by Mitt Romney.
PFAW

Barton Blames PFAW and Others for Creating 'Toxic" Environment Responsible for Christian Persecution

In August, the Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council released a joint report entitled "The Survey on Religious Hostility in America" which purported to be a "collection of more than 600 cases, detailing religious bigotry throughout America" ... but, for some reason, the incident they love to cite more than any other is a nearly twenty year old myth about an elementary school student who was supposedly yanked out of his seat and yelled at simply for praying before eating his lunch in the school cafeteria.

In reality, the student was disciplined for fighting in the lunch room in 1994 but the Religious Right continues to perpetuate this lie to this day. In fact, David Barton cites it repeatedly despite the fact that it is demonstrably false, and did so again today on "WallBuilders Live," as did the Liberty Institute's Kelly Shackelford, who was on the program to promote the report:

Barton: What does it say to that elementary kid who got jerked out of his seat and hauled to the principle's office in front of everybody else and told don't you ever pray over your lunch again, period? What kind of impression is that giving? Jesus said "suffer the little children to come unto me" and we're doing our best to say "absolutely no way, absolutely not will we ever allow any kid to get to you" ... this is crazy stuff.

Shackelford: It's all the way from a ten-year old boy who was quote "caught" praying over his meal in the lunch cafeteria who was lifted out of his chair and carried to the principle's office where he was told to never do that again while he was at school.

Even though this incident never actually happened, Barton sees it as proof that we at PFAW and other groups have created a "toxic" and "hostile" environment in which public officials are pressured into persecuting Christians:

Barton: And I really blame this climate on the secular groups, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Americans United, the People For the American Way, the Military Freedom Foundation, all these guys who have so made the climate so toxic that if you share your faith, public officials feel like they have to come down on you with both feet otherwise they'll get sued and end up in court and have to spend millions of dollars defending something religions. And so these guys have created such a hostility in the public that now public officials and school officials and city council officials and those who run senior's centers and everything else are so scared to death of seeing faith that if they see it, they feel like they have to jump on it with both feet and both hands and bring out the hammers and run over you with a car and pull out a chainsaw and cut you to pieces. They over-react and I really blame a lot of those organizations. 

Right Wing Round-Up - 10/4/12

Anti-Choice Activists to Engage in Civil Disobedience Over Contraception Mandate This Weekend

It looks like this weekend will kick off the Religious Right's latest protest against the Obama administration's contraception mandate with something called ActsFive29 in which activists plan to descend on the White House and risk arrest in announcing that they will never comply with the mandate. 

The event takes its name from the Bible passage which declares "we must obey God rather than men" and is being sponsored by a handful of radical anti-choice groups including Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, the Christian Defense Coalition, Pro-life Action League, Operation Rescue, Priests for Life, and the American Family Association.

For 72 hours, they plan to carry out a "vigil of prayer, public witness and arrests at the White House" because "we must obey God rather than man or soon jail may be the only option":

We are a nation ruled by those we choose by our votes. So we are sending those in elected office a warning: you hold office because we chose you — and we will not comply! We will not pay the $1 monthly abortion surcharge, we will not pay for abortion-inducing drugs and other unconscionable practices demanded of us through the HHS mandate, and we will not surrender our freedoms as delineated in the Declaration and our Constitution.

And we will go to jail before we do.

Today our arrests will be voluntary, a living witness to the church and to the government — tomorrow arrest may be the only option if we are unwilling to pay to have someone’s child murdered.

Please join with us as we send a powerful message to those within the church and to our elected officials through peaceful civil disobedience! Just as MLK was arrested for the rights of his fellow men, so we will stand. This will be 72 hours of continuous prayer and arrests in front of the White House! This moment is fraught with an unprecedented “urgency of the hour”; thus, we are issuing a national call for Christians, and all our fellow Americans of whatever creed, to come to the White House and be part of this prayerful, peaceful, and prophetic witness for life and justice: ActsFive29.

Join us September 29 through October 2, 2012 as we humbly and boldly lay down our lives and our freedom so that future generations will have that freedom, and the liberty to practice their faith.

Harvey: Obama Appeases Islam 'While Sticking it to Christians Time and Again'

On her radio commentary today, Linda Harvey slammed President Obama for coddling Islam while insulting Christianity at every turn.  Harvey played a clip of Obama saying America rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others when it comes to Islam and then compared that to a clip of Obama speaking at a White House LGBT Pride Month reception, where he said that some people continue to oppose efforts to achieve equality because they "still hold fast to worn arguments and old attitudes."

To Harvey, this was proof of Obama's "stunning hypocrisy" and proof that the administration "bends over backwards for Islam while sticking it to Christians time and again":

You would think that our leaders would understand by now that we are not dealing with a reasonable ideology and it's time to stop making excuses. At the very least you would think Barack Obama could be consistent. If he and his cabinet members are willing to plead for understanding for Islam despite the violent track record shown by so many people who adhere to this faith, you would think that our president would have a soft heart for Christians in this country who are anxious to be able to live out our faith principles. If he respects, understands, and apologizes for one religion, why not others? But that is unfortunately not the case ... He bends over backwards for Islam while sticking it to Christians time and again.

Barton: Cops Should Have Refused to Arrest Arizona Pastor for Illegally Building a Church

Yesterday on "WallBuilders Live," David Barton and Rick Green discussed the case of Arizona pastor Michael Salman who has recently become a Religious Right cause célèbre because he is  supposedly being persecuted simply because he wanted to hold Bible study meetings at his home. 

In reality, Salman had been attempting to illegally build a church in his back yard and had been holding multiple-weekly church services on his property until he was found guilty of dozens of code violations and sentenced to sixty days in jail.

Barton took up the case today and voiced his outrage, calling on voters in Phoenix to work to remove political leaders in that city for allowing something like this to happen. Barton went on to falsely claim that Salman's home was raided by a SWAT team sent to arrest him and said that law enforcement officers must refuse to participate in things like this because they have an obligation to uphold the Constitution:

And the one we have today, the one we're going to talk about today is a great example is a bunch of political leaders in a city who need to be seriously removed. The fact that they would even think about enforcing this particular ordinance against anybody means that we've got a bad set of leaders there that need to be gone.

...

There needs to be some changes in Phoenix and people really do need to let city hall hear it over this. And I'm really concerned about cops who are willing to go in as a SWAT team to arrest a pastor who's had Bible study. The cops should have said "no, we're not doing that. I mean, we take an oath to uphold the Constitution too; there's the right of assembly, the right of speech, the right of religion. We're not going to go arrest this guy with AR-15s and a SWAT team." At some point, citizens are going to have to say we're not going to be part of this and that should have happened at this point.

Raymond Raines and the Religious Right: The Myth That Will Not Die

Yesterday Kelly Shackelford of Liberty Institute and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council released a new website and joint report entitled "The Survey on Religious Hostility in America" which is billed as "collection of more than 600 cases, detailing religious bigotry throughout America."

And you can tell from the introduction just how trustworthy this report truly is:

The Obama administration no longer even speaks of freedom of religion; now it is only “freedom of worship.” This radical departure is one that threatens to make true religious liberty vulnerable, conditional, and limited. As some have said, it is a freedom “only within four walls.” That is, you are free to worship within the four walls of your home, church, or synagogue, but when you enter the public square the message is, “leave your religion at home.” President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have repeatedly echoed this same message in international forums, acknowledging only a right to the “freedom of worship.” This is no accident, and it has huge ramifications.

This claim that Obama is systematically undermining "freedom of religion" seems to be one of the Religious Right's favorite claims ... which, of course, means that it is not true at all.

The report itself consists of 100+ pages of  short descriptions of seemingly every court case along with the various urban legends that the Religious Right trots out whenever they are trying to play the victim.  In fact, this one from the Executive Summary caught my eye:

A public school official physically lifted an elementary school student from his seat and reprimanded him in front of his classmates for praying over his lunch.

That sounded a lot like the story of Raymond Raines and, sure enough, on page 74 we find this:

Elementary School Student Punished for Praying Before Meals
Joan Little, “City Schools Issue Rules About Students, Religion,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 11, 1996, at 2B

Elementary school student Raymond Raines was “caught” praying over his meal at his elementary school. He was lifted from his seat and reprimanded in front of all the other students, then taken to the principal who ordered him to cease praying in school.

As we noted just a few months ago, this myth has been around since 1994 when Newt Gingrich and various Religious Right leaders first started making Raymond's sorry tale the centerpiece of their campaign to pass a constitutional amendment protecting the right to expressions of faith ... despite the fact that it wasn't true:

The St. Louis case concerned 10-year-old Raymond Raines who, his mother said, was given detention because he sought to pray over his lunch. When lawyers for the Rutherford Institute heard about the case, they filed a lawsuit against the principal and issued a press release denouncing the school system.

"I know it sounds bizarre, but we have substantial evidence to believe it happened," said Timothy Belz, the St. Louis lawyer working with the Rutherford Institute.

On NBC-TV's "Meet the Press," Gingrich described the situation as "a real case about a real child. Should it be possible for the government to punish you if you say grace over your lunch? That's what we used to think of Russian behavior when they were the Soviet Union."

But school officials said the incident never happened. Rather, they said, Raymond was disciplined for fighting in the cafeteria.

"I can tell you he was not reprimanded for praying," said Kenneth Brostron, the school's lawyer. "Do you think it makes sense that the teachers would look around the cafeteria and target the one student who was praying quietly at his seat?"

This incident took place nearly twenty years ago and the Religious Right is still citing it today as proof that Christianity is under attack in America despite the fact that it never happened.

Reason #7 Why Obama is not a Christian: He is too Nice to the Moo-slums

Late last year, Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission announced that his organization would be releasing a series of monthly videos leading up to the election detailing "ten new irrefutable proofs that Barack Obama is not a Christian."

Today, Cass released part seven of the series which lays out that Obama has been friendly to Islam while being hostile to Christianity, even though the Bible says that "Islam is the doctrine of demons and originates in Hell."  And the reason Obama doesn't believe that America is a Christian nation, the CADC explains, is because he had a "Moo-slum father and step-father":

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PHOTOS: Religious, Political Leaders Join Launch of People For Foundation Report, '12 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics'

Last week, People For the American Way Foundation launched a new report, “12 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics,” which offers guidelines for policymakers and advocates seeking to bring faith into political debates.

Joining us at a launch party for the report and a discussion of the issues it raises were Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim in Congress; Sister Simone Campbell, director of the Catholic social justice group NETWORK; and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Here are some photos of the event from People For Foundation’s Dylan Hewitt:

Sister Simone Campbell talks with People For’s COO, Nick Ucci 


People For President Michael Keegan, Rep. Keith Ellison, and Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery 

Michael Keegan and Rep. Keith Ellison

Sister Simone Campbell and Rabbi David Saperstein

Rabbi David Saperstein 

Rep. Keith Ellison and Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, director of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Conference.
 

PFAW Foundation

The Right's Sudden Concern About Arpaio's Prison Camps

Over the last few weeks, Arizona pastor Michael Salman has become a Religious Right cause célèbre and the current poster boy for religious persecution. In the Religious Right's version of events, Salman has supposedly been harassed and persecuted by local officials for years simply because he wanted to hold bible study meetings at his home. 

In reality, Salman had been attempting to illegally build a church in his back yard and was found guilty of dozens of code violations, resulting in a sixty day jail sentence, which Salman is now serving ... and about which his supporters are now complaining:

Pastor Michael Salman is serving his 60-day sentence for holding a home Bible study in Tent City Jail, a prison compound in Maricopa County, Ariz. The Phoenix pastor’s attorney describes conditions there as similar to the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.

“This is where you would put Osama bin Laden, not Michael Salman,” says Rutherford Institute founder and attorney John Whitehead in an interview yesterday with International Christian Concern (ICC).

“The temperature there has been around 140 degrees, and there is no air conditioning. They’re [living] in tents. They have stun fences … barbed wire … large German shepherds walking the perimeter, armed guards and facial recognition software so that the prisoners are studied all the time.”

According to Whitehead, Salman has reported being imprisoned with “really hardened criminals.” He is unsure why the pastor has been specifically sent to Tent City. In late June, the jail was the focus of thousands of protesters who gathered outside the Maricopa County Sherriff’s office to express their disapproval of the allegedly prison camp-like conditions.

It should be noted that this Guantanamo-like prison camp in which Salman is currently serving his time just so happens to be the system set up by the Right's hero, "America's Toughest Sheriff," and Birther extraordinaire Joe Arpaio.

Oddly, nobody on the Right seemed particularly concerned about the conditions in the compound until now. 

12 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics – A People For the American Way Foundation Report with a Foreword by Bill Moyers

Washington, DC – The proper role of religion in American politics has been the subject of vigorous – and sometimes toxic – debate for over two centuries. Today, in the midst of campaign-season claims about America’s founding as a “Christian nation” and hyperbolic rhetoric about religious persecution, People For the American Way Foundation calls for a more constructive conversation with a new report, 12 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics, authored by PFAW Foundation senior fellow Peter Montgomery with a foreword by journalist Bill Moyers.

"12 Rules" takes on a number of current debates, including those over required contraception insurance coverage, marriage equality, and the role of religion in the 2012 presidential campaign. This edition builds on earlier releases of "12 Rules" in 1984 and 1994.

The full report can be found online here. 

“Religious liberty is at the heart of what it means to be an American, but it is also at the center of some of our fiercest debates,” said Peter Montgomery. “How do we balance the constitutional principles of free exercise of religion and the separation of church and state when they come into tension with each other? And how can people of faith bring their religious values into the public arena without turning religion into a political club? As our religious landscape becomes increasingly diverse, it is important that we grapple with these issues in ways that are more constructive than divisive. We hope these Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics will launch many constructive conversations around these topics.”

“Our political climate is being poisoned by inflammatory charges of anti-religious and anti-Christian persecution,” said Michael Keegan, president of People For the American Way Foundation. “We can look around the world to see what religious persecution looks like, and we think it’s wrong to cry wolf over political and policy disputes. We are strong advocates for First Amendment freedoms. But something can be legal without being wise. The principles in this report should be embraced by people of all religious and political beliefswho long for a more respectful and responsible debate in the public arena.”

This new edition of "12 Rules" will be launched at an event in Washington, DC featuring a discussion with Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim American elected to Congress.

Read the full report, 12 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics, here.  

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12 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics

Religious liberty is at the heart of the American Way. In America, one’s standing as a citizen, member of the community, or candidate does not depend on a profession of faith.

The New York Times Sheds New Light on the Lisa Miller Kidnapping Case

New York Times reporter Erik Eckholm has a big front-page story in Sunday’s paper on a case that readers of RWW are familiar with: the disappearance of Lisa Miller. Eckholm traveled to Nicaragua to talk with the Mennonite communities that have helped harbor Miller and her daughter Isabella on their flight from United States law enforcement and from Isabella’s other legal parent, Miller’s former partner Janet Jenkins of Vermont. Miller, who kidnapped her daughter rather than allow her to have visitation rights with Jenkins, has become a cause celebre among the Religious Right, a supposed victim of anti-Christian persecution.

Eckholm supplies us with an illuminating and creepy anecdote about a family of hamsters left to die in Miller’s abandoned house, and casts some light on the thinking of those who helped harbor Miller in Nicaragua. But there’s one important piece of the puzzle that remains a mystery: did Miller’s attorneys at Liberty University have anything to do with Miller’s disappearance? LU Law School dean Mat Staver tells Eckholm that he was surprised as anyone when Miller disappeared, as he has since it first became known.

But Liberty University’s relationship with Miller has always been a little complicated. Rena Lindevaldsen, an LU Law School dean and Miller’s attorney before she disappeared, has now written a book arguing Miller’s case. And even before Miller kidnapped with Isabella, Lindevaldsen and Staver were teaching Miller’s case as an example of a situation where the demands of “God’s law” trump those of “man’s law.” Religion Dispatches’ Sarah Posner talked with several students who had taken a required class from the two deans and got her hands on a copy of an exam that quizzed students on what to do in Lisa Miller’s situation:

Students at Liberty Law School tell RD that in the required Foundations of Law class in the fall of 2008, taught by Miller’s attorneys Mat Staver and Rena Lindevaldsen, they were repeatedly instructed that when faced with a conflict between “God’s law” and “man’s law,” they should resolve that conflict through “civil disobedience.” One student said, “the idea was when you are confronted with a particular situation, for instance, if you have a court order against you that is in violation of what you see as God’s law, essentially... civil disobedience was the answer.

This student and two others, who all requested anonymity for fear of reprisal by Staver (who is also the law school’s dean), recounted the classroom discussion of civil disobedience, as well as efforts to draw comparisons between choosing “God’s law” over “man’s law” to the American revolution and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. According to one student, in the Foundations course both Staver and Lindevaldsen “espoused the opinion that in situations where God’s law is in direct contradiction to man’s law, we have an obligation to disobey it.”
...
That semester’s mid-term exam, obtained by RD [see excerpts of the actual exam here], included a question based on Miller’s case asking students to describe what advice they would give her “as a friend who is a Christian lawyer.” After laying out a slanted history of the protracted legal battle, the exam asked, “Lisa needs your counsel on how to think through her legal situation and how to respond as a Christian to this difficult problem. Relying only on what we have learned thus far in class, how would you counsel Lisa?”

Students who wrote that Miller should comply with court orders received bad grades while those who wrote she should engage in civil disobedience received an A, the three students said. “People were appalled,” said one of the students, adding, “especially as lawyers to be, who are trained and licensed to practice the law—to disobey that law, that seemed completely counterintuitive to all of us.”

Still, some knew what they needed to “regurgitate,” in order to get a good grade. “It was obvious by the substance of the class during the semester the answer that they wanted,” said one of the students. “The majority of people that I am acquainted with who did get As wrote that because that was expected of them.”

One of the students who got an A said, “I told them she needed to engage in civil disobedience and seriously consider leaving the country,” adding, “I knew what I needed to write.”

Given what was expected of them on the exam, and the tenor of the class, there is “not a lot of shock among the students about the current developments,” said one of the students, referring to the revelation that Miller is in hiding in Nicaragua. “Everybody semi-suspected that Liberty Counsel had something to do with her disappearance.”


Of course, we have no way of knowing what Liberty Counsel knew and when they knew it. But Posner’s reporting shows that it’s certainly worth looking into.

LaBarbera and Lindevaldsen Say No to Gay Judges, Sad Sally Ride ‘Fell into Lesbianism’

Americans for Truth About Homosexuality’s Peter LaBarbera continued his discussion with Liberty University Law School’s Rena Lindevaldsen on Friday. The two revisited the topic of openly gay judges, specifically the Virginia prosecutor who was rejected from a judgeship simply because he was gay. That discrimination was ok, Lindevaldsen said, because “if you’re engaged in a lifestyle of immorality, whether that be a homosexual lifestyle or an adulterous relationship or fornication, that’s not the type of moral character that I believe should be someone who’s being appointed to become a judge”:

Lindevaldsen: I think we can equate this not only with the judiciary, but the same debate is taking place, you know, who we want to serve as our schoolteachers, for example. We want moral, upstanding individuals to serve as judges, and this debate’s taking place with schoolteachers too. So if you’re engaged in a lifestyle of immorality, whether that be a homosexual lifestyle or an adulterous relationship or fornication, that’s not the type of moral character that I believe should be someone who’s being appointed to become a judge.

I think it goes to fit moral character and I think that the necessary qualification of any judicial appointment. And therefore it is relevant, based on your conduct, to judge and decide whether you should be allowed to sit in the judiciary.

Immediately after Lindevaldsen and LaBarbera made the case that gay judicial nominees should be defined by and excluded for their sexual orientation, they changed the rules when it came to another prominent example of an openly gay person in public life. Lindevaldsen and LaBarbera heaped scorn on gay rights activists who have had the nerve to call the late Sally Ride, who lived for 27 years with her same-sex partner, a gay pioneer. Emphasizing Ride’s sexual orientation, LaBarbera said -- expanding on a tweet from shortly after her death --would be like defining her as an alcoholic if she had a drinking problem:

LaBarbera: They’re always using opportunities to promote what their version of reality on homosexuality. And really quickly, Sally Ride, another great example. Sally Ride was the first female astronaut, the first…and she had many amazing accomplishments. Unfortunately she also fell into lesbianism and left her husband, she was married, she ended up living in a lesbian lifestyle. She was not public about it. Now gay activists, like Michelangelo Signorile, are using her homosexual, you know, the fact that she practiced the homosexual lifestyle, to say, ‘Hey, this is another gay hero.”

Kirkwood: She was a female astronaut, now she’s the ‘lesbian astronaut.’

LaBarbera: Now she’s the lesbian astronaut, and you better believe in textbooks like in California where they’re teaching gay history now, there’s going to be Sally Ride. So people are going to learn Sally Ride as a, and we’re going a bit over here, they’re going to learn Sally Ride, Rena, as a gay hero, even though she wasn’t even public about it in her life.

Lindevaldsen: Yeah, because they need to contort our history to show that we’ve accepted this all along and that it’s perfectly normal, and see you too can do this and become great things. And you can, you can accomplish things, but that’s not who she was, that doesn’t define who she was and what she accomplished.

LaBarbera: And Rena, I tweeted, and I knew this was going to get me in trouble, but I tweeted, ‘Did she have a drinking problem too?’ In my tweet, I said that she made great accomplishments. But she should not be, and I didn’t, of course she doesn’t, I don’t know if she had a drinking problem or not, but my point was the fact that she practiced homosexuality would be about as relevant as saying, ‘Sally Ride, hey people who drink can be great.’ I mean it’s still immoral behavior, it’s very sad to me that she was involved in that lifestyle. The fact that she was in that lifestyle doesn’t take away from the great accomplishments that she had. But the point is gay identity politics now wants to seize her as a hero.

 

Freedom for 'Phobes

It has been known for years that Chick-fil-A supports right-wing groups. The company has given out gift cards at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit. At a recent Religious Right gathering, a speaker talked about how wonderful it was to live and work in Atlanta, where, he said, there’s a Baptist church on every corner and the streets are paved with Chick-fil-A.

So I am no fan of Chick-fil-A, but I’m a big fan of freedom, and that includes Chick-fil-A’s freedom to open its restaurants, even in cities where progressive political leaders don’t like the reactionary politics promoted by the company and its owners.

There’s been a robust campaign by advocates for LGBT equality to call more attention to Chick-fil-A’s contributions to “traditional family” groups, which total in the millions of dollars. But the feathers really flew when company president Dan Cathy made comments in an interview with Baptist Press bragging about his company’s position on marriage – “guilty as charged” -- and his comments to an Atlanta radio station.

I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’” said Cathy.

I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about,” he added.

It’s no surprise that Cathy’s comments have stirred supporters of LGBT equality to respond. Much of that response has been in the best traditions of free speech and protest. In Washington, D.C., this week, the Human Rights Campaign organized a protest in front of a Chick-Fil-A food truck. Other activists have rallied outside Chick-Fil-A stores and some students have protested the company’s presence on their campuses.

In addition, a number of political leaders have spoken out in defense of marriage equality and in opposition to the company’s support for discrimination. Twenty years ago, I would never have imagined elected officials taking the time to publicly criticize a business on behalf of the ability of same-sex couples to get married. It’s a good thing – a sign of amazing progress.

But a couple of politicians have gone too far – suggesting that the power of government should be used to prevent the company from opening restaurants based on its political donations and the positions of its owners. That’s not a good thing. As a matter of principle, the government shouldn’t treat individuals differently based on their political or religious beliefs, or companies based on the political activities and contributions of their owners.  As others have noted, we wouldn’t want cities or states to have the power to prevent the opening of stores whose owners support LGBT equality or other progressive causes. 

People For the American Way’s headquarters is located in the District of Columbia, where elected officials have recognized that LGBT people should be treated equally under the law. DC’s progressive public policies stand in stark contrast to the anti-equality work of groups like the Family Research Council, but we would never suggest that the DC government could or should have prevented FRC from planting its headquarters in the center of downtown DC. Our commitment to freedom and equality should extend to those who don’t share it.

PFAW Foundation
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