By Jerry Novick | TheWriteAmerica.com
I like George Takei. I’ve never met him in person, despite my many trips to various Star Trek and comic book conventions. But I do like what I know about him. He’s a master of his craft, a compelling presence on screen, a great humanitarian, and an avid protector of civil rights. The world would be blessed to have more people like George Takei.
But last week, George Takei showed us that no matter how good a person is, they can sometimes be wrong. And Mr. Takei is wrong when he characterizes Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as “anti-gay.”
Sadly, he is not alone in that mischaracterization of the bill. The mainstream media, Liberal politicians, and plenty of pundits are also wrong in that assessment. Shoot, even some well-meaning Christians have gotten into the act. And their wrongness has led them to vilify the state of Indiana, Governor Mike Pence (who I’ll vilify later on in this article also), and Christians in general.
(Which makes me wonder – why isn’t anybody in America vilifying Muslims or Jews over this bill. Certainly Muslims and Jews can be “bigots” also. Why is Christianity always the villain?)
Now let me dispense with some technicalities first – concede some points to opponents of this law – before going into the meat of the matter.
Yes, 19 (soon to be 20 – wait, strike that – the Governor of Arkansas is giving a press conference as I type this and he appears to be Pence-ing out) other states as well as the Federal government have very similar laws. Yes, there are two key difference from the other laws contained within the Indiana law as it stands today. And yes, Indiana Governor Pence has backtracked on his defense of the law and promises an amendment that will remove those differences.
But I contend that the differences in Indiana’s current version of the RFRA is the secret sauce that makes this law worth having.
The two differences are this:
- The law allows people to use it as a defense against being sued, even if the government is not involved in bringing the lawsuit. And why shouldn’t it? Should religious freedom only apply to when the government is doing the violating?
- “People” is defined as including businesses and business owners acting as said business and not as as an individual citizen. And again, why shouldn’t this be so? Just because I own a business, does that mean I can be coerced to violate my religious freedom? I would think Progressives would love businesses being identified as people and living entities instead of faceless machines. People make up a business, and owners of businesses have personal beliefs.
“What? Are you crazy, Novick?” I can hear my Liberal critics raving. “Those are the parts that enable discrimination against Gays!” You are a hater, Mr. Novick! A hater! Shoot, I bet your new book is filled with all kinds of hate!”
Okay, get the venom out of your system now, and then I’ll continue.
Ready? Okay then.
I don’t hate gays. In fact, I believe very strongly that Jesus tells us to love everybody despite any actions on their part that might make us want to hate them. Condemn the sin but love the sinner, as the saying goes. Any Christian who would treat another person in a hateful way is missing the point. Thankfully, this too is a sin that can be repented of and forgiven. Perfection is not the standard, progression is.
But sometimes, love can look like hate from a different angle. That’s because love does not mean accepting and condoning every action of other people. In fact, sometimes love demands that one come against another if that person is doing harm to themselves. Tough love – as much as gentle love – is Jesus love.
“But Jesus ate with tax collectors and prostitutes!” you point out.
Yes, He did. After all, Jesus came to forgive sinners of their sins – and we are all sinners. To do that, He needed to connect with them. He gave His time and love to prostitutes. But that doesn’t mean He would drive them to the brothel for the after-dinner shift.
Jesus drew lines. Very clear, very distinct, very uncrossable lines. Jesus was not meek and mild. Read the Gospels. Jesus was a confronter as much as He was a comforter. “Go and sin no more” defines His love an much as “Blessed are the poor in spirit” does.
Okay, so that’s the Jesus angle. For more on applying Jesus’ love to issues facing America today, you can refer to 30 Prayers For God, Country, and The Constitution, which I assure you is not filled with hate.
Now for the America angle…
The First Amendment of the Constitution protects people from religious discrimination on the part of the Federal government. The Federal version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed into law by Bill Clinton after passing Congress with a near-unanimous vote, protects religious freedom on a Federal level. The States laws that follow its lead do the same for that individual State’s government. But, as we have seen now in a number of cases, that has failed to protect religious people from being compelled to materially participate in specific proceedings that violate long-held tenets of their faith. Especially if those individuals happen to own and operate a businesses.
People like Jack Philips of Colorado who faces jail time for declining to produce a specific cake with a specific theme for a specific event that he specifically cannot materially participate in because it violates specific Biblical mandates in his specific religion. And he is not the only business person in the United States facing fines, jail time, and court ordered “re-education and sensitivity training” because they refuse to apply their artistry and talents for a specific event.
Sensing an important theme here? Let me be more specific.
None of these bakers, florists, or photographers are saying that they will not create and sell their wares to gay people, or pork eaters, or prostitutes, or tax collectors. That would be a Level-20 Jerk thing to do and very against what Jesus teaches us. Or Mosaic law. I can’t vouch for the Koran.
H-E-double hockey sticks – one of the florists in question provided flowers for various events and occasions to a couple she knew was gay for years! She doesn’t hate gay people or their money. And she was modeling Jesus by keeping a friendly line of communication open with them, showing Christian love every step of the way. But applying her artistry to make floral arrangements for a gay wedding – a specific event – was a line she could not cross. God is very clear in the Bible that marriage is sacred and set apart for one man to be wed to one woman. To materially participate in that event would violate a deeply held, specific religious belief because her participation is tantamount to condoning the marriage.
Let me clarify and amplify the point: Material participation in an event that goes against a religious belief that can be enumerated by evidence is a violation of a person’s faith. And no government or individual should be able to force that person to participate in said specific event.
Now, anybody who plays the “we don’t serve their kind” game in everyday, regular business transaction is just being a Level-20 Jerk. That is discrimination, pure and simple. There just is no religious basis for that. You can make up a new religion, but it just wouldn’t pass the sniff test. The government should intervene, and the Indiana law allows them to intervene when someone self-identifies as a Level-20 Jerk (which really would be a service to the community, because who wants to patronize a business that discriminates on the basis of their being a bigot in general).
But do you see the difference here?
General bigotry is stupid and claiming religious freedom in those cases is an insult to every religion.
But when a specific definable and supportable religious belief of one person crashes against a specific desire of another person, the person of faith should not be compelled to participate in fulfilling the latter person’s desire. It’s one belief system coming against another, and the one suffering real harm is the person who is compelled to violate their conscious. There are other bakers, other florists, other venues to hold an event. Desire does not equal a right. The religious person would be offending their God by participating. The other person would be inconvenienced at worst by having to find another supplier.
But for some reason, George Takei and the other Progressive Liberals think that want trumps need. And now Indiana Governor Mike Pence and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson have shown themselves to be cowards by backtracking on the two main protections offered by the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act. (I told you I would get back to vilifying him.) Finally two States stood up for a specific right of religion – and because the media can be mean and cruel and made them look like fools, Pence and Hutchinson have retreated from those in need of real protection.
I’m disappointed in both of you, Governor Pence and Governor Hutchinson. But hey, you’re just politicians. I’m more disappointed in George Takei. He’s a defender of Civil Liberties, but in zeal for his own lifestyle, he abandoned his principles and targeted one of the liberties America was built on – the liberty to worship one’s God in every aspect of their life.
Jerry Novick is an author and Chief Editor at TheWriteAmerica.com.