Joel Belz: Future peril for religious liberty

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, August 28th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. When Christians decline to participate in something the current culture deems desirable, trouble will come. You can expect that what you are actively not doing sets up opposition to you. 

WORLD founder Joel Belz has been thinking about that.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: When evangelicals discuss the LGBTQ movement, two themes usually surface. 

The first is: “Can you believe how fast all this has happened?”

And second: “So where is the LGBTQ movement moving next?”

Both are thoughtful and legitimate questions. But too much focus on the past may have a tendency to obscure what lies ahead. We are what we are; we are what we have become. What are we going to do about it?

All that’s why I was especially intrigued with a major editorial feature in the July 27th Wall Street Journal. It highlighted the likely impact of LGBTQ advances on future national policies. The question Journal editors weigh is to what extent those advances have put religious liberty for others in peril. 

David French says peril is very real. French is an attorney, senior writer for National Review, and a columnist for Time. He says some newly privileged parts of society are determined to make life tough for those who have opposed them until recently. 

Specifically, the pattern is to remove tax-exempt status from their opponents. Schools, orphanages, publications, student groups—or even churches—might lose tax exemption if they don’t fully back homosexual rights and priviledges.

French argues that the Constitution’s early placement of the Bill of Rights—including the religious liberty clause—is very deliberate. Quote—“Every other American law—whether a federal statute, state constitutional provision, state law or university regulation—is subordinate to and subject to review under the Bill of Rights.” End quote.

Marci Hamilton argued the opposite side in the Wall Street Journal debate. She is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA. 

Hamilton says, “Too much harm is done in the name of religious liberty.” She cites cases like the Amish communities curtailing their children’s education in the name of religious liberty; and North American Indians who sought the “religious right” to use nerve-damaging drugs in their tribal worship services.

But Hamilton weakens her case by citing small and relatively impotent groups. Yes, their rights are important—and they may carry some limited precedent. But no one should pretend the cases are similar to some bold effort to negate the tax advantages of thousands of organiza­tions and millions of citizens—just because some folks choose not to participate in practices they consider to be out-of-bounds.

Hamilton tries to calm the fears of those who buy French’s warnings. But she spends a little too much space arguing that even if those warnings come true, things won’t be so bad.

In the end, I think she validates French’s arguments. No cause for panic. Just time for the rest of us to be a bit more thoughtful.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File) In this June 26, 2015, file photo, a crowd celebrates outside of the Supreme Court in Washington after the court declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the U.S.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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