Sometime last week, the Family Research Council (a “pro-marriage” and pro-life organization) led an event called “Free to Believe” where, among other things, 7 GOP candidates vying for their party’s nomination pandered to a sickening extent to the church-going masses. They would emphasize defending religious liberty, which they affectionately label the “First Freedom”, but anyone who sees beyond their pandering platitudes will experience a startling dissonance.
While it would be easy to analyze and pick apart so many hypocrisies with regards to their alleged faith, I have an issue with the very message that they send to the people whose votes they are trying to garner.
The idea of “freedom for all”, no matter what the subject, invokes a mental image of everyone receiving such benefits. As these talking heads blather on about protecting the “First Freedom”, one can recall public, targeted, or even boastful statements they had made, where not allowing all groups this first freedom was an idea to be proud of.
Watch Republican Candidates Commit Blatant Doublespeak About Religious Liberty
- Jeb lays the underpinning of what the First Freedom means, and that it not only allows for quiet religious devotion but to act on it, for example: “Feed the hungry, and taking care of the poor,” and so on. As this is our first freedom, the capacity to do such charitable acts, uninhibited, is a defining character trait for truly free Americans. However, Jeb seems to leave out that he means the Christian hungry and poor, because surely non-Christian refugees traveling from the other side of the planet might be lying about their homelessness and starvation.
- Carson mentions what might be assaulting our First Freedom, and clearly labels it as “secular progressivism”: the idea of emphasizing social justice and equality without the influence on religion. As he cites the 2015 case of Obergefell v. Hodges, making gay marriage the “law of the land” and slighting those who had faith-based objections to it, he fails to mention that there is no imposition on anyone’s faith by making same-sex marriage equally protected under the law as any other legal marriage. The Supreme Court dealt only with legal marriages, not religious ones, so not only is no church obligated to recognize a same-sex marriage, but religious institutions aren’t even influenced by the decision at all. Carson continues to propagate the fallacious conflation of religious and legal relationships and backs up their opposition by mentioning the “millions” that don’t consider same-sex marriages valid. Of course, most can agree that disregarding the many laymen and politicians that used the bible to justify racism and segregation was one of the smarter choices the country has made.
- Cruz also rings in about an “unprecedented attack on our First Freedom” being a secular state. After some melodramatic statements, he makes a powerful promise to direct all forms of federal agencies to stop the persecution of religious liberty on his very first day in office. Until then, he will happily reap the rewards of the continued assault on our first freedom, with 85% of both Congress and Senate being Christian, and some states still having (outdated) laws prohibiting atheists to run for any office! Plus, he’s able to openly say that someone who doesn’t pray to God daily isn’t fit to run the country, so if he’s on his way to the White House, he better get out as much as he can before his first executive action stifles religious persecution, especially the persecution he’s contributing to.
By this point, it should be painfully obvious that the Republican candidates are not just defending a “freedom”, but rather defending a privilege: The privilege to forward their own like-minded kind, while legally and socially diminishing the rights and liberties of others; the privilege to have people of power push for prayer in school, while denying other religions the ability to distribute their own material…once the materials were no longer solely bibles.
It is a disgusting habit that is so pervasive that politicians openly use it as a rallying cry.
- Huckabee, in full fearmongering mode, openly states that if the government can “restrict our beliefs, they can restrict anything.” This is in obvious reference to the idea that “believing” that marriage is only valid between a heterosexual couple allows one to violate the rights of any other couple, and not legally recognize their marriage, despite laws set in place. Quite jarringly, Huckabee states that for the sake of those very beliefs, he would openly defy and ignore any supreme court ruling that did not have a basis in constitutional law, Article III, Section II of the Constitution be damned! Admittedly, it is a very bold statement to make, as I’m sure Huckabee would be in defense of Obama if our current president struck down or ignored the Hobby Lobby, or Citizens United cases, right? Probably not.
- In lockstep with Cruz, Rubio promises to appoint officials who will defend the religious liberties of “all Americans”. This statement is made mere months after he wanted to spy on and close down shops and mosques where radicals might be gathering. While there has been a slew of right-wing, domestic terrorists rampaging through our nation, Rubio also emphasized mosques as opposed to any other religious gathering place. He also vows that there will be no policies that will force anyone into violating their conscience. While a noble goal to set, he very quickly follows that up with stating that marriage is between one man and one woman and that all life is worthy of protection under our laws. Beyond violating the conscience of same-sex couples–forced to live lacking a fundamental right–isn’t that also stripping them of the protection that marriage laws give heterosexual couples?
And on and on they go, dressing their desire to blatantly use current religious privileges as a defense of liberty that all citizens supposedly have. I can’t help but wonder if the GOP as a whole is trying to market the United States as some sort of clandestine theocracy, where we have little masquerade masks of “religious liberty”, which barely disguises the ugly discriminatory nature of how we wish to treat religious minorities or others of any kind. If we as a nation, as a people, no matter what our perspective, allow this false premise to dominate the conversation, then we will sink further into a quagmire of delusion.
Once we get the nation as a whole to see the current Republican party for what they are–milking the conservative right for their outrage and their votes–we can finally have a conversation about what religious liberty and freedom means for all people.
“This is the nature of politics. Some politicians will say and do anything in order to get our vote. Republicans just do it in Jesus’ name.” – Benjamin Dixon