John Inazu has a fascinating piece at Christianity Today about religious liberty vs. LGBT rights. I encourage you to read this so that you can better understand how we’ve landed in the pickle we’re in right now. Inazu also offers three predictions about where things are going in the very near future:
Prediction #1: Only religious groups (by no means all of them) will impose restrictions based on sexual conduct.
Prediction #2: Only religious groups will accept a distinction between “sexual conduct” and “sexual orientation,” and those groups will almost certainly lose the legal effort to maintain that distinction.
Prediction #3: Fewer and fewer people will value religious freedom.
Inazu argues that our first freedom—guaranteed as the first item in the first amendment—is simply no longer important to many Americans. Even though the principle is deeply embedded in our laws and traditions, fewer and fewer people see any need for it. Because religious liberty is quickly going the way of the Dodo, Inazu says that Christians should not expect to persuade a hostile culture with appeals to “religious liberty.” Rather, we should be making appeals to pluralism, not religious liberty.
Inazu says that one practical implication of preferring “pluralism” over “religious liberty” is that “Christians in states without any antidiscrimination protections for gays and lesbians might consider supporting those laws containing exemptions for religious groups, rather than simply advocating for religious freedom on its own.”
I’m still mulling this article, but two things come to mind that I thought worth mentioning now:
1. Supporting Anti-discrimination Protections with Exemptions: It seems that this is precisely what the President of Gordon College was trying to do (albeit at the federal level). He and the other signatories were not asking for President Obama not to issue the executive order. They were merely asking for an exemption. Merely affixing his name to this request has cost Gordon College dearly. In light of this, Inazu might add a fourth prediction. Supporting religious exemptions will become increasingly costly, and opportunities to do so may be diminishing in any case.
2. Christians should leave off religious liberty arguments in favor of pluralism arguments: I don’t think this is an either/or choice before us. There will be no pluralism without religious liberty. A society cannot have one without the other. As soon as a culture begins banishing religious viewpoints from public life (and indeed punishing them), pluralism is dead. The only way for pluralism to thrive is for all viewpoints to be allowed at the table—including religious ones. We may adopt the rhetoric of pluralism in the service of religious liberty. I’m completely open to that. But that does not mean that the one (pluralism) can exist without the other (religious liberty).
Again, this is a thought-provoking article about issues that are landing on our doorstep right now. Highly recommended.