It is widely believed that conservative Christians are a key demographic for Republicans. Evidence also suggests that fear mongering is an important political tool used by most politicians and pundits. It comes as no surprise, then, that the conservative media has spent much of the past decade attempting to paint Christianity as under attack. The problem is that the reality doesn't match the narrative.
For example, after a Kentucky court ruled in favor of a T-shirt maker who refused to print shirts for a gay and lesbian organization, Fox News' resident Christian outrage peddler, Todd Starnes, sat down with Lou Dobbs and claimed that this was a win for religious freedom. While this is clearly the story that the conservative media would like to push, the decision was actually about freedom of speech, not religious freedom.
In fact, the judge's ruling stated, "[T]he right of freedom of thought protected by the First Amendment against state action includes both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking at all."
Companies are free to choose which products they will and will not sell; this applies to all companies regardless of their religious views. In this case the owners felt that the wording on the shirt was offensive and refused to sell the product. They were not refusing to serve a specific customer, as is the case in the other situations that have made news recently.
This is no different from Walmart's recent decision not to sell UFC fighter Ronda Rousey's autobiography in their stores, because they felt it was too violent. Ronda Rousey has no constitutional right to have her book sold at Walmart, and Walmart customers have no constitutional right to purchase this book at Walmart.
Conversely, when religious freedom advocates feign indignation over Christian business owners being sued for denial of service, what they are really promoting is the option to discriminate based on religious beliefs. Regardless of your religious beliefs, it is unconstitutional to deny people service based on who they are.
The problem with people like Todd Starnes is that they are either ignorant of this distinction, which is embarrassing for a supposed expert in the field, or purposefully misleading their consumers, which is both embarrassing and shameful.
Of course, the fight over corporate religious freedom is only one car in this politically motivated freight train of misguided Christian fury. Others, like Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, believe, as he puts it, that "[w]e are moving rapidly toward the criminalization of Christianity." As proof, Huckabee says, "There are numerous cases, whether it's the chaplains in the military being told to put their Bibles away, no longer pray in Jesus' name, not to counsel people who are in a homosexual lifestyle, not to counsel them to try to seek assistance for that."
One assumes that some of the other "numerous cases" that Huckabee is referencing include when corporations exercise their religious freedom and say "Happy holidays" to customers instead of "Merry Christmas," or when public schools refuse to allow religious services on school grounds.
Having said that, this idea that there is some sort of "war on Christianity" in the U.S. is small-minded and insultingly insensitive to Christians across the globe who experience true religious persecution. As the Open Doors organization points out, every month 322 Christians are killed for their faith, 214 Christian churches and properties are destroyed, and 772 forms of violence are committed against Christians around the world. Imagine the conservative media coverage if these sort of things happened in America.
The reality is that there are few if any places in the world where it is better to be Christian than the U.S., so pretending that being forced to abide by the constitution is somehow a "war" comes off a lot like the spoiled rich kid whose parents won't upgrade the radio on the new BMW I8 they are buying for his birthday. It just makes you look uninformed, selfish and silly.
How will Donald Trump’s first 100 days impact YOU? Subscribe, choose the community that you most identify with or want to learn more about and we’ll send you the news that matters most once a week throughout Trump’s first 100 days in office. Learn more