The words “religious liberty” don’t mean what they once did to many people, especially if big business has its way.
You’ve seen those ridiculous “Coexist” bumper stickers, right? You know, the ones where the word is spelled out using religious symbols from Christianity, Islam, Paganism, Gay rights, Judaism, and so on?
I call it ridiculous because, as someone once wrote: “The C wants to kill the E, X, T, and the O. The O offers peaceful non-resistance, which will be ineffective if real trouble breaks out. The E feels like it’s been oppressed, making it intolerant of the C, the X, and the T. The I and the S are numerically irrelevant, but are just necessary to spell out the word. And the sticker is mostly directed at the T (or the Christian), who ironically poses no threat whatsoever to any of the others.”
In other words, the “Coexist” bumper sticker slogan assumes that each ideology be emptied of its actual conviction if its to work. And according to Colson Center board member Jennifer Marshall, that’s what big business is currently trying to sell to the American people.
In a piece for Religion News Service, Marshall says the recent controversies over religious freedom amount to a test of whether those who so loudly proclaim the need for coexistence are prepared to live by it.
Exhibit A is the new Mississippi law that ensures that churches and other religious groups aren’t punished for declining to participate in weddings against their convictions, or for setting personnel and housing policies based on their deeply held beliefs.
Further, this law allows private businesses and schools to set their own policies for bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms. In that sense, the law models peaceful coexistence on very contentious social issues.
But one corporation, IBM is claiming that, “(T)his legislation will permit discrimination against people based on their marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.”
Not so, according to Jennifer Marshall. The law protects those with religious scruples from being discriminated against. “What the new law does,” she points out, “is to prevent discrimination by ensuring the government will not force people to violate their consciences in very specific contexts spelled out by the law.”
For example, the law guarantees everyone legally eligible for a marriage license gets one, while allowing clerks with religious objections to opt out of directly issuing marriage licenses. That way, there will be no courthouse showdowns like the one involving Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis last year. “Mississippi’s policy shows that we can coexist,” Marshall says. “Why would big business oppose that?”
That’s a good question given the number of times large corporate entities have entered these hot debates just in the last few years. Think of all of the corporate-led attacks and blackmail against common-sense religious freedom legislation in Arizona, Indiana, Georgia, North Carolina, and now Mississippi. And then think of the bakers, florists, and photographers in places such as New Mexico, Colorado and Washington State who have been forced to choose between their beliefs and ruinous fines forcing them out of business. They were not allowed to co-exist, at least not without compromising their convictions.
As Jennifer Marshall points out, true advocates of cultural coexistence seek conscience protections for all, not just those who adhere to the vision of the sexual revolution. Citing a poll that says 63 percent of state residents support the law, Jennifer writes, “Citizens in Mississippi and elsewhere are looking for solutions that defuse cultural tension over issues of sexual orientation and gender identity . . .The corporate establishment’s campaign against these common sense policies disregards all that. Citizens would do well to see through the big business marketing blitz against religious liberty. This corporate messaging puts neither the common good nor constitutional principle first.”
No, it certainly doesn’t.
— by John Stonestreet
Stonestreet is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and is heard on Breakpoint. Copyright© 2016 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.