Religious Freedom Is on the Line

By Tom Gilson Published on November 1, 2020

Federal funding is federal control. It doesn’t come free; it takes freedom away. The Democratic Party has slid so far to the left, Tuesday’s referendum will be a referendum on socialism. It doesn’t even have to go that far to turn tyrannical. Yet people are confused on this — even those who shouldn’t be.

Clay Jones isn’t among the confused. A visiting scholar at Talbot School of Theology University, he posted a note on Christian Facebook group warning about Joe Biden’s expressed commitment to LGBTQ rights. He wrote (in a version he revised for me via email),

This could be the end of Christian universities. That’s an overreach you say? Consider California’s SB-1146, which was passed by the California state senate. SB-1146 would have required Christian schools, which receive any type of state aid, including Cal grants for student loans, to not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. That would have made it illegal to discriminate against openly homosexual faculty members. That bill never became law and I think the major reason is that its proponents realized that the US Supreme Court would have struck it down. But how would a court stacked with progressives have voted? Be on guard, the enemy is always looking for a way to shut down Christian institutions.

It’s an important warning. The Facebook discussion revolved around federal funding more than state, but the same principles apply to each. And I’ve been appalled at the pushback he got from some members of this online Christian group. It was only a few people, but their responses are still instructive.

‘Really, It’s Okay if They Force That On Us’

Their criticism centered around two major objections: “Why should Christian universities be any exception to rules other schools have to follow?” and “Christian universities would lose no freedoms; they can just pull out of all federal funding.”

These are easy questions, or at least they ought to be. The United States designated religion as an exception from the beginning. Is religion an exception? Our founding document says so. It does not say that about sexual preferences. To dismiss that is to forget that religious freedom is neither arbitrary nor archaic. I’ve argued that even secularists should want to work with us to protect that freedom from every encroachment. It’s one of the most basic foundations of the freedoms they enjoy, too.

Part of the reason for standing guard, then, is because standing guard is good in itself. We must keep religious freedom secure.

Federal Funding is Federal Intrusion

But it’s also wrongheaded to say that Christian schools can pull out of federal funding with no loss of freedoms. Sure, when the government sends money with stipulations like these attached, it looks like a gift, and it even looks it’s meant to shield public policy from discrimination. But that’s wrong on both counts.

It’s a day of tyranny when sexual freedom overruns religious freedom.

First, if it’s a gift, it’s one we all pay for. Not much of a gift, when you look at it that way. Second, while it looks as if its purpose is to counter discrimination, it’s actually state-established financial policy that actively discriminates against conservative, Christian moral beliefs and practices. How so? Everyone pays for the gift, and everyone gets access to the gift — everyone except Christians, that is, if they want to maintain their historic beliefs.

That’s clearly religious discrimination against belief, which I would argue makes it a violation of the First Amendment. I’m no constitutional scholar, though, and neither were the folks debating this on Facebook. This, though, is simpler: It’s also taking Christian money and using it to impress anti-Christian values on the general public.

Freedoms Are Not Equal

Someone on that forum actually asked, “Why should LGBTQ people have to pay [taxes] to fund schools that will bar them entry in virtue of their being LGBTQ?” My answer to that is, “Why should Christians be forced to put up their money to teach beliefs and behaviors that we’re convinced are immoral?”

The two questions might appear to be at parity, with neither defeating the other, except for two significant differences. The second one, my question, isn’t only about finances but about force. Christian schools would be forced either to fully accept LGBTQ or to put themselves at a huge financial disadvantage. And not only is it a government-enforced restriction upon these schools’ freedoms, it’s intruding specifically upon religious freedom. It bears repeating: It’s a day of tyranny when sexual freedom overruns religious freedom.

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This is what the state can do even short of socialism. It amazes me that people — Christians, particularly — can find it good and right and defensible.

Win or lose next Tuesday, this thinking will be with us for a while to come. We have a lot of corrective teaching to do.


Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the recently released Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.

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