On Religious Liberty, a Chasm Divides the Democrat and Republican Platforms
The party platforms adopted every four years do not bind the candidates. But they do show the stark differences between the activists and organizers who lead each of the parties, and on the central question of religious liberty, the contrast in 2016 would be hard to overstate.
On religious liberty, the GOP Platform repeatedly expresses its concern, beginning with its Preamble, where Republicans say that the President and the Democrats “refuse to control our borders but try to control our schools, farms, businesses, and even our religious institutions.” Admirably, the platform cites the Declaration of Independence to admit that “if God-given, natural, inalienable rights come in conflict with government, court, or human-granted rights, God-given, natural, inalienable rights always prevail.”
The GOP platform underscores that Republicans consist of, and respect the rights of, many faith traditions: “Our ranks include Americans from every faith and tradition, and we respect the right of each American to follow his or her deeply held beliefs.”
Once again the GOP Platform is not a mere pro-forma declaration; it declares that religious liberty is a right promised by Nature’s God but is also necessary to sustain a free society:
The Bill of Rights lists religious liberty, with its rights of conscience, as the first freedom to be protected. … Thomas Jefferson declared that ‘No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.’
The platform notes with alarm “a misguided effort to undermine religion and drive it from the public square.” It continues:
As a result, many charitable religious institutions that have demonstrated great success in helping the needy have been barred from receiving government grants and contracts. Government officials threaten religious colleges and universities with massive fines and seek to control their personnel decisions. Places of worship for the first time in our history have reason to fear the loss of tax-exempt status.
The GOP Platform’s Proposed Solutions
As for redress? The GOP platform urges several courses of action. First, restrain the Internal Revenue Service: “Republicans believe the federal government, specifically the IRS, is constitutionally prohibited from policing or censoring speech based on religious convictions or beliefs, Religious Liberty and therefore we urge the repeal of the Johnson Amendment.”
The platform also enthusiastically endorses the First Amendment Defense Act, which “would protect the non-profit tax status of faith-based adoption agencies, the accreditation of religious educational institutions, the grants and contracts of faith-based charities and small businesses, and the licensing of religious professions — all of which are under assault by elements of the Democratic Party.”
The platform encourages states to pass similar legislation and endorses “the efforts of Republican state legislators and governors who have defied intimidation from corporations and the media in defending religious liberty.” It goes on to condemn public officials who have threatened to boycott private corporations (e.g., Chik-fil-A), pledges to protect business owners subjected to “hate campaigns” and other threats, and supports the public display of the Ten Commandments and the rights of religious schoolchildren to pray voluntarily and to have equal access to afterschool facilities with others in the community.
Perhaps most significantly, the GOP platform calls out the lawless redefinition of Title IX’s gender discrimination to include forcing every public school in America to open their girls shower, locker room and bathroom facilities to biological males (and vice versa). The document observes that Title IX
is now being used by bureaucrats — and by the current President of the United States — to impose a social and cultural revolution upon the American people by wrongly redefining sex discrimination to include sexual orientation or other categories. Their agenda has nothing to do with individual rights; it has everything to do with power.
I wish the GOP platform had noted that this lawless redefinition of gender discrimination to mean whatever the Democrats wish it to mean (in this case LGBT discrimination) is not confined to Title IX. Every federal law prohibiting gender discrimination, including the iconic 1964 Civil Rights Act, has been redefined and is now being used to create new rights for gay and transgender people without the bother of negotiating with Congress (which has always included religious and conscience protections in proposed sexual orientation protections acts).
The GOP Platform also notes a new threat to conscience protections in healthcare: “Healthcare professionals should not be forced to choose between following their faith and practicing their profession. We respect the rights of conscience of healthcare professionals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and organizations, especially … faith-based groups.”
Internationally, the GOP platform promises to revive the influence of The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and to work quickly to designate as genocide the attacks on Christian and other religious minorities in the Middle East.
So the Republican platform promises a strong, deep, philosophically grounded promise to protect and defend religious liberty.
The Democrats: Terrible Food … and Such Small Portions!
What does the Democrat Platform have to say about religious liberty? Very little and little of it is good. This is about as strong as the Democrats promise to be: “We support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate.”
This is strong though euphemistic code language for rejecting conscience protections generally, now redefined as a “license to discriminate.”
The Democrats take Trump to task for “vilification of Muslims. It violates the religious freedom that is the bedrock of our country and feeds into ISIS’ nefarious narrative.” I have criticized Trump’s words myself. But it is striking how vilifying and directly attacking the livelihoods of gay marriage dissenters and traditional religious believers does not even register to Democrats as a matter of concern.
Internationally it is good to see that Democrats are “horrified by ISIS’ genocide and sexual enslavement of Christians and Yezidis.” But gay rights figures far more prominently in the Democrats’ promise to “protect our values” internationally:
Democrats believe that LGBT rights are human rights and that American foreign policy should advance the ability of all persons to live with dignity, security and respect, regardless of who they are or who they love.
When it comes to the Obama administration’s Title IX restroom shenanigans, the Democrats are euphemistically supportive. Democrats prefer to keep the policies in place, apparently because “we will oppose all state efforts to discriminate against LGBT individuals, including legislation that restricts the right to access public spaces.” The use of euphemisms instead of plainer language here is telling.
The overarching premise underscored in the platform, the self-conceit of the Democrats, is that “above all, Democrats are the party of inclusion.” Democrats believe they
will always fight to end discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. We need to promote civility and speak out against bigotry and other forms of intolerance that have entered our political discourse. It is unacceptable to target, defame or exclude anyone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
This is the new mantra of the Left: We will exclude you in the name of inclusion, hate you in the name of stamping out hatred, stereotype your views in the service of stamping out bigotry.
Somewhere Orwell is laughing, maybe. But not me, not here, not now.