By Christopher B. Daly
The following op-ed essay appeared the other day under the byline of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. I believe he is wrong on the facts and the politics. But that’s beside the point of this blog. I was struck by his rhetoric, highlighted in red below.
BATON ROUGE, La. — THE debate over religious liberty in America presents conservatives and business leaders with a crucial choice.
In Indiana and Arkansas, large corporations recently joined left-wing activists to bully elected officials into backing away from strong protections for religious liberty. It was disappointing to see conservative leaders so hastily retreat on legislation that would simply allow for an individual or business to claim a right to free exercise of religion in a court of law.
Our country was founded on the principle of religious liberty, enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Why shouldn’t an individual or business have the right to cite, in a court proceeding, religious liberty as a reason for not participating in a same-sex marriage ceremony that violates a sincerely held religious belief?
That is what Indiana and Arkansas sought to do. That political leaders in both states quickly cowered amid the shrieks of big business and the radical left should alarm us all.
As the fight for religious liberty moves to Louisiana, I have a clear message for any corporation that contemplates bullying our state: Save your breath.
In 2010, Louisiana adopted a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prohibits government from unduly burdening a person’s exercise of religion. However, given the changing positions of politicians, judges and the public in favor of same-sex marriage, along with the potential for discrimination against Christian individuals and businesses that comes with these shifts, I plan in this legislative session to fight for passage of the Marriage and Conscience Act.
The legislation would prohibit the state from denying a person, company or nonprofit group a license, accreditation, employment or contract — or taking other “adverse action” — based on the person or entity’s religious views on the institution of marriage.
Some corporations have already contacted me and asked me to oppose this law. I am certain that other companies, under pressure from radical liberals, will do the same. They are free to voice their opinions, but they will not deter me. As a nation we would not compel a priest, minister or rabbi to violate his conscience and perform a same-sex wedding ceremony. But a great many Americans who are not members of the clergy feel just as called to live their faith through their businesses. That’s why we should ensure that musicians, caterers, photographers and others should be immune from government coercion on deeply held religious convictions.
The bill does not, as opponents assert, create a right to discriminate against, or generally refuse service to, gay men or lesbians. The bill does not change anything as it relates to the law in terms of discrimination suits between private parties. It merely makes our constitutional freedom so well defined that no judge can miss it.
I hold the view that has been the consensus in our country for over two centuries: that marriage is between one man and one woman. Polls indicate that the American consensus is changing — but like many other believers, I will not change my faith-driven view on this matter, even if it becomes a minority opinion.
A pluralistic and diverse society like ours can exist only if we all tolerate people who disagree with us. That’s why religious freedom laws matter — and why it is critical for conservatives and business leaders to unite in this debate.
A version of this op-ed appears in print on April 23, 2015, on page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: Holding Firm Against Gay Marriage.
Now, I am old enough to remember a time in our past when we had a real radical left. And I have studied enough American history to know that before the New Left, there was an earlier radical left. (Just consider: the socialist newspaper “Appeal to Reason” had more than a million readers at its heyday little over a century ago.)
Clearly, Jindal is trying to pull off an old conservative rhetorical trick here: labeling anyone who disagrees with him as a “radical.” If only. The one I found particularly amusing was his mash-up of “the shrieks of big business and the radical left.”
Then there’s his paradoxical coinage: “radical liberals.” Huh? Categorically, liberals are not radical. If they were radicals, they would be called radicals. He knows better (or he should). The people he is talking about are mainstream Democrats, centrists, independents, and some members of his own party.
The fact is, the far left in America is pretty much dormant nowadays — something that you might think Jindal would celebrate. But why let any hobgoblin go unemployed?