In 2007, Iowa enacted a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The law applies to what are known as “public accommodations.”
Now federal law typically considers “public accommodations” to be facilities like restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, retail establishments, and parks.
But recently, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission added something atypical to that list: church services.
In its “Provider’s Guide,” the Commission offered an answer to the question, “Does this law apply to churches?” with a resounding “Sometimes.” What follows is troubling: “Iowa law provides that these protections do not apply to religious institutions with respect to any religion-based qualifications when such qualifications are related to a bona fide religious purpose.”
I say troubling because implied in that statement is that the state gets to determine what is and what is not a bona fide religious purpose.
And what follows that goes from troubling to outrageous: “Where qualifications are not related to a bona fide religious purpose, churches are still subject to the law’s provisions: For example, a child care facility operated at a church or a church service open to the public.” Which, as the Alliance Defending Freedom rightly pointed out, “encompasses most events that churches hold.”
If the Commission interpretation stands, then churches—at any service open to the public—would be prohibited from doing or saying anything that would “ ‘directly or indirectly’ make ‘persons of any particular . . . gender identity’ feel ‘unwelcome’ in conjunction with church services, events, and other religious activities.”
Given the almost limitless capacity for people to take offense or feel “unwelcome,” this would effectively ban sermons or other religious instruction about traditional Christian sexual ethics. This is what the Supreme Court famously dubbed a “chilling effect” on the freedom of religion and of speech.
Now if you’re wondering “how is this even legal?” you’re not alone. Paul Gowder, who teaches constitutional law at the University of Iowa, told the Des Moines Register that any attempt to regulate the content of sermons is “blatantly unconstitutional” and “absurd on its face.”
That’s why the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), representing two Iowa churches, has filed what is known as a “pre-enforcement challenge,” which challenges the constitutionality of the measure before it even takes effect.
Let’s hope and pray that the ADF prevails. But even if they do, it’s a sobering reminder of three things.
First, this didn’t happen at the Supreme Court or in left-leaning Washington State: it happened in the heartland, in Iowa. Religious freedom is in a precarious condition.
Second, it shows how wrong those who insisted, “‘Oh, they’ll never make pastors do this,” or “They’ll never make churches do that” really were. The state of Iowa is pretending to arbitrate what counts as a bona fide religious purpose. Everything a church does should have a religious purpose, especially outreach. That’s why every church service is open to the public.
Finally, it brings to mind Martin Niemöller’s famous line about failing to stand for others until there was no one left to stand up for him. Too many pastors failed to stand up for the freedoms of people in the pew because, well, they weren’t bakers or photographers or florists. And the pastors assumed they were safe. Clearly they aren’t.
The unprecedented attempt to regulate religious speech in Iowa shows the lengths to which enemies of religious freedom are prepared to go, proving it was never about cakes or photos in the first place.
St. Augustine once said you could judge a nation by what it “supremely loves.” For America, that thing is freedom. Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and Occupy Wall Street folks all clamor for it.
But a debate rages over what freedom is. Indeed, America is at a crossroads, as political factions war over the form of American freedom and ways to best guard it. What many fail to realize is that the worst enemy of American freedom is not the jihadists, not technology, not even politicians or the ‘other party.’ Unbridled freedom is freedom’s own worst enemy.
As Os Guinness explains in his book, A Free People’s Suicide, “Freedom requires order and therefore restraint, yet the only restraint that does not contradict freedom is self-restraint, which is the very thing that freedom undermines when it flourishes.”
Few authors can summarize and communicate complex ideas and history as clearly as Os Guinness, an acclaimed speaker and the author of many Christian non-fiction books. Guinness’ most recent book, titled A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future, published by InterVarsity Press, presents a succinct, digestible, yet unsettling truth: Freedom in America is self-destructing.
The short volume briefly spans the spectrum and development of Western political thought leading to the American model freedom, based on religious liberty, points out the looming hangman’s noose, and appeals to American citizens to reverse course to the Founder’s understanding of “sustainable freedom.” After reading this book, you will know what and why liberty is the central and pivotal issue of our time and is, in fact, the single most critical component for the continued success of American status as a free society.
According to Guinness, freedom must be won, then ordered, then sustained. The Founders won, or reclaimed, liberty with the American Revolution. They ordered it by the excellently crafted safeguards of the Constitution. The third step, sustaining freedom, is the hardest. America’s Founding Fathers understood that “The greatest enemy of freedom is freedom,” and their solution, which worked for a couple centuries, modern Americans seem to want to ignore. For years, freedom was sustained by self-government. But now, self-government is becoming a rare democratic virtue.
While the Constitution is aptly called the ‘Fortress of Liberty,” we cannot trust in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or our laws to protect liberty. Sustainable freedom must be achieved through a relationship that the Founders all understood and commended. Freedom is protected or lost by the virtue of its people. Guinness writes that, “In a democratic republic, the rules and the subjects are one and the same, so freedom depends constantly not only on the character of the nation’s leaders but also on the character of its citizens.”
Guinness’ new, simple concoction for a virtuous, self-governing democratic people is the “Golden Triangle,” by which he means “the cultivation and transmission of the conviction that freedom requires virtue, which requires faith, which requires freedom, which in turn requires virtue, which requires faith, which requires freedom and so on, like the recycling triangle, ad infinitum.”
For people to be trusted to not trample on the freedom of others, they must restrain themselves by their own virtue. For virtue, free citizens must show “obedience to the unenforceable,” which of course means true virtue, which must be based on one’s own volition, one’s own faith.
To close the recycling loop, then, freedom is required for faith because faith would be no faith at all if it was really forced lip-service. Hence, Guinness calls religious liberty the crowning achievement of the American Experiment. Sustainable freedom, then, is based on true virtue, which must be built on habits of true faith. The only way to have true faith is by the people forming true, heartfelt convictions which can only be done with freedom. With the three legs in harmony, the people largely self-govern themselves and freedom and civil society are sustained.
To reengage the Golden Triangle, this generation and posterity must rediscover the “unum” (one) in e pluribus unum – that is, the supreme, uniting values of America that make it one nation – through civil education, thus “going back to go forward” by returning to the proven first principles of the Founders.
Guinness closes his new book with some provocative questions and a prayer:
Is freedom to become America’s Achilles’ heel or to remain her glory still? Will America go forward strongly by going back wisely? My hope and prayer is simple: that Americans will do what Rome failed to do and remain a republic not only in name but in reality, a free republic that will remain free across the long marches of time, just as your wisest and most daring once fervently believed that it might.
Book Review: A Free People’s Suicide by Os Guinness
The passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has the political pundits prognosticating, the talk-show hosts prophesying, and the conservatives palpitating. Who will nominate the next Supreme Court Justice is all the buzz.
Already, the GOP rustlers are proclaiming the perceived threat in order to stampede the faithful into voting for their Presidential nominee. The perceived threat is that “A Democrat President will appoint Supreme Court Justices.” Therefore, “You must vote for the GOP Presidential nominee so he can nominate justices to the Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade can be overturned.”
Actually, the GOP has stampeded the faithful using this ruse for over 40 years now. Every four years they bring out the scarecrow – a Democrat President who will appoint liberal, pro-abortion justices. Scalia’s passing has given fresh vigor to the ruse.
The truth is – though the faithful have voted for the Republican Presidents and the Republican Presidents have nominated many justices – Roe v. Wade still stands.
In fact, a short history lesson shows that when Roe v. Wade was decided – six of the nine justices on the court were Republican-appointed. And over the next 40 years the Republican-appointed justices always outnumbered the Democrat-appointed justices either seven to two or eight to one. And yet, Roe remains intact.
And now this year, they will stampede the faithful yet again using the same ruse.
Regardless of what Party nominates the justices – this problem with the judiciary declaring evil to be good and good to be evil will not be remedied, adjudicated, or fixed in the courts. The courts are the dispensers of injustice and immorality in this nation.
To end this blithering cycle, conservatives and Christians need to come to grips with the cold, stark reality that there is no federal solution to our nation’s ills – rather – the federal government is the problem. Sitting around waiting for this four-year cycle to endlessly repeat itself so we can do it all again only ensures our nation’s demise.
Regardless of your desire to be a Pollyanna, or agreement that “Yes Virginia – there is a Santa Claus,” or insistence that the Emperor really does have new clothes, the reality is the federal judiciary is a tyrant that will not correct itself. It is incapable of correcting itself, as they are drunk on their own hubris. Nor will our spine-less Congress correct it, as most of them are bought and paid for by wealthy men and special interests.
Understand, you cannot appease a tyrant – you must confront him.
Governors, and Attorney Generals, and state legislatures (as well as county and local governments) simply must interpose against such judicial lawlessness. The Emperor needs to be told – “You have no clothes!” Roe v. Wade is not “the law of the land” – it is a court opinion and nothing more. Obergefell is not “the law of the land” – it is a court opinion and nothing more.
A true federalism understands that whenever one branch of government begins to play the tyrant – it is then more incumbent than ever for all other branches (whether federal, state, county, or local) to uphold the Constitution and resist the branch playing the tyrant – even if that branch is the Supreme Court.
Antonin Scalia understood that the Supreme Court needs to be resisted by the other branches of government. In his scathing dissent, he wrote that the Obergefell opinion “is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government;” Id. at *43 (Scalia, J., dissenting)
Scalia understood that the courts do not have law-making power. Legislators write laws. The federal judiciary has usurped the legislative branch and given itself powers the Constitution did not give to it.
Through so-called “Judicial Supremacy” the federal courts claim to be the lone and final arbiter of what is constitutional and what is not. They claim this through the so-called “Supremacy Clause” – Article 6, paragraph 2 of the Constitution. But when one actually reads Article 6, paragraph 2 they see that the Supreme Court is not mentioned there (nor any federal court). Rather – it is the Constitution itself that has supremacy.
The Supreme Court wrote themselves into this role – as lone and final arbiter of the Constitution – through their rulings. They did this early on. Thomas Jefferson wrote extensively against the Court. He stated in 1820 in a letter to William Jarvis: “You seem . . . to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.”
Even Abraham Lincoln spoke of it in his first Inaugural Address: “The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government, upon vital questions, affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary litigation between parties, in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having, to that extent, practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.”
Though men will always try to forbear, the judiciary’s lawlessness is bringing this 200 year old debate to a head. Men are realizing they no longer have the convenience of acting indifferent towards the unjust and immoral actions of their government.
On October 8th, 2015, the week that the Supreme Court began its current session, 72 prominent legal scholars issued a statement that Obergefell is not “the law of the land.”
At the end of their statement, they wrote:
We remind all officeholders in the United States that they are pledged to uphold the Constitution of the United States, not the will of five members of the Supreme Court.
We call on all federal and state officeholders:
1.) To refuse to accept Obergefell as binding precedent for all but the specific plaintiffs in that case.
2.) To recognize the authority of states to define marriage, and the right of federal and state officeholders to act in accordance with those definitions.
3.) To pledge full and mutual legal and political assistance to anyone who refuses to follow Obergefell for constitutionally protected reasons.
This is the interposition of the lesser magistrates. This is true federalism.
The time for pondering political theory is ending. The day for application is here. Bravery and sacrifice are essential in this hour. May we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of the Lord and do what is needed and necessary.
Article reposted with permission from LesserMagistrate.com, the opinions and views shared do not necessarily reflect the views of The Washington Standard.