According to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, there is a “Silent War on Religious Liberty” in America.
In recent remarks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the Governor claimed that this war is being “waged in our courts and in the halls of political power.” Although “churches in America are not being burned to the ground, and Christians are not being slaughtered for their faith,” he contends that this bloodless war “threatens the fabric of our communities, the health of our public square, and the endurance of our constitutional governance.”
Exhibit A in the Governor’s speech evidencing this purported silent war is the Hobby Lobby case currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. In that case, the Governor is supporting owners of for-profit, secular corporations who are challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate on religious freedom grounds.
The mandate would require these corporations to provide employees with comprehensive health insurance, inclusive of prescription birth control, or pay a modest tax. From the Governor’s perspective, these corporate owners should be allowed to impose their religious beliefs about contraception on thousands of employees who likely have diverse religious views on the subject.
Exhibit B is a series of legal cases against bakeries, florists and other wedding service providers who have refused on religious grounds to provide services to same-sex couples. Here too, Governor Jindal overlooks the fact that many of these couples find support for their marriages in their religious tradition, and could legitimately claim that their religion is being denigrated.
In his speech at the Reagan Library, the Governor also said “… the fact is that our religious liberties are designed to protect people of all faiths.” Standing alone, this would be a forthright statement on our nation’s cherished constitutional values. However, given the context of his speech, this remark lacks credibility. The Governor’s apparent support for certain Christian viewpoints being imposed on our pluralistic workforce, marketplace, and society erroneously supports the use of the Constitution as a sword to advance the majority’s religion rather than a shield to protect the rights of religious minorities or the non-religious. It is unfortunate that the Governor’s support for religious freedom seems selective rather than universal.