The First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), introduced by Tea Party stalwarts Raul Labrador in the House and Mike Lee in the Senate, is aimed at strengthening protections for religious groups in the face of an encroaching executive branch. Although introduced in the House last year, FADA finally received a hearing yesterday, with Labrador and Lee testifying in its favor along with three other witnesses.
However, not everyone on Capitol Hill is pleased with this proposed legislation. Three Democratic witnesses at yesterday’s hearing testified against the bill, arguing that FADA would undermine the rights of LGBT people and that the First Amendment already adequately protects religious freedom.
And other opponents of the bill, such as Justin G. Nelson and Chance Mitchell in a piece for NBC News, argue that its provisions would allow discrimination in the workplace.
“Not only is marriage equality now a right afforded to all Americans by the Supreme Court of the United States, so is the right to live without fear of discrimination or hatred codified into national law,” the authors of the NBC piece said.
Opponents of FADA neglect a few important things.
Firstly, there are serious threats to religious liberty in this country, and religious minorities must be protected. Take, for instance, the recent case of an Iowa church which had to sue the state to ensure it would not be penalized for preaching biblical sexual morality. Or consider legislation in California that threatens religious schools with penalties if they adhere to traditional sexual mores. The secular left has shown an increasing hostility to religious groups, and they will use both violence of the mob and violence of the state to achieve their goals.
Secondly, these threats to religious liberty do not merely stop at the state level. The federal government has increasingly meddled in the affairs of religious groups. For example, President Obama signed Executive Order 13672, which prohibits the government from working with groups that do not embrace the “tolerance” of social liberalism. Charitable organizations run by religious groups like the Salvation Army would be barred from working with the government if this kind of policy became law.
Thirdly, FADA does not promote backdoor discrimination, but rather preserves the right of conscience for those who do not necessarily adhere to LGBT ideologues’ orthodoxies.
Roger Severino argued for The Daily Signal that “Just as Congress protected people from being punished for declining to participate in abortions after Roe v. Wade, the First Amendment Defense Act protects people from being punished for their beliefs about marriage after the Obergefell decision, without taking anything away from anyone.”
Of course, to those at the cutting edge of the LGBT agenda, the right of conscience matters little. To them, support for traditional marriage or sexual ethics means being on the “wrong side of history.” Any questioning of the almighty agenda, be it public or private, constitutes the unforgiveable sin of “bigotry.”
Another problem with Nelson and Mitchell’s piece is a repeated comparison of the LGBT movement to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. By implication, Nelson and Mitchell compared supporters of FADA and other pro-religious freedom legislation to those who supported Jim Crow laws and institutionalized racism.
Of course, Nelson and Mitchell are not the first to make these comparisons; in fact, this kind of rhetoric is standard issue among same-sex marriage activists. However, repetition does not make this falsehood any truer. The civil rights movement was fighting for equality under the law, whereas the LGBT movement is fighting for the societal acceptance of non-traditional sexual ethics.
Far from adequately dismissing FADA, Nelson and Mitchell prove why FADA is so necessary. If federal regulators and lawmakers are allowed to continue their remaking of society, as Nelson and Mitchell would have them do, then religious freedom in America will be squelched under the boot of the totalitarian state.
Michael Lucchese works for the American Principles Project.