Professor Dr. Robert P. George holds Princeton University’s celebrated McCormick Chair in Jurisprudence. He is also the founding director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He is chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom and has authored several books, including What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense and Conjugal Union: What Marriage Is and Why it Matters. Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga spoke with him.
What is the state of religious liberty today in the United States?
It is deteriorating under pressure from the current administration in Washington, D.C., and liberal governors and other public officials around the country. Despite the Supreme Court victory in the Hobby Lobby case, the administration continues its war to impose its contraception and abortion drug mandates on business owners and institutions — including religious institutions — that cannot in conscience comply with them.
I must say that its campaign against the Little Sisters of the Poor is especially grotesque. What’s more, efforts are in full gear across the country to require Catholic and other pro-life health care facilities, doctors, nurses, and others to perform, participate in, or at least refer for abortions.
Similar efforts are ramping up to force health care facilities and workers to participate in assisted suicides. Then there are the pressures against religious liberty motivated by people who cannot abide moral opposition to same-sex sexual partners or the redefinition of marriage.
How will the redefinition of marriage affect religious liberty?
Even before the Supreme Court decision, which was a disgrace, the assault on religious liberty in the name of “gay rights” was far advanced. For example, Catholic Charities had been driven out of adoption and foster care services in Massachusetts, Illinois, and the District of Columbia. All Catholic Charities was asking for was permission to continue its decades-long service of providing good homes for orphaned children — homes in which the boys and girls would have the benefit of both a mom and a dad.
But to remain in business, the governments insisted that Catholic Charities be willing to place children in same-sex partner headed households. Of course, Catholic Charities, being Catholic, could not in good conscience do such a thing. So now they are out of business. You will see more of this. And you will see other attacks on Catholic and other faith-based institutions. Catholic schools, universities, and other institutions will be compelled to treat people in legally recognized same-sex “marriages” as married.
What will happen to individuals and organizations that don’t go along with the redefinition of marriage?
Those who don’t will be subjected to lawsuits or to discrimination in accreditation, licensing, and government contracting. Since the Church will not bless or perform same-sex “marriages,” it’s entirely possible that its tax-exempt status will be taken away. Of course, we have already seen what is done to private business owners and individuals who provide flowers, catering, photography, and the like for weddings when they politely decline, as a matter of conscience, to participate in same-sex ceremonies. They are prosecuted or successfully sued for money damages.
The sexual liberation/same-sex “marriage” movement has made clear that it will brook no opposition and tolerate no dissent. And the movement owns one political party, has made inroads into the other, and has many reliable friends in the federal and state courts. All of this is very bad news for religious freedom and the rights of conscience
What can we do to broaden religious liberty rights?
Elect people to office who believe in religious liberty and will stand up for it. Elect a president and governors who will appoint to the bench jurists who will uphold the right to religious freedom. Work for the enactment of First Amendment Defense Acts at both the federal and state levels.
These acts protect people against discrimination based on their beliefs about marriage. Oppose and defeat any and every proposal to revise civil rights laws to include protections for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
These so-called SOGI laws sound innocuous but they are among the main weapons by which the opponents of religious freedom hope to destroy it. Cheering for these laws, as some Catholics foolishly do, really is like turkeys cheering for Thanksgiving.