As Long As We’re Talking About Religious Liberty…

Can we at least examine whose religion deserves to be “protected” by giving businesses an exemption from otherwise applicable civil rights laws?

Despite the ignominious fate of RFRA (the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”) in Indiana, other states–most notably Louisiana–are moving to enact similar measures. Louisiana’s increasingly bizarre Governor, Bobby Jindal, insists that he won’t be dissuaded by crass business interests from “protecting religious liberty.”

The rhetoric around this issue would have us believe that measures like RFRA are needed to protect a monolithic and undifferentiated Christianity from the vast secular army bent on its destruction. So we see Mike Huckabee warning that the “criminalization of Christianity” is imminent, while Shawn Hannity recently proclaimed that the “three most persecuted groups in America today are Christians, the wealthy, and white males.”

I don’t know what planet Huckabee and Hannity live on, and there is no point in debating people who’ve clearly been drinking the kool-aid. But as a non-Christian, I do want to stick up for the numerous thoughtful and actually “Christian” Christians who are getting a bad name from these culture warriors who claim to speak for them.

As Political Animal recently reported,

Next time you hear somebody talk about “Christians” being opposed to same-sex marriage, or being “persecuted” for their refusal to acknowledge same-sex marriages, you might want to direct them to fresh data from the Public Religion Research Institute about the different attitudes of different denominational categories of religious folk on this subject (h/t Sarah Posner).

PRRI shows that while white evangelical Protestants do indeed oppose same-sex marriage by a 28/66 margin, white mainline Protestants support it by a significantly larger margin (62/30) than the general public (54/38). And if you want to believe us mainliners are a dying breed, there’s U.S. Catholics, who despite their church’s teaching support marriage equality by 60/30.

There are also plenty of Christian churches that support reproductive choice.

I personally know a lot of Christians who read their bibles for clues on how to be better, kinder people, rather than for evidence of their moral superiority and their right to tell everyone else how to live.

In fact, the only “embattled” Christians I’m aware of are the theocrats who find it intolerable to live under a system that accords heretics and nonbelievers an equal place at the civic table.

People like Jindal, Huckabee and Hannity look a lot more like the Taliban than like the good Christians I know.


  1. “I personally know a lot of Christians who read their bibles for clues on how to be better, kinder people, rather than for evidence of their moral superiority and their right to tell everyone else how to live.”

    That’s it in a nutshell Professor.

  2. I maintain basic Christian beliefs of “do undo others as you would have them do unto you” and “let he (she) who is without sin cast the first stone”. I believe Jesus Christ was truly a holy man; a Jewish Rabbi bringing the above messages to all people. I lost my belief in the many Biblical “stories” I was taught as a child; I view them the way I view Greek Myths and Native American (Indian) lore as well as Aesop’s Fables. As a long time anti-Catholic observer I can only applaud Pope Francis who is attempting to bring the Catholic religion into the 21st Century; he is dragging them, screaming and flailing to resist his messages. I still hold fast to my belief that one white man should not be ruling millions of people around this earth in everything they do in life but he seems to have a good heart. He rose to the position as Pope when the previous Pope (sorry, I forgot his name) resigned his lofty position. As I watch Pope Francis I keep wondering; can a Pope be fired?

    I do believe there is a “higher power”; just who and what form it takes I don’t profess to know but one Bible message has stuck in my mind but seems to have been lost to most of Christianity. God gave man free will. About 15 years ago Oprah Winfrey had an older lady, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, as her guest. She asked the woman how she could retain her faith in God while living in the hell of a concentration camp. Her answer was (paraphrased), “God gave man free will; this took all control out of his hands. I believe God cries, too.” That one profound sentence turned my religious beliefs around and aimed them in the direction they have taken since. My religion has no name, probably no other followers than myself; based in Baptist, Jews for Jesus with enough Atheism that I rely on scientific proof and evolution. I recognize the pseudo Christians, who seem to be in control today, for what they are. They are the “money changers” who should be driven from the temples of the financial world and the ones who are throwing stones from their glass houses. That last bit is not Biblical but does apply. Jindal, Huckabee and Hannity are but a few who look more like the Taliban than any Christian Sheila – or anyone else – knows.

  3. Interestingly that this is written the day after a Christian baker was fined $135,000 for not wanting to bake a cake for a same sex marriage. Oh, no, Christians are not being persecuted for their beliefs. Sarcasm alert.

  4. Well said Sheila. I would LOVE to watch you publicly debate those 3 men about their religious “superiority”. They would all slink off the stage, having been publicly embarrassed by their own ignorance.

  5. For the performers and politicians, it’s  mostly about the money. By promoting human equality and loving thy neighbor, they can’t rake in nearly as much money as the money they can rake in to fight and defend a war on Jesus and “His words.” Millions click on and tune in (to watch between commercials) how well the war defending decency is coming along.

    “Send me money an we’ll make the evil doers go away and get you to Heaven.” There’s a hell of a lot of money in the, “going to heaven” business.

  6. At the risk of repetition IMO the disease is extremism not Christianity. In fact we know for sure that Muslims and Republicans and Russians and wealthy people all catch the same disease with similar destruction of their personas.

    Does anybody really believe that a legitimate Christian business person would turn away business because they simply didn’t approve of a customers lifestyle? Its an entirely fabricated construct designed to make the point that we are we and they are they and we are superior. Extremism in a nutshell.

    I suspect that someday anthropologists will use these times as an example of how humans behave when faced with the loss of being a privileged class.

    I imagine that dinosaurs roared disapproval of extinction too.

    Privileged groups die out but slowly. Our job is to limit the destruction to social fabric occurring during that death process.

  7. Paul, would you feel the same if the business owners had refused service to a Jew, person of color, or Native American? All of those groups have suffered similar treatment based on “deeply held religious beliefs”. This couple’s intolerance and faux moral superiority are an abomination. Their Lord told them to treat all others as they would want to be treated. As I recall, there were no qualifications as to whether or not you judged others as too sinful.

    This mantle of victimization that the extreme right religious self-appointed spokespeople for “Christians” have assumed is nonsense. It flies in the face of the history of those same groups who have viciously and persistently excluded and demonized those they deem “abominations”. Somehow they have lost their way and want the rest of us to be forced to follow.

    Sheila is exactly right that the majority of Christians read their bibles to find the way to kindness, forgiveness and the path to goodness in their lives. “Judge not lest you be judged” is also part of that same book’s directives.

  8. Being a Christian that works to transform into a person that is more Christ like, I say a big thank you to Sheila Kennedy! RFRA is so distracting from what Jesus lived. Seems to me free wine and wedding cake is what Jesus would brought to any and all same sex weddings. Raise a glass and let’s celebrate. I just don’t know how one could get anything else out of the New Testament.

  9. Mike Huckabee stated yesterday, I believe, that American Christians were under attack by gays and ISIS. I think he’s drinking something far more potent that the Kool-Aid to make such an absurd statement. As a Christian myself I have yet to be attacked by gays nor have I seen the black flag of ISIS flying anywhere in my neighborhood.

    Clearly, this man gears what he says in order to grab headlines at the complete expense of saying anything remotely truthful. Since he is an ordained minister perhaps he should go back to those roots and discover the error in his thinking and what he is currently saying which, with apologies to Warner Brothers, is Looney Tunes. Somehow he must have missed what Jesus Christ was all about – love, not fear nor hate. Unfortunately, he is far from being alone in terms of that sort of aberrant thinking.

  10. I’m not a christian. Don’t christians that believe that they’re going to be judged by god and if they are worthy, after death they are granted entry into heaven? Why then do they want to undermines god’s purpose and authority by judging others?

  11. Pharisee: I had to look this up to be reminded who they were, this is the Wikipedia definition below

    1. a member of an ancient Jewish sect, distinguished by strict observance of the traditional and written law, and commonly held to have pretensions to superior sanctity.

    In the Bible, Mark 12: the Pharisees asked Jesus if it was lawful to give to Caesar or not, referring to Jewish written law, hoping to “catch him in his words” is the phrase in that verse. His response was, “….Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s….”

    Making judgements regarding current political situations are not to undermine God’s purpose and authority; more to decide – or judge – what is religious in meaning and what is the the law or legal basis for one’s beliefs or actions. The RFRA claims to be based on things that are God’s law but is in reality Caesar’s laws hidden behind the Republican view of the Bible. The judgements being made today against entire groups of people are not God’s law; they are the individual beliefs of men who have the power to carry out their personal vendettas and/or amass fortunes doing so. One might say they are distinguished by strict observation of their own written law “and commonly held to have pretencions to superior sanctity.” Are we being governed by a 21st Century version of Pharisees sans Jewish law?

  12. Well done Sheila. The poll confirms what I’ve often thought. The Christians at my church – Republican and Democratic – are mostly accepting of gays and even those who are not would not mistreat or likely discriminate against LGBT folks or others who are different from themselves BECAUSE these churchgoers are practicing Christians.

    In one of our Sunday school classes, an active senior citizen said she was trying to live by lessons taught the previous week to live by Jesus’ example to reach out to those who were different from her. So while standing in line at a convenience store, she confessed that she reacted negatively to a young man covered by tatoos who was standing in line in front of her. Nevertheless, she took steps to practice her faith, tapped him on the shoulder, and engaged him in conversation about one of his tatoos. She was pleased to report that she found the young man to be interesting and delightful, and she would have missed this conversation entirely without the exhortations of her faith not to judge and to treat others as she’d want to be treated. We all smiled at the mental image of her in conversation a tatoo fan, but the moral of her story was not lost on any of us.

  13. Oh Ogden, shut your freakin’ cake hole.

    The bakery owners weren’t fined for being Christians. They were fined for failing to provide services equally to all people as required under Oregon’s civil rights laws.

    “The facts of this case clearly demonstrate that the Kleins unlawfully discriminated against the Complainants. Under Oregon law, businesses cannot discriminate or refuse service based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot turn customers away because of race, sex, disability, age or religion. Our agency is committed to fair and thorough enforcement of Oregon civil rights laws, including the Equality Act of 2007.” (

    “The main argument the Kleins put forth was that compliance with the state nondiscrimination law constituted “compelled speech.” McCullough countered that “Respondents were not asked to issue a marriage license, perform a wedding ceremony, or in any way legally recognize Complainants’ planned same-sex wedding.” The Kleins were “under no compulsion to publicly ‘speak the government’s message’ in an affirmative manner that demonstrates their support for same-sex marriage.” The event would be private, not public, and regardless of whether making a wedding cake may be expressive, “the operation of Respondents’ bakery, including Respondents’ decision not to offer services to a protected class of persons, is not.” (

    Until Christians are denied housing in large numbers, fired from their jobs in droves, not offered employment or housing in countless instances, refused service in restaurants or bakeries or by photographers by the hundreds, or tied to fenceposts, beaten and left for dead, enough with the nonsensical, childish, senseless and intellectually indefensible claim that Christians in America are being “persecuted.”

  14. This “three most persecuted groups” quote is, I think, a fabrication. I can find no other reference to it anywhere on the internet, and you can’t even spell Hannity’s first name correctly.

    Are we really going to sink to that level?

  15. mind citing sources for your quotes? in particular I can’t confirm the Hannity quote.

Comments are closed.