Religious Liberty And the Marketplace

Most of us have heard the military admonition against “fighting the last war.” The point is obvious: generals and political actors need to evaluate and respond to the reality in which they live; getting stuck in the past–fighting the last war– is a formula for failure.That admonition also suggests one way of analyzing America’s current political situation.

Much of our contemporary political and cultural polarization is between people I have previously described as Puritans and those I have dubbed Modernists.

America’s Puritans still see liberty as “freedom to do the right thing,” defined as behavior consistent with their particular theology. They still believe, with the earliest American settlers, that government should have the authority to weigh in on the side of “Godliness” as their theology conceives it.

Modernists–in and out of religious communities–accept the post-Enlightenment notion that liberty means personal autonomy, your right to do your own thing, so long as you aren’t harming anyone else and so long as you are willing to grant an equal right to your fellow citizens.

The shorthand for modernism is “live and let live.”

Conflicts over recognition of same-sex marriage and bathroom use by transgender individuals, and efforts to allow “religious” merchants to refuse service to LGBTQ customers are really conflicts between America’s Puritans and its Modernists. Puritans  believe that government should throw its weight behind their theological beliefs; Modernists understand the importance of separating church and state, of preventing  particularized religious doctrines from marginalizing or disadvantaging otherwise law-abiding citizens.

Even in the churches, the Modernists are winning. As the Religion News Service reports,

In no U.S. religious group does a majority think it’s acceptable for businesspeople to invoke their religious beliefs to refuse service to gays.

This finding from a 2016 Public Religion Research Institute survey is a first, said Robert P. Jones, CEO of the nonprofit research group.

The change in opinion among even conservative religious adherents has been relatively rapid:  In 2015, more than half of white evangelical Protestants and Mormons surveyed approved of merchants who cited religious belief to deny service to LGBT customers; in the 2016 survey, the percentage of white evangelical Protestants who expressed approval had dropped to 50% from  56% the year before.

The percentage of white mainline Protestants who approved of businesspeople who withhold services to gay people dropped to 30 percent in the recent poll, down from 37 percent in 2015.

Overall in 2016, twice as many Americans disapproved than approved of those who refuse service to a gay person based on religious beliefs (61 percent to 30 percent).

PRRI’s findings corroborate a more dramatic overall shift in attitudes about same-sex marriage and LBGT Americans in the past decade.

Most religious groups today support same-sex marriage, Jones noted. “The religious groups in which majorities oppose same-sex marriage make up less than 20 percent of the public.”

Despite the diminishing number of Puritans, state and federal legislators continue to support discriminatory measures aimed at the LGBTQ community, just as they continue to support a variety of measures disadvantaging women–all piously justified as “protecting religious liberty.”

They are fighting the last war. And thankfully, they’re losing.


  1. This is indeed good news. However, it begs the question, “Now how long will it be for the religious right to shift their attitudes on women’s rights, education, and science?”

  2. The Puritans must occupy a large percentage of Indiana’s rural landscape. Aside from those with strong traditional religious beliefs, there are many simpletons in the United States and rural Indiana.

    Our former governor, now vice president was a radio preacher first. He took his con to politics and brought with him a large block of voting evangelists.

    He’s also owned by the Koch brothers who rely on the voting bloc to ensure Democrats don’t get elected. It’s been working. These dummies even voted for Pence when he accompanied Trump, the antithesis to Puritanism.

    Don’t count out simple folks to bring voters in line with the fraudulent Democratic Party. “Live and Let Live” means they also want to make a reasonable living, but when Wall Street makes the policies in Washington, guess what?

    This line of thinking was behind 2016’s dismal presidential election. The idea that demographics will magically create victories for a corrupt political party is delusional – wishful thinking.

  3. It should be noted that the Puritans still vote in much higher percentages than the Modernists. We’ll continue to deal with this last war until we ALL get out and vote.

  4. Sheila, you mentioned that state and federal legislators continue to support discriminatory measures, despite the small and decreasing percentage of Puritans.

    My question is: why do legislators continue to suppory the minority? Do they really donate that much money to political campaigns?

  5. Stepping aside from the religion/LGBTQ issues for a moment; a major front page article on the Indianapolis Star today brings to light a local religion/real estate organization which, apparently, is working within the law – Indiana law. “Home buyers say their dream has become a nightmare”; reading the article you will discover that the home sellers are also caught in this “religious” nightmare, the only winner is the pseudo religious based Chart Properties LLC. The financial (home owners and buyers) losses “trickle inward” to the middle and increase Chart’s profits immeasurably.

    The Indianapolis real estate business, touted to be on the upswing, is not evidenced in my area where my home was reasessed by the Marion County Treasurers Office at $67, 900 but the home next door with improvements and extras lacking in my home, only brought the seller $48,000. This was an outright sale but a realtor told another neighbor the highest possible sale price in this area (with similar property tax assessments) is maybe the low $50,000s.

    The Chart process is based on a bogus Christian based “contract land sale” procedure. Basically; Chart “buys” the property from the current owner who cannot maintain payments or make repairs, leaving the mortgage in their name and then “sell” the property to a buyer who is not a good risk to purchase a home. Many of Chart’s homes are in need of costly repairs. When the “buyer” finds the For Sale sign in their front yard and are forced out of the home; there is no way to recoup their losses. All of this is protected by Indiana laws.

    Charles Keck, co-founder of Chart disagrees with the negative assessment of their land contract process. “Keck said in an interview with IndyStar that Chart is driven by a benevolent mission to help and empower people who otherwise could never achieve home ownership. The company, he said, is rooted in the Christian faith he shares with co-founder Grady Brian Rogers”

    “Rogers, who joined Chart last year after serving 13 years in prison for convictions on 22 counts of securities violations, declined through Chart an interview with IndyStar.

    The company’s mission statement “reflects the deep Cristian faith the two men share”. It comes from the Old Testament Book of Proverbs; “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” And so they carry on; so far with the blessing of the laws of Indiana supporting their scams.

    “Religious Liberty And The Marketplace” covers a great deal of territory and is expanding almost daily due to the current administration. Our Christian led and fed legislature didn’t discriminate against only LBGTQs; in another Star article today buried on page 20, “45 taxes, fees increased during legislative session”. Their reasoning is to use this process rather than increase income or sales tax…”a rose by any other name” excuse by Indiana’s Republican enslavement of “Hoosiers”.

  6. Please also read the Chart connected article; “Chart Properties co-founders met while one was in prison”. They were introduced through a prison ministry program at Westville Correctional Facility – this “prison ministry program” bears looking into by authorities.

  7. WOW! JoAnn, who knew you could use religion to scam people and steal their money? Reminds me of that old saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

    Me? The minute I see someone using their religion in the market place, symbols on business cards, trucks, cars or jewelry, the use of Bible quotes in advertisement, or a listing in the Christian phone book, I run. This includes pillow salesmen as well as medical facilities that make all of their employees practice tenants of their religion via insurance coverage.

  8. NPR reported yesterday that a takeover of leadership took place in the Unitarian Universalist church because of alleged racist leadership. This, in a progressive community says volumes about white privilege. Colonial Puritans evolved into Unitarians. Some made it to leadership in abolition. Not all did.

  9. I don’t know how the following would fall under the Puritan vs Modernist umbrella,but it is disconcerting and worrisome. Unfortunately,Democrats don’t seem to care about countering such moves by Republicans. My guess is they’ll go along with the Republicans because gutting Medicaid doesn’t bother the donor/investment class.

    “Capping and gutting Medicaid is the key (mis-)feature of the Republican “reform,” but the Democrat establishment is making very little noise about it, no doubt because credentialed professionals aren’t likely to be on Medicaid (except perhaps for adjuncts). Reich’s article is a welcome exception.”

  10. Doctor Kennedy,
    The NO-news today is about Jared Kushner, Netanyahu and Abbas.
    It’s hard to avoid taking sides except “Kushner should go home”! Daddy-in-law should try sending Tillerson, but the damage is already done so Tillerson might not wish to lead with his chin to mop up the LittleKids’ drool. Construction in the “settlements” is booming to displace more Palestinians and TrumpGOPHealthcareDeath bill will do away with the American poor and disabled so the administration can boast FakeNews about the (fill in the blanks du jour).
    There may be WH professionals but they’re in hiding, not daring to upset the Orange Ogre or ANY of his sycophants.

  11. I remember reading a Nazi general who opined that the French in 1939 were perfectly prepared fo the Franco-Prussian War of 1871 and that (secure behind the Maginot Line) the French in 1939 were perfectly prepared for the War of 1914. Though his cause was wrong, the general’s assessments of French readiness for war was right. Sheila is right; things change. There is a tide of atheism sweeping the country which, in my opinion, is set to replace distinctions between the old time religions and free-wheeling Unitarian and Ethical Society types, thanks in large part to the likes of Jerry Falwell, Oral Roberts and other such charlatans who use the cross as a cover for expansion of their bottom lines along with politicians who have inserted religion into the political sphere for their own electoral gain while openly mixing church with state. I always ask how the preachers would like it if government came into church houses and told the preachers what to preach since what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The clergy would rightly resent such unconstitutional efforts, just like the rest of us should be outraged at the intrusion of religion into government. With the rise in agnostism and atheism and if present trends continue, this problem will go away in any event as we reach an ultimate concensus and religion will be classified as an anomoly by unemployed former theologians. It didn’t have to be this way, bit it won’t be the first time a tradition has disappeared due to overreach by zealots and phonies in their lust(s) for power and money. The landscape if littered with them.

  12. Gerald; is it atheism and agnosticism or a total loss of faith and trust in organized religions which have become political strongholds and all temples are filled with money changers?

    For some reason your words took me back to the movie, “Inherit The Wind” with the singing of “Give Me That Old Time Religion” and the court battle between creationism and evolution. When did the evolution of democracy end and the devolving to the return to the “monkey trial”, which will be fought in our schools again, begin?

    Our government is in shambles, the Bible thumpers and charlatans are ruling our lives via technology and the Constitution seems to be passe and no longer our guiding light. Tradition and values have been lost to the highest bidders who are those “zealots and phonies” you referred to whose “lust for power and money” is at their disposal and protected by a mentally unbalanced fool who is upheld at every turn by our own Congress.

    Religious Liberty is the biggest seller in the marketplace today.

  13. Believe it or not, there is an American congressman who genuinely does not understand the definition of human being. Missouri state Representative Rick Brattin, revealed that he believed there is a “distinction” between human beings and people who are gay during a debate over a bill protecting the state’s LGBTQ community from discrimination.

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