However, this intrinsic tension is distorted and magnified when the government starts choosing religions it will protect and religions it will allow to be sacrificed in the name of egalitarianism or as an attempt to make up for some past grievance.
We see this currently in the way in which officials from the U.S. government are tripping over themselves to apologize for a movie trailer deemed offensive to the Muslim community, yet these same officials have no qualms trampling the consciences and faith tenets of Christians and Orthodox Jews throughout America via the abortion pill mandate.
In other words, they fight for one religion while treading on others.
They have literally chosen religious winners and religious losers, and as a result, Christian business owners and employers face an uphill battle when it comes to religious liberty.
The mandate requires employers to pay for insurance that covers contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacients for their employees, whether it violates the employer’s faith or not. And far from trying to defend the consciences of those who disagree with the mandate, government officials have actually criticized those who claim their religious freedoms are being diminished.
For example, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said those who want “to use the excuse of religious freedom” in opposing the abortion pill mandate are actually trying to undercut “women’s health.”
That’s quite a bait and switch when you think about it—Pelosi completely sidestepped what is clearly an assault on the Christian faith and framed opposition to it as an attack on women.
Yet, when a movie trailer allegedly hurts the “religious feelings” of groups outside of Christianity, the filmmaker responsible is taken from his home in the middle of the night, interrogated, and warned against a repeat offense.
This duplicity is the result of our government choosing religions it will protect and religions it can afford to sacrifice—yet this is not something the government is supposed to be choosing.
The solution to this problem lies in the First Amendment, where the Founding Fathers made clear, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The letter of that amendment prevents Congress from choosing religious favorites on a de jure basis, while the spirit of that letter prevents the kind of de facto choosing we are seeing with the abortion pill mandate.
This is not just about choosing faiths or denominations—but about choosing what you are allowed to believe and to hold as a serious enough belief on which to act.
It’s seldom good to pick favorites. And this is especially true when the entity doing the picking is the U.S. government.
Alan Sears, a former federal prosecutor in the Reagan Administration, is president and CEO of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal alliance employing a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.