Kathryn Lopez

Two dissenting judges voiced that in the case of the registrar, she deserved to keep her job because no one was turned away on account of her exercise of conscience --there were others there who could do the job. But the constriction of thought infects even the dissenters. The registrar's claim is a light one, they contend, because she is not operating in a clearly religious context. If a priest were the one refusing, the objection would be a much clearer case, they offered.

The situation in the U.K. could and should be a cautionary tale for us.

"Religious freedom in Britain is in an extremely weak position," Paul Diamond, one of the lawyers involved in the cases mentioned. He attributes the situation to "a combination of aggressive secularism ... and significant demographic changes." Despite the high Christian pomp of the recent royal wedding, the British are immersed in a "progressive" campaign toward pushing Judeo-Christian values from the public square, he emphasizes.

Diamond's "wakeup call" was a 2001 case he was "personally horrified" by, in which an elderly street preacher with a placard that read "Jesus Gives Peace, Jesus is Alive, Stop Immorality, Stop Homosexuality, Stop Lesbianism, Jesus is Lord" was attacked by a crowd and subsequently arrested and fined for incitement. This is not what civilized people do.

These misunderstandings of words and ideas are not new, but we slouch closer toward tyranny with each one -- especially as they become more official and coercive. Diamond is hopeful for Americans, citing our "robust" commitment to that which has made us exceptional. This last election indicates there are miles to go if we are going to meet his admiring expectations.

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.