Kathryn Lopez

The case is something of an educational opportunity, a reminder that the United States has long been not only an example of religious freedom as an essential element of a flourishing republic, but a haven to people fleeing mistreatment. The Hutterites have "withstood five centuries of persecution," Goodrich notes, but "laws like this one could easily end up driving them out of Montana. Nobody should have to flee the United States in order to practice their religion."

"When can the state force religious believers to violate their conscience?" is the question at the heart of the Hutterite case, Goodrich says. It's the question at the heart of other controversies too: Does the government have the right to force people with moral objections to pay for abortion, contraception and sterilization coverage? And can it change the sacred (to some) institution of marriage, transforming it into a blessing of what many religions label a sin?

When we talk about tolerance and discrimination as political strategies, we have to consider the full array of consequences. Once the law changes, it's hard to see how George Washington University would tolerate a priest who believes same-sex marriage isn't marriage at all, but a new institution we've created to fit our political mood.

As we discuss these issues and process the aftermath of whatever the Supreme Court rules regarding same-sex marriage, we ought to consider what's reasonable when it comes to government power and people with different views and expectations for life. We are stewards of a remarkable gift of religious liberty in the law and cultural tradition. Law needs to make distinctions and protect freedom. How can we do these things? How can we do these things while respecting the rights of the priest, the cardinal and the Hutterites, too?

Kathryn Lopez

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