Dear Mr. Obama,
On May 14, of this year you made a guest appearance on NBC’s The View to discuss your then-recently announced support for same-sex “marriage.” During your appearance, you spoke about the importance of religious liberty and how you were “very respectful of peoples’ differences on this issue” and that it was important to “make sure churches and other religious institutions have the freedom to make their own determinations about” marriage.
I must admit, it’s somewhat troubling that not even the “right-wing media” has asked you what you meant by those words. Did you mean owners of New Mexico’s Elane Photography ought to be able to run their business according to their religious values when it comes to photographing wedding parties? Did you mean Christian student groups at San Diego State University ought to be able to limit their membership, and particularly, their leadership, to Christians just as a student Muslim groups ought to be able to limit their leadership to Muslims?
In other words, what is the breadth and scope of the religious liberty you believe ought to be respected?
Do you believe religious liberty stops where Planned Parenthood’s financial needs begin?
Should Americans be forced to pay for that which violates their conscience and the tenets of their faith?
Or should a Methodist church have its tax exemption stripped for property that it would not rent out for a same sex ceremony?
Do you think mayors, including your good friend and former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, should propose bans on Chick-fil-A because its owner holds the conviction that marriage should be defined as the union between a man and a woman – the same belief you professed until a few months ago?
Pardon me, as I know I have asked a lot of questions, but they all revolve around one central issue: religious liberty. They are all important because religious liberty is the first freedom our Founding Fathers enumerated in the Bill of Rights. If this liberty can be diminished or erased, then no liberty is safe.
Your Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Chair Chai Feldblum said that when religious liberty and “sexual freedom” conflict, she would have “a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.” I hope this is not your view as well, as it would make it difficult for you to both respect religious liberty and subjugate it to the “sexual freedom” of the left.
Recently, in a poignant New York Times column, Ross Douthat wrote:
If you want to fine Catholic hospitals for following Catholic teaching, or prevent Jewish parents from circumcising their sons, or ban Chick-fil-A in Boston, then don’t tell religious people that you respect our freedoms. Say what you really think: that the exercise of our religion threatens all that’s good and decent, and that you’re going to use the levers of power to bend us to your will.
I believe that we, as a nation, are still suspended somewhere between your pronouncements on The View and Douthat’s summary in The Times, just waiting for clarification on what does and doesn’t constitute religious liberty.
Mr. President, what is the breadth and scope of the religious liberty you believe ought to be respected?
Senior Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom