In the new climate of liberal intolerance, conservative Christians can’t even find refuge by agreeing with Elizabeth Warren. Just ask Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College.
On July 1, 2014, he signed a letter to President Obama — writing as an individual rather than in his institutional capacity — exercising his most basic First Amendment right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances.” The letter, signed by a number of Christian leaders and scholars — including the CEO of Catholic Charities and Rick Warren, famous pastor of Saddleback Church — dealt with the president’s then-imminent executive order banning sexual-orientation discrimination by federal contractors.
The letter made a simple request: It asked the president to add a “religious exemption” to his planned executive order. Lindsay wrote:
We have great appreciation for your commitment to human dignity and justice, and we share those values with you. With respect to the proposed executive order, we agree that banning discrimination is a good thing. We believe that all persons are created in the divine image of the creator, and are worthy of respect and love, without exception. Even so, it still may not be possible for all sides to reach a consensus on every issue.
Not much hate there.
Indeed, the letter did not ask the president to halt the planned order. Instead, it merely asked for an exemption for religious institutions contracting with the federal government — an exemption that was actually narrower in its impact than one Democrats had passed overwhelmingly through the Senate, with the support of none other than Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts’s junior senator and undisputed champion of the Left.
In 2013, Warren voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a proposed federal law that would ban sexual-orientation and gender-identity discrimination in workplaces across the United States, encompassing tens of thousands more employers than President Obama’s planned executive order. Yet ENDA contained a robust religious exemption, flatly exempting houses of worship and providing broad protections for religious employers who require employees to adhere to statements of religious orthodoxy.
ENDA passed the Senate (it has made no progress in the House) in November 2013. President Lindsay signed his letter eight months later. A lot can change in eight months. The arc of leftist social history moves quickly, and it bends towards intolerance.
By the following July, the Elizabeth Warren position (and the position of 51 other Democratic senators) was an intolerable outrage. Religious exemptions were tainted by the Hobby Lobby case, in which the Supreme Court interpreted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to permit Hobby Lobby to exempt itself from aspects of the Department of Health and Human Services’ so-called contraception mandate.
Religious liberty — once a thoroughly bipartisan cause — was now out of favor, at least if it conflicted with the Left’s reigning sexual orthodoxy.