Religious freedom for me, but not for thee

Vice President Pence at the 2018 Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC,  Sep 22. (photo: Susan Walsh / AP)
Today we see the evangelization of the administration’s policy goals, accompanied by the demonization of its critics. This is not what religious liberty meant to the nation’s founders, nor should it be what it means today.

By Katherine Franke | The Washington Post | Sep 28, 2018

The administration is not defending a neutral constitutional principle — religious liberty — for all people, but rather only for those who share the administration’s political perspective. In fact, this government has weaponized the notion of religious liberty, not for its own sake, but rather to advance a blatantly partisan, conservative agenda.

The Catholic sisters in the order of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ announced this month that they plan to petition the Supreme Court to consider whether their religious-freedom rights are being violated by the construction and pending use of a natural-gas pipeline on their land in Pennsylvania. They argue their faith commits them to “believe that God calls humans to treasure land as a gift of beauty and sustenance that should not be used in an excessive or harmful way.” Lawyers representing the federal government have vigorously opposed the nuns’ right to assert a religious-liberty claim in federal court.

The government’s position in the Adorers case is surprising, given that Vice President Pence announced in July that “religious freedom is a top priority of this administration.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions echoed those remarks a few days later: Under “this administration, the federal government is not just reacting — we are actively seeking, carefully, thoughtfully and lawfully, to accommodate people of faith. Religious Americans are no longer an afterthought.”

You can count on the government’s support if you’re a cake baker who considers same-sex marriage to be an abomination, or a nun who believes that contraception is murder, or a school administrator whose faith tells him that a person’s sex is fixed by God at birth. In these cases, Justice Department lawyers will show up like the cavalry, ready to go down fighting.

But not so much for Unitarians , whose faith drives them to leave water and food in the desert for migrants who will die without help. Or Catholic activists who believe that nuclear weapons are a death pact with the devil. Or the “Adorers,” who oppose the building of a gas pipeline on their property. Or Muslims in almost any context.

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