If you’re wondering why very many Christians support Trump, despite his vulgarities, infidelities and evidence of his moral divagation, consider the vexed question of “conscience rights” that, in the mind of those same Christians, have been challenged or trampled on by previous Democratic administrations. Trump has been their defender, judging from his words and actions. (Remember,too, that Christianity, properly understood, is a refugium peccatorum, a refuge of sinners. I’d say Trump qualifies, provided he doesn’t knock over the lamp in the catacomb.)
There’s easy evidence of the great threat to a widely understood concept of religious liberty and conscience rights in our Democracy. — and a fierce ongoing debate over them. Powerful forces, inside and outside some religious circles, take a more liberal view of things like gay rights and abortion. It’s all swirled up in the “culture wars,” which are at heart, religious-cultural wars. This hardly needs stating, but I state it here for the heck of it. Consider the narrowly decided U.S. Supreme Court decisions affecting bakers, printers and florists, to name just a few professions.
According to the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, a Catholic nurse in a Vermont emergency room was ordered to assist in an abortion. A Virginia teacher was fired for using the wrong pronoun with a “transgendered” student (the Catholic Church and other religious bodies believe transgenderism is unnatural and harmful to those who seek to alter their sexual identity). A Michigan pharmacists lost his job after refusing to dispense an abortion-inducing drug. Again, according to The League, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wants Catholic hospitals to perform abortions and Catholic schools to hire those who identify openly as gay. I confess I haven’t checked an ACLU site to confirm this, but, from my memories as a reporter, I believe it to be the case.
So — look for religious liberty to be a burning issue in any debate between Trump and the ultimate Democratic nominee. And consider the possibility that even many Democrats may be conflicted on this score.
We can be very sure, based on his recent statements, that Beto O’Rourke is not among them. And he is not alone among those who believe religious, and specifically Christian citizens should leave their religious convictions in the pews. Once out in the public square, they must march in the liberal’s parade.
I’m always reminded of that old quip by Ukrainian-American comedian Yakov Smirnoff: that it was perfectly alright to practice your religion in the old Soviet Union, as long as you didn’t disturb the other inmates.
And I am aware of at least one American father who went to jail overnight for wanting to be the gatekeeper of what his child was forced to read at school. This was in Lexington, Mass some years back.
A night in jail isn’t exactly a trip to the gulag. But I’m reminded of the late Chicago Cardinal-Archbishop Francis George’s now famous quote:
“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”
Old reporter’s adage: time will tell.