Left-leaning media is responding with the usual and expected outrage to speculation that the Trump Administration is preparing a religious freedom executive order which would, among other things, lift the restrictions imposed by President Obama on government contracts and grants to religious charities and organizations, and also strengthen conscience protections for government employees. However, instead of condemning such a proposal, liberals should be the first to advocate for it, because it merely echoes the many of the things that they’ve been saying for the past several months.
Earlier this week, in response to the temporary ban on issuing visas to seven war-torn countries, Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine suddenly became a champion of the First Amendment and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1777. Never mind that the executive order does not mention any religion and that Muslims from dozens of other countries remain free to travel to the United States. If Tim Kaine says he supports religious freedom, then we should take him at his word and assume that he would also endorse an order which would further protect the rights of Muslims who are employed or do business with the federal government.
Then there is the case of now-former acting Attorney General Sally Yates who, in the eyes of some liberals, went out in a blaze of glory for instructing the Department of Justice not to enforce the President’s immigration order. Most legal experts, even on the left, agree that as an officer of the government, resignation would have been the correct and honorable response. However, while officers of the government must carry out the law, they also should not face punishment or reprisals simply for holding unpopular views. The order would also require the government to accommodate religious practices of government employees, such as the Muslim call to prayer or the Sikh prohibition against shaving facial hair.
This executive order would not apply to private businesses like bakers, florists, photographers, or random small-town pizza parlors. Rather, the organizations which would be covered by the order are only those with an explicitly religious mission and character. However, that won’t stop the left from going back to their favorite tactic of comparing deeply-held and sincere religious convictions to apartheid or Jim Crow. The funny thing is, liberals in Hawaii, New Mexico, and Washington, D.C., had no problem suggesting that private businesses are entirely within their rights to turn away Trump supporters.
It is telling that the left employs Orwellian language to describe the proposed order as having precisely the opposite effect of what it would actually do. One headline screams that it would allow the government to “fire based on religion” another that it would “literally [sic] come for everybody.” In fact, the objective of such an order is to prevent the government from singling out religious minorities for harsher treatment. Liberals must base their attacks on fear and misinformation, because if they were honest about their position, its logical contradictions would immediately become obvious.
If the people protesting at airports against what they erroneously call a “Muslim ban” are truly arguing in good faith, then they should support an action which would restore the ability of government to work with Muslim charities, schools, and community groups to promote social justice and the common good without dictating that they violate their religious beliefs. They can’t have it both ways. Religious freedom is not some rhetorical gimmick to toss into arguments only when it suits liberal purposes. Religious freedom is the supreme law upon which all other liberties are founded. Religious freedom is for everyone, all the time, and especially when it protects the unpopular views of the minority.