The extent to which the “religious liberty” movement on the Right reflects a broad-based determination to carve out a separate society where cultural conservatives simply don’t have to obey the law is illustrated in this column today by Byron York, who suggests it’s the perfect way for the GOP to “finesse” the same-sex marriage issue:
Russell Moore, the 42-year-old president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, is a star in cultural conservative circles. Speaking at a conference of journalists organized by the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Moore, a strong supporter of traditional marriage, was asked what his ideal presidential candidate would say about the issue.
“I would want a presidential candidate who understands the public good of marriage,” Moore answered, “and one who is not hostile to evangelical concerns, and who is going to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience.” To illustrate such protections of liberty, Moore mentioned ensuring that Catholic adoption agencies are allowed to place children only in traditional-marriage homes.
Missing from Moore’s answer was a firm requirement that a presidential candidate be a vocal opponent of gay marriage. Indeed, at another point in his remarks, Moore noted that evangelicals are “beginning to realize that American culture is moving toward same-sex marriage.”
“We have been saying, ‘Look, same-sex marriage is inevitable in American culture,” Moore continued. “It doesn’t mean we should stop talking about it It means we need to start preparing our churches for a new generation.”
Moore’s fallback position — there’s no other way to describe it — is to insist that once the marriage fight is lost, the beliefs of Americans who oppose homosexual marriage on religious grounds be respected. While Moore rejected those who “suggest, ‘Let’s simply abandon the question of marriage altogether and simply deal with religious liberty issues,’” there’s little doubt he’s putting new emphasis on liberty and less on manning the barricades against gay marriage.
Moore’s position fits perfectly with a recent assessment by the Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney: “Conservatives see religious liberty arguments as the last redoubt in the culture war: You guys won your gay marriages, permissive abortion laws, taxpayer-subsidized birth control, and divorce-on-demand; let us just live our lives according to our own consciences.”
And our own laws. A nice privilege, that.
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