The State Department has now designated 12 “Countries of Particular Concern” and placed four more on a “Special Watch List” under the International Religious Freedom Act “for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
Yet here at home, the federal government is seeking to compel people to betray their religious beliefs. While such violations of religious freedom pale in comparison to those that China and Iran perpetrate, they are attacks on conscience nonetheless. And the hypocrisy is inescapable.
The State Department announcement came the same week that Congress disrespected religious liberty by passing the Respect for Marriage Act. Ostensibly about codifying the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision on same-sex marriage, this legislation sets the stage for dissenting religious organizations and nonprofit organizations to lose their tax-exempt status and licenses to operate. The act provides no new benefit for civilly married same-sex couples. It does, however, give activists and bureaucrats new tools to harass people and institutions that profess traditional beliefs about marriage.
It’s been clear from the start that the Biden administration doesn’t prioritize religious freedom . Religious freedom is a fundamental right that upholds others. But Secretary of State Antony Blinken argued that it is just one “co-equal” and “interdependent” right. That’s because it’s a stumbling block for the Left’s pursuit of an ideological agenda that is even less popular in the developing world than it is here. As it turns out, devaluing religious freedom is a critical step in promoting rights based on sexual orientation or gender identity .
Last year, the House of Representatives passed the deceptively named Equality Act to do just that. It added the subjective categories of sexual orientation and gender identity to prohibited grounds of discrimination and expands the definition of “public accommodations.” These changes would weaponize civil rights law to punish those who don’t espouse the Left’s new orthodoxy on sex and “gender identity.” The Equality Act would stigmatize the religious beliefs held by millions of people, Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike, and require single-sex spaces to include anyone based on self-identified gender identity.
This month, the Supreme Court heard 303 Creative v. Elenis, the case of Lorie Smith, a Christian website designer who objects to Colorado law forcing her to create messages in support of same-sex marriage that violate her conscience. Unsurprisingly, the Biden Justice Department is siding with Colorado in opposing Smith’s freedom of religion and speech.
Among the questions before the court is where the line is between conduct and speech. Denying the service of selling a cake or a website to someone because he is gay is illegal conduct. Refusing to express a particular message that violates the creator’s conscience is protected under the First Amendment. This doesn’t apply just to Christians. What if the Black Hebrew Israelites in New York asked a Hasidic jeweler to engrave a piece with “We are the real Jews” or if a Hindu-owned print shop was asked to make T-shirts with the slogan “Pakistan Zindabad?”
The United States has a proud history of tolerating rather than compelling sectarian religious beliefs. But when it comes to questions of sexual morality, the Left now seeks more than tolerance. Acceptance and adherence are its new demands.
Indeed, the Left’s idea of “progress” is for everyone to adopt leftist views. If traditionalists don’t reach liberal enlightenment on their own, coercion may be necessary. One need look no further than Canada or Great Britain to see these same trends playing out. Progressive orthodoxy on gender wokeism has led to countless instances of sacrificing free speech and religious belief on the altar of gender ideology.
In announcing the International Religious Freedom designations, Blinken promised that the U.S. will “advocate for those facing religious persecution or discrimination.” We should indeed promote religious liberty overseas, but if the U.S. is to hold other countries accountable for their abuses, it needs to stop assaulting religious liberty here at home.
Grace Melton is a senior associate in the Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Life, Religion, and Family. Simon Hankinson is a senior research fellow in Heritage’s Border Security and Immigration Center.
* Article from: The Washington Examiner