Is the Government Obligated to Disfavor Christians?

A group of legal scholars argues that it is

Are you a Catholic charity making use of federal funds in you charitable work? This argument says that the government must “disfavor” you for your “invidious” views. Are you a Christian university benefitting from federal loan programs or grants? This argument says that the government must “disfavor” you for your “invidious” views. That’s what these legal scholars argue anyway, and that is how they are trying to persuade the President as well.

 

In my last post, I highlighted an open letter sent to President Obama last month requesting a religious exemption in a forthcoming executive order. Yesterday, a group of legal scholars sent a letter to the President requesting the exact opposite. If you want to understand the logic of those who care little for religious freedom, you need to read this letter. I will highlight one salient section. It reads,

The federal government is free to require that government contractors adhere to government standards. Religious contractors do not have a right to government contracts, and there is no burden on their religious exercise if they are unable or unwilling to comply with those requirements. When spending taxpayer dollars the government should be permitted to favor – and indeed, should favor – employers who do not discriminate on invidious grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity.As with race, gender, or any other protected class, the fact that some religious employers who do not share a commitment to equal treatment will be disfavored by such a rule does not create a constitutional problem. [underline mine]

Did you get that? There is no “constitutional problem” when the federal government disfavors Christian employers. On the contrary—according to these scholars—the federal government has a moral and legal obligation to disfavor such Christians, Jews, and any other religious employer that limits sexual activity to the covenant of marriage.

Are you a Catholic charity making use of federal funds in you charitable work? This argument says that the government must “disfavor” you for your “invidious” views. Are you a Christian university benefitting from federal loan programs or grants? This argument says that the government must “disfavor” you for your “invidious” views. That’s what these legal scholars argue anyway, and that is how they are trying to persuade the President as well.

It is a sobering thing to see fellow countrymen treat religious freedom and pluralism with such indifference and contempt. The culture war has taken a poisonous turn, and the zero-sum nastiness is coming from those wish to see religious liberty relegated to the margins of American life. I do not know whether President Obama will go along with this. I hope and pray that he won’t.

Denny Burk is Associate Professor of New Testament and Dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminar. He blogs on matters concerning politics, theology and culture. This article is used with his permission.