Last week was interrupted by a massive amount of outrage over something that seemingly shouldn’t have caused any kind of “rage” at all.
Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act isn’t the first law of its kind. Or the second. Or the 19th. In fact, once you include state courts that have granted RFRA-type protections, the majority of the U.S. states operate under similar rules. The U.S. government itself passed a federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act back in 1993 by a combined vote of 533-3, if you count President Bill Clinton’s signature. And, of course, there’s that whole First Amendment thing back in 1791, which is why they’re called “restoration” acts, giving back rights that had long existed previously.
Clearly, religious freedom is something that almost nobody had any problem with—until right now.
We’ve seen similar outrage in similar recent cases. Just last year, the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision broke the internet when it was ruled that the government couldn’t force someone to pay for contraceptives that could cause abortions. Never mind that Hobby Lobby did willingly pay for 16 out of the 20 contraceptives available, and that nothing prevented anyone from buying the other 4 themselves. People were outraged. They felt the government should force the owners to violate their core beliefs, even though there was very little benefit to doing so. They already offer “Plan A” for free, so why force them to pay for Plan B?
The answer, sad to say, is that there’s a new fundamental “right” in the U.S. today. You won’t find it in the Declaration or Constitution, but it trumps every right listed there: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, due process, even the right to life. If you infringe on this new “right", you’ll be vilified and even considered unfit for society.
What is it? It’s the right to have sex with anyone, at any time, without any consequences.
Just think about it. In our hook-up culture, if you attempt to hinder society’s rights to free sex free of consequence, you will come under attack. For example, private Christian universities risk losing accreditation over behavior guidelines that ask students to abstain from sex outside of traditional marriage. Though the quality of the education hasn’t changed one bit, lack of accreditation would make it harder for graduates to get jobs. In California last year, a CEO lost his job—at the company he’d co-founded, no less—because of his free-speech support of Proposition 8 back in 2008. (Proposition 8 passed in the general election, which means the majority of the state actually agreed with his position.)
Then there’s abortion. Abortion is not only legal, but people get really upset when common-sense regulations that make it safer for women also make it less convenient for some. (It’s apparently fine that a rural cancer patient may have to drive 3 hours for life-saving treatment. But a procedure that takes away a child’s life should be available on every corner, so you don’t have to think about it too much or consider it to be any big deal.)
In an interesting contrast to abortion, where the aim is to have sex without the natural consequence/blessing of having children, one consequence of same-sex relationships is that you can’t have children. It’s never happened, not once in all of history. So today you have same-sex couples paying donors or surrogates so that they can “have” children together. As Italian designers Dolce and Gabbana, two prominent gay men, pointed out, this process intentionally deprives these kids for life of either a mother or a father. They were, of course, boycotted by an outraged “free sex” society.
And then there’s the current RFRA controversy. When you get past all the misinformation and hysteria, the debate comes down to this: should you be able to force an independent baker, photographer, or florist to celebrate a wedding that their religion (and most all religions) would prohibit? Even if you consider a three-tiered cake a “right,” there are literally dozens of competitors who are available to do the job. (I picked a random Indiana town on a random wedding website, and found 68 wedding cake vendors listed.) Don’t worry, no one will be left without cake, pictures, or flowers.
If we were talking about most any other issue, logic would prevail. If you want a BBQ pork sandwich, you don’t go into a halal restaurant (one that follows Islamic law) and demand that they serve you one. You also wouldn’t force a Jewish caterer to serve a gathering of neo-Nazis, even though such groups are legal and protected by the First Amendment. Both of those examples, by the way, would presumably be covered by any Religious Freedom Restoration Act, along with these real-life cases. The one difference is that none of those has anything to do with sexual expression.
So is this it? Is this the end game of the great American experiment? Over two centuries as the land of the free, and we decide the best thing we can give the world is free sex?
The truth is, sex always has consequences, and they can be good or bad depending on the situation. That’s true on both an individual and societal level, as we’re seeing now. We’ve cheapened sex to the point where it’s a commodity, available anywhere and at any time. It’s not special, or holy, or selfless, or loving anymore. Ironically, it’s not even “adult,” in the ways that are supposed to mark someone as being an adult: self-controlled. Committed. Responsible. Unselfish.
What can you do about it? Well, a great first step would be to choose what to do with yourself. Don’t be part of the problem.
Pray. (That’s still allowed, right? OK, good.)
Get educated. Don’t trust 140 characters and a hashtag to give you accurate information. For a great, balanced explanation of the current RFRA law by a university law professor, check out this article.
Finally, decide for yourself who or what you’re going to follow. There will be consequences for going against the grain of this world. The question is whether you believe this world is all there is.
(With help from Kevin McConaghy)