Mrs. Clinton’s intolerance is as glaring as Mr. Trump’s; she merely has a different target: religious liberty.
Throughout the campaign, Donald Trump has insulted women, persons with handicaps, Muslims, Hispanics and anyone else who crosses him. On the grounds of decency and respect for one another, many Christian leaders have come out in public opposition to Mr. Trump. Prominent pastor and best-selling author Max Lucado cited Mr. Trump’s claim to represent Christian views: “Here’s a man who holds up a Bible one day, and calls a lady ‘bimbo’ the next….repeatedly, unrepentantly.” Others have been concerned with his openness to registering and monitoring Muslims citizens. Responsible citizens admit that Mr. Trump is simply not a man who shows others much respect.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Clinton has her own biases, which she will be armed to enforce if she wins. With more polite phrasing, she speaks as disparagingly and contemptuously of other segments of the population, particularly those of abiding religious faith, and especially orthodox Catholics.
In 2015, she has stated overtly that, “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs…have to change.” This should be no more socially acceptable than Mr. Trump’s disparagement of Muslims. Marc Thiessen at The Washington Post observed that:
“Religious beliefs have to be changed? This is perhaps the most radical statement against religious liberty ever uttered by someone seeking the presidency. It is also deeply revealing. Clinton believes that, as president, it is her job not to respect the views of religious conservatives but to force them to change their beliefs and bend to her radical agenda favoring taxpayer-funded abortion on demand.”
It does not belong to political leaders to set the views of religious congregations. To do so directly undermines the religious liberty enshrined in first amendment, which is part of the foundation of our society. To call her statement revolutionary is not a figure of speech.
Further, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign has put those views into action, creating groups from the outside that aim to influence the life of the Church. Email exchanges have showed her staff members making efforts to “plant the seeds of a revolution,” within the Catholic Church. John Podesta, head of her campaign, said that he “created Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for a moment like this.” CACG is an organization founded and funded by democrat politicians as part of an effort to change church teaching. The brazen attempt at infiltration is itself duplicitous and it unmasks her lack of respect for the church and people of faith.
Sadder still, as the church resists the increasingly charged issues of sexual identity, her right to function has been questioned. Mark Oppenheimer at The New York Times called for pulling the tax-exempt status of organizations who disagree with the established law as settled in Obergefell v. Hodges. In a 2015 speech to the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s most influential lobby for gay rights, Mrs. Clinton lobbed a few blows at Ben Carson and Ted Cruz for not supporting same-sex marriage and outlined an agenda to end discrimination worldwide and in the American adoption system. While she couched these goals in terms of equality and made no direct threats, it has already been the case that adoption agencies who require a mother and a father have been sued, labeled “bigots,” and even shut down. It requires little stretch of the imagination to foresee that under a Clinton presidency, institutions who hold to the traditional understanding of marriage could face restrictions, legal actions and even closure.
The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order of nuns who care for the elderly, are already embroiled in legal action because of Obamacare and the contraceptive mandate, which the Little Sisters object to on the grounds of Church teaching. It is my hope that a more pluralistic, harmonious approach can be adopted in order to accommodate all Americans, even ones who disagree in significant ways. But the track record of the Obama administration and Mrs. Clinton’s comments on faith suggest a rather abysmal outlook for the freedom of committed Catholics, Protestants, Jews and others to live out those “deeply held” beliefs that she finds so objectionable.
Leaders of black churches have questioned Mrs. Clinton specifically about concerns for their own religious liberty. In an open letter signed by twenty-six pastors and leaders of African-American churches, including Jacqueline Rivers of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies in Boston, they called attention to the CAGC comments by John Podesta;
“Key players on your staff have sought to subvert Catholic teaching on sexuality by planting externally funded groups in the church to advance a politically correct agenda,” they noted. “What would you do as president to guarantee that religious freedoms are balanced against civil rights rather than being trumped by them?”
They show respect for their fellow faith communities and go on to explain the central role their religious beliefs play in their ministry, particularly in poor communities, where the church is only institution well-placed to access the population, both spiritually and materially. In Christianity, beliefs are not meant as cudgels with which to bludgeon opponents; beliefs are guides to goodness, to recognizing the inherent dignity of our fellows, of striving to live well both today and forever, individually and as a society.
While Christians can and do fall short of our ideals, we seek freedom of conscience for the sake of authenticity, not hatred. Religion, despite its present unpopularity in elite circles, was once an uncontroversially protected category of conscience and identity. The drafters of the Bill of Rights thought as much.
As honestly and clearly as conservatives oppose Mr. Trump’s speech about women and minorities as unacceptably discriminatory, I hope people of good will, will concur that Mrs. Clinton’s disrespect towards Catholics and other people of faith is equally unacceptable. However the election ends, may we suit up in work clothes to do the hard task of looking to God, of building the virtues in ourselves and the respect for each other that will strengthen the Church and our nation.