America has always been a nation with great respect for the right of conscience. As a people, we like the idea that a person should follow their heart, go with their gut, do what feels right. Our laws have traditionally followed this course by according deference to individual conscience on a whole host of matters. Perhaps the most well know example is that of conscientious objection to war, in which a person can claim exemption from conscripted military service on the basis of freedom of thought, conscience, or religion. Our President appeals to the concept of conscience perhaps more than any other in recent memory, often defending his administrations' actions with the simple phrase "it's the right thing to do."
Of course, when he says this what he really means, "it's what I think is the right thing to do." On a whole host of policy issues the President has swum against the tide of public opinion in the name of executive conscience, to the point of getting himself into legally shaky territory. It is disappointing then, though perhaps not surprising, that the President and his ideological bed fellows have very little respect for the consciences of those who don't think like them. This hypocrisy shines brightest when it comes to social issues. The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties were sued by the Obama Administration for refusing to comply with the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate, specifically for refusing to cover certain types of contraception that can lead to the termination of the life of a nascent child. These employers were compelled to resist the law by their conscience, their belief that life begins at conception and is sacred, that abortion is murder. President Obama could not care less. In his mind, free birth control and abortifacients (and abortion, I'm sure, if he had his way), is "the right thing to do." If you disagree, you are an enemy of progress.
Then of course there is the issue of same-sex marriage. Again, for the President there is only one civilized opinion you can possibly hold (at least, since his own opinion has "evolved" on the matter). Love is love is love. Equal protection under the law requires the complete cultural normalization and legal protection of same-sex marriage, and there is no room for conscientious objection, no matter who you are or what you do. The public relations campaign waged by pro-gay activists over the past 30 years has been enormously successful, to the extent that today anything less than the total embrace and celebration of homosexuality and gay rights is seen as analogous to the racism of the Jim Crow south. The belief that marriage is a divinely established institution designed for one man and one woman is disparaged as toxic hate speech.
This is an issue with huge implications going forward. Already, the cultural war on religious conscience has begun to insinuate itself into the law. Increasingly, the right of religious conscience is being eroded in the name of equal protection. Private business owners are being told that they must check their moral convictions at the door or risk prosecution. How long before churches are told the same thing? The City of Houston recently made headlines when its mayor subpoenaed sermons containing references to same sex marriage. This represents a trend in a very dangerous direction, in which the public expression of religiously orthodox belief on matters of human sexuality will be a prosecutable offense. Unless a major cultural shift occurs, and soon, this doesn't appear to be a question of if, but when. This is already happening in Europe. It's only a matter of time before lawmakers here push for the adoption of policies embraced by our enlightened progressive cousins across the Atlantic.
America is a nation that was founded by individuals fleeing religious persecution in their homelands. From day one, a commitment to individual liberty – liberty of speech, belief, conscience, and self-determination – has been a hallmark of the American spirit. President Obama may have forgotten this, and Progressive policy crusaders and cultural warriors may deny this, but millions of Americans still cherish those self-evident truths articulated by our Founders in the Declaration of Independence: the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
For Christians, and all people of religious faith, the time has come to stand up and fight for their right to live in accordance with their religious convictions. Today the issue is same sex marriage, but tomorrow it will be something else. Everyone has a stake in the preservation of religious conscience, and if this battle is lost, everyone will pay a price. Those Americans who adhere to traditional views on matters of marriage, family, and the sanctity of human life must be prepared to engage in civil disobedience if the forces of "equality" prevail in the courts. They must be prepared to resist Caesar if he compels them to do what God forbids. The stakes are not just civil and temporal. They are spiritual and eternal as well.