After litigating religious liberty issues for more than 20 years, I'm used to utter hysteria erupting on the Left when Christians try to assert conventional and traditional religious liberty rights. Perhaps my favorite example was the claim — by a Tufts University student panel — that a Christian group had to be thrown off campus without due process, in part because the Christian group's insistence on selecting only Christians as leaders placed Tufts students at greater risk of suicide. Yes, suicide.
But for national freakouts, it's tough to beat either the sky-is-falling rhetoric around the idea that a few Hobby Lobby employees would have to buy their own abortifacients or, more recently, the sheer nonsense of #boycottindiana, the movement to freeze an entire state out of the national economy for passing a religious freedom law similar to the national Religious Freedom Restoration ACT (RFRA) and RFRAs in 19 other states. While it's hardly surprising to see legally ignorant sportswriters use the language of segregated lunch counters, it's disturbing to see well-informed CEOs such as Apple's Tim Cook conjuring up the specter of the Old South.
Simply put, their concerns about systematic invidious discrimination are utter hogwash, and they either know it or should know it. Why? Because RFRAs aren't new, the legal standard they protect is decades older than the RFRAs themselves, and these legal standards have not been used — nor can they be used — to create the dystopian future the Left claims to fear. After all, the current RFRA legal tests were the law of the land for all 50 states — constitutionally mandated — until the Supreme Court's misguided decision in Employment Division v. Smith, where the Court allowed fear of drug use to overcome its constitutional good sense. And yet during the decades before Smith, non-discrimination statutes proliferated, and were successfully enforced to open public accommodations to people of all races, creeds, colors, and — yes — sexual orientations.
So what's really going on here? A toxic combination of anti-Christian bigotry and sexual revolution radicalism. It is simply uninformed and bigoted to believe that Christians are somehow lurking in the shadows, ready to deny food, shelter, and basic services to their gay fellow citizens — blocked from such vicious actions only by the strong arm of the state. In my entire life as an Evangelical, I've never met a fellow Christian who wouldn't gladly serve a gay customer. If there are exceptions to that nearly-universal rule, they are so marginal (and marginalized) in the Christian community that they're irrelevant not only to Christendom but also to the body politic.
But the Left, ever-vigilant against group-based slights on behalf of favored constituencies, is only too eager to label orthodox Christians as threats to the public.
This bigotry has a purpose. It serves to demonize the last significant constituency standing in the way of sexual revolution radicalism. After all, unless you demonize your opposition, the general public will have little appetite for forcing Christians to pay for abortion pills, forcing Christian groups to open up to atheist leadership, or forcing Christian bakers or photographers to help celebrate events they find morally offensive. After all, there's no clamor for requiring Kosher delis to stock pork or requiring gay lawyers to represent the Westboro Baptist Church.
While RFRAs protect people of all faiths, from peyote-smoking Native Americans to Bible-toting florists, the Left's outrage is narrowly targeted — against the Christian people whose livelihoods they seek to ruin, whose consciences they seek to appropriate, and whose organizations they seek to disrupt. #BoycottIndiana isn't a cry for freedom. It's nothing more than an online mob, seeking to bully those it hates.
This column was originally published in National Review.