In Store Wars, the Empire Strikes Back
When religious liberty collides with same-sex "marriage," something has to give. And usually, that "something" is Christians' rights. In this mad dash to redefine marriage in America, many in society are so focused on giving homosexuals their way that they aren't stopping to see who gets trampled underfoot. The real victims, who include children, religious business owners, and employees across the country, have been lost in a convenient storyline of inequality and discrimination.
While the media spills oceans of ink on the perceived injustice toward same-sex couples, very few reporters are telling the stories of Christians being hauled into court, before human rights commissions, and even their own employers for subscribing to a view on marriage that -- until last year -- President Barack Obama shared! In the meantime, wedding vendors from Washington State to New Jersey are trapped in the middle, wondering why their rights are suddenly less important than homosexuals'. When did it become acceptable to sacrifice the freedoms of conscience and free exercise of religion on the same-sex "wedding" altar?
Never, if you ask most Americans. In a stunningly lopsided poll, U.S. voters universally supported the rights of companies like Masterpiece Cakes, Arlene's Flowers, Elane Photography, and others who turned down "wedding" business from same-sex couples -- and are now paying for it (usually literally). In a sharply divided country where Americans rarely agree on anything -- let alone social issues -- Rasmussen Reports found a shocking amount of consensus on the question of businesses' rights in the marriage debate. "If a Christian wedding photographer who has deeply held religious beliefs opposing same-sex marriage is asked to work a same-sex wedding ceremony, 85% of Americans believe he has the right to say no." Only 8% disagree. That's as unanimous as it gets in the polling community. Obviously, some Americans -- in their haste to redefine marriage -- haven't stopped to make the connection between the homosexual agenda and the fallout for individual liberty.
And of course, the mainstream media isn't helping. These are the stories the liberal press doesn't want to tell. Like us, they understand that it puts a real face on the threat of redefining marriage. Suddenly, this isn't just about two people that love each other. It's about peaceful, decent Americans who just want to live out their faith in their daily life. And if Rasmussen's margin, 85% to 8%, is any indication, most people would agree that same-sex couples can't have their wedding cake and eat it too.
In a telling post, HotAir's Allahpundit, a same-sex "marriage" supporter himself, sees the potential for shifting the debate in these results. "[Even] a strong-form libertarian would say that the photographer has the right to refuse for whatever reason he chooses, religious or not... The big stumbling block here for gay rights activists is that their most compelling argument to opponents no longer applies: 'It doesn't affect you' is a good solid libertarian justification for legalized marriage, not so good when it means business owners will be forced to work with you whether they want to or not."
In the case of Arlene's Flowers, owner Barronnelle Stutzman had not only served gays and lesbians -- but employed them. As her attorney points out, this was never about discrimination but participation in a ceremony her faith expressly condemns. No American -- business owner or not -- should have to violate their beliefs to compete in the marketplace. So far, the Left has done a masterful job keeping these incidents quiet. But if the media won't tell the victims' stories, we must.
Playing It SAFE on Abortion Funding
Almost every day, the President's team seems to be announcing a major overhaul to the multi-trillion dollar mistake called ObamaCare. Despite all the back-and-forth over mandates and insurance options, one thing about the health care law remains the same: the promise of taxpayer-funded abortion. Until ObamaCare, every federal employee health care plan excluded abortion. The FRC team has fought for this common sense rule for years.
Under the new rules from Health and Human Services, that all changed. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which oversees health plans for federal employees is not allowed to fund plans with abortion coverage. In other words, unless a state explicitly blocks abortion coverage (and 22 have), people in that state will be forced to subsidize it. And even in areas that do have an abortion opt-out, your federal tax dollars are still going to Washington and cycling to other states that pay for abortion. However, the language barring funding for abortion in the federal health employee benefits plan does not apply to the new Obamacare multi-state plans. Congressman Alan Nunnelee (R-Miss.) is hoping to close that loophole with language in the Financial Services spending bill to make sure the multi-state plans are brought in line with similar regulations. Under Nunnelee's measure, OPM would be blocked from administering any plan -- anywhere -- that covers abortion. His proposal, the Stop Abortion Funding in Multi-state Exchanges Act (or SAFE), keeps the Obama administration from reaching over federal law to expand its culture of death. Tomorrow, members of the full Financial Services Committee will have the opportunity to send Rep. Nunnelee's language to the full House as part of the agency's overall budget. Encourage members of the committee to sign on (202-224-3121) and help keep taxpayers, women, and children SAFE.
Obama's 1,000 Points of Lite
Something unusual happened at the White House yesterday, the Washington Post reports. For the first time in who-knows-how-long, "Republicans and Democrats were actually genuinely nice together." The rare display of warmth in the East Room was thanks in large part to both sides' growing fondness for President George H.W. Bush. As the elder Bush's health continues to be a topic of concern, both parties took time out to honor the 41st President for his efforts to recognize and encourage volunteers in America. Even President Obama, who seldom has anything nice to say about Republicans, seemed sincerely touched by President Bush's contributions. "We are surely a kinder and gentler nation because of you," he said.
Continuing a tradition started by the 41st President, Obama and George H.W. Bush presented the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award to two people from Iowa. After a missions trip to Tanzania to renovate an HIV/AIDS hospital, they started an organization that has distributed 230 million meals in over 15 countries. As President Obama said yesterday, "our country is a better and a stronger force for good in the world, because, more and more, we are a people who serve."
Of course, the irony of that statement is that while both parties agree on the value of volunteerism, the Left is doing everything it can to squelch it. Whether it's attacking pregnancy resource centers, adoption agencies, the charitable tax deductions that make those organizations possible, or threatening faith-based social services with the HHS abortion-contraception mandate, the President is trying to destroy the very principle he celebrated yesterday. And yet that tradition of service is the very thing that Alexis de Tocqueville credited as a fundamental reason for our nation's success.
"I must say," he wrote more than 150 years ago, "that I have seen Americans make great and real sacrifices to the public welfare, and I have noticed a hundred instances in which they hardly ever failed to lend faithful support to one another." It's not enough for liberals like President Obama to admire America's unique spirit of volunteerism. It's more important that they protect it by abandoning their attacks on the religious values motivating public service.
** The Air Force and Defense Department dismissed Congress's concerns about the military's attacks on religious liberty. Read why the members' questions should have been taken more seriously in Ken Klukowski's new column for Breitbart, "New Coalition Pushes Back on Obama Administration's Religious Liberty Failures."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.