The Separation of Church and Hate

June 25, 2021

The gentleman doth protest too much. On Facebook Thursday, California Representative Jared Huffman (D) doubled down on his suggestion that the Catholic church should lose its tax-exempt status if U.S. bishops withhold communion from pro-abortion politicians. He stated in part:

"I've been getting the most colorful feedback from anti-abortion activists all over the country ever since I tweeted earlier this week that when churches engage in overt political activity … that church may put its tax-exempt status at risk. Pointing it out doesn't mean I want to dictate how priests practice their religion; it means I want them to respect the separation of church and state…. But sending an army of angry online goons to threaten and attack me, as some of the Bishops and anti-abortion zealots like Tony Perkins have done this week, calls into question more than their tax status. I didn't know devout Christians behaved this way, with foul, hateful language and threats of physical violence…"

I addressed Huffman's suggestion on Tuesday in this Update and on "Washington Watch." Read the article. Listen to the interview. Draw your own conclusions. Huffman thinks I sent "an army of angry online goons to threaten and attack" him. For my part, I can't identify the slightest shred of evidence to suggest that I sent anyone after him, that I endorsed threats or hateful language, or that I have an online goon squad at my command.

Let me be clear that violence and threats of violence should have no place in America's political process. If Rep. Huffman has received threatening messages, I hope that he reports them to the proper authorities, and that they will hold the offending parties responsible.

However, claiming victimization is not a valid rebuttal to rational argumentation. For instance, I said, "what about the separation of church and state? This looks like the government getting into the church's business." Most religious freedom controversies (e.g. Jack Phillips, the Little Sisters of the Poor, Hobby Lobby, Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia) regard whether people of faith may live their daily lives according to their religious beliefs. But for the government to dictate to the Catholic church how to conduct communion is to reach its long arm right up the aisle on Sunday morning and close an icy fist around the very heart of religious observance. Not to mention that avoiding entanglement between the church and the state is one of the motives behind church tax-exempt status in the first place. Huffman protests he doesn't "want to dictate how priests practice their religion," but if communion is "overt political activity," then what is left for religion?

I also said, "If you're going to proclaim a faith it needs to mean something. The Catholics… have a right to say 'this is what we believe in. If you don't believe it and act accordingly, you're not a part of us.'" Clearly distinguishing those in Christ from those apart is a hard but essential truth; how can anyone be saved until they know they are lost? And the First Amendment protects the right of churches to make those distinctions. Non-Christians are often offended by this distinction -- which Jesus himself taught, by the way.

But while Christians insist on the same exclusivity as Jesus, we are filled with love, not hate. That's how I know any "foul, hateful language" directed towards Rep. Huffman over his tweets certainly didn't come from "devout Christians." We stand firm on our convictions. We persuade as many as will come to believe in Christ. And we work for the good of society, including protection for the most vulnerable, the unborn.