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Tuesday, October 20, 2015


If Bernie Sanders didn’t have to fight in Vietnam because of his beliefs, why do business owners have to participate in gay weddings in spite of theirs?

When Sanders applied for conscientious objector status, he did so knowing that another person would have to fight specifically because his religious, or moral beliefs did not exempt him from service. So why does Sanders believe that a pacifist’s moral beliefs must be protected even if it burdens others, while a Christian can be compelled to violate his or her beliefs specifically because it burdens others?

The answer to this question lies not so much in legal vagaries as in a misconception many Americans hold about the purpose of constitutional rights. There is general agreement that the First Amendment exists to protect religious minorities. But when applied to mainstream Christianity, many of these same Americans argue that social justice trumps free religious expression.

The Bill of Rights is not H.L. Mencken—it does not exist to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. It exists to ensure that the natural rights of all Americans are not violated. There is no justification for treating the religious freedom of the dominant religion in our society any differently than we treat any other religious group. Increasingly, however, we are doing so. This is why nobody is forcing Muslim or Orthodox Jewish bakers to participate in gay marriages.

The current progressive penchant for burdening the dominant culture in ways it does not burden cultural outliers is based on an assumption that that very dominance acts as a protective force. They view mainstream Christian beliefs as inherently protected by its majority status. But there is a paradox here, because they also insist, rightfully, that the United States is not a Christian country. Essentially, they treat Christian practices as inherently protected by what they perceive as its dominant status. But, in fact, Christian practices, like all other religious practices, are only protected by the First Amendment, not by custom, which is subject to constant change.

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