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Will the Justice Department now protect religion? Let’s see.

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Mar 15, 2016

It used to be that government itself could be routinely guilty of hate crimes. But for that to be the case, there has to be a standard of morality higher than human law. Since our government no longer recognizes anything higher than its own laws, the US Department of Justice’s new initiative to combat religious discrimination is likely to be very selectively applied.

For example, what does the Justice Department plan to do about legislative bodies, courts and police departments who force Christians to violate their religious beliefs by assisting in the celebration of gay marriages? And what do they plan to do about the Federal government’s attempt to coerce Christians into paying for “medical” procedures which—on the highest authority—we know to be immoral?

And what about the increasing number of political leaders who insist that serious Christians are not welcome within their jurisdiction? One thinks of the various mayors and other officials around the country who in 2012 wanted to ban the establishment of new Chick-fil-A franchises in their cities, because that company supported traditional marriage. (Unfortunately, Chick-fil-A has since retreated from funding organizations deemed to be hostile to gay marriage, ostensibly to avoid dragging the business into unproductive political controversies.)

The most obvious example of this same sort of political hate was offered by the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, who famously announced on radio that “extremists” who opposed his pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage and anti-gun policies have “no place in the state of New York.” This was in early 2014, but Federal troops have not been sent to Albany to secure the civil rights of sincere Christians, nor has the Justice Department sought to prosecute Cuomo for “hate speech.”

One notices as well the constant meddling of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, charged with the enforcement of U.S. anti-discrimination laws. The EEOC is not infrequently called upon to hear cases in which employees of Catholic institutions have been terminated for their refusal to uphold the moral teachings of the Church. One wonders which is worse in these cases, the constant obstructive bureaucratic interventions or the decisions hostile to the ability of the Church to act in a religious way.

We might even cite the legal handling of sex abuse cases. Why are punishments and financial settlements so frequent and so high—to the point of bankruptcy—when Catholic organizations are guilty, yet minimal or non-existent for most others? Why, in particular, are public schools virtually untouchable for the same offenses? Is it because the public schools are connected with government, and so serve as the normal channel of government indoctrination?

The perception of Christianity

I hate to say it, but one important reason it is so easy for government to display open disdain for Christian thought and action is that huge numbers of self-proclaimed Christians (almost certainly a majority of them, in fact) actually promote ideas and actions contrary to the teachings of Christ. Indeed, those who persecute Christians in several Western countries are often actually nominal Christians themselves. And each time there is a miscarriage of justice in these matters, plenty of Christian churches, and even spokespersons for the one Church, will applaud whatever evil the government is currently striving to uphold.

They may even claim to do so precisely as Christians—so arbitrary has the meaning of words become in an age which rebels against both faith and reason. “When I use a word,” they say (in Humpty Dumpty’s scornful tone), “it means exactly what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” Nothing could be simpler than to deny there is anything particularly hostile to Christianity in so many laws, regulations, decisions and public comments. Some of the government’s best friends are Christians! Those who foster the immoral policies of the modern State are honored by the University of Notre Dame.

Well, well, the Church is very frequently her own worst enemy—and how could she not be with ourselves as members? The situation is even worse when hundreds of schismatic and heretical groups all claim to represent Jesus Christ. No matter what moral or doctrinal issue is at stake, it is no great trouble to find prominent Christians eager to affirm that “the world rulers of this present darkness” (cf. Eph 6:12) sit at the Father’s right hand. Anything less reeks of that fundamentalism which all good men and women are trained from birth to abhor.

Self-proclaimed Christians, then, are remarkably complicit in the elevation of the raw power of the State over the Church of Christ. This new initiative of the Justice Department may well be used to protect Muslims and other distinctive minorities, as this would increase our culture’s sense of the relativity of all religion. But based on elementary historical logic, one must wonder why any government at all would want to protect or strengthen the Catholic Church.

After all, if the Church is right, then there is a definitive source of morality which transcends the State, and it is exceedingly rare in history that any government is eager to recognize such a source. Our modern secular governments may guarantee certain protections to some religious groups, especially insofar as they help to create a pluralist vacuum which must find its arbiter in politics. But we can be sure that everything will be consistent with the thesis that the State brooks no rivals.

So, no, I have no great hopes for this new Justice Department initiative. For the present, Western government everywhere will continue to dress itself in fictitious legal garments, the better to exercise a kind of naked power. I admit that many will find this quite stylish. It has always taken innocence to see that the emperor has no clothes.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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