United Church of Christ General Minister and President the Rev. John Dorhauer has written the foreword to a major article on religious liberty in our country that investigates how the religious right in America — evangelical Protestant Christians and U.S. Roman Catholic bishops — is using the term "religious freedom" to infringe on people’s civil rights.
Titled "The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right," the investigative piece by Frederick Clarkson, published by Political Research Associates, calls on the progressive faith community and churches like the United Church of Christ to be vigilant and offer a theologically rooted alternative to their viewpoint.
Dorhauer writes that progressive faith communities can’t allow American Christianity to be hijacked. "We can’t allow the Religious Right to twist the meaning of religious liberty to the point that it becomes the means by which their theocratic vision is finally and fully realized," he writes. "For decades now, they have fought to erode or redefine the very freedoms the Constitution was written to protect. It would be unwise of us to either turn a blind eye to their machinations or to dismiss the ongoing effectiveness of their efforts."
In the article, Clarkson cites the 2014 UCC court case against the state of North Carolina as evidence of what can be accomplished when the progressive faith community fights back.
Clarkson writes, "A pivotal North Carolina court case from 2014, General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Reisinger, demonstrates that the Christian Right does not get to define Christianity and that LGBTQ equality can, in fact, express the sacred."
Had a federal judge not struck down the North Carolina amendment, UCC clergy and others who routinely perform same-sex marriage ceremonies could have been subject to criminal prosecution. "We didn’t bring this lawsuit to make others conform to our beliefs," UCC General Counsel Donald C. Clark, Jr. told The New York Times, "but to vindicate the right of all faiths to freely exercise their religious practices."
In his conclusion, Clarkson recommends the following strategies to progressive faith communities:
- Reclaim religious freedom as a fundamental democratic value.
- Increase our capacity to respond to religious freedom-related issues.
- Expand and refresh historic alliances that have extended civil and labor rights.
- Expand celebrations of Religious Freedom Day on Jan. 16 and other events to offer a clear, consistent, positive, and historically rooted alternative to the Christian Right’s redefinition of religious liberty.
- Counter misinformation.
- Urge candidates and elected officials to end legal justifications for all forms of discrimination under the rubric of religious freedom.
- Consider international human rights standards regarding religious freedom and the rights of conscience.
- Develop electoral answers to the Right’s long-term efforts to control various levels of government.
Read Clarkson’s complete article here.