Opinion Columns & Blogs

Time to protect religious liberty

Two days ago, the website BuzzFeed and its “reporter” Kate Aurthur decided to attack Chip and Joanna Gaines. Until that moment I had never heard of the couple. They have a television show on HGTV.

The reason for the attack was captured in the headline of Aurthur’s article. “Chip And Joanna Gaines’ Church Is Firmly Against Same-Sex Marriage,” the headline read. It was followed by the subtitle, “Their pastor considers homosexuality to be a ‘sin’ caused by abuse — whether the Fixer Upper couple agrees is unclear.”

What difference do their views of sin and marriage have to do with their show about home fixer uppers? It is not like BuzzFeed or any “reporter” there could argue that HGTV is a television station hostile to gays. Just a year or so ago, HGTV rescinded a deal with the Benham brothers after a left-wing group attacked them for remarks about "homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation.” Seems like the Benham brothers were right.

The real issue with the Benham brothers was that they are practicing evangelical Christians. That is the same reason the left is attacking Chip and Joanna Gaines. The couple go to a nondenominational, evangelical church that believes the Bible is the inerrant word of God. In an age where we are supposed to believe that we can pick whether we are a boy or girl, but we are born gay or straight despite no real scientific evidence for either, the Gaines’ pastor dared to accurately note that often times there is a pattern between child abuse and that child becoming gay.

This offended sensibilities at BuzzFeed, a publication whose editor, Ben Smith, has decided that there is no legitimate opposition to gay marriage and anyone who disagrees is a bigot. Chip and Joanna Gaines have said nothing about homosexuality. In fact, as BuzzFeed’s own reporting noted, the Gaines’ television show is popular among Christians, non-Christians, gays and straight people.

But we live now in an age where Christians are being intentionally targeted for their orthodox, multi-thousand year old beliefs. You will be made to care on this issue. And if you care wrongly, you will be persecuted in some ways big and some ways small.

For two years now, in Georgia’s Legislature, conservatives have tried to pass religious liberty protections. The law Georgia’s conservatives want passed is actually fairly innocuous. The law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, would simply require that courts give the same strict scrutiny to the “free exercise of religion” clause of the First Amendment as courts give to every other part of the First Amendment.

It is clear that this is not enough. U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., has said several times he opposes the Georgia religious liberty effort because he thinks we need a federal solution. After the NCAA decided to boycott North Carolina because the state decided men could not be in girls’ bathrooms, I agree with the senator that there must be more expansive federal legislation to protect Christians.

No legislation could prevent BuzzFeed from maliciously targeting Christians for daring to go to an actual Christian church, but there are a growing number of Christians in this country who are having their businesses targeted by gay rights activists merely because they are Christian. From Washington to Oregon to Kentucky to North Carolina, Christian small businesses are being abused because their owners are trying to operate their businesses according to their faith.

Republicans just won everything. It is time for them to reward the Christians who stood with them.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.