Just before the elections, The Heritage Foundation published a paper I wrote about how redefining marriage to include same-sex unions would threaten religious liberties and foster a climate of contempt for people who continue to believe marriage involves a man and a woman. As the paper explains, once courts conclude that traditional marriage laws discriminate against homosexuals, public officials and others in society will come to regard continued support for traditional marriage as a form of bigotry that should be purged from society.
A full page ad in the New York Times Friday marks the truth of that theory in a black and white way. The ad, which was spearheaded by the prestigious public interest law firm The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, calls attention to the bigotry, intimidation, and violence directed against individuals and institutions – especially Mormons – who defended traditional marriage in California by actively supporting Proposition 8.
For example, opponents of Proposition 8 ran a TV ad that depicted two Mormon missionaries invading the home of a lesbian couple and ransacking their belongings. Maggie Gallagher, no stranger to mean-spirited attacks for defending marriage, described the ad as “ugly in the extreme” and said she had never witnessed such “blatant religious hatred” in American politics.
Then, after it became clear that more than 5 million Californians had voted to defend marriage, the “protests” started. One protest at a Mormon temple included signs with slogans like “Mormon scum” and a protest in Los Angeles grew so threatening that police had to call a tactical alert. News stories reported that suspicious white powder had been sent to Mormon temples. Videos from California show a crowd of angry opponents of Proposition 8 screaming at an elderly lady carrying a cross and then someone apparently knocking the cross out of her hands and stomping on it:
People who donated to Proposition 8 have been pressured out of their jobs. Their businesses have been systematically targeted. Churches have been vandalized. I received an email today saying that some pastors in California have felt the need to arrange for bodyguards.
Some of this backlash is illegal, some of it is not. But, as Becket Fund’s ad says, even though sometimes the “crudest anti-religious propaganda isn’t illegal, and may not constitutionally be outlawed,” it is still “wrong” and “has no place in a civilized society.” Indeed, the marriage debate in this country is becoming more and more a referendum on the rights of religious people to engage in the political process and freely express their views without being subjected to contempt, intimidation, and even violence.