The religious right’s fear-mongering about threats to religious freedom in America has really jumped the shark. The above clip is from the religious right’s I Stand Sunday event this past weekend in Houston. Right-wing groups sponsored the event, which was streamed to participating churches around the country.
Speaker after speaker railed against abortion, marriage equality for same-sex couples, and laws that bar discrimination against LGBT people. But the common theme was the supposed persecution of people of faith — particularly Christians — in America. The video above includes a clip from a religious-right documentary called One Generation Away, which argues that Christians in America face the kind of persecution that occurred in Nazi Germany. Speaking in the documentary, author Eric Metaxas makes that explicit:
“The parallel today is simply that you have a government, a state, which is getting larger and larger and getting more and more powerful, and it’s beginning to push against the church. There’s a window of opportunity where we can fight. If we don’t wake up and fight before then, we won’t be able to fight. That’s just what happened in Germany, and that’s the urgency we have in America now. And people think that’s incendiary or I’m being hyperbolic. I’m sorry. I wish, I wish, I wish I were. I’m not.”
But it is incendiary and he is being hyperbolic. Shamefully so. To compare America to Nazi Germany is beyond repugnant. It doesn’t just cheapen the real and horrible persecution — including torture and murder — suffered by the Nazis’ victims. It also recklessly seeks to sow irrational fear and paranoia among people of faith in America as a means to promote a divisive and discriminatory political agenda.
Sunday’s Houston event isn’t the only example of this fear-mongering. Last week, for example, former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pennsylvania, who sought the Republican nomination for president in 2012, also warned that Christians in America may soon face the same kind of persecution that the church faced in Nazi Germany. Santorum argued that the threat to religious freedom comes from government wanting “to tell you how to live your life. You either conform to what the government says you have to believe in, or you’re going to lose certain privileges.” He cited abortion and same-sex marriage as examples.
If anyone wants government to tell people how to live their lives, it’s extremists like Santorum and speakers at Sunday’s Houston event. Santorum, after all, thinks government should have the power to forbid individuals from obtaining and using birth control. He and other religious-righters insist that government interfere in the deeply personal decisions women make about whether and when to have children, whether by limiting (or barring completely) their access to abortion care or even to birth control. They demand that government outlaw any legal recognition for same-sex couples. They opposed the repeal of laws that actually criminalize the intimate relationships of those couples — laws that could send the individuals in those relationships to jail.
They also seek the right to discriminate not just against LGBT people in the public square. (Check out the t-shirt worn by attendees at the Sunday event in Houston: “We reserve the right to refuse service to homosexuals.”) As one Houston minister was forced to admit last spring, they also think they should have the right to discriminate against anyone — even Jews — who somehow offend their religious beliefs.
The Texas Freedom Network stands with the many clergy and other people of faith across the state who reject the notion that barring discrimination amounts to persecution. We stand with people of faith who believe women should have the right to decide for themselves whether and when to have children. We stand with LGBT families who seek equality and the right to live their lives with dignity and in peace. And we stand with all of those who truly support religious freedom — but not with those who use religion as a political weapon to divide Americans.