Against Dhimmitude: Bush Calls for Respect for Christian Conscience

Bush continues to surprise me, as the designated “moderate” in the race, for his willingness to take a strong stance in defense of religious liberty, now being redefined by the Left as discrimination.

His Liberty University graduation speech made a brief nod to life, ignored marriage altogether, but gave a rather stirring and deep defense of the legitimacy of Christian views in the American public square and a recognition that they are now under attack by Pres. Obama and the Left in a whole new way.

A transcript of his remarks is below, and you can watch the key clip here:

This is what moved me the most:

The stories vary, year after year, but the story line is getting familiar. The progressive political agenda is ready for its next great leap forward and religious people and churches are getting in the way. Our friends on the left like to view themselves as the agents of change and reform, and you and I are supposed to just get with the program. There are consequences when you don’t genuflect to the latest secular dogmas, and those dogmas can be hard to keep up with.

So we find officials in a major city demanding that pastors turn over copies of their sermons or federal judges mistaking themselves for elected legislators and imposing restrictions and rights that do not exist in the Constitution or an agency dictating to a Catholic charity, the Little Sisters of the Poor, what has to go in their health plan and never mind objections of conscience. I don’t know about you, but I’m betting that when it comes to doing the right and good thing the Little Sisters of the Poor know better than the regulators at the Department of Health and Human Services. From the standpoint of religious freedom, you might even say it’s a choice between the Little Sisters and Big Brother, and I’m going with the Little Sisters.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (photo credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (photo credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Bravo for that Gov. Bush.

A graduation speech is probably not the place to expect a ten point policy agenda. But once again I would like to push anyone who cares about this aggressive and powerful new effort by the Left to redefine Christianity as racism, to ask of all the candidates: What are you going to do about it?  What will Jeb Bush do about protecting conscience if he is elected?  He has not ever answered that question. And he is not alone.

For me the most important thing now for those of us deeply committed to Christian teachings on sex and marriage (as well as similar teachings in other religious faith traditions, or for merely common sense moral reasons) is to look not at what is in the secret soul of a candidate, but what is he willing to publicly commit to do if we elect a GOP Congress and President.

I don’t care so much about constitutional amendments at this point in history.  Those will prove merely symbolic, and they aren’t going to pass.  Will Jeb Bush and other candidates support the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act?  If not, why not? And what will he do as president to protect our freedom?

The full video of Bush’s liberty speech is available here.

Transcript of Excerpts from Jeb Bush’s Liberty Speech

On Abortion (10:55-11:10):

You also understand that some moral standards are universal. They do not bend under the weight of cultural differences or elite opinion. Wherever there’s a child waiting to be born, we say choose life and we say it with love.

On Religious Liberty (11:45-15:56):

In all these causes and others, your generation is fully engaged, acting by the light of conscience. If any spirit is to be welcomed in a free society, you’d think that would be one. At least the founding generation thought so when they wrote the First Amendment, but of course others have their own fashionable ideas and opinions which these days can be a religion all by themselves and it’s gotten to be a problem for Christians and their right of conscience. That makes it our problem and our proper response has to be the forthright defense of the first freedom in the Constitution of the United States.

It can be a touchy subject and I’m asked sometimes whether I would ever allow my decisions in government to be influenced by my Christian faith. Whenever I hear this, I know what they want me to say. The simple and safe reply is: no, never, of course not. If the game is political correctness, that’s the answer that moves you to the next round. The end point is a certain kind of politician, we’ve all heard before, the guy whose moral convictions are so private, so deeply personal, that he even refuses to impose them on himself.

The mistake is to confuse points of theology with moral principles that are knowable to reason as well as by faith, and this confusion is all part of a false narrative that casts religious Americans as intolerant scolds running around trying to impose their views on everyone. The stories vary, year after year, but the story line is getting familiar. The progressive political agenda is ready for its next great leap forward, and religious people and churches are getting in the way. Our friends on the left like to view themselves as the agents of change and reform and you and I are supposed to just get with the program. There are consequences when you don’t genuflect to the latest secular dogmas and those dogmas can be hard to keep up with.

So we find officials in a major city demanding that pastors turn over copies of their sermons or federal judges mistaking themselves for elected legislators and imposing restrictions and rights that do not exist in the Constitution or an agency dictating to a Catholic charity, the Little Sisters of the Poor, what has to go in their health plan and never mind objections of conscience. I don’t know about you, but I’m betting that when it comes to doing the right and good thing the Little Sisters of the Poor know better than the regulators at the Department of Health and Human Services. From the standpoint of religious freedom, you might even say it’s a choice between the Little Sisters and Big Brother, and I’m going with the Little Sisters.

That case continues and, as usual, the present administration is supporting the use of coercive federal power. What should be easy calls in favor of religious freedom have instead become an aggressive stance against it. Somebody here is being small minded and intolerant, and it sure isn’t the nuns, ministers and lay men and women who ask only to live and practice their faith.

Federal authorities are demanding obedience in complete disregard of individual conscience, and in a free society, the answer is no. It strikes me that most of the criticism directed at believers in our day is drawn from hostile caricature. That’s just the easy way of avoiding honest discussion. It is a posture that only deepens distrust instead of inviting understanding.

Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at American Principles in Action.