Debate over free dissent has important implication for Catholics

Church and State
Michael Schuttloffel is the executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference.

by Michael Schuttloffel

Americans exhausted by the Sturm und Drang of perpetual outrage politics may be forgiven for wanting to simply turn away from the latest controversy du jour: the debate over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.

But this is not the time to change the channel. While it is easy to get distracted by the unprecedented spectacle of celebrity athletes dueling with an American president’s Twitter feed, the debate over the place of dissent in a free society has important implications for Catholics trying to live their faith in their daily lives, including at work.

Catholics have been slow to wake up to the reality that a growing swath of the American population sees orthodox Christian teaching on human sexuality as bigotry morally equivalent to racism.

As a result, religious bakers, florists and photographers who decline involvement in same-sex wedding ceremonies have increasingly found themselves in the crosshairs of state and local human rights commissions and prosecutors. The case of one such baker is soon to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The mainstream media has taken notably less interest in the plight of the wedding vendors, T-shirt makers and other workaday Christians hounded out of their businesses by the sexual revolution’s inquisitors than they have in lionizing disaffected millionaire athletes.

It is particularly galling that Barronelle Stutzman, a kindly grandmother persecuted by the Washington state attorney general for living her Christian convictions in the workplace is ignored by the national media, while former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who famously wore socks with pigs dressed like police officers, is glorified for refusing to stand for the national anthem.

It is understandable, then, that some very disgusted football fans would cheer calls for anthem- protesting players to be fired. Yet for those who care about liberty in general, and religious freedom in particular, caution is in order.

Consider the case of Mozilla co-founder and CEO Brendan Eich, who was driven from his job when it was discovered that he had years before donated $1,000 to support Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Christians should consider carefully the extent to which they want to encourage corporate suits to be in the business of punishing employees with unpopular or objectionable viewpoints.

Remember that the NFL once threatened to pull the Super Bowl out of Arizona over relatively small-bore religious freedom legislation.

Emboldening these same politically correct corporate honchos to impose ideological litmus tests on their employees seems a questionable game plan for concerned Christians to adopt.

On second thought, perhaps just changing the channel is the better option, at least until a Christian athlete protests Roe v. Wade or Obergefell v. Hodges. Expect to hear fewer platitudes about unity on that day.

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