Church and state

Column: We are living in the age of the smear


Michael Schuttloffel is the executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference.

by Michael Schuttloffel

It is a common parlor game for political junkies to debate whether there ever really was a golden age of American political discourse, when orations of great eloquence and persuasive power would issue forth from the mouths of illustrious statesmen and wash over a rapt citizenry. What is not commonly argued is that we live in such an age. For good reason: We do not.

We live in an age satisfied that it is easier to delegitimize opponents than to engage their ideas. We live in the age of the smear.

In January of this year, New York Gov. Mario Cuomo was heard on local radio talking about “extreme conservatives” who “have no place in the state of New York.” Cuomo, who calls himself a Catholic, counted “right to life” and “anti-gay” people among the ranks of undesirables (presumably anti-gay is his way of describing anyone who believes that children deserve a mother and a father).

In the summer of 2012, after the president of Chick-fil-A made comments in support of traditional marriage, high profile politicians in Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and elsewhere suggested that they might take steps to keep Chick-fil-A out of their cities.

This is a doubly ominous development for religious Americans who see in the mother-father-child family unit the very building block of society. Not only are they losing battles in the legislatures and courts over the definition of marriage, but culturally their position is rapidly becoming illegitimate.

Recently, it was brought to light that Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich had made a contribution of $1000 to the 2008 campaign to pass a state constitutional amendment in California defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Uproar ensued, and within mere days he was no longer CEO.

That this happened so rapidly is evocative of how quickly the ground has shifted on this issue.

As a candidate in 2008, then Sen. Obama opposed same-sex marriage, a view now held to be so repugnant that one who espouses it is not even fit to run a Web browser. It is a metaphysical certainty that in two years, the Democratic nominee for president will fully
embrace same-sex marriage. Irony of ironies, Barack Obama circa 2008 would be far too
conservative on social issues to win his party’s nomination in 2016. The fate of religious freedom legislation recently considered by the Kansas Legislature suggests that the GOP may well be on the road to capitulation as well.

With each passing minute, the debate becomes less about whether we will have same-sex marriage in this country, and more about what will be done with those who do not approve. Opposition to same-sex marriage is not in danger of becoming a minority view. It is in danger of becoming intolerable.

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Michael Schuttloffel

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