Monday, January 26, 2015

Idaho: Totalitarian State?

This is the testimony I prepared for the hearing on House Bill 2 here in Idaho.  It proposes to amend the current civil rights bill and will "PROVIDE THAT DISCRIMINATION BECAUSE OF SEXUAL ORIENTATION OR GENDER IDENTITY IS A CRIMINAL OFFENSE."  Please read the bill if you in order to see what this means for citizens. 

Here's my testimony:

I oppose House Bill 2 on the grounds that it proposes legalized discrimination and intolerance against the citizens of Idaho. My argument does not depend on the debate about sexual orientation or even my view of Scripture. My argument is simply a defense of the first amendment of the constitution, specifically the free exercise of religion, the freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly.  

My opposition to HB2 has very little to do with sexual orientation or gender identity.(Although to be clear I absolutely affirm the Biblical position with no equivocation) But my point, is that those words only provide the occasion for something far more sinister. This bill represents the loss of the right of conscience. The conscience is not a thing that the state has the right to command. The state is not the Lord of my conscience, nor is it the Lord of yours. A conscience is that moral faculty within all of us that judges our actions to be right or wrong. I have a particular conscience, and you have a particular conscience. The church, the state, our friends, our family are all agents that can help persuade our consciences of the rightness or wrongness of any particular thing.  I’m not denying that right of persuasion to anybody.  Persuasion is good. What I am denying is the right to compulsion. Nobody has the right to use force to get me to adhere to a particular morality. Make no mistake, this bill is trying to force a morality on it's citizens.  

As a pastor it would be wrong for me to force the people in my congregation to obedience to some moral truth. That would be legalism. All I can do is seek to inform their mind and persuade their conscience. Likewise it is wrong for the state of Idaho to force the people to obey something that violates their conscience. Now I’m not one of those people that would deny the right of the state to impose speed limits on highways, or other things of that nature that are legitimate concerns to public safety. But I am denying that HB2 attains any threshold that would pertain to the public safety. HB2 is legislation that seeks to police our thoughts. In the church the policing of thoughts is called legalism, in the public square it is called tyranny. 

It is tyrannical for any government to reach into the hearts of it’s citizens and tell them what they must believe to be right and wrong when it comes to the issue of religion. That is exactly what HB2 seeks to accomplish: an establishment of religion. It seeks to establish the religion of radical egalitarianism where every view point is equally true and valid. This is the statist religion of the newly re-defined tolerance. Tolerance use to mean the act of enduring or putting up with differing points of view. Our culture has re-defined tolerance as that virtue that holds that all views as equally true and valid. But  friends, that view of tolerance is a contradiction! Under that definition, if I believe that homosexuality is wrong, then even my opponents must accept my view as equally true and valid though they think homosexuality is good and right. By that logic, if my viewpoint is not validated, then my opponents are  intolerant. But that is not what tolerance is. Tolerance in the public square means I live civilly with others who disagree with me. That’s what being a grown-up means. I don’t use the state to force others to believe what I believe. This would be to destroy the 1st amendment to the constitution: 
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...”
Some may object that this bill does not compel conscience, it simply forces businesses to treat people equally in public accommodations. But where is the line between public accommodations and private property?  This bill says it is in the means that you and I use to put food on our table.  That is invasion of conscience. Our founding fathers went to war over this.  Read the declaration of independence.  This bill makes it a criminal offense to operate a business according to one’s conscience if one holds that sexuality is a fixed moral reality. The court cases across the country show how those involved in the wedding industry are being compelled to violate what they believe marriage is, in the name of this new so-called tolerance. Think of the ramifications of this. Think of all the professional counseling businesses that exist. In providing counseling, the counselor must attempt to persuade his client of a morality. With the passing of this bill, these businesses would be forced to hire employees that potentially don’t agree with their morality. If these business owners don’t adopt the morality of the state, they face the certainty of a lawsuit or closing their doors.

This bill is about the unjust use of force. It is unjust to force individuals and businesses, and eventually churches to endorse beliefs that offer violence to their conscience. Individuals and businesses and churches should have the right to say to possible patrons or congregants “I don’t agree with that, and I’m not doing that here.” That’s what it means to be able to practice the free exercise of religion and speech and assembly. To take that away from the citizens of Idaho is to make war on the very constitution that established this state. To take away that right is to discriminate against all religions that hold views contrary to this bill. This bill will not just affect Christians, but anybody with a working conscience, Muslims, Jews, and atheists alike. To pass this bill is the height of intolerance and one step closer to a totalitarian state.

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