The Confession of Belhar was overwhelmingly approved by the Presbytery of Chicago at its April 18 Assembly meeting. On April 8 I asked the following question (The Confession of Belhar and PCUSA Unity – Part 1):
Given the appalling treatment of individuals who dare to exercise their First Amendment rights, be they the CEO of a major tech company or a small town pizzeria operator, there is good reason to be concerned. Will “unity and reconciliation” in the PCUSA be about reaching out to a now minority group in the denomination or about increasing the pressure on them to fall into line?
The “small town pizzeria operator” referred to the campaign of hatred and intimidation carried out by radical progressive groups against Crystal O’Connor, owner of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, IN. She was trusting enough of a reporter to share how she would live out her Christian beliefs in a hypothetical situation that she has never actually experienced. She said that while Memories Pizza would not refuse anyone service, they would refuse to cater a same-gender wedding.
This issue was in play due to the uproar concerning the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). So, just what is the RFRA? Newsweek explains the core provisions as follows:
First, it creates a two-pronged test for circumstances where the state government may limit a person’s right to free exercise of religion: it “(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2): is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”
In other words, the state of Indiana can interfere with someone’s right to exercise his or her religion only if it has a very good reason for doing so (the “compelling governmental interest” part), and it does so in the least inconvenient (or “restrictive”) way possible.
This part of the law is not particularly controversial. Similar tests exist in every state RFRA and the federal RFRA signed by President Bill Clinton.
The law also allows “a person” sued in Indiana to claim his or her sincerely held religious belief as a defense.
In other words, this law creates standing for a citizen to claim sincerely held religious belief as a defense for their actions. This is not the granting of a right to discriminate. Rather, it is ensuring that the religious conscience is not denied space to operate in our society. And from this, the radical progressive mob descended upon the state of Indiana in general, and, Crystal O’Connor in person, claiming that they were the face of evil in the world.
Others from the business community and politics joined in, displaying levels of hypocrisy that simply astound. For example, Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly opposed the RFRA in a Washington Post editorial.
Our message, to people around the country and around the world, is this: Apple is open. Open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. Regardless of what the law might allow in Indiana or Arkansas, we will never tolerate discrimination.
And yet, it was quickly pointed out that Apple does business
in many countries that criminalize and even execute homosexuals (Washington Post). I’m sure that avoiding hypocrisy wasn’t Cook’s primary goal. The likely goal was to inoculate Apple from attack by the progressive mob. He may have bought some time.
The reason that it may have worked is that the progressive mob doesn’t much care about actual flesh-and-blood human homosexuals being executed in foreign lands. What they do care deeply about is the acquisition and exertion of raw power in the United States of America. Be it the elected officials of a state, the people who elected them or a single human being, the goal is to demonstrate that they will be destroyed if they deviate from the current party line.
Surely you are wondering what this all has to do with the Confession of Belhar. I will explain shortly.