It’s going to get worse before it gets better. We’re facing opposition far more intense than anything most Christians in the United States have experienced in the last century.
That’s the message from Luke Goodrich in his new book, Free to Believe: The Battle Over Religious History in America, published by Multnomah. Goodrich, the leading religious-freedom attorney at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, has fought and won in the Supreme Court. But he’s concerned that we’re not prepared for the changes that now confront us. And we talked even before this week’s dramatic Supreme Court decision that legally redefined sex to include gender identity and sexual orientation.
“We’ve long lived in a country where religious freedom was secure, and we didn’t need to give it much thought,” Goodrich writes. “Now we’re realizing the country is changing and we might not enjoy the same degree of religious freedom forever. If we don’t start thinking about it now, we’ll be unprepared.”
Goodrich joined me on Gospelbound to help us get ready. We discuss how we can suffer with joy, what we can learn from the Quakers, why some courts seem so incredulous about Christians acting as Christians, and more.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Collin Hansen: It’s going to get worse before it gets better. We’re facing opposition far more intense than anything most Christians in the United States have experienced in the last century. That’s the message from Luke Goodrich in his new book, Free to Believe: The Battle Over Religious Liberty in America, published by Multnomah. Goodrich, the leading religious freedom attorney at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has fought and won in the Supreme Court, but he’s concerned that we’re not prepared for the changes that now confront us. He writes, we’ve long lived in a country where religious freedom was secure and we didn’t need to give it much thought. Now we’re realizing the country is changing and we might not enjoy the same degree of religious freedom forever. If we don’t start thinking about it now, we’ll be unprepared.
Collin Hansen: Goodrich joins me on Gospelbound to help us get ready. We’ll discuss how we can suffer with joy, what we can learn from the Quakers, why some courts seem so incredulous about Christians acting as Christians and more. Thank you Luke for joining me on Gospelbound.
Luke Goodrich: Thanks so much for having me.
Collin Hansen: Luke, what’s the bigger problem that you see right now facing Christians? On the one hand, apathy over the threats to religious liberty or on the other hand, anger over those threats?
Luke Goodrich: I think different Christians fall into different camps when it comes to religious freedom. And as I lay out in my book, a lot of Christians I think approach religious freedom first and foremost as a political issue or a legal issue without realizing that first and foremost it’s a theological issue and a biblical issue. So I see, when I talk to conservative Christians, they tend not to be apathetic. They tend to be more prone to fear and they think of religious freedom primarily as a political tool for protecting Christianity and keeping the door open for the spread of the gospel. And that’s not untrue, but there’s a lot more to religious liberty than just that.
Luke Goodrich: And then when I speak with Christians who have a more progressive political bent, they would tend to be more, deny the threats that we face on the religious freedom front today. Some of them would say, Hey, a little bit of persecution might actually be good for the church, it might actually wake us up. And so they tend to kind of downplay the importance of religious freedom. But I think both of those camps have a kind of shallow view of religious freedom, treating it just as a political, legal/culture war issue. And what we really need as Christians is to start thinking about it from a biblical and theological framework first.
Collin Hansen: I think that’s one of the most helpful things Luke about your book. I wonder why do you spend so much time in a book on protesting liberty or protesting for religious liberty, talking about how we need to be prepared to suffer. I would assume in many approaches to this topic, people are doing this precisely so that we don’t have to suffer.
Luke Goodrich: Yeah. So I’m not in favor of suffering necessarily, and when I go into court, I’m trying to win these cases and we’ve had a lot of success in court at the Becket Fund. But the main theological message of the book is religious liberty is not just a tool for protecting Christians and making ourselves comfortable, neither is religious liberty just a culture-war issue or a luxury that should be taken lightly, rather religious liberty is a basic issue of biblical justice rooted in the nature of God and the nature of man. And so it’s worth fighting for, not because we’re scared of losing our rights or scared of suffering, it’s worth fighting for because it’s a matter of justice and it’s the right thing to do. And that has huge implications for how we approach the issue of religious liberty in America today.
Collin Hansen: I mean, do you think … I opened the introduction talking about some of your views about how you see the problems as being pretty severe, do you think, and I guess you wouldn’t have written the book if you thought we were really prepared for this. But, what do you think are the main areas of where we’re not really prepared, especially on the suffering side of things?
Luke Goodrich: Yeah, so I identify in the book. First we want to have a theology of religious freedom, understand where it comes from biblically. So that’s the first part of the book. The second part of the book focuses on what are the main threats in the country today and I identify five key areas where we’re going to see most of the religious freedom conflicts in the years to come. For traditional Christians who have a traditional sexual ethic, the number one area is the rapid advance of gay rights and the pressure that that’s going to place on Christians and people of other faiths who believe marriage is between one man and one woman. So gay rights is a major area of conflict. Other areas include abortion rights and the press to force Christians and people who are the face to participate in abortion. And we’ve seen that like in our Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases at the Supreme Court.
Luke Goodrich: A third area is what I think of as nondiscrimination laws and how those get applied to religious groups and their desire to have leaders and members who agree with their core religious beliefs. Fourth area is how we’re going to be treating minority, non-Christian religious face and are they going to receive the same type of protection that other fates receive. And then the fifth and final area I address is what I call the public square. And these are fights over religious symbols on government property, religious funding or government funding for religious groups or religious observances in public schools. So those, five areas, we’re going to see a lot of religious-freedom conflicts, and I think Christians need to understand the nature of those conflicts and then how we should respond.
Collin Hansen: One group in particular comes up again and again in your book, and I don’t think it’s a group that’s, well, certainly not very numerous today and it’s not a group that many people think of. That would be the Quakers. Why do you cite them so frequently as an example that traditional Christians can learn from today?
Luke Goodrich: Yeah. So a lot of us have forgotten the history of our country and the role that the Quakers played. We think of our country as a safe haven for Christians who are fleeing persecution in Europe, and they came over here and immediately we had religious freedom, but that’s not the case. The Quakers came over, particularly in Massachusetts Bay Colony where the Puritans were, the Quakers were unwelcome and the Quakers were persecuted. They were punished. Some of them had their tongues bore through with hot irons. They had their ears cut off. Several Quakers were actually hanged for preaching in Massachusetts Bay without a license. So Quakers faced immense persecution both for their preaching, but also for two issues. One was their refusal to serve in the colonial militias and take up arms. The other was their refusal to swear oaths.
Luke Goodrich: And the colonial governments massively persecuted the Quakers because of that. But as I address in the book, the Quakers, they just joyfully adhered to their religious convictions. They believed what they believed about Scripture, and no matter how much the government punished them, they weren’t going to take up arms, they weren’t going to swear owes. And it was hard. They suffered serious injustice, but over time the colonies realized, look, we’re not getting anywhere by punishing these Quakers, it’s just causing more turmoil and social upheaval. And over time by steadfastly suffering and doing it joyfully, the Quakers really won some important religious freedom protections in the early history of our country.
Luke Goodrich: I think that’s a lesson that we all need to take to heart today that religious freedom comes not just from good laws, sometimes religious freedom comes from good people who are willing to suffer for their religious beliefs. And I think that’s really going to be how we maintain religious freedom in the years to come, is our faithfulness to our convictions, our willingness to suffer joyfully. And that’s really how religious freedom is going to be preserved over time.
Collin Hansen: Yeah, this is going to be a long game, there’s going to be a tremendous requirement for perseverance and of course Christians have all those spiritual resources to draw on. Not to mention the very biblical and theological expectations that perseverance and suffering are an essential part of exercising our faith. Now let’s turn a little bit to the nature of the threats that or just how things have changed, I guess in more recent history within our lifetimes. I guess one of the things that’s most confusing to me, why do you think the left soured on the approach that you described as allow but don’t require on abortion and other issues related to religious liberty? It just seems like, and I’m not sure exactly how to explain this, the gay rights really broke up what had seemed like a somewhat fairly peaceful compromise in the era of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of the early and mid 1990s.
Luke Goodrich: Yeah. So for those who aren’t familiar with the history 1990, the Supreme Court issued a terrible decision on religious freedom saying that the state of Oregon could criminalize them central sacrament of the native American faith of possessing and using peyote. And that 1990 decision provoked a bipartisan backlash with everybody saying like, “Hey, this is a deep violation of religious freedom.” And it resulted in a very important civil rights act called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed unanimously in the house 97 to three in the Senate and signed into law by president Bill Clinton with much fanfare from everybody from the ACLU to the National Association of Evangelicals.
Luke Goodrich: Fast forward 20 to 25 years and the same type of Religious Freedom Restoration Act proposed at the state level in Indiana and Arizona just provoked national outrage, particularly from the left. And the question is why and that you asked and in the book identify a number of key shifts in our culture that have led to the deterioration in the climate around protection for religious liberty.
Luke Goodrich: And the main issue is that core Christian beliefs, longstanding Christian beliefs that may not have been universally held or they at least weren’t controversial, are now viewed as a threat to progress in culture. And number one is the view in absolute truth, Christian belief that there is absolute truth is now often viewed as a form of discrimination and intolerance. And then that trickles down the Christian view of marriage between one man and one woman is now viewed as a discriminatory form of bigotry and a threat to gay rights. And then the Christian view that life begins at conception is now viewed as a threat to abortion and to women’s access to “healthcare.” So those three issues, truth, marriage and life where Christian beliefs were either why they held or not controversial, now they’re viewed as a threat.
Luke Goodrich: And then you combine with that, that religion is increasingly less important in the daily lives of many Americans, like fewer people identify with religion or believe in God or pray and so fewer people have a felt need for religious freedom. And then lastly the explosion of religious diversity many more non-Christian face in the country right now just simply as a practical matter makes it difficult for the legal system to accommodate the wide variety of religious beliefs. So you combine all those factors together and it means the climate today on religious freedom is dramatically different than it was 25 years ago and really different than it has been ever in American history.
Collin Hansen: Did the legal community widely understand immediately in 1990?
Luke Goodrich: Yeah, so the 1990 decision on peyote employment division versus Smith was written by justice Scalia and he was widely criticized for that decision. A lot of people caught them by surprise, but it’s not totally out of keeping with justice Scalia and he tends to be a law and order type and want clear rules. But it is a deep irony that a lot of people don’t still appreciate today that really one of the biggest blows struck against religious liberty by the Supreme Court was written by Justice Scalia.
Collin Hansen: Could you explain just the jurisprudence switch that happened there? I thought that was just a really helpful part of the book. I mean, first you’re dealing with the fact that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of course is a national law on the books, but it doesn’t apply in many state cases for States that have not adopted it themselves. Correct?
Luke Goodrich: That’s right.
Collin Hansen: Okay. And so that had an adverse effect in a particular case that you
Luke Goodrich: Yeah, that’s right. So they’re kind of two different legal regimes around the free exercise of religion today. So one is the constitution, the free exercise clause that justice Scalia and the court in 1990 really cut back on the protection provided by the free exercise of the Constitution. And under that legal regime, if we’re suing just under the federal Constitution, you kind of have to prove that the government is targeting religious people because of their religion. So when Oregon banned peyote and it wasn’t out to get Native Americans, it was just a blanket law, like nobody can use peyote. It just so happened that hit the central sacrament of the native American faith.
Luke Goodrich: And the Supreme Court said, “Too bad. Oregon’s not targeting native Americans, so it doesn’t violate the Constitution.” And that opens up all kinds of cans of mischief where the government can prohibit all kinds of religious practices as long as the law kind of applies really broadly.
Luke Goodrich: So the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that 1993 law signed by Bill Clinton, that really changes the legal regime. And it says, “It doesn’t matter if the government’s targeting religion or not, if the government is burdening religion at all in a significant way the government has to have a really powerful justification for doing that and show that there’s no other way for the government to accomplish its goals without burdening religious people.” So that provides that civil rights law, The Religious Freedom Restoration Act provides a lot more protection today than does the constitution.
Luke Goodrich: But it only applies to the federal government. So when it comes to states, some States have enacted their own heightened protections for religious freedom others have haven’t. So when we won the little sisters of the poor case in the U.S Supreme court and the Hobby Lobby case, we were relying on the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That’s what gained the victory there on not necessarily the Constitution.
Collin Hansen: Masterpiece Cake Shop on other case that you write about in the book that though was based on the state. Correct? So that was-
Collin Hansen: But the difference was it was very easy to show specific animus toward religion. They had singled out traditional Christian views.
Luke Goodrich: That’s right. That was the baker who couldn’t bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. And the Supreme Court ruled in his favor under the Constitution because there was evidence in that case that the government officials themselves had called his religious beliefs a form of bigotry and it really shown hostility toward him because of his religious beliefs. But in most cases government officials are smart enough to hide their hostility if they have it. And that can make it really difficult to win cases under the free exercise clause.
Collin Hansen: Shop, which is you can do whatever you want as long as you just hide it.
Luke Goodrich: That’s right. That’s what governments often try to do. I mean, we had a case involving a pharmacy and some Christian pharmacists who didn’t want to stock and dispense drugs that could cause an abortion. And the government in that case they let Planned Parenthood draft a new regulation that ostensibly required all pharmacies to carry these drugs and sell them and hand them out. But it was really just a thinly disguised effort to get at Christians who had religious objections about abortion causing drugs. And we ultimately lost that case because they had hid their hostility enough to satisfy the ninth circuit. And so that’s a major issue in these cases that we’re still litigating today as to what extent does the government hide their hostility? And to what extent do you have to show that the government is out to get you or just that the government has really dramatically interfered with your religious practices?
Collin Hansen: Want to ask a question that is a legal question, but of course it’s got a lot of philosophical and even theological implications to it. The simple question is what is dignitary harm? But then more broadly is help me to understand how can it be considered discriminatory just to hold the beliefs that others find offensive, such as the view that God created us male and female.
Luke Goodrich: Yeah, so that’s a huge question and I devote two whole chapters of the book looking at the potential conflict between gay rights and religious liberty. And if I can just back up a step, I think a lot of us we hear, many Christians are aware of like the Masterpiece Cake Shop case, the baker who couldn’t bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. And other religious vendors photographers, florists who can’t in good conscience offer their services and supportive of same sex wedding. But those cases involving wedding vendors, they’re really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to conflicts between gay rights and religious liberty. That’s one category of cases is like private lawsuits where a same-sex couple doesn’t get the service that they want and they sue a religious individual or religious business owner.
Luke Goodrich: But I would say the even bigger threat when it comes to gay rights and religious liberty is not private lawsuits but a threat from what I call government penalties. This is where the government, it doesn’t wait for an aggrieved same sex couple to sue, instead the government kind of looks around at its own programs, its own interactions and says, if you hold a traditional belief about marriage or if you don’t serve same sex couples the way you serve everyone else, you are discriminator and we, the government will brand you a discriminator and we will penalize you in a various ways.
Luke Goodrich: It could be the denial of funding, it could be the denial of contracts or grants, could be taking away your license, like a license for a counselor or a license to operate your business or further down the line, it could even be the denial of tax exempt status. We see these two major areas, private lawsuits, and then government penalties. And I tease out in the book like all the different ways that religious organizations may get caught up in these conflicts. But you asked about dignitary-
Collin Hansen: Dignitary harm, yes.
Luke Goodrich: Right. And one of the main argument from the LGBT side of this potential conflict is an analogy to race discrimination. They say, and just like we don’t allow businesses to turn away an interracial couple, we shouldn’t allow Christians to turn away same sex couples. And so they play up this analogy to race. And I think a lot of Christians, when they hear that analogy, they kind of get caught flat footed and they’re not sure how to respond. So I address that at length in my book, Free to Believe, and point out that the analogy to race fails on many levels. Number one, it fails as a historical matter because our country has a uniquely tragic history of race discrimination. We had over 300 years of slavery based on race, a Civil War fought based on race, government imposed segregation based on race, and therefore we had a systematic and pervasive barriers to full participation in the economic, social and political life of the community for African Americans.
Luke Goodrich: And because of that, the government has been given unique tools and powerful tools to eradicate race discrimination. Tools that it hasn’t been given for any other form of discrimination, not for sex discrimination, age discrimination, disability, religion or anything else. So you see, as a legal matter then you see this reflected that the law treats race very differently from any other kind of discrimination. Just one example is when it comes to employment discrimination. Now, all 50 States ban employment discrimination based on race. You can’t fire somebody because of their race, and there are no religious exemptions from those laws. When it comes to sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination, there are only 23 states that ban that form of discrimination and employment and yet all 23 states include religious exemptions from those laws. Now recognizing is just simply recognition that religious groups have a legitimate interest in expecting their employees to follow their religious beliefs about sex and about other matters.
Luke Goodrich: Then lastly, the Supreme Court has also recognized that race is very different. In the Loving versus Virginia decision back in 1967 when the Supreme Court struck down bans on interracial marriage, it called those bans invidious relics of white supremacy, and really condemned the views underlying those bans on interracial marriage. By contrast, in 2015 in the Obergefell decision when the Supreme Court upheld or affirmed same-sex marriage, the court went out of its way to do the opposite. And it said that traditional marriage laws are,” based on decent and honorable religious and philosophical premises that have long been held and continue to be held in good faith by reasonable and sincere people here and throughout the world.” So the Supreme Court is going out of its way to say like, Hey, even though we’re legalizing same sex marriage, the beliefs underlying traditional marriage are worthy of respect and entitled to respect. So the Supreme Court has recognized that race is different as well.
Collin Hansen: So it sounds like this is the part of the conversation where we need to talk about the equality act and fairness for all. So you’re in Utah and so you could speak to some of that, especially on a state level there as you’ve seen that play out, but we put it within this broader context. It seems that Christians are eager to find some kind of compromise that will secure some basic ideas of being able to function. You of course know and have helped with Sarah Zytlstra’s work at The Gospel Coalition and writing extensively on this issue, both from the CCCU’s perspective as well as sort of the broader issue facing Christian colleges there. And I’ve shared this in different forums before, but I did not what she was writing about at first.
Collin Hansen: I thought I was editing a fairly narrow article with her about the challenges that Christian colleges would face because of the pressures within academia, but lawyers kept pushing back saying, you don’t understand it. We’re just the equality act away from almost all of these Christian views being penalized in some way, not just at Christian colleges, but everywhere. Now maybe there’s a difference between a church say and a school or something like that, but still, I mean the threat was far more significant than I had imagined. So let’s say the, well, and I ended up asking, what are we supposed to do about this? Because I think one of the responses I got was, I guess just keep hoping Republicans are in the White House or the Senate.
Collin Hansen: I mean, if that’s the answer, that’s the answer, but help me to understand more just legally or politically what that looks like in light of something like the equality act, given what you had just said about the way the law treats race and sexual orientation and gender identity differently, but then how the equality act comes in, something that was passed unanimously or passed by all Democratic members of the House currently in majority.
Luke Goodrich: Yeah. So the Equality Act is very important. It’s a law, a bill proposed in Congress. It’s passed the Democrat-controlled house and it’s been endorsed by every Democratic presidential candidate. So it’s a big goal right now of the Democratic Party. And what the Equality Act would do is add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity across the whole scope of federal anti-discrimination laws. So like earlier I said only 23 states ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The equality act would address employment discrimination and expand that coverage to all 50 states, but not just for employment discrimination, also for what are called public accommodations. These are just about any business that is forward facing to the public, and many nonprofit organizations as well would be treated as public accommodations and forbidden from “discriminating” in their services based on sexual orientation.
Luke Goodrich: Gender identity also applies to housing, applies to higher education. It would eventually apply to like government grants and contracts. So this would be a major shift in federal law, basically making it the United States government policy that anybody who “discriminates” based on sexual orientation or gender identity is doing something bad, doing something against public policy, and it can be punished in a wide variety of ways. And the equality act has no religious exemption. That’s what really makes it so astounding. Ten years ago, there were precursors to the equality act that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but they always had religious exemptions and those religious exemptions were actually endorsed by the ACLU and by the LGBT-rights groups.
Luke Goodrich: So the big shift that’s taken place is not just that they’re pushing for these anti-discrimination laws, they’re pushing for them and trying to eliminate any kind of religious exemption. And so the op shot is that if laws like this pass, religious organizations across the country that hold to a traditional view of marriage will face new lawsuits, new liability and new government penalties across a wide range of issues. That’s why the Equality Act is so troubling. And as far as what can be done, one proposal out there is called fairness for all and we can go into that if you want that, that would sort of be a horse trading. You trade, you give some protections for LGBT groups, you would also secure religious exemptions [crosstalk 00:30:47]-
Collin Hansen: It seems to be dead in the water though politically. I mean, there doesn’t seem to be a constituency for it. So that’s why I was asking, it would seem that we would want to try to find a compromise, but let’s just say, you talked about the situation 10 years ago with religious exemptions is the only change from 10 years ago just the political climate? In other words, the LGBTQ community just now realizes they can get away with more than they thought they could get away with back then? Or did something else change?
Luke Goodrich: No, I think that’s the big change is they’ve gotten an increase in political power so they can accomplish more, so they want more. And then I think there’s more hostility toward traditional religious beliefs about marriage and actually a desire to punish those beliefs. And I talk about in the book, they draw that analogy to race discrimination, and I’ve talked with legal academics. They really believe that if the government turns up the heat on traditional religious beliefs of marriage and starts to punish them, that religious people will abandon those views-
Collin Hansen: Just like segregation.
Luke Goodrich: Right, like with segregation, when the government turned up the heat on race discrimination, the Christians who held those views abandoned those views, and that’s what the LGBT rights group thing and a lot of progressive legal scholars think. But we know that what the church has taught for 2000 years about marriages is not going anywhere anytime soon, and so there is going to be this conflict. That’s why I bring up the Quakers and how they eventually secured religious freedom through suffering, but we’re also litigating. The Becket Fund, we have a very comprehensive litigation strategy. If the Equality Act goes into force, there are a number of ways it can be challenged in court under the constitution and so litigation is important.
Luke Goodrich: But I also … The whole third part of my book is devoted to practical steps we as Christians can take to be prepared for these types of conflicts in the future. One major categories of steps is our mindset, how we approach the conflict, how we approach the potential suffering from a biblical point of view. And the other major practical step is just how do we arrange our institutions, our nonprofit institutions or our businesses to minimize our risks and maximize our potential that we’re allowed to continue living out our faith in the public square as we have been in the prior years.
Collin Hansen: Just a couple more questions here with Luke Goodrich. Author of Free to Believe, The Battle Over Religious Liberty in America. One is going to be a practical question that follows directly up, Luke with what you just said right there. And then another one of them will just be just asking you to elaborate on a really jaw-dropping line at the end of your book. So anyway, let’s start with just the followup right there. It seems like, and this is in the news right now it just seems that this incredulity every time a Christian school expects its Christian teachers who have signed commitments to teach according to a certain code of ethics or theology or conduct that they would actually be held accountable to that. We’ve seen another case recently where the students and the parents who’ve signed covenants to a school are somehow just flabbergasted that those matter to the point of bringing or at least threatening legal action against the school for holding those.
Collin Hansen: So one of the things you write that this is the most important religious freedom question of the next decade. Can religious groups require their workers to follow religious standards of conduct? And you indicate that conduct is more likely to be a problem than theology? I assume there because of course also religious standards of belief in those cases. But the government has lows to jump in on a lot of those theological matters. But the conduct part of course relates directly to the things we’ve been talking about here, marriage, sexuality, all that kind of stuff. So what is something that a church or a Christian nonprofit can do right now and to be able to prepare.
Collin Hansen: One other thing quick there, we’ve sent another case of a seminary, I presume this is something that you would recommend, but it appears that the angle that is being brought against the seminary is that they were winking and nodding that it wasn’t really serious that they were against gay marriage. And that in fact they weren’t really intent on enforcing any other standards of conduct there as well. So I presume one of the things you would suggest was if you’re going to have this on the books, you better enforce it and you better enforce it all better to enforce it rigorously than selectively. That’s going to get you in a lot of trouble legally.
Luke Goodrich: Yeah. So you’ve put your finger on a major issue, and I’m working on three cases right now on behalf of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis where they’ve had multiple educators in their Catholic schools who’ve entered same-sex marriages who’ve been let go and then have sued the archdiocese saying you’re discriminating. Even though they had signed employment contracts, agreeing to uphold Catholic teaching and agreeing with the Catholic belief in marriage. We’re also representing Fuller Theological Seminary. I’m not sure if that’s the case-
Collin Hansen: That’s the exact case that I mentioned right there.
Luke Goodrich: Yeah we’re defending Fuller because they’ve been sued by one of their students who violated the community covenant and entered a same sex marriage. So this is a huge issue of affecting groups across the religious spectrum. And one of the practical steps I give in the book is what you’ve touched on, because a lot of these threats, all these religious freedom conflicts, they’re coming from within. This is not somebody’s totally foreign to the organization bringing a religious freedom conflict to their doorstep. They’re coming from within. And so some of them come from employees. So with that, it’s essential for religious organizations to clearly define their religious mission and pursue that in a comprehensive way. So it needs to be reflected in their organizational documents.
Luke Goodrich: They also need to be intentionally communicating and cultivating support for their religious mission from top to bottom within the organization. And that may mean classes or training for employees or retreats, which really making sure everybody knows the religious mission and they need to align their employment practices with their religious mission. Know the trade-offs so at the front end have some screening mechanisms to ensure people are really committed to their religious mission. And then even at the back end, like after somebody brought in, you’ve got to keep clearly communicating the religious significance of the job, evaluating them based on their performance with your religious mission in mind.
Luke Goodrich: And then enforcement I think you’ve mentioned rigorous I think of it more as like consistent and gracious and like a lot of groups they don’t really think about their employees all that much until they get out of line and then they want to whack them. But really thinking about your employment as if to the extent you’re able as a form of discipleship and seeking to walk alongside your employees in a gracious and compassionate way and bring them back to the truth when they stray.
Luke Goodrich: That is not only makes you look better and litigation, but more importantly, it’s like what we’re called to as followers of Jesus. So that’s a lot of what you can do in the employment context and like who you’re bringing into your organization. Then you also need to think about threats that can come from the outside, whether you’re partnering with the government or what lines of business you’re engaged in, where those threats can come from and how you can minimize those threats. And I address that in the book as well.
Collin Hansen: Yeah. By rigorous, I’m thinking especially within say a church context there where if you never exercise church discipline for anybody getting divorced in your church for unbiblical reasons, but all of a sudden you start to discipline somebody because they’ve entered into a same sex dating relationship. You may not be getting in trouble with the government, but you’re not exactly helping your case either as Christians or legally in a difficult environment there. So, but you’re right consistent and gracious as a better way of putting that.
Collin Hansen: All right just one more question here for Luke and then you can see we’re getting a great overview of a really important book that I strongly commend here. So here’s the jaw dropping statement. I wonder if you know what I’m going to say here. “I wouldn’t be surprised If Christianity were deemed a dangerous ideology in this country long before Islam is.” There’s a context for your statement and includes dealing with fairly kind of complicated matters related to, well, you kind of do a tricky way of talking about it. You pretend like you’re talking about a church, but it turns out you’re actually talking about a mosque and that case, but showing that prejudice against religious building and things like that it’s something that we’re all in the same boat with. You can’t single out Muslims for this.
Collin Hansen: But just help us to understand where you’re coming from with that comment. I think I probably agree with you and yet in some ways it doesn’t make a lot of sense given the history with Christianity in this country, given the history with Islam in this country. And yet that’s a really important belief for Christians to know. Just as we go forward here, understanding what our sort of political predicament is in some ways, which affects the legal as we’ve been discussing.
Luke Goodrich: Yeah. I think it’s important for us as Christians to realize although Christianity has been the dominant religion in this country from its founding, I think traditional Christian beliefs about marriage, about human life, and about absolute truth and as I said, are increasingly viewed as a threat to modern culture. And so-
Collin Hansen: Even though Islam holds many of those same views.
Luke Goodrich: Yeah. I’ve talked with a lot of Christians who are very wary of granting religious freedom to Muslims because they are in the cases I’ve spoken with they’re afraid of what Muslims might bring into the country or might do. And so they’re willing to give the government powerful tools to stop a mosque from opening because they think Islam is a dangerous ideology. And so what I say in the book I’m in the book and at Beckett we defend religious freedom for people of all faith. And I think if you understand religious freedom as a basic issue of biblical justice rooted in the nature of God and the nature of man, it is something that extends people even you hold erroneous religious police. But if you’re going to give the government power to say, “Hey, this religion is dangerous, therefore the government can suppress it.” You might suppress Muslims in Tennessee, but in Berkeley, California, in New York, New York, you’re going to have the government deeming Christianity to be a threat.
Collin Hansen: As we saw in peyote case. That had nothing to do with Christianity and yet it was applied to Christians just like anybody else.
Luke Goodrich: Yeah, absolutely. In my work all the time, it’s precedents where the government has denied religious freedom for non-Christians come back to bite Christians. So even if we only care about Christians and only care about our self interest it’s simply good common sense to defend religious freedom for people of all faiths. But I think the deep reason to do that is the biblical case for religious freedom as a matter of justice. But even we’ve talked a lot about language in the book talking about the threats to religious freedom. But I do want to underscore that my book is not a book of fear, it is a book of hope.
Luke Goodrich: And I talk about in the gospel of John where Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” And I’m a realist and on the front lines of these cases, every day I can tell you we are going to have some trouble when it comes to religious freedom. But in the very next breath, Jesus said, “Take heart I have overcome the world.” And where does that kind of a hope come from? As Christians, we could look at our strong constitutional guarantees of religious freedom or good civil rights laws, our good court system, our good judges. And it would be easy to look at that and say and at Becket we have over the last 20 years, we have a 90 percent win rate across all of our cases. We’re undefeated in the U.S Supreme Court.
Luke Goodrich: You can look at that and say like, “Hey, we have it good in this country, especially compared with Christians and other countries.” And that’s true. We do have it good. But I think ultimately our hope needs to be rooted not in a favorable election results or a good Supreme Court. Our hope needs to be rooted in the person of Jesus Christ who by the way, the cross was an example of a violation of religious freedom. I mean, Jesus suffered because of his claimed relationship with God. And God brought tremendous good out of that. So we worship a savior who is victorious, who is resurrected. And our hope comes from him, and no matter what we go through, if we have to suffer like the Quakers, we have hope. If we win a Supreme Court case we have hope. And it’s a hope that doesn’t depend on the outcome of the next election. So that’s what I’m trying to underscore[crosstalk 00:44:30]
Collin Hansen: And you do so well. The way I describe John 16:33 and the way I described your book, Luke, I don’t think I encountered too many books that I resonate with so strongly, but I described it as a kind of sober hope. Like it’s it’s a, you can say that you’re a realist. Like it’s a realist Luke at the challenges that we face, but it is infused with hope, not only because there are good legal strategies that can be pursued or it can be helpful politically simply to be in tune with these things and be informed voters. But beyond that, you do consistently come back to the biblical and theological rationale for religious liberty as well as for just being faithful Christians within a difficult environment.
Collin Hansen: So I happen to be working on a book right now that is along some of these same lines. But that was one reason why I picked up your book and was so inspired by it as I was just so encouraged to see some fellow travelers on that journey. So forgive me for emphasizing so much the negatives on here. But it definitely is a book that’s full of that hope. So our guest on Gospel Bound has been Luke Goodrich, author of the new book, Free To Believe: The Battle Over Religious Liberty in America, published by Multnomah. Thank you, Luke.
Luke Goodrich: Thank you so much Collin.