Indiana, Religious Freedom, and the Denial of Reality

The likely result of recent clashes, says Robert R. Reilly, will "be fewer such religious freedom bills proposed in the future and … Republican candidates for president will keep their mouths shut about this issue"

Scholar, former assistant to President Reagan, and author Robert R. Reilly has written widely on “war of ideas” issues, Islam, foreign policy, and classical music and is the author of several books. His most recent book Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything, was published last year by Ignatius Press and was described by Austin Ruse (President, Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute) as “magnificent, a real achievement” and praised by Dr. Robert Royal (President, Faith & Reason Institute) as a “rare tour de force on a defining question of our time”. (See CWR’s May 27, 2014, interview, “Why Is Gay Not Okay?”, for more about the book.)

I corresponded earlier today with Reilly about the recent events in Indiana and the increasing furor over religious liberty laws and “gay rights”.

Olson: When the story about Indiana’s religious freedom law broke earlier this week, it was striking how the vast majority of news pieces did not state what the law actually was or really said; instead, those “reports” simply assumed the law was bigoted against homosexuals. They also included passionate, ill-informed quotes from celebrities, activists, and CEOs, such as Tim Cook of Apple. What does that indicate to you about the state of journalism and where we are, as a nation, when it comes to any serious conversation about these issues?

Reilly: What the bill said was irrelevant to the reactions against it. What they – homosexual activists and their supporters, which include most of the media – are really reacting against is religion itself, which in the case of all the major faiths practiced in the United States unequivocally condemns sodomy and other homosexual acts as intrinsically evil.

Therefore, religion must not only not be protected, it must be silenced. One has to say, then, that the angry reactions to this bill display bigotry against religion under the guise of nondiscrimination. That is the only way to make sense of and understand the otherwise ridiculous statements by various celebrities and CEOs. I think that Governor Bobby Jindal (R-La.) got it exactly right when he said, “The great irony is that in the minds of today’s liberals, the only bigotry to be tolerated is their own bigotry against religious beliefs.”

I’m only surprised that anyone could be surprised by all this. As a society we have moved from the point where the rationalization for homosexual misbehavior has been accepted as normative to the point where that rationalization will now be imposed and enforced, legally and by social forces at large, on everyone. If you speak out about this, you most likely will lose your job or your business and, most certainly, your social standing. You may be sued. You will become an embarrassment. These have become new forms of censorship.

I certainly had an interesting experience with the publication of my book, Making Gay Okay: How the Rationalization of Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything. I did not expect the major secular media to cover the book, but I was a little surprised at the extent to which conservative publications refused to review it. These include National Review, The American Spectator, Weekly Standard and others. Journalist Cliff Kincaid has just told part of this story in an article, “Republicans Cower before Big Media”.

I sometimes point to Nazi Germany in 1935 as an analogy to current events. That is when the Nuremberg Laws were passed, stripping Jews of their German citizenship and forbidding marriage between non-Jews and Jews. No doubt, there were still many fine and upstanding people in Germany at the time, including many Catholics, but from then on they had to keep their mouths shut about the Nazi racial superiority teachings because they were state law. I’m sure there were many people opposed to the race theory of history who said to themselves, as people do today regarding the homosexual “marriage” issue, “Well, this is a losing issue. Let’s leave it alone and move on.”

They were probably too frightened to consider what they were moving on to, just as people today avoid thinking about the consequences of the complete denial of reality involved in homosexual “marriage.” Anyone who thinks that we are involved in a denial of reality that is less profound than that of 1935 Germany is kidding themselves.

Olson: It’s commonly understood that the Democratic Party is fully on board with the push for “gay marriage,” transgenderism, and related matters, but it appears that many Republicans are also capitulating. Is it because they think they cannot win on these matters? Or do they really believe in the legitimacy and supposed goodness of these causes?

Reilly: There are two problems here. Number one is that so many prominent Republicans have actually joined the other side because they have no moral foundation from which to see the problem with what they’re doing or with what activist homosexuals are doing. Many of my former “colleagues” in the Reagan and Bush administrations are now showing their true colors.

In an amicus curiae filing to the Supreme Court case, Obergefell v. Hodges, you will see these prominent Republicans publicly supporting homosexual “marriage”: Paul Wolfowitz, Meghan O’Sullivan, Steve Hadley, Gen. Stan McChrystal, Frances Frago Townshend, Mark Gerson, Jim Cicconi, Ken Duberstein, and too many others. As Austin Ruse pointed out at Breitbart, “no less than twenty-six senior Romney staffers, at least forty senior policy staffers for George Bush père et fils, also six Huntsman staffers, two former Scott Walker staffers, one sitting Governor (Massachusetts) and two sitting U.S. Senators (Collins of Maine, and Kirk of Illinois). Three former Reagan-era personnel also signed, including former Massachusetts Governor William Weld and Reagan Chief of Staff Kenneth Duberstein.”

In the brief, they say,“there is no legitimate, fact-based reason for denying same-sex couples the same recognition in law that is available to opposite-sex couples.” One staggers at thinking how much one would have to not know in order to say such a thing. The French have a perfect name for this: trahison des clercs.

Number two is the problem that many other Republicans suffer from a sense of moral illegitimacy. When they’re put on the spot to defend their opposition to homosexual “marriage,” they really have no way to explain it. Since they don’t want to be embarrassed, they simply shut up. Most of these people have no background in moral philosophy or ethics. There are products of our modern educational system which denudes the mind of any notion of natural law, which is the fundamental point from which homosexual “marriage” should be opposed, and replaces it with moral and cultural relativism. In their heart of hearts, these people probably wonder if they’re not really prejudiced.

Olson: What do you think will come out of these recent clashes in Indiana and Arkansas? Will the governors and states hold fast, or will they eventually fold? And if so, what does that mean for religious liberty?

Reilly: I think the result of these clashes will be that there will be fewer such religious freedom bills proposed in the future and that the Republican candidates for president will keep their mouths shut about this issue because they see how badly the governors of Indiana and Arkansas got beaten up. Public beatings teach a lesson; that’s what they are for.

It also seems that the Indiana bill is already being transformed, as a friend of mine just said, from a pro-family bill into a homosexual rights bill. I would have to take a close look to see if I agree with that, but certainly there has been a lot of backpedaling. The reason for the backpedaling is that no one really wants to talk about what this is really about. The retreat to the position of defending religious freedom means that the issue of the immorality of sodomy and other homosexual acts has been abandoned. That is a terrible substantive and strategic error.

Giving up on that basically gives the whole issue away – because if sodomy is not wrong, then not allowing it to serve as the basis of marriage must be bigotry. One must forthrightly say and show that sodomitical behavior is against the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” and that, therefore, as Abraham Lincoln said, one “cannot logically say that anybody has a right to do wrong.” If sodomy is wrong then it cannot be the basis of marriage. This is the case I tried to make in Making Gay Okay.

Olson: Is it possible, in the long run, to find some sort of compromise with what I have taken to calling “the Reign of Gay”? Or is this an all or nothing situation in terms of both legal rights and the dominant culture?

Reilly: It’s all or nothing for those who have rationalized their sexual misbehavior. They can brook no opposition. One must understand the dynamics of the situation to see why this is so. As I explained in the book:

For any individual, moral failure is hard to live with because of the rebuke of conscience. Habitual moral failure, what used to be called vice, can be tolerated only by creating a rationalization to justify it. Rationalizations for moral misbehavior work like this. Anyone who chooses an evil act must present it to himself as good; otherwise, as Aristotle taught, he would be incapable of choosing it. When we rationalize, we convince ourselves that heretofore forbidden desires are permissible… In our minds we replace the reality of the moral order to which the desires should be subordinated with something more compatible with the activity we are excusing… In short, we assert that bad is good. Conscience often wins out afterward, and the person repents—first of all by admitting to the evil nature of the act committed. The temporary rationalization crumbles, and moral reality is restored. Habitual moral failure, however, can be is often lived with only by obliterating conscience through a more permanent rationalization, an enduring inversion of morality.

Entrenched moral aberrations then impel people to rationalize vice not only to themselves but to others as well. Thus rationalizations become an engine for revolutionary change that will affect society as a whole… The homosexual cause moved naturally from a plea for tolerance to cultural conquest because the rationalization upon which it is based requires the assent of the community to the normative nature of the act of sodomy. In other words, we all must say that the bad is good in order for the rationalization to be secure in itself.

The power of rationalization drives the culture war, gives it its particular revolutionary character, and makes its advocates indefatigable… Since failed rationalization means self-recrimination, it must be avoided at all costs. This is why the rationalization is animated by such a lively sense of self-righteousness and outrage. For these reasons, the differences over which the culture war is being fought are not subject to reasoned discourse. Persons protecting themselves by rationalizing are interested not in finding the truth, but in maintaining the illusion that allows them to continue their behavior.

Also, as a result of this, people dominated by their passions can only conceive of opposition as coming from another passion. Since they naturally ascribe “love” to the passion dominating them, they just as naturally ascribe “hate” to the passion of their opponents. It does not occur to them that the objection to their behavior is rational and does not involve the passions at all. In order to understand this they would have to restore the role of reason in their own lives – something they clearly do not wish to do.

In any case, this does not mean that the homosexual movement will succeed in the long run. Dream worlds do not last. After all, reality still exists and cannot be banished. It will reassert itself one way or the other. How long that takes and how much damage it incurs will depend on us and our willingness to tell the truth.

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About Carl E. Olson 1197 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.