By Jonathon Van Maren
C.C. Pecknold makes an essential point in the Catholic Herald this month, noting that progressives are now no longer even pretending that they want to live together in society where compromise allows us to live and let live. Rather, they want to force us all to be accomplices to their ever-expanding ideological agenda, or they will attempt to destroy our achievements and drive us from the public square. Exhibit A (for the moment, that is) is what’s going on in New York at the moment:
On November 8, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York signed into law sweeping new legislation that not only expands access to abortion, and abortifacient drugs, but effectively demands that every crisis pregnancy clinic, hospital, school, faith-based business and church conform to the new secular dogma that abortion is healthcare. Or else.
The so-called “Boss Bill” (SB660) prohibits employers from “discriminating against employees based on the employees’ or dependent’s reproductive health decisions, and to provide remedies for such violations”. The “remedies” the law provides are severe. If a Catholic pro-life pregnancy centre refuses to hire a person who advocates and promotes abortion, or who fires an employee because they do, the new law allows for heavy punitive damages against the charity. It isn’t just bakers anymore.
CompassCare, which runs pro-life crisis pregnancy clinics in the state of New York, has already filed a lawsuit against the state alleging that the law is unconstitutional. The law targets not only conformity to the secular dogma on abortion, but also on contraception, vasectomies, in vitro fertilisation and adoption for LGBT couples. Christianity is in the dock. Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Denise Harle rightly notes what the law means for many Christians: “You are effectively being compelled to undermine your own reason for being.”
The New York legislators could have written exemptions to avoid challenge, but they chose not to. Why? Presumably because they feel that cultural power remains on their side, and that often translates into courtroom wins even when a political win is impossible. The secular dogma lives loudly among those who have reason to believe that they are only ever one Justice Kennedy away from what they want…
The near-constant secular challenge to religious liberty today challenges the very notion of justice. The secular religion aims to overtake the very idea of God by overtaking the law. Our political battles increasingly centre around the courts because the moment the secular dogmatists seize the positive law, they feel they have seized law itself.
These skirmishes are instructive. They reveal that the battle for the republic is between those who hold that positive law must be conformed to their own will, and those who see it as an expression of natural law, an ordinance of reason, which conforms to a transcendent standard, which we can call God.
The rhetoric about every election being “the most important election in our lifetimes”—that was 2016, 2018, and now 2020, if you’re keeping track—gets tiresome, but the reason it rings true for so many people is because they genuinely see the courts as one of the primary lines of defence against a progressive movement gone utterly mad and determined to drag us along with it. Trump’s border wall was important to voters, but to most social conservatives, the judicial firewall he is building that stands between Christian communities and the fanatics who think sex changes for children are the next great Leap Forward is even more important.
Progressives are a law unto themselves, and we all know it. Consider how swiftly and easily aging Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have climbed on board with the entire transgender agenda, made up of ideological requirements that neither of them could have fathomed twenty-five years ago. And yet, they accept all of the new things they are required to believe with barely a blink—because they are rooted to nothing solid. It is only Progress, which must always be moving and never arrives, that drives them, and thus they must be at war with those who still love their roots and do not wish to leave them.