In 1993, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which provides a general exemption from laws that place an unnecessary burden on the free exercise of religion, was sponsored by Charles Schumer and the late Ted Kennedy, and was passed by Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. Now its provisions and applications have become sources of dispute between religious conservatives and secular leftists. David French answers the question “what changed?”
America changed from a largely single-faith culture to a two-faith nation—sacred and secular—and it will be a two-faith nation for the foreseeable future. That’s why religious liberties are so controversial. That’s why they’ll be a flashpoint in the 2020 and 2024 [elections]. No longer is a Christian nation urged to protect the small and politically insignificant faiths in its midst. In 1993, there was no real perceived public cost to basic religious tolerance. . . . [I]n the zero-sum game of a two-faith power struggle, when one faith wins, the other takes a loss. . . .
[The journalist Ross Douthat] has called [the now-dominant strain of American] liberalism a “pseudo-church.” Increasingly, however, we can drop the “pseudo.” As . . . many others have been arguing for some time, the language and practice of secular intersectionality directly compares with multiple elements of [Christian] belief—from original sin (privilege), to justification (becoming “woke”), to sanctification (being an “ally”).
But the secular nature of this religion leads many progressives to believe it can fully inhabit government, the academy, and corporate America without constitutional or legal consequence. True enough, under American law you can preach each aspect of the social-justice faith from the government pulpit in a way that you can’t preach, [say], the divinity of Jesus, but social justice cannot [be allowed to] crowd religion from the public square.