Perhaps it already has, writes Richard Samuelson, and it certainly will if, for instance, approval of same-sex weddings were to lead to the punishment of clergy who refuse to conduct them:
If our government pursues [such] logic, which follows naturally from Justice Kennedy’s claim in his gay-rights decisions that only invidious animus can explain one’s rejection of gay marriage, it could be used to require all priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, etc. to preform same-sex weddings, or lose their legal ability to officiate at weddings at all. (Sure, the argument would go, clerics are free to believe whatever they want, but the right to sign a marriage license is a right government confers, and, as such, the government ought to deny that right to those who would discriminate in its application). . . .
As the scope of American law has grown, the areas of conflict between the rights of conscience and the demands of law have increased considerably. . . . Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans, particularly in our elite and governing classes, who hold that religions (perhaps only non-progressive religions) are a barbarous relic of a bygone age has increased considerably. Hence they refuse to recognize the rights of conscience.
Seen from this angle, we can recognize that what is called a “culture war” might better be understood as the problems that come with the creation of a post-modern religious establishment—an establishment that takes on most of the roles of the old establishments, yet defines its beliefs, conveniently, as “not religion.” The result is that it feels free to impinge on the rights of conscience in the name of “toleration” and “diversity.”