As we have continually noted over the last few years, the Religious Right is in the process of an attempt to radically redefine the term “religious liberty” to encompass not just the right to live out one’s own faith but also the right to cite one’s faith as justification for infringing on the rights of others, whether by denying service to gay people in public accommodations, kicking people out of housing because of their sexual orientation, or preventing your employees from accessing affordable birth control even if you don’t pay for it.
So it was startling last week to hear Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, in an address on religious liberty to the Family Research Council, claim that it is in fact progressives who have redefined the term “religious liberty” in order to persecute people of faith, making believers, in Lankford’s words, the targets of a new “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
“We have an undercurrent of conversations happening in the country, where there’s become a redefinition of the term ‘religious liberty,’” Lankford said. “ Is this a term that has the same meaning as we use it out in the common vernacular? And I would tell you, across the country and multiple places that I’ve visited, no is the correct answer. This term is attempting to be redefined by our culture to say if you’re for religious liberty, then you’re hatred [sic] towards other people, you’re exclusive, you’re divisive, you’re a person who needs to be isolated because you’re for religious liberty.”
“I would say to you, people of faith in the workplace and in public settings have become the new individuals that are targeted towards ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” he added. “If you have faith, don’t tell anyone and don’t ask anyone if you have faith, and if you have it don’t live it out publicly because people don’t want to see it.”
Lankford, for the record, has said that he would oppose workplace protections for LGBT people because “ homosexuality is a choice.”