James Madison, known as the "Chief Architect of the Constitution," observed in 1785, "Religion must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right."As an unalienable right, the government has virtually no justification for interfering with a church's operations, or doctrines. Prominent founding era Supreme Court Justice, Joseph Story observed, "The rights of conscience are beyond the just reach of any human power. They must not be encroached upon by human authority."
I doubt if many of the pastors and concerned citizens in Vanderburgh County were thinking of these exact quotes over the last few days. Yet, hundreds of them contacted the Board of County Commissioners to express their concerns over a proposed "non-discrimination ordinance" because they realized it actually discriminated against people of faith. They understood that it could force them to violate their consciences in order to continue to operate as they are.
The county was set to pass a "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" ordinance that had flown past the city council two weeks earlier. It had easily passed with very little discussion. Preventing its spread countywide last night had appeared to be a losing battle.
AFA of Indiana and others, including key local activists, pastors and business owners organized quickly with the hope of at least showing that these politically correct measures are not as common, simple, or non-controversial as its supporters and the media had suggested.
Thankfully, the Alliance Defense Fund, one of the nation's top religious liberty law firms, did a lengthy legal analysis of the Evansville ordinance that was devastatingly effective. They noted over a dozen serious flaws in the ordinance and cited more than 200 court cases, founding quotes and examples of the problems these ordinances create for churches, charities, business owners and vital community groups like the Boy Scouts and the Salvation Army. (Even groups that tend to be known for their economic expertise, like the Heritage Foundation now have studies showing the conflicts between same-sex marriage and non-discrimination ordinances with Constitutional freedoms.)
When the Commissioners met last night, they had already realized that this fatally flawed proposal had a lot more to it than being merely a "diversity measure" as the Evansville Courier had stated that morning in its lead editorial supporting its passage. As soon as the hearing began, the commissioners went right to the ordinance. They tabled the measure until next year stating that there were too many questions and concerns to rush it through without in-depth hearings. They even expressed dismay that the Evansville City Council had never considered these controversies and legal problems with the ordinance.
This turnaround happened because so many of you responded to our alert citing problems these ordinances create, and because in spite of the Christmas season, many pastors and churches sent emails, made the phone calls and showed up to testify.
Many people offered condolences to me for making the 400-mile round trip to a hearing that lasted less than 15 minutes. Yet, it was worth every mile for me to simply say "thank you" to a large group of you at dinner afterwards. Your caring enough about our freedoms and for loving people enough to speak the truth about government endorsement of risky homosexual behaviors in the face of cultural intolerance of anyone who does not agree with the gay agenda is increasingly rare. You were a testimony to thousands across Indiana of how our civic involvement still matters.