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Conservatives must speak up now

By Marlin Stutzman

For the past several decades, liberals emboldened and indoctrinated in the counter culture movement of the 1960's, have been the most vociferous and ardent supporters of free speech. Lately, it is hard to ignore the deafening silence from the political left as the debate about free speech and religious liberty unfolds here in Indiana and across the nation.
There was a time, not too long ago, when people of all faiths understood and respected each other's differences. The idea of allowing government to dictate the terms of a person's free exercise of conscience or religious beliefs was overwhelmingly rejected by individuals of all faiths, and especially by people of no faith.
As a descendent of people of faith who came to America desperate to escape religious persecution, I understand the history and influence of the church on American culture. However, there are those who do not appreciate this influence. In recent years, we have seen legal challenges to the presence of religious symbols in the public square and remnants of faith in our public policy. These protests seem trivial to some, but certainly transparent in the intent to limit the influence of Judeo-Christian principles on American culture. In many of these cases, heard from city councils to The United States Supreme Court, the individual's rights have trumped the majority. Time-honored traditions, values and sentiments have given way to political correctness dictated by the state and a less tolerant society. Again, this same liberal-progressive movement that argued against our respected traditions in a misguided attempt to promote individuality and diversity are now silent as Christians are attacked for their individual beliefs.  The most recent attacks are no longer relegated to the public square, but are now happening to Christians in their own homes and businesses.
So, how did we get to a place in America where matters of faith are subject to restriction by the state or federal government? And, why are the champions of free speech and personal freedom suddenly silent as Christians remain under constant siege for their beliefs? It is important to understand the ongoing cultural debate in America is not about the Ten Commandments on the courthouse lawn, prayer in our public schools, or protecting the rights of the LGBT community. It is also not about religion in general. The concerted effort by the political left aided by the media and fueled recently by corporate interests is an attempt to reduce the influence of Christianity on our culture and replace faith and family with consumerism and nanny-state government. These political groups certainly have the right to fight for the things they believe, but they do not have the right to silence those of us who disagree. If they were true to their classically liberal ideology they would be defending Christians, not joining the chorus of the authoritarians working to strike another blow against free people in the interests of a more powerful government. Make no mistake, I am not standing by waiting on the progressive left to wake up and reconcile their hypocrisy on this issue. I will continue to defend the First Amendment for all Americans not just for those with whom I agree.
Those who advocate limits on religious speech are shortsighted as they may just as easily become the next target of the thought police. It is why more reasonable and rational voices must stand up and speak out against current measures in the Indiana legislature that in any way limit our First Amendment rights as Americans.  I strongly encourage members of the Indiana House and Senate, especially conservatives who claim to respect our Bill of Rights, to speak up on this crucial matter. You will never have to apologize for defending liberty...not yet anyway.

Marlin Stutzman is currently a Congressman from the Third District and a candidate for the US Senate.

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