CNN’s Toobin Not Alone in Using COVID-19 to Slam Religious Freedom, Christianity


Ancient Rome was not exactly a haven of religious freedom, particularly for a new sect called Christianity. Writing at the end of the second century, Christian apologist Tertullian summed up the situation:

They think the Christians the cause of every public disaster, of every affliction with which the people are visited. If the Tiber rises as high as the city walls, if the Nile does not send its waters up over the fields, if the heavens give no rain, if there is an earthquake, if there is famine or pestilence, straightaway the cry is, “Away with the Christians to the lions!”

To be sure, today’s America is no ancient Rome, and opponents of American Christianity are no toga-draped, lion-feeding emperors. Blessed with a unique heritage of religious freedom, Americans—Christian or otherwise—have very little to complain about compared to the treatment religious minorities faced in ancient Rome, and still face in many other parts of the world.

But it doesn’t take an historian to notice that knee-jerk hostility toward religion in general, and Christianity in particular, is alive and well among some of the nation’s top influencers.

Consider a recent piece at The New Yorker by CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin entitled, “Despite the Coronavirus Pandemic, the Government Is Still Targeting L.G.B.T.Q. Rights.” If that headline’s assertion strikes you as far-fetched, the article’s itself will both confirm your suspicions and thoroughly confuse you on the facts of every case and issue he mentions.

“‘Religious freedom,’ in its current incarnation, has little to do with religion or freedom,” Toobin contends. “Rather, it’s a payoff to a privileged political constituency, usually at the expense of others.”

While Toobin couches his argument in criticism of the Trump administration’s vigorous commitment to religious liberty, it’s painfully obvious that Toobin’s real objection is to the idea that Americans should be allowed to live and work according to their beliefs. That much is clear from Toobin’s complaint that “religious groups want special privileges”—which he curiously went on to illustrate by referring to Mississippi drive-in churchgoers fined $500 for sitting in their cars in the church parking lot even though the exact same activity was legal at a Sonic restaurant a few blocks down the street.

In this case, which Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys fought and won, as in so many others, mayors and governors have clearly overstepped their authority and violated the First Amendment in the process. The government cannot treat religious groups including churches worse than secular groups—that’s not “special privileges”; it’s constitutionally guaranteed freedom.

Toobin also complains about a Department of Labor rule from last August—one of several strange choices in a piece trying to tie in with a pandemic that started several months later— protecting faith-based organizations like adoption and foster care providers from government punishment simply for operating according to their faith.

That’s not a hypothetical scenario. It’s one the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, where the city abruptly cut Catholic Social Services from its program just days after putting out an urgent call for 300 more foster homes in March 2018. Further, this came a year after Catholic Social Services successfully placed 226 children in foster homes. Why was Catholic Social Services targeted? Because Philadelphia disagrees with the Catholic Church’s marriage view.

And Philadelphia isn’t the only government entity that has cut ties with these vital lifelines. Similar discrimination against faith-based providers has gone on in Michigan and New York state as well—even while more than 400,000 children in the foster system are waiting for homes.

Unfortunately, Toobin is far from alone in his misguided attempt to use the COVID-19 crisis to lash out at ideological opponents. At a time where cooperation and unity at both at a premium, writers at The New York Times, The Washington Post, and elsewhere have gone out of their way to smear Christians.

Worst of all has been the current criticism of Christian humanitarian group Samaritan’s Purse, which is being harassed even as it provides life-saving medical services for New Yorkers in its Central Park field hospital at the height of the pandemic. As with all of its relief projects in the United States and around the globe, Samaritan’s Purse serves all people, no questions asked, and at no charge to either the hospitals it works with or the patients it serves.

But that did not deter some activists from attacking the ministry. One leader at the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center called for the field hospital to be expelled. And a New York lawmaker went so far so as to say it’s “a shame that the federal government has left us in the position of having to accept charity from such bigots.” All because Samaritan’s Purse hires people who share the same faith and mission.

If ever there was a time to call a ceasefire to the much-derided “culture wars,” it would be now. But Toobin and others looking to score political points won’t have it. To them, a crisis is just another opportunity to sow division.

Scapegoating, bullying, and vilifying those with whom we disagree has always been a surefire way to destroy a culture. Tertullian’s contemporaries failed to learn that lesson. Rome’s best days were behind her, and her fall was just around the corner.

Let’s hope we learn our lesson and choose unity over division before it’s too late.

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  1. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne

    Christianity says that there is something above humanity. This can be interpreted as being a good thing or a bad thing. Leftists interpret it as a bad thing because it means that reshaping humanity is always beyond their ability because something in humanity is above and beyond them. Conservatives and many liberals view the something beyond humanity as either a good thing (Jesus loves and forgives you) or something to be reckoned with (Men are not Angels and cannot be made to be Angels). 

    What’s more, the European/American strain of Leftism has an outer appearance of Christianity. It speaks of equality and being part of a body of something greater than yourself. Christianity is i’s rival because Leftism is the bastard son of Christianity who wishes to kill the ideology and usurp it’s throne. 


    • #1
  2. Sisyphus (Rolling Stone) Member
    Sisyphus (Rolling Stone)

    The secularists go to all of the trouble of curating just the right value set to scratch their itches and place themselves at the center of the universe per the pandering pedants that peddled them pablum and then these awful Christians blaspheme against their righteous godhead! As if there were some other god above scratch. The rudeness of the people, they really need to be taught a good lesson. Can’t do it today, of course, but as soon as those social distancing rules are lifted it’s time to shop lions!

    Sing them a hymn. They’ll always remember you.

    Lord have mercy.

    • #2
  3. Stad Coolidge

    ” One leader at the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center called for the field hospital to be expelled. “

    It reminds me of a bunch of medical staff protesting the Koch brothers building a wing on their hospital, but this was political instead of religion.  Still, leftist bigotry is everywhere . . .

    [My “post quote” button still doesn’t work.  Any else have this problem?]

    • #3
  4. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator

    Jay Hobbs: Unfortunately, Toobin is far from alone in his misguided attempt to use the COVID-19 crisis to lash out at ideological opponents.

    A minor editorial suggestion: You should say “exploit” rather than “use.”  And omit “misguided.”

    • #4
  5. I Walton Member
    I Walton

    Good article, but ends saying “Let’s hope we learn our lesson and choose unity over division before it’s too late”  Top down always seeks unity.  And that is what the left seeks against the ground up diversity that exists among our religious communities, and historically, communities in general.  Diversity is an essential reality in our giant republic and the left always seeks top down unity.  We now have to agree on what to do about a unique situation so division enters the question because it’s meaningful for specific questions.  Even there, I think diversity will teach us more than trying  to end divisions on the question by herding over 300 million of the most diverse people on earth in one direction.  The far left and the Democrats, (they’re not the same, at least in their own heads), want unity on their opinion that anything and everything Trump does is wrong.  We face a dangerous reality with this situation, and it’s this unique top down unity.  We had to have it fighting the Nazi’s and we haven’t undone that yet, so we have to be really cautious.  

    • #5
  6. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…

    I think that the opening sentence is wrong.  I’m pretty well versed in Roman history, for a layman.  My impression is that the Romans were generally tolerant of other religions, other than Christianity, and they had their reason.  Almost all religions of the time were polytheistic, and it is my understanding that the Romans had no objection to various conquered people keeping their own gods, as long as they added the Roman gods to their pantheon, particularly the Emperor and prior Roman greats who had been elevated to godhood.  The Jews presented a problem in this regard, and the Romans generally tolerated this, too, because they valued tradition and the Jews certainly had a long tradition of monotheism.  They viewed Christianity as an innovation, and therefore not worthy of respect like Judaism, but those pesky Christians adamantly refused to worship the Emperor.

    The Romans understood that religion was an important tool in maintaining civil authority, and understood that unity and peace in the Empire required some degree of common belief.  I actually think they were right about this, though I think that they were wrong about the religion(s) that they chose.

    We don’t seem to understand this lesson.  The essential problem in the OP, in my view, is that it doesn’t recognize the difficulty of holding together a polity in which there are large groups with vastly different world views.  It conceptualizes this in terms of prohibiting “discrimination,” without seeming to realize that this is precisely the basis on which the Leftists are demanding that Christian groups tolerate homosexuality and other, shall we say, non-traditional behavior.  I think that comment #5 makes a related mistake, praising “diversity” and appearing to object to “top down unity.”  There has to be something that unites us, and it’s unlikely that a large polity can maintain such unity without some degree of governmental support of the dominant religion or world view.

    In the past, I think, we had both top-down and bottom-up unity in support of a non-denominational Protestant faith and ethic.  There were many factors contributing to the decline of this unity, but I think that a major factor were the religious rulings by SCOTUS between the late 1940s and the early 1960s, essentially prohibiting any top-down support of religion, even at the state or local level.

    We now have no unity, and the result is constant strife.  Well, yeah.  That’s the natural result of disunity.

    Many people seemed to think that the “nondiscrimination” principle could provide such unity, which I think is nonsense.  You can’t make a unifying principle out of a rule that says do-whatever-you-like-and-no-one-is-allowed-to-object.

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  7. tigerlily Member

    At it’s core the goals of the LBGT movement/agenda are completely at odds with religious liberty. The two simply can’t co-exist.

    • #7
  8. Sisyphus (Rolling Stone) Member
    Sisyphus (Rolling Stone)

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Jay Hobbs: Unfortunately, Toobin is far from alone in his misguided attempt to use the COVID-19 crisis to lash out at ideological opponents.

    A minor editorial suggestion: You should say “exploit” rather than “use.” And omit “misguided.”

    Well, misguided could be tweaked a bit. Maybe deranged? Psychopathic? Unhinged? Oh, wait, try this one on for size. What do you think of demonic?

    These adjectives are loaded!

    • #8