Last week, I wrote about how tech millionaire turned gay rights activist Tim Gill has been deliberately targeting Christians who believe participating in a same-sex wedding ceremony violates their religious beliefs. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Gill said:
The election of Donald Trump, who claims to support gay rights but stocked his administration with anti-LGBTQ extremists, has only emboldened those looking to erase the gains of the past decade. Gill refuses to go on the defense. ‘We’re going into the hardest states in the country,’ he says. ‘We’re going to punish the wicked.’
It’s obvious from the context of the piece that Gill is referring to his foundation’s efforts to legally compel Christian business owners to participate in same-sex weddings, which I pointed out. Then Rolling Stone’s Andy Kroll, the author of the feature piece on Gill, got defensive, and wrote that I “badly mangled” the millionaire’s words.
“Pointing to this solitary quote, conservative outlets say that Gill is ‘targeting’ Christians,” Kroll wrote in a response piece last week.
The Federalist writes that Gill is ‘aiming to punish Christians who don’t want to participate in same-sex weddings’ . . . This is complete nonsense. Not once in my profile does Gill talk about ‘targeting’ Christians. Not once does Gill so much as hint at singling out Christians or adherents of any other religion. Not once does the word ‘Christian’ appear. The authors of these cookie-cutter stories sprouting up across the conservative blogosphere either didn’t bother to read the actual piece or were blinded by their own biases.
To be clear, I did read the actual piece in full, of course. But let’s get to the heart of Kroll’s accusations — that I misrepresented Gill’s words and that my piece, which stated he was “targeting Christians,” was false. As it turns out, Kroll confirms just a few paragraphs later that I accurately represented Gill’s remarks (emphasis mine).
First, some background. Gill has used the phrase ‘punish the wicked’ as a rallying cry for years. ‘The wicked’ is anyone who stands in the way of progress on equal rights for LGBTQ people: politicians, activists, lawyers, some people of faith, and plenty more with no religious affiliation whatsoever.
Ah, so “the wicked'” whom Gill says need to be “punished” are indeed Christians, as well as everyone who agrees with them. Anyone who stands up for a Christian’s right to live in accordance with his or her religious beliefs will also be targeted for harassment in public and the legal system. Further, he clearly defines “wickedness” as adhering to centuries-old Christian (and Jewish and Muslim) beliefs on human identity and sexuality. To Gill, orthodox Christian beliefs comprise “wickedness.” Thanks for clearing that up.
Now would probably be a good time to explain what these often-maligned religious freedom restoration bills actually are. They are not, as liberals and those in the media like to paint them, bigoted, anti-gay pieces of legislation, nor do they legalize discrimination. As Sean Davis explained, these laws simply ask judges to use a balancing test when ruling on religious freedom cases.
The laws state that the government may only substantially burden the free exercise of religion of a person or organization if the government 1) has a compelling interest to do so, and 2) is using the least restrictive means possible to further that compelling interest. In legal parlance, RFRA requires courts to use strict scrutiny when adjudicating these types of cases.
Nevertheless, asking a judge to think twice before throwing the book at a Christian baker who doesn’t want to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding is a “wickedness” that ought to be stamped out, according to Gill.
For the quote in question, ‘the wicked’ refers to anti-equality lawmakers on the ballot in 2016, such as then-North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed his state’s infamous HB2 bathroom bill. (With Gill’s help, Democrat Roy Cooper ousted McCrory and then partially repealed HB2.) ‘The wicked’ refers to the lawmakers who, in response to the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage, have introduced dozens of so-called religious freedom restoration bills that would give legal cover for individuals and businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
In other words, “the wicked” are people who introduced bills to offer legal recourse for people of faith at the state level after the Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage must be legal in all 50 states. They are the people who support and work to strengthen America’s First Amendment protections of conscience for all people. I hate to be the one to say it, but I was right!