Franklin Graham and Freedom of Religion

I find many of the things that Franklin Graham says extremely frustrating. Whether he is talking about Muslims, or Donald Trump, it seems like he represents a brand of religio-nationalism more than he does the teachings of Christ. However, I thought this post defending his work (through Samaritan’s Purse) in New York was very insightful regarding the issues at stake in the discussion of whether or not Samaritan’s Purse should be welcome in New York.

But my concern about the attack on Samaritan’s Purse by a gay activist in New York City is not about my disagreement  on marriage. My concern is about religious freedom, choice, pluralism, and respect for those who disagree with us. The key point of our constitution’s first amendment on religious and political freedom is this: Precisely because society is and always will have many diverse views, we  therefore respect and affirm the freedom of those who profoundly disagree with us. We will argue vigorously with each other and explain why we think certain views are profoundly wrong and even harmful. But we will defend the freedom of those who disagree with us—even those who disagree vehemently with us! And we will not try to use government to silence or exclude them.

The argument isn’t that Franklin Graham is right in his attitudes towards gay marriage, but that if we want a society that values religous freedom, we need to avoid participating in witch hunts.

I lament and strongly condemn Franklin Graham’s many misguided, unloving statements and actions. But the solution is not to try to silence or expel him. Rather it is, first, to insist that a pluralistic society defends everybody’s right to views that others consider profoundly wrong. And then, second, to argue persuasively to refute misguided ideas.

Because doing the opposite, creating a society where everyone must think the same or risk being cancelled, is extremely dangerous. Not only to those who think differently from the liberal norms, but to those who endorse those norms.

It’s an old argument (from J.S Mill), but those who we disagree with serve us in two ways; firstly, they help us to see where we may be wrong, or only in posession of a partial truth, secondly, they serve us by forcing us to defend ideas and values that we previously held lightly. The argument goes that there’s nothing worse than the sloppy thinking of inherited opinions.