Blacks, hispanics, and people of mixed race are all more likely to be religious progressives than conservatives; these groups are also among the fastest-growing demographics in the United States. Similarly, Millennials are more than twice as likely to be religious progressives than religious conservatives; in fact, people older than 50 make up more than 60 percent of those who are considered to be religious conservatives. Although it’s impossible to talk to an 18-year-old about her views on culture and predict what she’ll think in two decades, these demographic trends suggest that the religious right is about to start shrinking.
But the question of influence is a little fuzzier. Although more than a third of Millennials are considered religious progressives, roughly 40 percent don’t have any faith at all: A growing number of young people don’t identify with a particular religion. That, along with the fact that an overwhelming majority of religious progressives don’t see religion as “the most important thing in their life,” suggests that faith is losing its overall influence over how people think about social and cultural issues.
This has, it seems to me, some salience when it comes to the question of religious freedom. What about the religious freedom of those who are pro-gay as a function of their faith? Are they not penalized by the law in North Carolina that bans marriage equality and also makes it a misdemeanor to perform a gay wedding not backed by the law? Of course they are:
“By preventing our same-sex congregants from forming their own families, the North Carolina ban on same-sex marriage burdens my ability and the ability of my congregation to form a faith community of our choosing consistent with the principles of our faith,” said the Rev. Nancy Petty, pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, who joined the lawsuit. As part of the state ban, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor for a minister to perform a marriage ceremony for a couple that hasn’t obtained a civil marriage license. In addition, the law allows anyone to sue the minister who performs a marriage ceremony without a license.
Gay leftist Mark Joseph Stern demands those defending religious freedom defend the progressives’ religious freedom as well. Very happy to. Even Ponnuru wants the ban on unlicensed marriages to be repealed. The more general point is that the assumption that religious convictions are solely behind banning marriage equality is empirically false. Religious liberty cuts all sorts of ways – and we shouldn’t pick or choose between one church and another.