Apparently, bullying doesn’t stop after grade school. At least that’s how the Christian conservatives see it.
Evangelicals believe big businesses are bullying them into supporting what republican presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz refers to as “an aggressive gay marriage agenda.” He also called it “unfortunate that large companies today are listening to the extreme left-wing agenda.”
However, these claims fall flat when looking at the statistics: 70.6 percent of the American population identify as Christian, while less than four percent identify as anything other than heterosexual.
Small businesses have been facing lawsuits and media scrutiny after refusing their services to members of the LGBT community. However, owners of these businesses have been publically fighting to preserve what they call “religious liberty,” particularly after the high-profile controversies in Arkansas and Indiana.
Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, a republican and Southern Baptist preacher, has been vocal about this subject. At a political rally last month, he spoke about it to a crowd of Hispanic evangelicals:
I respect the courts, but the Supreme Court is only that — the supreme of the courts. It is not the supreme being. It cannot overrule God. When it comes to prayer, when it comes to life, and when it comes to the sanctity of marriage, the court cannot change what God has created.
Huckabee’s words have won him the support of evangelical voters all across the country. He has also accused those who support anti-discrimination bills of “criminalizing Christianity.”
“Somebody’s got to be willing to take on the institutions that challenge and threaten our ability to believe as we believe,” he said, “because when religious liberty is lost, all liberty is lost.”
Groups such as the Family Research Council (FRC) hold similar sentiments. Just last month, the anti-LGBT group launched a website that has compiled the stories of conservatives who feel they have been victimized for upholding their religious beliefs. The site, www.freetobelieve.com, states on its homepage:
The freedom to believe and live according to those beliefs is the foundation for a civil society where people of differing beliefs can live and work together with mutual respect. These stories show what it means — and what it costs — to live out what you believe.
Ironically, those same words could have just as easily come from members of the LGBT who wish to “live and work” in a community that will not harass them or turn them away.
Meanwhile, the majority of the country wishes to see equality. In fact, a recent poll shows that Americans would rather see an LGBT president than an evangelical one.
Todd Sears, founder of Out Leadership, explained, “People realize that the sky is not going to fall if people have equal rights,” adding that “The people in the Republican Party that are so anti-gay are a minority.”
Despite the allegations made against corporate America, company leaders seem to simply be following Sears’s line of reasoning. Many have been careful when speaking about their company’s positions on equality, not wanting to offend even the most conservative evangelicals.
Some companies that have been vocal about their stances are doing nothing more than reiterating their company’s values that have already been written into their terms, which is not, despite the claims of the conservatives, “bullying.” Ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft recently made headlines for doing just this.
Some other corporations that have publically supported equality include Wells Fargo (No. 11 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity), Eli Lilly and Company (No. 24), Cummins (No. 21),Walmart, Microsoft, Apple, Yelp and Salesforce.
Other people fall somewhere in the middle and have chosen to support this goal in part, understanding that “the sky is not going to fall” even if they are going against their own beliefs
Chris Christie exemplifies this strategy. Labeled as “a mixed record” by the Human Rights Campaign, he has said that he does not support gay marriage but rather favors civil unions. However, despite his opposition of gay marriage, it still became legal in New Jersey during his term.
According to Christie, “When I know I’ve been defeated, you don’t bang your head against the wall anymore and spend taxpayer money to do it.” Christie understands and accepts his minority position.
And despite his stance on marriage, Christie still supports anti-discrimination laws for LGBT people. He also chose to ban the controversial and harmful conversion therapy in his state.
Staying on the fence like Christie will compromise the support of some evangelical voters, according to Bob Vander Plaats. Head of The Family Leader, a conservative religious group that claims it is “strengthening families,” claims the GOP needs a candidate completely committed to fighting off the so-called “bullies.” However, since the majority of the country does not feel this way, it is likely their support will not be missed.
Meanwhile, such conservative beliefs are only succeeding at pushing young people away from religion altogether. When surveyed, many people responded that they have “no particular faith.” Although Christian remains by far the most dominant faith in the country, the number of supporters of the faith is slowly dwindling. This does not come as a surprise, since more millennials identify as LGBT than members of any other generation.