(CNSNews.com) – Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) spoke out Thursday on his concerns for religious liberty in America, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage and the recent case of a football coach placed on paid leave for praying publicly after games.
“People of faith in the workplace and in public settings have become the new individuals who are targeted towards don’t ask don’t tell: If you have faith, don’t tell anyone, and don’t ask anyone if you have faith, and if you have it, don’t live it out publicly, because people don’t want to see it,” Lankford said at a Family Research Council event on defending religious liberty.
He voiced concern over the implications of the legalization of same-sex marriage for people of faith as well as concern over the “undercurrent of conversations” with the assumption that if you’re for religious liberty “you’re exclusive, you are divisive, you’re a person that needs to be isolated.”
Lankford gave some examples of recent challenges to freedom of religion, citing the example of Bremerton High School assistant coach Joe Kennedy, who was placed on paid administrative leave by his school district last month for praying on the field after football games.
He said that the school district in this instance “set a new principle that is very interesting for us as we deal with the issue of religious liberty.”
“The new principle that the school district set was: a school district employee cannot have a visual display of faith,” Lankford said, “because if they can see you practicing your faith, then they might take that as the school district establishment of faith.
“It’s an odd statement for them to make that no court has ever stood up but for this district they’re trying to push this one principle,” he said.
Lankford went on to argue that “universities in the country right now are dealing with a new norm as well” following the same-sex marriage ruling.
“A university in my state this year closed married student housing - closed it - understanding full well that there were gay students that would apply to the school and would immediately say I want to get in to married student housing,” Lankford explained.
“Because of the oncoming onslaught of lawsuits, they knew they would face and where they were as a school, they chose to just say we won’t offer married student housing at all,” he said.
“I don’t criticize them for that,” Lankford added. “They’re trying to figure out how do we actually function under a nebulous new court ruling.
“This is not a settled issue in America, and the way the Supreme Court settled this, it will not be a settled issue 40 years from now,” he emphasized regarding the same-sex marriage ruling.
“What is unresolved and what will be the unpacking now - and I think it’ll be first in the universities - is trying to force universities to be able to give up faith principles,” Lankford said.
“The weapons that they have in their tool box for the federal government is accreditation, is Pell Grants, and student loans,” he warned, “They have all three of those weapons in their tool box and say if you don’t do XYZ in your university and recognize XYZ, we’ll take away accreditation, student loans, and Pell Grants and your university’s shut.
"Very few universities could survive that,” Lankford said.
“That’s the kind of stuff that accelerates now after this summer’s decision,” he concluded. “It’s the yes you can have any opinion you want as long as it’s ours.”