Here’s the first quote that needs a good fisking:
My issue with Christianism is not “intolerance.” In a free society, I’m quite happy to live among people who are intolerant of me, who decide not to associate with me, and generally disapprove of me, for whatever reason they decide. My point is that such intolerance not be enforced by the civil law; and that the civil law be restricted to reflect non-sectarian moral arguments that can be assessed and debated by Christian and non-Christian, Jew or Muslim, Mormon or atheist alike. If we can achieve a broad moral consensus, good. If we cannot, especially over divisive religious disagreements, then neutrality is the better option. And neutrality exists. A law that allows legal abortion or gay marriage as well as adoption and straight marriage is neutral with respect to its citizens’ choices. It is not biased in favor of any one of them. If you have a moral objection, persuade and proselytize, don’t legislate.
Sullivan’s neutrality is anything but. Sullivan thinks that there are three choices available to civil government in a debate over moral issues: promote the behavior in question, prohibit it, or allow it without comment (the supposedly “neutral” option). But the “neutral” choice is actually a mild variety of promotion. A debate over what’s right and what’s wrong has only two choices by definition. To allow something is to say “it’s not wrong”, and that’s identical to saying “it’s right.”
Sullivan’s neutrality is misleading on another ground too. He says he wants civil government’s neutrality when he actually wants promotion. He wants the availability of abortion or gay marriage to be protected by civil government, not simply allowed. If any coalition of like-minded citizens decides to oppose what Sullivan wants, then he expects civil government to step in and force those people out of his way. That is not neutrality. That is outright promotion.
Where government is concerned, moral neutrality is a myth. Sullivan uses “neutrality” as a weapon to demonize and demoralize conservative Christians for holding views that he doesn’t like, while exempting his own views from criticism. Talk about selective application!
Update: Melinda at Stand To Reason accurately identifies Sullivan’s tactic:
Sullivan is trying to disqualify some arguments from the political realm by labeling them extreme and religious. Look, everyone has a worldview that has consequences for political positions they hold. We don’t exclude some citizens by labeling them and disquaifying them. We all get to bring our views, the whole variety of them, to the public square, express our opinions, agree and disagree, argue and dispute, and vote. The non-establishment Constitutional clause was one-way, meant to keep the government out of religion, not Christians out of politics.
I’m going to remember that remark about the one-way clause! Very nice!