“Because that’s bad.”

We live in frightening times.

That’s not a new thought for me, but it struck me with fresh force today, while listening to Michael Medved’s radio program.

He was discussing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would, according to many conservatives, place anyone who publicly expressed opposition to the homosexual agenda in jeopardy of prosecution, in the case that some unbalanced listener should commit an act of violence against a homosexual (or transgender, to keep up with changes in the law) afterwards.

Anyone who says that’s alarmist talk wasn’t listening to Medved’s callers today. Most of them believed that it was right to punish people for their thoughts, if those thoughts incited them to crimes.

But one caller in particular, a young lesbian who said she’d been raised by a lesbian couple, went farther. She stated matter-of-factly that, of course, people who disapproved of homosexuality should be prosecuted just for their opinion. “Because that’s bad.”

Doubtless she’s the product of a public school, as she knows no history. She doesn’t realize that her view is identical—not in detail but in principle—to that of medieval popes and 17th Century Puritans. She’s missed entirely the great compromise that was reached by people who were (then) known as “liberals” in the 18th Century—that people should not be punished for their opinions. If you hold or express an opinion the government doesn’t like, it cannot touch you. If, however, that opinion drives you to commit a crime, you are punished, but not for the thought. For the action alone. The government has an interest in what you do. Your soul is a matter between you and God.

It was a compromise Christians came to love, because it rendered unto Caesar what was Caesar’s, and to God what was God’s.

That compromise may be broken soon.

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