Bob Bullock was a great priest and better person. Some years ago, he faced an existential question: Who was he, and what did he stand for? More importantly, what did the Gospel he tried to live by stand for?
In Father Bob’s case, he had to decide whether he was going to publicly repudiate his bishop, Cardinal Bernard Law, or stand with the institutional Catholic Church. Father Bob was appalled at the levels to which Law sank to protect deviants in Roman collars who preyed on kids. He was appalled that good priests were being lumped in with the criminals because the bishops were shielding those who should have gone to jail, protecting the institution at the expense of the individual.
When Father Bob decided he could not be silent and called for Cardinal Law to resign, I drove down to Sharon and asked how he reached his decision. Father Bob said he simply asked himself: What would Jesus do? Would Jesus approve of hush money and transferring predators to other parishes so they could rape more children? Or would Jesus side with the most vulnerable members of his flock? Would Jesus side with expediency or justice? When he framed it like that, Father Bob said, the answer was obvious.
I only wish Father Bob was still alive because I’d like to know what he thought of all the holy rollers, encouraged by a Supreme Court that’s a little slow on this separation of church and state stuff, who are swanning around, dressed in a cloak of bigotry they refer to as religious freedom.
Would Jesus really have a problem with a gay kid going to, or a gay person working at, Gordon College?
If you’re not a holy roller, you know the answer to that question. If you are a holy roller, you decided I was going to hell a couple of paragraphs ago.
Religious freedom is at the heart of our republic. The Founding Fathers understood the folly of mixing private beliefs with public policy. They acknowledged the weakness of humans, the insidiousness of self-righteousness. With the Constitution, they created a rock-solid protection of religious expression, even as they walled off government, forbidding an established religion. The religious establishment has been fighting this ever since, and has been emboldened by the court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision. And so Gordon College and others want hiring exemptions from laws that prohibit discrimination against gay people.
People have the right to exercise their religion, to believe whatever they want to believe, but that can’t possibly mean the right to grab tax money while flipping off the very government, i.e. the vast majority of taxpayers, that gives you the money. It can’t mean using religious beliefs to justify judging and excluding others while sitting in the public arena, and when religious institutions take public money, they are sitting smack dab in the public arena.
Let’s be honest. This isn’t about religious freedom. This is about money. Gordon College and other religious institutions want to be able to take tax money and tax exemptions but not to forgo their ability to refuse to hire gay people or whomever else their beliefs inform them are unacceptable. It’s bigotry dressed up as virtue. It’s nonsense. It’s insulting to gay, lesbian, and transgender people and to everybody else’s intelligence.
The Constitution allows you to pray however you want, even to hate and judge whomever you want. It shouldn’t, however, allow you to help yourself to everybody else’s money.
If you don’t like to abide by federal law, don’t take federal money. If you don’t like homosexuals, don’t marry one. And if you really like Jesus, try to act more like him.
Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.