American flag waving in blue skyWritten by Don Byrd

Like it or not, the 2016 presidential race is upon us. This weekend, consensus Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is expected to announce her candidacy, while throngs of National Rifle Association supporters – seemingly most of whom are running for president on the Republican side – are meeting in my hometown of Nashville, TN to make their case to the group’s membership. We may be getting a heavy dose of religious liberty talk.

Louisiana Governor and potential candidate Bobby Jindal, for his part, is making the interesting argument that…well, let me just let him do it:

From the Wall Street Journal blog:

In a speech to the National Rifle Association later today, the Louisiana governor is expected to link efforts to fight so-called religious freedom measures in Indiana and Arkansas with other, unrelated attempts to restrict gun ownership in the U.S.

“If these large forces can conspire to crush the First Amendment, it won’t be long before they come after the Second Amendment,” Mr. Jindal is expected to tell a group of NRA members here in Nashville this afternoon, according to early excerpts of his remarks.

“We saw Hollywood liberals and editorial columnists form a new alliance with some of the biggest corporations in our country,” Mr. Jindal is expected to say about the fights in Indiana and Arkansas. “They came together to bully the elected representatives of the people.”

I have read it twice and still am not sure of the logic that gets from religious freedom debates to gun rights. Regardless, perhaps the point is that “religious liberty” seems assured of being an early hot topic in the presidential election race.

Time magazine, for example, reports on a recent GOP candidate forum in Iowa:

It’s an idea as old as the country, but for the 600 people in the audience and social conservatives elsewhere in Iowa, religious liberty is fast becoming a new litmus test for Republican presidential candidates, thanks to a recent uproar over religious freedom legislation in Indiana and Arkansas.

Hosted by [Bob] Vander Plaats’ Family Leader organization, the event Thursday was designed to make Iowa ground zero on the issue. For their part, the candidates’ responses showed broad agreement that religious freedom in general and Christianity in particular are under assault from the federal government.

Unfortunately, today’s political campaigns don’t exactly lend themselves to the kind of thoughtful, nuanced debate we should be having about the religious liberty challenges we face today. Safe to say, though, Christianity is not in fact under assault from the federal government.

For those of us who will be following this issue closely, it could be a long primary season. . . Stay tuned.