The removal of these exemptions would be an enormously heavy burden for many, and a catastrophic burden for some. And because this harsh, painful penalty would be imposed on churches almost entirely in response to their theologically and historically founded opposition to same-sex marriage, it would be a form of state-sponsored persecution. Religious persecution.
To which some liberals may be inclined to respond: “You bet it is — and rightly so! Why on Earth should the government be making special provisions to protect institutions that openly advocate discrimination against a category of American citizens?”
There’s just one problem with this objection: It would seem to make religion as such incompatible with liberalism. All (or nearly all) religions discriminate. They divide the world into the saved and the damned, the sanctified and the sinner, the pure and the defiled, the ordered and the disordered, the righteous and the wicked, the virtuous and the vicious. That’s what religions are: holistic systems of norms, practices, and beliefs that hold up some ways of living, some actions, some behaviors as better than others — with those others denounced, often in no uncertain terms.
If we forbid religions to discriminate — or empower the government to regulate how and against which behaviors a church is permitted to discriminate — we will have effectively ended religious freedom.