Most people simply don’t have access to Chip and Joanna Gaines’s fame to withstand an outrage campaign, and even to thrive in it. If what a pastor says in a sermon is likely to get members of his flock fired, opportunists and hatchet men will begin trolling through church podcasts for reasons to campaign against their co-workers. One wonders if the law is shaping behavior in this way, as some studies show that even in the American South, signs of any overt religious affiliation hurt one’s changes of obtaining a job. It is simply not possible to untangle the fall in prestige for religiosity from the increase of legal trouble surrounding rather common religious convictions. Each drives the other.
So conservatives have a double fight on their hands. Politicians may not have all the tools to fight the drop in social prestige that religiosity has suffered, but they do have the ability to clarify whether speech and actions in adherence to a Christian catechism, or what one believes to be the inescapable logic of biology, are legal liabilities for employers. There is a way in which Title VII litigation outsources government-approved censorship and self-censorship into the private sector. Politicians do have the ability to clarify whether mayors have the right to discriminate against businesses led by people with religious convictions they don’t like. They have the ability to stop campaigns of trollish legal harassment.
Of course there are matters on the edge, and cases that are hard to resolve. But it’s only by clarifying these matters that we can allow a great majority of people of goodwill to rebuild a workable consensus and set of conventions that allow people who disagree passionately about important matters to work together productively.