The far right has been intertwining the concepts of religious freedom and religious persecution, weaving a duality in which any limit on the former begets the latter. In this paradigm, even separation between church and state becomes religious persecution. There is no middle ground.
There is a profound story on the website Homeschoolers Anonymous, where correspondents have been talking about their “lightbulb moments,” when they began to see through the extreme rhetoric woven by particular religious and political figures. The entire article is worth reading, but I was especially struck by her relating of how a Hanoi congregation was urged to pray for American Christians because of the election of Barack Obama and the backlash against Proposition 8, in 2008:
“I’d expected the American religious right to flip out, but I didn’t expect a message like that to be sent to a congregation filled with people from around the globe. Not when many of them were from countries where Christians really do face government persecution. I certainly didn’t expect it from a pastor who had spoken about his church bravely standing up against the Apartheid South African government. How are people getting angry about their rights being voted away and picketing corporations that funded the measure even in the same ballpark as Apartheid or actual persecution of Christians?
“And yet somehow, the American religious right managed to export their paranoia about non-existent persecution to Christians halfway around the world…”
Religious persecution does indeed exist, in many places around the world and against many faiths (Christianity certainly included) in which people are brutalized or murdered for their beliefs, and where groups are forced into hiding to survive.
It is sickening when far right groups in western nations co-opt that suffering, and equate it to their merely losing the right to oppress people.