The great

There’s no point in trying to sugar-coat it. The bitter rift that has resulted in two nations occupying the American land mass now characterizes Columbus.

There is the nation populated by those who have been pushing for the country’s transformation into something utterly different than it has been for 239 years, and the one composed of those who are horrified by such an agenda.

The term “freedom” has been stood on its head, and as we know, freedom is the essential aspect of America’s foundation. Once the word no longer means anything, the transformation is well nigh complete.

For substantiation of my assertion, look no further than the barrage of vitriol that the pro-transformation forces unleashed in the wake of the passage of the religious freedom bill in Indiana’s legislature. The expression of fury is designed to accomplish two ends: strike a blow against free-market economics and render Christianity a marginal, niche belief system in our society.

It is true that in the past few years — 10 at the outset — many people in America have decided that it was possible to redefine the term “marriage.”

When they have decided to enter into relationships requiring such a redefinition, like all engaged couples, they have sought the services of bakers, florists, photographers and caterers. Occasionally, they have encountered service providers who have declined to take their business based on the fact that, according to Christian doctrine, it’s impossible by definition for anyone but a man and a woman to get married.

The free-market solution to such a situation is elegantly simple. The couple in question inquires with more service providers until finding one happy to do business. Win-win. The Christian business person is free to stay true to his faith, the couple obtains the service, and the business providing it gains a new customer.

The religious freedom bill is designed to prevent situations such as that which befell Richland, Washington, florist Baronelle Stutzman. She had served a particular couple in other ways before and was perfectly willing to refer them to other florists, but found herself the target of a lawsuit brought by the state’s attorney general and now stands to lose not only her business but her personal assets. Or Lakewood, Colorado, baker Jack Phillips, who was sentenced to sensitivity training for similarly declining such business.

There is no bigotry involved in such situations. Parallels to racial situations do not hold up. Just ask the Rev. William Owens, president of the coalition of African-American Pastors, who says, “I marched with many people back in those days, and I have reached out to some of my friends who marched with me, and all of them are shocked. They never thought they would see this day that gay rights would be equated with civil rights. Not one agreed with this comparison.”

It’s disturbing in the extreme that the Fortune 200 company headquartered here has chosen to weigh in on the matter on the side of the transformational push. Companies in its supply chain know which side of their bread gets buttered, as do community recipients of foundational largesse.

The pressure to get on the diversity bandwagon becomes enormous, and the message to Christians becomes ever more explicit: Shuffle off to the sidelines and zip it.

To reiterate a point I’ve made often in this column, culture is upstream from policy and politics. City budget priorities and government transparency are important, but only if the society in which they are situated makes basic sense.

That is no longer the case when there are two Columbuses and two Americas.

Barney Quick is one of The Republic’s community columnists. All opinions expressed are those of the writer. He may be reached at editorial@therepublic.com.