Saturday, April 2, 2016

Friday's Thoughts: Wedding Cakes and Religious Liberty

I could probably care less about same-sex marriage, but it would be difficult. Neither the arguments for or against can arouse much passion in me. It amazes me, actually, how little I care about it. Yes, Obergefell ticks the heck out of me for the reasons outlined by the late Justice Scalia; that in a country where five of nine unelected judges alter the law to whatever fits their current “Reasoned judgment” (how often do you change your opinions) what can they not change? Legalize euthanasia? Ban the Death Penalty? Gun rights? The list is endless.

It was Mollie Hemingway who pointed out that a little under a hundred years ago we required a Constitutional Amendment to extend to women the right to vote. The Supreme Court did not search divine an implied woman’s right to vote from “penumbra of our constitution” nor did Supremes pull a rabbit proclaiming the from the hat of the Fourteenth Amendment, as succeeding courts have done in other cases (I’m looking at you, Roe v. Wade). We the People proposed, debated, and ultimately passed an amendment to the Constitution extending the vote to women from sea to shining sea.

Exactly as the Founding Fathers intended.

But “constitutional vandalism” (as Charles C.W. Cooke aptly termed Obergefell) is not what we are discussing at length today. Well, not exactly. Instead it is the “religious liberty” laws being proposed and passed by a series of Republican-run states, first in Indiana, and recently in the states of Georgia and Mississippi. The Georgia law was vetoed by Governor Nathan Deal amidst threats of boycotts by various companies, potentially tarnishing the state’s record as the most business friendly state, prompting a slew of bloggers, talk radio hosts, and pundits to proclaim Nathan Deal a new Judas, with many well-wishes concerning an alleged 30 pieces of silver they claim he received. The bill in Mississippi looks set to pass because it is in Mississippi.

I understand the impulse behind these laws. Mix the attitude of many on the left that any who hold a view that about 5 years ago was held, or at least espoused, by a majority of Americans, including the sitting President, is nothing less than a vile bigot equal to the evil men who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church with the fascistic Cultural Revolution being promoted by some of our Future World Leaders on campuses across the country and everyone, not just the religious, have deep causes to be concerned.

But that is not just what they are doing. Instead of protecting religious freedom, the right of Christians to set up private religious schools or protect churches from pressure, they are going for a much broader “freedom of conscience,” not just churches or private schools with “morality clauses” but also bakers from having to make wedding cakes and county clerks from having to fill out marriage certificates for gay couples. In the former, one can have sympathy, and may even allot some blame on the gay rights activist who used aggressive litigation to try and make examples of certain businesses but have only succeeded in crafting martyrs. But in their aggressive counter-push many Christians are potentially playing with fire.

For one thing, there are a multitude of religious prohibitions even within Christianity. Until very recently, most Catholics and Protestants frowned upon intermarriage between the two churches and a number in both still do. There are many Christians who also frown upon marrying non-Christians. Some even say Christians are not allowed to go start a business partnered with a non-Christian. All it takes is one demagogic local official facing a tough re-election to play up “freedom of religion” and cause a cascade of problems.

And that is not the only issue here.

Ten years ago in the Great Lakes region there was a controversy when a group of Somali-American cab drivers, citing their Muslim beliefs refused to drive individuals carrying alcohol. Given how many Somali immigrants there are in cities like Detroit and St. Paul (when you’ve lived in a famine-ridden, war-torn wasteland like Somalia even the urban apocalypse of Detroit is considered a step up) and how many of them are cab drivers, this was a big issue. Many conservatives sided against the cab drivers.

What about now? Would the Muslim cab drives be entitled to protection? Now, you may say this is a public service, that this is an entirely different issue but given the right’s support for laws protecting the right of Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis to refuse to sign marriage licenses, you can surely see the problem. Given the Right’s freakout over alleged Muslim “no-go” zones in Europe, areas where you have the lovely combination urban gang activity and radical Islam, I can’t be the only one to see the dangers.

When one looks at how far they are going with this, one wonders if this is not so much about protecting religious liberties but attempting to either at worst to cause a possible rollback of Obergefell in the only way they know or to insulate them from the ruling’s impact. Neither one is particularly good. If it is the former then they are being disingenuous, if it is the latter then what they are doing could lead to a further ghettoization of conservative Christianity in America, which would be a disaster for the faith and considering that conservative Christianity still makes up a large percentage of the United States, for the country as well.

As Abraham Lincoln said, quoting the Gospel of Mark, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” One can imagine with little difficulty some individuals in southern states trying to start counter-boycotts against businesses that serve gays. They might be small but as we’ve seen, it only takes a small number to cause problems. They might decide if leftists can try to bully a pizzeria in Indiana out of business because they would not serve gay weddings we can bully “pro-gay” businesses, too. The result could easily be areas where it is more or less impossible to have a same-sex wedding ceremony. And given that it was carried out through the backdoor of “religious freedom” rather than out-and-out bans, the enmity of those who support gay rights towards the rest of the country would only increase. And vice versa. Our country is already rank with hyper-partisanship, assumptions that those with whom we disagree represent the lowest form of life. I’m not sure we need more.

I'm not entirely sure what the solution will be. Inevitably, it will involve some form of a compromise —by both sides. Gays will have to recognize that not everyone will be on-board with their lifestyle and evangelicals will have to recognize that for the time being same-sex marriage is here to stay. Both should recognize what I outlined above. This may mean allowing bakers to refuse or not allowing them. I'm not entirely sure but as Scalia said in his dissent to Lawrence, "The people, unlike judges, need not carry things to their logical conclusions."

A legislature can write up a law that stops at certain points; it can allow doctors to refuse abortions and pastors to refuse ceremonies but require county clerks to sign wedding certificates and Somali Muslim cab drivers to carry alcohol. That also requires a country where laws are designed to benefit the general good rather than stick it to some disliked group, something that debate, by allowing people to discuss and argue out issues and in turn see that the other side has decent people, can mitigate.

Now, given all the insanity of this one might assume it would cause our current Supreme Court to think twice before instituting rulings similar to Obergefell and Roe for all the reasons listed above. That letting the people openly debate and discuss an issue in the public lets them feel as if they had their say in the court of public opinion and they don’t feel they were “cheated” out of having their say. That knowing that all the laws they pass can be overturned at a whim by five judges creates a sense of resentment among the people that they will vent lash out towards their fellow Americans. That letting the people decide is, in the long-run, far less divisive (Remember: The Civil War occurred in the aftermath of the highly controversial Dred Scott ruling).

But I’m probably hoping for a bit much.


Kit said...

I hope everyone has a fun weekend.

ScottDS said...

You're right... it is a slippery slope.

And while I'm actually sympathetic to the small business owner who gets sued, I have zero sympathy for the politicians or the activists (more so the religious activists but the gay marriage activists annoy me at times, too).

And look at the "emergency sessions" and other efforts lawmakers are going to in order to put these religious liberty laws into place. They don't put that much effort into schools and highways! And while I know for a fact that there are plenty of religious people who don't actually hate gay people, I guess what I'm getting at is, at what point does the subtext become text?

(And I say all this knowing the pro-gay marriage side needs to work on their PR, too. As I said on Facebook when the Supreme Court made their decision: "Congratulations! Now don't f--- it up!") :-)

Anonymous said...

Kit; An argument based on chaff. We don't have the world we want, we have the world as it is. And to advocate shrugging our shoulders,throwing up our hands and rolling over with a "That's the law now,let's not make waves" doesn't cut it. One of the vibes that I seem to pick up at this site is that anyone to the right of Stanley Milqetoast is a member of the "fringe" and should be ignored.
The entire point of conservatism is that people actually do have deeply held beliefs, beliefs that govern their lives, beliefs that identify them to themselves. Beliefs in other words, that define them as individuals. Conservatism, as I've always defined it, is the right to express individuality. Progressivism is collectivism.
I'm a libertarian. I supported gay marriage befote it was a public issue. But here's the thing. Rights stand on their own. My right to be armed doesn't entitle me to shoot you. My right to free speech doesn't entitle me to slander you. My right to freedom of assembly doesn't allow me to hold a rally in your living room.It's hard to believe but some people in this day and age actually do take religion seriously and use it to guide their lives. If you believe that homosexuality is a sin you shouldn't have to cater gay weddings or host gay wedding receptions. The couple can go elsewhere. They can still get married and they can still find a bakery to make their cake and a restaurant to host their reception. When someone graduates medical school should they be forced to perform abortions?
The law is how we fight, short of armed struggle. Religious liberty laws are our way of fighting back.It's not enough to throw up our hands and say "Oh well, it;s the law now. I don't want to disagree in any substantive form. That might contribute to the balkanization of the country." The country's already balkanized. We have every right to fight back. I support religious liberty laws.

Anonymous said...

P.s. If a Somali cab driver won't pick me up because of my beer or my dog I'll take anpther cab.

Kit said...

Gypsy Tyger,

re the Somali cab driver. I don't think you realize how much a certain demographic can dominate a particular service or industry in an area. When I was in Orlando I think about 80% of the cab I rode in were driven by Haitians.

Oh, and I've added two extra paragraphs answering your question. 3rd and 2nd from the last.

Anthony said...

Half a loaf compromises on rights based issues never last. Ditto for local exceptions. If you believe guns or gay marriage or what have you is an absolute right, why let a state deprive you or others of what you view as a fundamental right? Happily, not enough people feel strongly about most issues (including gay marriage IMHO) for civil war to be danger.

Allena-C said...

Hi Kit, you do a fantastic job of covering these tough issues. Having gotten to know a lot more folks that are trans, lesbian and gay, most are under tje impression conservatives and Christian conservatives in particular, hate anyone like us who are't "normal."
Sadly, I have seen and experienced some of that hatred myself, so they aren't exaggerating.
And yes, I know there are some militant LGBT people who spread hate, fear, and ignorance as well.
The extremists on both "sides" don't represent most Americans, and yet, politicians feed into that hatred and fear in both groups, and this affects virtually everyone in some way.
Most of my friends aren't right or left, and they have their own minds and don't blindly follow these fearmongers and hatemongers.
Those same friends are very concerned about the new conservative push to punish innocent trans women and men because of their fears about what some criminal perverts will do.

Most conservatives I have talked to about it, aren't aware that the research and statistics prove that making it legal for trans people to use bathrooms that don't necessarily match their biological plumbing, in the states that have those laws has NOT led to an increase of perverts trying to take advantage of these laws.

Besdes, it is still illegal for perverts, molesters and rapists to enter ANY bathroom and ogle, take pictures or try to assault others, no matter if their is a law granting trans people rights to pee or not.

Most trans people won't go where they aren't welcome...unless they have no choice.
For those that think it's no big deal for a transwoman to be forced to use men's bathrooms, try telling that to those of use who have been raped by men.
Trans women and men are not interested in breaking the law, they just want to be able to use a bathroom when they need to and get out.

However, politicians and religious leaders want to punish those of us who just want to live our own lives in peace because of hatred, ignorance and irrational fear.

How does anyone negotiate with people like that? Haters, from either the left or the right don't want a compromise, they want to eradicate or at least ostracize those that are different from them.
The haters don't realize that we are human beings not evil alien life forms that have come to hurt their women and children.

BevfromNYC said...

All I can say is a lot more understanding and patience from both sides of argument are needed. And there is ignorance on both sides as well. It really does NOT help the cause of gay rights to sue private citizens for acting on their Constitutionally protect rights to religious conscience. It sets back this cause every single time.

You cannot change 100,000,000 years of human biology and history overnight with legislation. Humans have a natural predaliction for fearing what is unknown and fight against it. Fight or flight. Nature does this too, that why birds of a feather flock together. We are tribal for survival (Hey, that's kinda' catchy!)

All that being said, I go by my 80/20 rule. 80% of us are in the middle and really don't care what anyone wants to be. We are the ones who see try to understand the issues from all sides and try to craft a compromise where everyone can have something they want and will live with something they don't want. We are also have been drowned out by the 20% who are the all or nothing, win at all cost, shortsighted screaming, media hogging/click-bait partisans.

It does not help to brand everyone a hater just because they don't understand what is new and differnt. True, we need to push against it, but one gets nowhere by forcing people to change overnight or face punitive action.

To me this issue is much bigger than same-sex marriage and bakers. It's about conscience objection. It's the same when forcing nuns to provide abortifients or forcing Quakers to fight. The '60's were built on the mantra of conscience objection. And so should it be for bakers/florists/etc. who honestly want to exercise their right to conscienciously object to participating.

However, the woman who refuses to execute her duties as a paid government employee and issue marriage licenses to gay couples should be fired. It is the law and must be executed as such.

BevfromNYC said...

As for the whole bathroom issue. I for one would LOVE to see non-gender based bathrooms. It is a societal convention that is so entrenched, it's silly. Standing in long lines to the "Ladies Room" at theatres in NYC while the men breeze through is annoying. But no one dare break that taboo and storm the men's room. And have you ever seen a movie where the hardened criminal seeks refuge in the women's bathroom? Even Hollywood won't break that taboo.

But again, change is hard and doesn't happen overnight or by force. People do change and adjust, but it takes time and patience.

Allena-C said...

Hi Bev,
I could have been more specific, because you are right. I didn't mean to say everyone that is opposed to gay marriage are all haters.
Most are simply ignorant or are being misled about the facts, or they have religious objections based on their interpretation of their religion.
However, there are haters on both sides, sich as militant, gay activists and those that want a genital police (seriously, checking peoples genitals before they enter a bathroom has actually been proposed by some politicians and religious leaders). How exactly that would be enforced is beyond me, and frankly, that sounds pretty creepy.

As for the other issues, I can respect different opinions about gay marriage and all the other issues, as long as folks on both sides are civil about it.
As I tried to get across, it's only a few people on both sides who are the fringers, and who always seek to divide Americans and use fear, ignoramce (and in some cases hate) to fire up their followers.

I also have some sympathy for business owners who don't want to cater to gay or trans people, or allow us into their stores. Not because I agree with them but because I believe their freedoms should't be taken away because they have religious objections.

As for people tending to be tribal, I agree. But as humans, people can overcome that obstacle. For the most part. when people get to know others outside their tribe it's much more difficult to dehumanize them.
Then there's some people, like me, who dislike being in any tribes that ostracize other people, no matter what their political or religious views are.
But I do realize most people are tribal to some extent. As you point out, it is a survival issue or at least it used to be.
Hopefully, someday, most people will stop with the us vs them BS and learn to get along even if they disagree about something.
I believe it was Churchill who said "being polite costs nothing" or something like that.
Sure beats being controlled by fear. :)

Kit said...


I'm not in favor of ending the male-female bathrooms (Tradition!) but your point about the taboo is interesting. I've seen many scenes where a female character intentionally enters a men's room but I've rarely seen a male character intentionally entering a women's room.

BevfromNYC said...

I believe it was Churchill who said "being polite costs nothing" or something like that.

Allena - Absolutely! But we are stuck in opinionating at ever turn, so "being polite" has been temporarily put on hold. Anonymous access to a global "public square" is the main cause. I am shocked at some things that people will say and it is only to give them power in an otherwise perception of a powerless world.

In the south we called it "killing them with kindness". I've used that alot since living in NYC. NY'ers are cranky bunch who see a conspiracy against them in all people. When confronted by said cranky person, I make them feel bad by treating them nicely and with a smile. BTW, I can be a cranky NY too. but there are actually people who really DO conspire against me...;-)

BevfromNYC said...

Kit - I don't really care about what bathroom I have to use as long as it's relatively not a toxic waste site. And this is how taboo the bathroom thing is...I have worked in the same place for almost 17 years and have never been in the men's bathroom in our office. It is the only room, closet, office, cubby hole etc that I have never entered.

AndrewPrice said...

Hi everybody. Sorry I haven't commented. It's been a long weekend.

On Kit's article, I too don't care about the gay issue. It just doesn't matter to me. That said, the religious freedom stuff is a real mess. If every group who claimed a religion could pick and choose the laws they choose to accept, this country would fall apart fast. And I really doubt that the people pushing this through have considered how they will react when Muslims start using these laws to get all kinds of Sharia things imposed on others around them.

Let me also add that there is something to consider when it comes to how we view this issue. I can show you polling that shows that gay rights laws are favored in the high 70% range in most states and even in the mid-to-high 60% range in the Southern states. If you look at Millennials, it's closer to 90+%. They really haven't been controversial where they've passed either.

Finally, on bathrooms. Colorado passed a law like this a few years back and everyone on the right screamed that it would lead to all kinds of nasty things. I am not aware of a single incident since that time. It's just not a big deal.

That said, Bev, you do not want to share your bathrooms with men. Trust me. You will know exactly what I mean the first time you walk into a public bathroom and find that some a-hole urinated all over the toilet seat and floor.

tryanmax said...

Some thoughts on bathrooms:

1. Gender segregated restrooms are, IMO, silly:
-- There is no logical reason for gender-specific single-occupancy restrooms.
-- Multiple-occupancy restrooms almost all have toilet stalls, i.e. rooms within rooms. I have less privacy in my home bathroom.
-- In all my years of using men's rooms with urinals right out in the open, I've never seen another guy's wang.

2. I find the trans-rights angle to be immensely trivial given public restroom issues I face as a special-needs caregiver.
-- Special needs persons don't always have a same-sex caregiver, and while most people are understanding (or just keep their mouths shut), gender-segregated restrooms cause undue consternation.
-- Family restrooms would be a good compromise, if they were more commonplace and if they weren't kept locked/used as storage space.
-- Single-occupancy restrooms are the gold-standard, minus the illogical stick figures on the door. They afford ample room to do our business. Not so in a narrow toilet stall.

All of this goes without bringing up the fact that I routinely have to help another human being use the bathroom. I don't want to be a jerk, but you can see why I really don't care about the bathroom habits of people who are capable of wiping themselves.

Post a Comment