Boy Scouts and Religious Freedom Exemption: Battle Awaits

As anticipated, and at long last, the Boy Scouts of America have voted to allow openly gay men and lesbians to be adult employees and volunteer leaders. As the AP notes, however:

Several denominations that collectively sponsor close to half of all Scout units—including the Roman Catholic church, the Mormon church and the Southern Baptist Convention—have been apprehensive about ending the ban on gay adults.

The Boy Scouts of America’s top leaders have pledged to defend the right of any church-sponsored units to continue excluding gays as adult volunteers. But that assurance has not satisfied some conservative church leaders.

“It’s hard for me to believe, in the long term, that the Boy Scouts will allow religious groups to have the freedom to choose their own leaders,” said the Rev. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “In recent years I have seen a definite cooling on the part of Baptist churches toward the Scouts,” Moore said. “This will probably bring that cooling to a freeze.”

While conservative religious leaders aren’t happy, LGBT activists aren’t overjoyed, either:

Stuart Upton, a lawyer for the LGBT-rights group Lambda Legal, questioned whether the BSA’s new policy to let church-sponsored units continue to exclude gay adults would be sustainable. “There will be a period of time where they’ll have some legal protection,” Upton said. “But that doesn’t mean the lawsuits won’t keep coming. … They will become increasingly marginalized from the direction society is going.”

Moreover, in a released statement headlined “Local Exemptions Will Allow Discrimination to Continue,” Chad Griffen, president of the Human Rights Campaign, lamented that “including an exemption for troops sponsored by religious organizations undermines and diminishes the historic nature of today’s decision.”

The conventional wisdom goes that if activists on the right and left are both unhappy, then it’s probably an appropriate, centrist solution. And that may be true here. Church-sponsored BSA troops are somewhat unique in that the Boy Scouts are not a self-defined religious organization, but troops are highly identified with, and reflect the characteristics of, their local sponsors.

It’s unclear how future lawsuits will turn out, but the public is unlikely to support LGBT activists on this one (polls show a majority favor religious exemptions from anti-discrimination law, even among those who support marriage equality).

More. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement saying “the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America,” and that “When the leadership of the Church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August, the century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined.”

Given that troops sponsored by the Mormon church will have a religious exemption allowing them to exclude gay adults, the response seems excessively churlish and suggests that the Mormons believe all scout troops must abide by Mormon values. That’s as polarizing, and totalistic, as the progressives who believe in no exemptions for religious organizations that sponsor troops.

Furthermore. This AP story reports that the Mormons may be looking for an opportunity to form their own worldwide scouting movement for boys, completely under church control. Similarly, the LDS does not sponsor Girl Scout troops and instead oversees its own Young Women’s program.

That’s a loss for Mormon youth, as one of the great benefits of scouting is the way it brings young people into contact with others from diverse backgrounds.

Also, via the Washington Post, Why Mormons are so devastated by the Boy Scout vote on gay leaders.

The Legacy

Obama does the right thing in Kenya.

As I’ve said previously, I believe advances in gay legal equality and social inclusion will be the great legacy of the Obama administration, and I suspect Obama may realize this.

Perhaps health care exchanges will last, although the labyrinth of business mandates under Obamacare are likely to be scaled back by a future administration and Congress. Otherwise, the debt-spiraling misspent trillions in the great redistributive give-away that Democrats called “stimulus,” the ever-expanding growth-deterring over-regulation of businesses, and the hapless foreign policy will be seen for what they are.

Even so, beginning at the very end of his first term with repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell (which heretofore he seemed willing to let Harry Reid block along with the Employee Non-Discrimination Act), followed by the administration’s opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act and support, eventually, for marriage equality, up through making an issue of gay rights internationally, Obama got one big thing right.

More. Sadly, he’s gotten so much else wrong. Columnist Daniel Henninger writes in the Wall Street Journal (7/30/15):

The American anxieties Donald Trump has tapped into are real and rational. … It’s what everyone in politics, including Hillary Clinton, knows has been the No. 1 concern of the American people for years: the U.S.’s underachieving economy. …

The U.S.’s average postwar growth rate is 3.3%, and has often been higher. Across the entire 6½ years of the Obama presidency it has been about 2%, and often lower. … The labor-force participation rate, 62.6% last month, is at its lowest level in 38 years. In human terms, 432,000 people dropped out of the workforce in June, and nearly two million are called “marginally attached to the labor force” by the government. … For much of the private economy, the Obama presidency has been almost seven years of “Survivor.” …

Here is what Reagan’s tax and regulatory policies produced from 1982-89: an economy that grew by a third and a standard of living, as measured by real disposable income, that grew by 20%.

Henninger concludes, “The result [of Obama’s economic policies] is a populace that is becoming resentful, surly and anxious for a way out,” and increasingly receptive to populist demagoguery.

Also from the WSJ, The Six-Year Slough: New GDP revisions show the worst recovery in 70 years was even weaker.

And yes, Reagan on gay legal equality/social inclusion, not so good. No party has a monopoly on the truth.

Equality Act Is New Cause

With congressional Democrats’ introduction last week of the Equality Act, ENDA (the Employee Non-Discrimination Act) is officially dead. The previous bill, which targeted employment discrimination, had a long, sad history—just when it seemed to have enough bipartisan support to pass, a number of influential activists organizations announced their opposition because the measure didn’t include gender identity along with sexual orientation. Later, when gender identity was added, it was too much for the bill’s GOP (and centrist Democratic) supporters, at that time. The strategy of step by step, first one, than the other, was never viewed as acceptable by some activists.

In any event, during the first two years of the Obama administration, when Democrats enjoyed filibuster-proof majorities in Congresss, ENDA was kept bottled up in committee; only after the GOP retook the House in midterm elections did Democrats moved to bring the bill back to life.

The Equality Act seeks to amend the iconic Civil Rights Act 1964 to include sexual orientation and gender identity, in employment, housing, education, jury service(!) and public accommodations, with no religious exemptions for businesses such as wedding caterers and photographers to pass on gigs involving gay marriages. It has zero chance of passing Congress, dominated by the GOP. That’s not the point; Democrats will use it to rally LGBT and progressive support in coming elections.

Yet some LGBT activists are not united in support; some fear that opening the Civil Rights Act to amendments could be dangerous, allowing Republicans to introduce their own amendments to weaken, for instance, race- and gender-based preferential treatment and the use of disparate impact analysis to find discrimination where none was intended. It’s unclear that there is evidence Republicans would try to do that (the attacks upon them by liberal media would be merciless), but that’s the stated concern.

So don’t expect the Equality Act to become law anytime soon, or perhaps ever. But keep a lookout for fundraising letters from its supporters coming to your mailbox shortly.

In PC Olympics, Trans Beats Drag

The Glasgow, Scotland, alternative Free Pride festival is too politically correct for Dan Savage, who notes the organizers rationale:

At Free Pride we hope to create a safe space for all people within the LGBTQIA+ community. We understand that sometimes this will disappoint some people within the community, however our priority is always to put the needs of the most marginalised groups within our community first. This is why, after much discussion,the trans and non binary caucus decided not to have drag acts perform at the event.

The organizers further explain their decision:

When individuals from a less marginalized group make individuals from a more marginalized group feel uncomfortable—or if they might make them feel uncomfortable—the individuals from the less marginalized group can and should be excluded for the comfort of individuals from the more marginalized group.

Savage recounts that:

After getting a little outraged feedback, some of which violated Free Pride’s “safe space” policies (boo hoo hoo), Free Pride announced their new-and-improved policy on drag acts: Drag performers who are “trans and non-binary” will be welcome to perform at Free Pride, but the ban remains on cis drag performers.

In other words, a performer like Albin/Zaza from the musical La Cage of Folles would be excluded from performing “I Am What I Am,” given the offensive nature of gay drag and the veto granted to the more-greatly oppressed trans activists.

More. Here’s coverage by London’s Evening Standard, Drag queens banned from Pride event ‘because they may offend transgender people’.

No, this isn’t just a made up issue. From the progressive site ThinkProgress, a very, very, serious analysis of The Quiet Clash Between Transgender Women and Drag Queens.

Turning Victory to Defeat

A new Associated Press-GfK poll, conducted July 9 to July 13—less than three weeks after the Supreme Court ruled states cannot ban same-sex marriage—showed 42 percent support same-sex marriage, down from the 48 percent who said so in an April poll.

Asked specifically about the Supreme Court ruling, 39 percent said they approve and 41 percent said they disapprove.

The AP reports:

“Overall, if there’s a conflict, a majority of those questioned think religious liberties should win out over gay rights, according to the poll. While 39 percent said it’s more important for the government to protect gay rights, 56 percent said protection of religious liberties should take precedence.”

This is the cultural landscape in which LGBT activist leaders, post-marriage victory, are declaring their number one objective is passage of a comprehensive LGBT civil rights statute that will force service providers with religious objections to perform creative services for same-sex weddings.

Under their progressive leadership, which views state coercion backed by the threat of force and punishment as the prime tool for achieving cultural aims, we might yet see a backlash that turns victory into defeat.

More. Via Walter Olson, whether churches could lose tax-exempt status for not embracing same-sex marriage. There are, fortunately, constitutional barriers, but for some progressives it’s the stuff of their dreams.

Finally, the Cato Institute’s Roger Pilon exlains why “A society that cannot tolerate differing views—and respect the live-and-let-live principle—will not long be free.”

And the Cato Institute’s Emily Ekins further elaborates:

Americans seem inclined to support this nuanced view that businesses should serve all customers regardless of sexual orientation, religion, race, gender, income, national origin, etc.—but that wedding-related businesses requiring owners’ direct participation in the wedding should not be forced to provide service against the owners’ religious beliefs….

Taken together, these polls suggest that a sizeable share of Americans think the state should not prohibit same-sex couples from getting married and that the state should not require wedding-related business owners with religious objections to provide services against their will.

Popular opinion isn’t always right; this time it’s spot on.

Pandering and Ploys

In his recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, How the GOP Can Avoid Becoming the Pan Am Party, Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, wrote:

Gay rights is another issue in which Republicans risk alienating potential conservative voters, particularly younger ones. It is reasonable to believe that the states and the people should determine what constitutes marriage, not five justices. But the Supreme Court ruled last month in Obergefell v. Hodges—and it’s over.

There has been talk of a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision, and candidates should drop it. That would require a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress and ratification by 38 of the states. The chances of that happening are nil. More than 35 states had already legalized same-sex marriage before Obergefell, and Pew Research found in June that 57% of Americans and 73% of millennials favored it. It’s counterproductive for Republicans to look like social Neanderthals to a majority of Americans and a supermajority of young voters. There are better issues for the GOP—religious liberty, for instance.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker obviously disagrees, and last week doubled down on his courting of evangelicals in Iowa (where he leads in the polls) and the Deep South by condemning the Boy Scouts of America’s recent moves toward allowing openly gay scoutmasters. Walker said the Boy Scout’s current exclusionary policy “protected children and advanced Scout values.” Two days later, following an uproar over equating gay adults and pedophiles, Walker tried to, well, walk that back somewhat, but not very convincingly.

Jeb Bush had a better week, as he continues to try finding a course that recognizes reality without further alienating the GOP’s socially conservative base:

He added that in the wake of the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, the country must work to carefully balance the rights of those seeking to marry and the religious beliefs of those who oppose those unions.

Citing the frequently-used example by religious freedom advocates, Bush said that in the case of a florist approached by a gay couple, “you should be obligated to sell them flowers, doing otherwise would be discriminatory.” But he said that the objecting florist should not be required to participate in the wedding, a fine line that he hopes will appeal to all sides of the debate.

When the employee followed up to ask specifically whether he would support anti-discrimination laws for LGBT Americans for their housing and employment—the next target for gay rights marriage advocates—Bush said he would at the state level.

The state-level ploy isn’t going to win many adherents on either side, but at least he’s trying to find a consensus on anti-discrimination and religious liberty that might be an alternative to the outraged polarization that dominates the argument today.

More. David Lampo, who serves on the national board of the Log Cabin Republicans, explains Yes, Governor Huckabee, Gay Rights Are Civil Rights. Posted on the conservative Daily Caller site, not the liberal echo chamber.

The EEOC’s LGB Fiat

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ruled, 3 to 2, that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars sexual orientation-based employment discrimination as a form of sex discrimination, which Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed called “a groundbreaking decision to advance legal protections for gay, lesbian, and bisexual workers.”

The EEOC’s ruling deals with sexual orientation (lesbian, gay, bisexual); the agency had previously found that discrimination on the basis of gender identity, transitioning, or transgender status was covered by the civil rights statute as sex discrimination, and has sued employers on that premise.

But as Walter Olson of the Cato Institute has noted in a series of posts, including here, courts have built a record of knocking down the EEOC on its stretchy interpretations of law. (Geidner’s article claims the contrary, but Olson’s evidence seems persuasive.)

To the extent that an employer could, say, fire a lesbian employee based on provable bias but not fire any of the heterosexual women it employs, the claim of anti-female animus (the basis of what has generally been deemed sex discrimination under the statute) would seem difficult to prove. Still, it will be interesting to see how this plays out, and it could even end up before the Supreme Court.

More. From libertarians who strongly support same-sex marriage. Walter Olson blogs: EEOC: Let Us Imagineer ENDA For You. And from Scott Shackford at EEOC Attempts to Administratively Implement Protections Against Anti-Gay Discrimination.

From our comments, Craig123 writes:

You can support nondiscrimination and still think the EEOC sholudn’t be stretching the law beyond its limits, because if (as is widespread under this administration) the law means anything that a federal agency says it means, some day an administration you don’t like is going to come in and declare, by fiat, that all the laws you like don’t actually say what they say.

These are valid concerns not to be lightly dismissed or, per some, vilified. It’s also possible that the EEOC’s ruling, if it stands, would be less offensive to individual liberty than the broad federal statute activists now demand, applying the race-discrimination standard to sexual orientation regarding employment and public accommodations (which, for them, includes providing creative services in support of same-sex weddings, with no religious exemptions).

Our Real Enemies

The Washington Post ran an op-ed on July 13, An International War on LGBT People, by editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, that recounts how “while 25 countries and territories now allow gay marriage, 75 nations treat homosexual behavior as a crime. In 10 countries, it is punishable by death—and even where it is not, just being gay is often fatal.”

It’s an old story, as:

authoritarian governments fan hatreds to distract people from their failures and keep themselves in power. The Islamic State kills and tortures gay people—but the virulently anti-Islamist military dictators in Egypt have been persecuting gay men and lesbians as well. Russian President Vladimir Putin… turned to homophobia and “traditional values” to safeguard his grip on the Kremlin. Like dictators from Uganda to Uzbekistan, Putin defends his bigotry as a rampart against permissive “Western values.”

The Wall Street Journal had a similar op-ed on June 26, Love Among the Ruins, by the paper’s associate book review editor Bari Weiss, who took aim at the “moral relativism [that] has become its own, perverse form of nativism among those who stake their identity on being universalist and progressive,” and asked:

How else to understand those who have dedicated their lives to creating safe spaces for transgender people, yet issue no news releases about gender apartheid in an entire region of the world? How else to justify that at the gay-pride celebrations this weekend in Manhattan there is unlikely to be much mention of the gay men recently thrown off buildings in Syria and Iraq, their still-warm bodies desecrated by mobs?

She concluded, “You can’t get married if you’re dead.”

More. Last year, David Boaz noted, in Authoritarian Governments Use Old Smears to Tear Down Their Opponents, that dictators use homophobia as they previously (and often still) used antisemitism, to attack free-market capitalism that is the foundation of classical liberalism (the language gets a bit confusing because he uses “liberal” in its original, limited-government sense, not the way it’s been co-opted by the American left). Boaz wrote:

All of these epithets—homosexual, Jewish, bourgeoisie, and more recently, “American”—have been staples of illiberal rhetoric for centuries. Liberals–advocates of democracy, free speech, religious freedom, and market freedoms—have been tarred as “cosmopolitan” and somehow alien to the people, the Volk, the faithful, the fatherland, the heartland.

Furthermore. Alexander McCobin writes The gay rights battle is not over for libertarians, explaining that “There is both a need and an opportunity to help end state-sponsored discrimination against homosexuals across the globe. The US libertarians and LGBT rights movements should be involved in accomplishing such a worthy goal.”


Illiberal Liberals Endanger Everyone’s Rights

IGF sometimes guest blogger Walter Olson has penned a piece over at Richocet explaining why Oregon’s “cease and desist” order is “not a result liberals should applaud.” Excerpt:

Even more remarkably, the state agency had demanded damages from the Kleins over the very fact of media coverage sympathetic to their cause, which was said to have inflicted further trauma on their adversaries’ eggshell psyches. While [the Commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, Brad Avakian] declined to grant a separate award of damages under this heading, he still declared the Kleins’ statements in their own defense “unlawful.”

The implication is clear enough: if locked in a legal battle with Oregon authorities, you may not have a legal right to rally your supporters with statements like “This fight is not over” and “We will continue to stay strong.”

Some day the attempt to strip opponents of progressivism of their fundamental rights is going to come back and be used against progressives themselves, who will then deny they had ever advocated such a position.

More. This gay baker shows that authoritarian zealots don’t represent all LGBT people.

Furthermore. Eugene Volokh of The Volokh Conspiracy shows that Raw Story got it wrong by claiming that the bakers were fined for publishing the home address of the lesbian couple that brought the complaint. In a separate post, Volokh elaborates:

I think that Walter Olson (Ricochet), who is a supporter of same-sex marriage, and Ken White (Popehat) are right to criticize this part of the commissioner’s ruling [barring speech that shows an intent to discriminate]…. The bakers may rightly worry that, given the commissioner’s relatively broad understanding of what constitutes a statement of intent to discriminate, the commissioner (and the courts) will read his order equally broadly.

More from Walter Olson here on misreporting of fact by bloggers on the left and right, whose misstatements are then sent zooming around the internet.

Support for Liberty Grows

Despite steadily increasing support for same-sex marriage equality, “the percentage of people who agree that wedding service providers should be required to serve same-sex couples has fallen to 38% from 52% in 2013,” a 14-point drop in two years, according to the 2015 State of the First Amendment study by the Newseum and USA Today.

Correspondingly, “Americans’ support for the First Amendment rebounded strongly over the past year,” specifically, three-quarters of Americans say the First Amendment, protecting freedom of speech, of the press, and of religion “does not go too far,” a jump from 57% last year.

This rise in support for expressive and religious liberty is occurring as LGBT activists gear up to switch from fighting for marriage equality to fighting to deny the right of religious dissent. This trend is exemplified by Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, who has come out strongly against religious exemptions for businesses in the proposed federal Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a position he seems to be doubling down on after the marriage victory.

Even those with whom we strongly disagree about gay rights and equality have fundamental rights as Americans that must be protected, or else we will all suffer from the results when the state, backed by progressive activists, declares their freedoms denied.

More. In response to those who defend using the state to destroy small businesses that don’t toe the correct line, commenter Craig123 quotes Marx (facetiously, I think), who warned progressives that “The petite bourgeoisie is the most reactionary of classes” and thus must be pulled up by its roots. Given that other commenters have in prior posts charged this blog with “homocon idiocy” while themselves spouting the anti-capitalist anarcho-syndicalist ideas of Noam Chomsky (replacing corrupt private ownership with workers councils and all that), you get a sense of what some of them, in their fervid dreams, are really after—if only those outmoded individual rights can be put asunder.

Furthermore. Why I Support ‘No Gays Allowed’ (via the Huffington Post, and penned by C.J. Prince, executive director of North Jersey Pride, in case you thought it was by some self-loathing “homocon”). She writes that “As a strong supporter of freedom of speech and freedom of religion”:

I do not want to order a wedding cake from a bakery owned by a guy who thinks I’m going to hell. I have no desire to purchase bouquets from a florist who pickets Pride parades. …

If you don’t support my freedom to marry, have the guts to come out about it. Exercise your constitutional right to free speech, and I’ll support that. Then I’ll exercise my capitalist right to shop from your competitor—and to proudly put my money where my allies are.