A Way Forward, with Much Opposition

Posted at the Christianity Today site is Fairness for All: Evangelicals Explore Truce on LGBT and Religious Rights. It reports on efforts by some in the evangelical community (which includes those whose politics lean liberal) to support federal legislation modeled on a Utah compromise bill that the state enacted last year. Going national, the aim is to “bring together religious liberty defenders and LGBT activists to lay out federal legislation to secure rights for both.”

There’s bad news, however:

…several prominent religious liberty advocates—including the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention—that opposed the Utah compromise model aren’t on board with Fairness for All either. … [and] much of the momentum around LGBT advocacy also resists such compromise.

But there’s good news, too:

Even without a specific proposal to parse, evangelical leaders are doubling down on the need for deeper discussion, as well as outreach to government partners and LGBT groups.

It’s a nice thought but a tough sell. As I’ve said before, the idea of letting President Trump sign a federal LGBT rights bill, especially one with (gasp) religious exemptions, would be anathema to the Human Rights Campaign and other Democratic party auxiliaries.

And so the (culture) war wages on. And a decision in Illinois is just more grist for the mill: Christian-owned bed and breakfast must host gay weddings, state panel finds.

How the LGBT Left Lost Its Way

David Bernstein writes at the Washington Post‘s Volokh Conspiracy blog:

“Many religious Christians of a traditionalist bent believed that liberals not only reduce their deeply held beliefs to bigotry, but want to run them out of their jobs, close down their stores and undermine their institutions. … I hope liberals really enjoyed running Brendan Eich out of his job and closing down the Sweet Cakes bakery, because it cost them the Supreme Court.”

I think there’s truth to that. LGBT progressives along with gay libertarians and center-right conservatives worked to achieve marriage equality. Then the left, instead of accepting victory and seeking to live (and let live) with those of differing views, went the authoritarian route and decided to use the power of the progressive state (federally and in in left-leaning localities) to force Christian conservatives to provide creative services for same-sex weddings, among other assaults on religious liberty.

Bernstein points to, as a turning point, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli saying during the oral arguments before the Supreme Court in Obergefell that religiously affiliated schools might lose their tax exempt status if they refused to recognize same-sex marriages. I’m not sure that particular statement “cost his party the election,” but it was part of a larger culture war attack strategy that did.

Bernstein also cites a recent column by Megan McArdle at Bloomberg, The Left’s Doomed Effort to Coerce the Right, that notes:

Over the last few years, as controversies have erupted over the rights of cake bakers and pizza places to refuse to cater gay weddings, the rights of nuns to refuse to provide insurance that covers birth control, the rights of Catholic hospitals to refuse to perform abortions, and the rights of Christian schools to teach (and require students and teachers to practice) traditional Christian morality, some Christians have begun to feel that their communities are under existential threat. …

I’ve heard from a number of evangelicals who, despite their reservations about the man, ended up voting for Donald Trump because they fear that the left is out to build a world where it will not be possible to hold any prominent job while holding onto their church’s beliefs about sexuality. Discussions I’ve had in recent days with nice, well-meaning progressives suggest that this is not a paranoid fantasy. An online publisher’s witch hunt against two television personalities — because of the church they attend — validates the fears of these Christians.

And Tammy Bruce writes at the Washington Times:

“As a gay woman, I find it embarrassing to watch gays publicly harass individuals simply for who they are. For several years now we have watched so-called gay leadership and their affiliated activists target Christians and their businesses to either punish them and send a message to everyone else — either conform to the liberal narrative or suffer grave consequences.”

For the past few years I’ve been raising these issues and warning the LGBT left of how counter-productive its attacks on people of faith were. The response was typically to mock me for not recognizing the new order in which there would be no tolerance of religious exemptions from government-mandated behavior. The brewing backlash was evident to all, excepting those who have eyes but could not see, and ears but could not hear.

Pence and Gays: Truth and Fiction

Mike Pence was never a supporter of gay legal equality but as Carl M. Cannon writes at Real Clear Politics, much of the criticism of his past positions is unfair (many liberal Democrats, at the time, said similar things against marriage equality and in favor of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military) when not downright disingenuous (the accusations he wanted the government to fund “conversion therapy” centers).

The conversion therapy charge, Cannon noted, stems from langauge on Pence’s congressional campaign website back in 2000, addressing reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act to fund AIDS resources:

In the section providing funding for indigent HIV patients (that’s where the “needy” reference comes from), Pence’s campaign website advocates making sure federal dollars aren’t going to organizations that “encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus.” Instead, the site, says, “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”

So there’s your “conversion therapy” angle. It’s thin gruel, especially because in the context of the times and the Ryan White Act, a more obvious reading of the statement is that Pence’s campaign literature called for spending federal money encouraging “safe sex,” not changing sexual orientation.

I’d say it’s quite possible the idea, deliberately vague, was meant as a call for abstinence. But that’s not the same as advocating federal funding for conversion therapy, as Trump/Pence LGBT critics have been suggesting he did explicitly.

[Added: Reader Throbert McGee commments that the conversion therapy accusation “very quickly got transmogrified into “ELECTROCUTING THE GAY OUT OF KIDS!!!” And indeed, the Daily Beast, among others, without reference or source, “reported” that Pence favors conversion therapy, which they then define as “providing electric shocks; using shame to create aversion to same-sex attractions.” The truth is out there, but not on progressive news sites.]

More. As Politico reported, “In 2015, Pence initially signed a [statewide] Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA. He then backpedaled on language that critics feared could be discriminatory against gay people, but that some evangelicals felt was essential to defending religious freedom.”

Readers of this blog know that I strongly favor religious exemptions to anti-discrimination law, viewing them as a necessary way to balance the competing “rights” of religious freedom from state coercion and nondiscrimination. I reject the view of LGBT progressive activists that religious exemptions are merely a “license to discriminate” and agree with Jonathan Rauch that they have been an important component of our civil rights legacy.

A big issue in Indiana is that there is no statewide LGBT nondiscrimination measure against which a religious exemption was needed, although several counties, townships and cities (including Bloomington, Muncie and South Bend) do prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Nevertheless, Pence got pounded by progressive groups and their media and business allies for supporting and signing a religious exemption bill, and Indiana faced economic boycott threats. Pence then supported and signed an amendment that weakened the language in the measure so that it did not exempt businesses from LGBT nondiscrimination statutes, which enraged religious conservatives. He ended up pleasing no one and appeared to have short-circuited his political ambitions. Then history happened.

Nondiscrimination Protections by Judicial Decree?

Columnist Steve Chapman writes that a lawsuit heard Nov. 30 by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago could find that the statutory expansion of the Civil Rights act to bar discrimination on the basis of sex should now be interpreted to cover sexual orientation.

Well, that would be preferable to the proposed Equality Act’s gutting of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, sought by the Human Rights Campaign and other progressives who are hot to stick it to people of faith.

LGBT Partisan Tribalism (and the Failed Tactic of Stigmatizing ‘Incorrect’ ideas)

Mark Lee writes:

It’s been embarrassing to witness the online hysteria and public angst exhibited by an astounding number of gays and lesbians in the wake of the election. Social media postings intone epithets like “racist,” “fascist” and “Nazi” to describe the president-elect and his supporters. These inflammatory remarks have become the angry post-defeat version of Clinton’s mocking campaign denunciation – now sweet sounding by comparison – that those not supporting her included both the “deplorable” and “irredeemable.” …

The question for LGBT voters is why some so eagerly align with and defend a political party so disconnected from those we most want to persuade as to be of nominal value to converting recalcitrant hearts and minds.

Continuing from the blog post below, I’ll reference another Conor Friedersdorf post-election article, How Stigma Sows Seeds of Its Own Defeat, in which Friedersdorf writes:

Today, pioneering gay-marriage proponents like Andrew Sullivan and Jonathan Rauch express dismay that, after majorities came to embrace their position, the coalition that used persuasion to accomplish one of the great civil rights expansions of the 21st century shifted from a posture of persuasion to a posture of stigmatization. …

I wonder if today’s students are as well-equipped as older cohorts to persuasively articulate why racism or sexism or denial of equal rights to gays and lesbians is wrong, let alone to explain the value of other aspects of the liberal project on which they’ve never focused, having never lived when they were seriously threatened. …

Americans need to avoid leaning on stigma even when it seems both solid and warranted. Insofar as a position is worth defending, it is worth defending on its merits.

Unfortunately, the whole progressive project of “political correctness” is based on stigmatizing and silencing those with “incorrect” views, despite (as Friedersdorf points out) its failure as a political tactic.

More. Writing recently in the Boston Globe, Clinton campaign volunteer Diane Hessan recounts:

Last week, I reread all of my notes. There was one moment when I saw more undecided voters shift to Trump than any other, when it all changed, when voters began to speak differently about their choice. It wasn’t FBI Director James Comey, Part One or Part Two; it wasn’t Benghazi or the e-mails or Bill Clinton’s visit with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on the tarmac. No, the conversation shifted the most during the weekend of Sept. 9, after Clinton said, “You can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.”

All hell broke loose.

George [a source in northeastern Pennsylvania] told me that his neighborhood was outraged, that many of his hard-working, church-going, family-loving friends resented being called that name. He told me that he looked up the word in the dictionary, and that it meant something so bad that there is no hope, like the aftermath of a tsunami. You know, he said, Clinton ended up being the biggest bully of them all. Whereas Trump bullied her, she bullied Wilkes Barre.

Let’s recall that Clinton’s remarks were made at an LGBT fundraising in NYC featuring Barbra Streisand, with ticket prices ranging from $1,200 to $250,000, and many paying $50,000, according to reports. And that those wealthy LGBT donors enthusiastically applauded Clinton’s calling millions of Americans “deplorables” who are “irredeemable.”

More Progressive Tolerance

Log Cabin Republican James Driscoll writes that his support of Trump cost him a 15-year long position as political consultant to AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and that his landscaping was vandalized because he put up a Trump sign.

He recounts that Juan Hernandez, a fellow Log Cabin Republican, was attacked by anti-Trump thugs at a Trump rally, leaving him bloodied with a concussion and broken nose.

Alas, this kind of response to Trump supporters isn’t uncommon: Navy Vet’s House Torched in Florida, Vandalized with Anti-Trump Graffiti, which also reports, “Investigators are looking into possible connections with anti-Trump graffiti that was sprayed on two mobile homes near Mango, Florida, earlier this month. One of those homes was set on fire, too.”

More. From Austin Bay:

[S]ince the election Americans have seen a lot of broken glass, witnessed beatings and suffered hours-long traffic and business disruptions within their cities. … Peaceful protests? No, the demonstrators vandalize and destroy. They have two goals: intimidating people and sustaining the mainstream media lie that Donald Trump is dangerous.

There’s an awful lot of projecting of their own inner demons outward, allowing them to engage in ritualized virtue-signaling. Screaming obscenities while carrying signs reading “Love Trumps Hate” is the obvious example of the lack of self-reflection regarding their behavior.

A disturbing encounter between two young anti-Trumpists and a man wearing a “Build the Wall” t-shirt. Feel the love? (I don’t support “the wall,” by the way, but this encounter is revealing in terms of who is boiling over with rage and engaging in mocking condescension. And it’s not atypical.)

In Too Much Stigma, Not Enough Persuasion, Conor Friedersdorf argues that “the coalition that opposes Donald Trump needs to get better at persuading its fellow citizens and winning converts, rather than leaning so heavily on stigmatizing those who disagree with them.” You think?

Progressive ‘Tolerance”

HGTV ‘Fixer Upper’ couple Chip and Joanna Gaines find themselves in the liberal media’s crosshairs for attending a church that has traditional view of homosexuality. Twitchy has a roundup of the tweets that link to the publications’ articles, including these:


I liked this response:

And this one:

Perhaps for their faith crime, the state will force them to fix up a house for a gay wedding.

More. Obviously, the liberal news sites are looking to stoke a controversy along the lines of the Benham Brothers who, two years ago, had their upcoming “Flip It Forward” show on HGTV (helping “lower-income families purchase fixer uppers and transform them into dream homes”) dropped after an outcry and boycott threats over the brothers’ faith-based opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion. But Jason and David Benham were vocal about their views, which the Gaineses are not (if that should make a difference). The witch-hunt mentality of the liberal inquisitors also brings to mind the 2014 resignation of Mozilla’s co-founder and CEO Brendan Eich amid outrage following the discovery that he had contributed $1,000 in 2008 to a winning California ballot initiative against same-sex marriage.

But all Chip And Joanna Gaines did was go to church.

Furthermore. Guy Benson weighs in. Note: his post includes a tweet from a Stephen Miller who is not me.

Apparently, from some of the comments, this kind of mean-spirited, ritualized shaming is just a tempest in a teapot because the left is targeting conservatives. Nothing to see, move along, boy Miller is stupid (a recurring theme) for believing this might be of interest to anyone reading a site called CultureWatch.

And more. Not much buzz about this from the trendy lefty sites but the right has noticed (in responding to the left’s manufactured Gaines controversy): Likely DNC Chair Rep. Keith Ellison’s Imam: Homosexuality Is ‘Not What God Intended’.

Castro’s Dead. Good

From the facebook page of libertarian movie-review site Miss Liberty’s Film & Documentary World:

Fidel Castro is dead. A great film (free online) to remember him by is “Improper Conduct,” on the subject of Castro’s gulags for gay people. He hated gays and decided to “get rid of them,” in the manner that socialists do such things.

From Foreign Policy two years ago:

“Though the Castro family is no longer sending LGBT people to labor camps as they did in the 1960s and 1970s, the only permitted LGBT movement in Cuba is the official, state-run one.”

From 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein on Twitter:

Michael C. Moynihan responds to Stein:

More. As Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas describes in his memoir Before Night Falls:

Homosexuals were confined to the two worst wards of El Morro: these wards were below ground at the lowest level, and water seeped into the cells at high tide. It was a sweltering place without a bathroom. Gays were not treated like human beings, they were treated like beasts. They were the last ones t come out for meals, so we saw them walk by, and the most insignificant incident was an excuse to beat them mercilessly. The soldiers guarding us, who called themselves combatientes, were army recruits sent here as a sort of punishment; they found some release for their rage by taking it out on the homosexuals. Of course, nobody called them homosexuals; they were called fairies, faggots, queers, or at beset, gays. The wards for fairies were really the last circle of hell.

And let us not fail to remember that other icon of the Cuban revolution, Che Guevara. And more here.

And yes, Donald Trump got this one right:

“Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights,” [Trump’s] statement said. “While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.”

Trump added: “Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty.”

Religious Exemptions: Just Like Segregation?

Proposed legislation that would exempt religious nonprofit organizations from an Obama executive order requiring government contractors to follow LGBT nondiscrimination policies is on hold, but the ACLU and its allies are gearing up for battle on behalf of forcing Catholic charities to facilitate adoptions by same-sex couples because, you know, Jim Crow.

As the Wall Street Journal reports:

“What you’ve seen since the election is people see this as a line-in-the-sand moment,” said Ian Thompson, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union. “This is an opportunity to really say, ‘No, we’re not going to allow our taxpayer dollars to be used to fund discrimination and target vulnerable communities across the country.’ ”

Supporters say the exemptions are needed to protect religious groups who help the government through their work with veterans, refugees, the homeless and others. In some cases, religious groups may be the only ones offering those services, they say.

A more-constructive progressive/LGBT movement would see the value of allowing exemptions for religious nonprofits in that the advocates would still get 95% of what they want—the government on record outlawing sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination by contractors—while showing some flexibility for services provided by faith-based groups. But no dice.

It’s possible soon-to-be-president Trump will rescind the order and/or replace it with a version that includes an exemption for religious groups. If he does so, or if he doesn’t and Congress moves ahead with its measure, progressive activists will fight it tooth and nail, because all or nothing serves their mobilization/fundraising agenda.

That’s also why activists will never allow any LGBT anti-discrimination bill to move forward if it includes exemptions for faith-based groups, even though Trump might be willing to sign such a measure. But having Trump sign an LGBT anti-discrimination law would be progressives’ worst nightmare, and they will do whatever it takes to prevent that from happening.

Losers: The Culture Warriors

It was a bad year for culture-war zealots. As noted below, Oregon labor commissioner Brad Avakian, prosecutor of people whose faith isn’t secular-progressivism of the statist/authoritarian variety, lost big-time his race for Oregon secretary of state. He thought driving a mom-and-pop bakery out of business because its proprietors declined to bake a wedding cake for two lesbians, while offering to find another baker to do so (as it would violate their religious beliefs to participate in a same-sex wedding) would be his winning ticket. Wrong.

In North Carolina, it looks like Gov. Pat McCrory, who pushed through a law requiring the use of bathrooms in conformity with one’s birth certificate in government buildings and public schools (thereby overturning a newly passed Charlotte anti-discrimination ordinance) has lost, or might just barely squeak through after a recount.

Just two examples, but I think it’s indicative of the national mood. Sexuality and religion culture-war instigators were not in favor this year, whether on the pro- or anti-LGBT side. And that’s a welcome development.