The Ugly Face of Zealotry

Conservative Christians have constitutional rights, too. But not in New Mexico.

A truly appalling, if unanimous, decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled it is illegal for a Taos event photographer to refuse on religious grounds to shoot the commitment ceremony of a same-sex couple.

Elaine Huguenin and her husband, Jonathan, argued they had a free speech and religious right not to shoot the ceremony, which conflicted with their fundamental religious tenets. As the Wall Street Journal‘s Law Blog notes,

The case dates back to 2006 when Vanessa Willock asked the Huguenins to photograph a commitment ceremony that she and her partner were planning to hold in the town of Taos. After getting turned down, the couple accused the company of discrimination in a complaint to the New Mexico Human Rights Commission.

An amicus brief filed on behalf of the Huguenins by the Cato Institute, Prof. Dale Carpenter and Prof. Eugene Volokh had argued that constitutional protections for free speech apply to creative endeavors such as photography, and that:

the taking of wedding photographs, like the writing of a press release or the creation of a dramatic or musical performance, involves many hours of effort and a large range of expressive decisions.

Therefore, requiring a commercial photographer to provide services is different from requiring other services be provided on a nondiscriminatory basis. But to no avail. In New Mexico and increasingly elsewhere, once progressives are empowered, anyone can and will be ordered to dance to their tune.

Back in 2008, I noted of this case:

Aside from the legal merits of violating [Elaine] Huguenin’s liberty, just what do the offended lesbians who brought this action hope to accomplish by forcing Huguenin to work for them? It’s the kind of totalitarian-leaning nastiness in the name of the self-righteous promotion of “equality” that would make Robespierre proud.

I again discussed this case last September, noting George Will’s observation that Vanessa Willock, the lesbian bringing the suit,

could then have said regarding Elane Photography what many same-sex couples have long hoped a tolerant society would say regarding them—“live and let live.” Willock could have hired a photographer with no objections to such events. Instead, Willock and her partner set out to break the Huguenins to the state’s saddle.

I’d now put it this way: Why a gay couple would want to force a photographer to cover their ceremony against his or her will can be explained in one word: animus. Now the bigots will pay!

And thus does a just cause for expanding liberty fall prey to the nasty zealots of forced coercion, smugly congratulating themselves on their triumph.

More. The AP (via NPR’s website) on the “Divide Over Religious Exemptions on Gay Marriage.” Jonathan Rauch is quoted on why moderation should prevail.

Furthermore. I think this comment gets it right. For all those declaring the supremacy of the state over an individual’s religious convictions, and its authority to force behavior that violates religious convictions, shame on you.

And worth repeating. From The Communist Roots of Russian Homophobia:

While it is among the most evil manifestations, Russia’s homophobia is just one symptom of its collectivist and tyrannous history. It acts as a reminder that tolerance does not require secularity so much as a free society where all individuals, regardless of their religion, political beliefs, gender identity or sexual orientation, are allowed to live their lives in peace without state interference.

How many of the LGBT progressives who are (rightly) condemning Putin’s tactics in Russia support, here at home, using the iron fist of the state to force Americans to engage in conduct that violates their religious beliefs?

54 Comments for “The Ugly Face of Zealotry”

  1. posted by le_taon on

    Is there any argument you’re making here that isn’t really just an argument against anti-discrimination laws in general?

    Perhaps she’s not seeking the type of relief you seek. Perhaps, really, what she’s seeking is a world in which individuals are free to go about their lives without being subjected to discrimination in the everyday necessities of life. It’s easy to say that a wedding photographer isn’t one of those necessities, but we’ve decided not to engage in line-drawing between grocery shopping and wedding photographers, and that’s the law’s decision to make.

    Let’s stop pretending like this is an easy question answered by first principles and maybe do some more thorough analysis, eh?

    • posted by Robert K on

      “We” have decided nothing of the sort. The state is not society. This is a question of what kind of society we want: one where the state can compel you to act against your will simply because others wish to benefit from you doing so, or a society in which the state is prohibited from making such decisions for you. Perhaps you wish to live in the former, but I do not. History has shown far too clearly the ugly place that road takes a people.

      Furthermore, I think it odd that you would lean on the “what is, ought to be” argument here. Simply because the law has already went one way is no proof of its rightness or justice. That is a conservative–nay, reactionary–argument. And an odd one for someone who I assume strives for greater social justice.

      • posted by Chris on

        Good luck finding a state that *doesn’t* compel you to act against your will. That’s largely what a state does with laws — from compelling you to pay taxes to compelling you not to speed on highways, and on and on. This is an instance where a citizen is being compelled not to discriminate based on sexual orientation. The state of New Mexico decided that non-discrimination was in its citizens’ best interest. I tend to agree.

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      I would never bring such a complaint or lawsuit because if someone doesn’t want my business I’m happy to take it somewhere else. But then I live in an area with enough options that I should always be able to find a photographer who could keep his or her bigotry to themselves for the sake of making a living.

      What offends me most about this topic, however, is that it’s always the religious. Plenty of us have moral principles that aren’t tied to religion, but discussions of exemptions are always “religious”. Since when is religion an excuse for bigotry? What if someone claims their religion prevents them from serving Jews? Or videoing a Catholic wedding? Or serving black people at their lunch counter?

  2. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    I think that carving out a special religious exemption for marriage equality, which seems to be the thrust of the discussion around the country, is wrongheaded.

    If nothing else, the approach once again singles out gays and lesbians as a “special case” different from others, and applies special rules applicable to gays and lesbians only, which is a clear violation of the principle of “equal means equal”. To me, it is an approach not even worth discussing seriously; I have not fought long and hard for “equal means equal” to give it away at this point in the interest of false “compromise”.

    I think that there is as better alternative.

    Wisconsin is considering adding explicit religious freedom language to its state constitution. The text of the proposed amendment (existing constitutional language in italics; proposed added language in bold) is:

    Article I Section 18. The right of every person to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of conscience shall never be infringed; nor shall any person be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, without consent; nor shall any control of, or interference with, the rights of conscience be permitted, or any preference be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship; nor shall any money be drawn from the treasury for the benefit of religious societies, or religious or theological seminaries. The right of conscience, which includes the right to engage in activity or refrain from activity based on a sincerely held religious belief, shall not be burdened unless the state proves it has a compelling interest in infringing the specific action or refusal to act, and the burden is the least-restrictive alternative to the state’s action. A burden to the right of conscience includes indirect burdens, such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or exclusion from programs or access to facilities.

    Wisconsin’s proposed broad approach, creating an exemption applicable to every state and local law, whatever the subject matter, strikes me as preferable to the narrow “single out gays and lesbians for discriminatory treatment” approach, creating an exemption only to marriage equality laws.

    I don’t think that the amendment will go anywhere, to be blunt. Amending Wisconsin’s constitution is a long process (requiring that a proposed amendment be passed by both houses in two consecutive sessions of the legislature, and then put to a vote by the people of the state), and opposition is mounting from a variety of sources.

    But it seems to me that it is a better approach than the “special rules for gays and lesbians only” approach that seems to be the current fashion.

    • posted by Mike in Houston on

      Nonsense. The entire purpose of that amendment is to nullify state non-discrimination statutes as they pertain to LGBT people and other things (like contraception) that the evangelical right wing hates – knowing full well that sexual orientation is not federally protected in the same way as religion (at true choice) or race.

      • posted by Tom Scharbach on

        Nonsense. The entire purpose of that amendment is to nullify state non-discrimination statutes as they pertain to LGBT people and other things (like contraception) that the evangelical right wing hates – knowing full well that sexual orientation is not federally protected in the same way as religion (at true choice) or race.


        Nonetheless, words have consequences, and particularly words in constitutions. The proposed amendment is broadly, and properly, drawn to apply to all laws, all instances of the exercise of personal conscience (including but not limited to religious conscience), andall citizens of the state.

        It does not prohibit the state from enacting laws that restrain the exercise of personal/religious conscience, but requires that the state, in so doing, have a compelling interest for doing so and do so with the least restrictive means.

        The evangelical right wing, from which the origin of the proposed amendment sprang, is beginning to understand the breadth and depth of the exemption, is beginning to understand that it will have consequences far different than the intended consequences, and is beginning to draw back, horrified at the idea of conscience/religious freedom for folks other than themselves.

        That’s why I said that I don’t think that the proposed amendment has prayer of becoming part of our constitution.

        I’m not sure how I feel about that.

        On the one hand, the proposed amendment would decimate non-discrimination laws and cripple health care in many respects, given that many rural areas of the state are served exclusively by Catholic hospitals. On the other hand, as a member of a minority religion which has, historically, been rolled whenever the Christian majority starts mindlessly enacting “morality” laws (think abortion laws), I recognize the importance of protecting conscience/religious freedom.

        My point, though, did not go to the wisdom of proposed conscience/religious exemption. It went to a different aspect of the discussion — the fact that the so-called “religious exemption” laws under discussion in this country are focused on one and only one aspect of law, that is, whether or not special exemptions should be given to those who object to equal treatment under the law for gays and lesbians.

        Why we engage in that discussion at all is beyond me. We should be raising hell about the fact that yet again, social conservatives want to single us out for discrimination, enacting laws that allow us to be treated in ways that the law does not allow for others.

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      It’s nothing more than special rights for certain kinds of Christians. I have some sympathy with the argument against forcing them only because the thought of some sour-pussed fundamentalist nutjob taking pictures of the event makes me sick. And I can’t imagine the pictures would be worth a damn if taken by someone so narrow-minded and bigoted.

  3. posted by Mike on

    A principled conservative position is to be opposed to all anti-discimination laws, under any basis (race, sex, sexual orientation, etc.) that are enforced against private businesses.

    However, is bigotry to only be opposed to anti-discrimination laws ONLY when they cover sexual orientation.

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      But isn’t it interesting then that no bill to repeal the anti-discrimination laws protected racial minorities, women, older people, etc are ever so much as discussed in committee when Republicans have control of the legislative process. I call bullshit on that argument. It hardly ever comes up except when we discuss gay people. The only exception I can think of is a simple response to a question from Rand Paul (which got quite a reaction) but has he proposed a bill?

  4. posted by Just Wondering on

    Why would anyone want to force a Photographer to take pictures against their will? Wouldn’t they take crappier pictures than someone whose heart is in it?

  5. posted by Mike in Houston on

    Apparently, folks around here have never had the experience of being denied service or choice because of being gay – or black or Jewish or other class… Nor do the folks screaming about religious liberty seem to understand the role of public accommodation laws as part of our social compact. One of the concurring opinions of this unanimous NM Supreme Court ruling sums it up perfectly:

    “In the smaller, more focused world of the marketplace, of commerce, of public accommodation, the Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people. That sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do, illuminates this country, setting it apart from the discord that afflicts much of the rest of the world. In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship. I therefore concur.”

    • posted by Don on

      Exactly. And this is what I find the most unrealistic about libertarian theory on free markets/freedom to discriminate/equality of effort. You can have people live or die on their own meritorious efforts and have a legal level playing field of opportunity or you can give up the legal mandate of equal opportunity and

      My white father regularly reminds me that he could never get into law school today (retired judge in Florida). He was a “C” student prior to law school in the 1960s. It was so much easier when black people knew they couldn’t go; and women knew they shouldn’t go. If you’re a white male over 65, you got where you are as a result of essentially disqualifying most all the competition. I’d love to see all these yahoos compete today with Gen X and younger. They’d be eaten alive.

      the younger generations do not know that George Will’s contemporaries know exactly why a level playing field is not such a good idea and fight it at every turn. they just don’t get that when you’re “playing to win” one of the best ways is to disqualify the competition. (anyone want to seque into immigration and that true motivation . . .)

  6. posted by acoolerclimate on

    As a Gay man, I would not want to hire a photographer who’s heart wasn’t in it. But I sure as heck would feel like crap if I tried to hire a photographer and was told they wouldn’t do it because I was gay. I’m sure none of us would enjoy the sting of that. I think the law is to make sure this doesn’t happen.

    But if the photographer just said they were sorry, but they were booked solid on that date, then I would go somewhere else without feeling like crap. They would get what they want, not shooting a same sex wedding, and I would not be stuck with a photographer who didn’t want to be there, but without the sting of being rejected for being gay.

    Win/win. But I think what Christians really want is not only to be able to refuse, but to be able to shame the gay person at the same time.

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      EXACTLY. If they had simply claimed to be booked on that day (a plausible excuse) the couple would never have been the wiser and simply found another photographer and we wouldn’t be discussing this case.

      In early 2000 I had to call golf courses around a certain resort int he southwest to find out which ones would allow all the executive officers of the company for which I was working at the time play. One was African American and another was Jewish. In 2000, not 1950. It made me sick to have to call but I did it. I gave them the out of just not calling me back if there were no tee times on the day they wanted to play. I didn’t want to make a stink. I just didn’t want any problems. How awful that such a thing was even an issue. but it is. There’s a lot of bigotry and discrimination still in our country and anyone who doesn’t acknowledge that is either a liar or has their heads up their asses.

  7. posted by Lori Heine on

    Conservative Christians who are anti-gay have actually contributed to the problem they now face. How? By perpetuating the lie that ALL Christians unanimously condemn same-sex love.

    That hasn’t been the case for thirty or forty years, now. And it is less likely to be the case now than ever before. Even some evangelical churches are now beginning to welcome gays — without demanding that they stay celibate or become straight.

    Anti-gay Christians keep returning to their little lie, like a dog to its vomit. They don’t want to let it go, because they really don’t want to have to debate gay-positive Christians on the issue. They know they have no really convincing case for holding onto their condemnation of same-sex love.

    Thus, when someone sues “Christians” for refusing to take wedding pictures, bake a cake or perform a ceremony, does the lie the very “Christians” have been perpetuating come back, like the vomit-eating dog, to bite them in the ass.

    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      I think you are right, Lori.

      And I think, as well, that conservative Christians contribute to the problem that they now face by:

      (a) overstating their case (as in the “pastors will be jailed for teaching the Gospel …” and in the “pastors will be forced to marry gays and lesbians …” tropes);

      (b) seeking exemption with respect to marriage equality, but ignoring similar cases such as remarriage after divorce, which knocks the props out from under the case they are trying to create (if a religious exemption is not needed to protect a Catholic priest for refusing to marry a divorced person, why is a religious exemption needed to protect a Catholic priest for refusing to marry a gay/lesbian couple) and exposes the animus that underlies the exemption for what it is;

      (c) touting “religious” exemptions as essential while (1) dismissing the need for (1) non-religious, personal conscience exemptions, and (2) religious exemptions for non-Christian (usually Muslim) adherents; and

      (d) pretending that every resistance to any sort of religious exemption to any law is equivalent, if not identical.

      I think that there is a place for conscience/religious exemption from religiously-neutral laws. I think that a serious discussion about the subject is appropriate, and the tainted behavior/goals of social conservatives should not deter us from having that discussion.

      But I do not — and will not — enter into a discussion about “religious” exemption so long as the discussion is confined to the merits of devising yet another way to target gays and lesbians for discrimination. Equal does mean equal.

    • posted by Don on

      I agree with Lori. They’re fighting a deeper culture war than just us. This is more akin to the feminism debate. It’s about losing the fight to define for everyone what a man and a woman are using the Old Testament. Biblically mandated male dominion is at the heart of the anti-gay marriage debate. This is why they cling to “it’s not a marriage” debate because it cannot be without a hierarchy based on possession of a penis.

      If the roots of this debate were exposed for what they are – a good interviewer could get down to it with lots of interviews – you would find out that its all about gender. We’re less like the racial equality than gender equality.

      And this is what churches mean when we’re “objectively disordered” as a couple. Break the words down and you can see the penis-based superiority regardless of merit. “objectively, we cannot be the right kind of couple.” most people think its about homosexuality and the sex stuff. oh that icks them out alright. but not nearly as much as the likelihood that we shall banish their style of thinking to the level of the Amish lifestyle: quaint but so backward as to be seen as bizarre.

      What they don’t realize is that it’s already happened. They have more in common with the Taliban than modern America. We just bring that out. And its why 23% will never move on this issue. Which, ironically, is the same percentage of people who think Obama was responsible for the Katrina fiasco.

      I’m done addressing that segment of the population.

    • posted by Doug on

      “like a dog to its vomit.” A most apt description of these conservative christians.

  8. posted by Jorge on

    You guys are too much principle, not enough ethics.

    It does not matter why gays are a special case or somehow distinct from blacks, or whether or not we should be. The fact is that we are. And we all share the same earth.

    To engage in a wrathful action against another is wrong on a social level and draws retaliation and hostility. Comparing sexual orientation to race in defense in your face attacks on the name of religious freedom fails because the civil rights movement never attacked religious freedom. It cloaked itself in the name or religion instead. There is a history of in your face, intolerant activism on the part of the civil rights movement… from after it achieved all its major victories to the present.

    Every so often there comes a sophisticated media and public relations campaign to convince this country that blacks are shamefully second-class citizens in this country. They go to bad schools, they can’t find work, the state keeps shooting and imprisoning their young men, they’re led by Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, they get underestimated because of affirmative action, most black babies are born to single-parent households, etc., etc., etc.

    Our time in the sun will be glorious, liberating and brief. Then we will fall.

  9. posted by Mark on

    I noticed that Jon Rauch (and of course Stephen) didn’t define what “moderation” in this context is. Should a religious florist be allowed to refuse to sell flowers to a gay couple? Should a religious bakery owner be allowed to refuse to bake a cake for a gay couple? Should a religious restaurant owner be allowed to refuse to serve a gay couple? Should a religious apartment owner be allowed to refuse to rent to a gay couple? Should a religious grocer be allowed to refuse to sell food to a gay couple?

    I assume Stephen and Jon would have no problem with any of the above, all in the name of moderation and anti-zealotry.

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      Let’s reverse that: Should a gay apartment owner be allowed to refuse to rent to Fundamentalist Christians? Should a gay florist be allowed to refuse to provide flowers for certain kinds of churches? Should a gay restauranteur be able to refuse to serve Christian diners? If it is okay one way, then it is right the other. Or wrong either way. The problem with rights is that we all have them. What I hear from my right wing relatives is about their right to deny rights to others. They seem deliberately obtuse to the argument that if they can discriminate against others, then others could discriminate against them.

      It should be noted, even though it is tangential, that currently the worst abuses of hiring discrimination are against those over 40. Since almost every online application (the way almost all of them work) begins with the question of date of birth, the discrimination is not only widespread but happening in the open with no noticeable reaction from anyone.

      • posted by Mark on

        It’s also worth noting that anti-discrimination protections are most needed in rural or exurban areas where anti-gay sentiment remains strong (recall the staffer from the eastern Washington legislator earlier this year suggesting it would be OK for a small-town grocer to refuse to sell a gay couple food, since they could grow it on their own). Perhaps Miller would oppose this sort of thing, and envisions an anti-discrimination law that applies to grocers but not to photographers. But it’s hard to imagine how such a law could be written effectively.

        • posted by Tom Scharbach on

          It’s also worth noting that anti-discrimination protections are most needed in rural or exurban areas where anti-gay sentiment remains strong (recall the staffer from the eastern Washington legislator earlier this year suggesting it would be OK for a small-town grocer to refuse to sell a gay couple food, since they could grow it on their own).

          That is certainly true.

          However, most of us living in rural areas think are used to driving 20-30 miles to shop, and 40-50 miles for hospital care. In the less densely populated rural areas (think Texas panhandle or the Dakotas) you can double that …

          But the distances don’t mean we have no choices. Michael and I have, for example, two grocery stores to choose from, each under 20 miles distant. The same is true of most other necessities like hardware stores and gun shops — two or three alternatives, all within 20-30 miles.

          Hospital care is more problematic. The two nearest hospitals (16 and 24 miles away, respectively) are both Catholic institutions, which can be a problem, so we use a non-religious hospital affiliated with the University of Wisconsin about 40 miles away. We have to drive farther, but it is worth it to be treated with respect and decency.

          All and all, it isn’t Chicago, where we could walk to two grocery stores, and had another half dozen within an easy drive. But we do have choices.

          In rural areas, we tend to know one another, which is an advantage when it comes to picking and choosing between businesses.

          Michael and I don’t patronize businesses that we know are owned by anti-equality advocates, and we support businesses that are owned by pro-equality advocates.

          We let the business owners know why we shop where we do, usually by thanking those who are pro-equality or otherwise gay-supportive. But we can lower the hammer, too, when necessary. I fired a concrete company pouring a foundation for me on the spot a few years ago after I heard one too many anti-gay remarks from the workers, called the boss to give him a chance to correct things, and he declined.

          We have an informal network in our county, typical of rural areas, so we generally have a good idea who thinks what, in broad terms, anyway.

  10. posted by JohnInCA on

    I assume Miller has no problem with this story:

    After all, it’s the place’s right to discriminate however they choose.

  11. posted by G.W. on

    The progressives commenting here are declaring, Thou shall have no God other than the progressive state, and thy fealty to the progressive state shall take precedence over any religious conviction, for any God that is placed above the progressive state is a false God (the state being the only true, scientific, and progressive deity worthy of worship).

    A secondary view claims that true Christian conviction is fine, but any Christian conviction that disagrees with the dictates of the progressive state is a false conviction, and therefore its adherents shall be afforded no rights by the state (from which all rights come) to practice their convictions by not actively doing what their religious convictions tell them not to do. Those who hold such false religious convictions shall be dissuaded and forced to kneel before the true faith, which preaches the dictates of the progressive state.

    Stephen is absolutely correct that this is the “liberalism” of Robespierre. And those who declare that the state must have this authority (for progressivism declares it so) should be ashamed of themselves. But alas, you have no shame.

    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      Do you support a broad personal conscience exemption, applicable to all laws, to all citizens regardless of religion or lack of religion, and all circumstances, treating each citizen’s exercise of the right of conscience on an equal basis?

      If not, methinks you are talking through your hat.

      • posted by Lori Heine on

        Exactly right. All too often, the people who moan and beat their breasts about “religious freedom” mean only freedom for themselves. They are the ideological heirs of those who sailed over on the Mayflower seeking the freedom to impose their own religious majority and persecute everybody else.

        • posted by Tom Scharbach on

          G.W. will speak for himself if he chooses, but his comment seems to be concerned about the religious conscience of Christians and not extend beyond that, which is why I asked the question.

          Christians are often (not always, but often) tone-deaf to the “elephant in the bed” problem faced by adherents of minority religions and by non-believers in the face of the Christian juggernaut in the United States.

          Although I understand your point about the Puritans, who promptly persecuted Roger Williams, an adherent of religious freedom, to the point where he had to flee and found his own colony to get out from under them, I don’t think that Christians set out to steamroll the adherents of minority religions out of evil intent, but do so as an inevitable result of the unthinking and clueless certainty of the majority.

          In any event, I recognize the importance of protecting freedom of conscience and think that our country would benefit from a serious discussion about the subject. But to be meaningful, the discussion has to extend beyond the self-interested determination of conservative Christians to protect themselves from laws recognizing “equal means equal”. That’s why I pointed to the efforts in Wisconsin to include broad freedom of conscience protections in our state constitution.

          I need not point out to you that whatever the merits of careful protection of freedom of conscience, personal conscience needs to be protected from a law if and only to the extent that there is a law to collide with the dictates of personal conscience.

          We would probably be a lot better off if we had about half as many laws as we do, and it would behoove both those on the liberal/progressive side and those on the conservative side to look seriously at that issue.

          You make that point often, Lori, and you are right to make it.

          • posted by Houndentenor on

            I am surrounded by the religious right down here. They scream persecution if anyone dares criticize them. When they talk about religious freedom they mean the right to impose their religion on everyone else. The problem with religious freedom is that it requires the state to stay out of religion and for everyone to recognize everyone else’s right to believe or not as they choose. When your religion teaches that you are right and everyone else is wrong (and in some cases, not just wrong but out to destroy society) it makes that difficult.

            And I’ll say this once again: as a person who is not religious, I find it offensive when people only frame matters of conscience in terms of religion. We all have a conscience and we have all been asked to do things that we didn’t feel were right. No one gave me a pass at any job because I objected to the morality of what was going on. I could either do it or find another job. So why should it be a valid argument for a county clerk to claim they shouldn’t have to issue marriage licenses to gay couples because of their religion? No one else has the right to refuse to do their job based on their religion.

  12. posted by Tom Jefferson III on

    1. The issue of creating ‘religious exemptions’ to laws is not always bad and it is not always good. Yet, despite some talk of ‘moderation’ it seems that the conservative narrative here is that all civil rights laws are all unjustly intrusive, because if a business owner does not want to hire, rent a room to or sell to ‘people x’, that is their religious right.

    • posted by Jorge on

      Rent a room?

      Should a Catholic owner of small hotel be required to rent a room with only one bed to a man and a woman who are not married?

      Yuck! I think not!

      • posted by Houndentenor on

        Are you married or celibate? Otherwise that was a curious response.

        • posted by Jorge on

          Which is part of the problem in this country: defining deviancy down.

          • posted by Houndentenor on

            Do you consider yourself a deviant? I certainly don’t. Other people’s Victorian hypocrisy is their own problem.

          • posted by Jorge on

            No, actually other people’s deviant behavior is everyone’s problem if it leads to a decline in moral standards and behavior. Especially if the power of the state is used to force people to be complicit in endorsing and condoning indecent behavior. Even if most of society chooses to go down a road that is wrong, it is the resistance and persecution of even the very few that serves to resist that wrong by calling it out for what it is.

          • posted by Houndentenor on

            Since the overall topic of this discussion is gay marriage, are you calling that indecent? I’m not sure I understand your point. Please give examples of this indecency and deviancy. Who knows, I might even agree with you depending on what you are actually talking about. In the abstract it’s hard to tell this from the sexual hypocrisy of the religious right.

          • posted by Jorge on

            My point is religious exemptions and accomodations are based on respecting those who are bound to stand for what is right even when that stands apart from the values of the wider community. It is based also on the principle that the state has no business making a decision for any religion about what is right or wrong, even and especially when the tenets of that religion call for clear and firm opposition to the standing social order.

            My specific point is exactly what Tom suggested: civil laws have reached a point where they are unjusty intrusive upon people’s private religious morals. You’re asking for examples? This topic, and a Catholic hotel owner being forced to a rent a room to an unmarried couple. You do not agree with either of my examples, but you may have a limit. Yes, I am well aware that my second example is a violation of the Civil Rights Act–and I am very comfortable maintaining my position in the face of that awareness.

          • posted by Jorge on

            “Civil laws” should be “civil rights laws”

  13. posted by Tom Jefferson III on

    1. I am not sure how the draft such a law, but I have already said that it is probably a good idea — for a decade or so — to say that small business owners that normally do wedding-related stuff don’t have to agree to contract with a gay couple if they are willing to claim a religious objection upfront (for all the world to see).

    2. A similar Constitutional ‘religious liberty’ amendment like that one on religion was floated in North Dakota. It did not pass, which was somewhat surprising. I live in Minnesota, so part of me almost wanted it to pass to see all sorts of things that the amendment would bring about..mostly legal challenges to state laws against anything from gay marriage to drugs and prostitution…

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      In that case, if a business is going to refuse to serve me, they should be required to post that information prominently on site and in all advertising so that I do not have to waste my time traveling there only to find that they won’t serve me.

      We already have laws that exempt churches from nondiscrimination laws. The idea that I can randomly decide not to do something and then offer my religion as an excuse will lead to chaos. Perhaps we should just wait for some state to pass this and watch the chaos that will inevitably ensue. The people who promote such nonsense never seem to grasp that theirs is not the only religion.

    • posted by JohnInCA on

      To be entirely honest, such a law is a complete non-starter with me unless it says “anyone”. Calling out gay people as an exception to non-discrimination laws but still requiring they be obeyed when it comes to race, faith, age, disability, sex and marital status? Sorry, but that’s playing favorites with bigotry.

      After all, the bible has a helluva lot more to say about adulterers (and remember, the bible doesn’t recognize divorce), heathens (all non-Christians by definition), and the proper place of women (not very high) then it ever has about gay people.

      So go for it. Get your religious exceptions to discriminate. But don’t discriminate in who can be discriminated against in the name of religion. To single out gay people is to be a coward going for the easy target.

  14. posted by Don on

    The simple answer is that libertarians chafe at all government mandates. They recognize that criminal acts such as robbery and murder are obviously necessary. But after harming each other in a direct, violent deprivation of life or property, there should almost never be any other type of law. Although I find the thinking appealing, I just can’t get on that page.

    Christians are baffled by the opposition. And their blind spot to other religions is because they are repeatedly indoctrinated into the idea that if they coerce others into thinking and acting as they do, they are doing you the greatest favor of your life. It’s called “saving” for crying out loud.

    This is why they are completely unable to see that buying a candy bar from a muslim in a 7-11 is not endorsing Allah, which is the inverse of their argument. I cannot rent or provide services to someone who thinks differently than I do. I must coerce them to believe as I believe through public shaming of their choices. So buying stuff made in China at WalMart is an endorsement of atheism and communism?

    There is no need for a religious exemption law. There is a need to let go of the silly idea that if I hire you or rent a room to you, I have endorsed every action you have ever taken in your life. Every employee must adhere to all of your religious beliefs whether you share them or not. That’s illegal. So why is this so horrific?

    I’d definitely shop elsewhere when it came to anti-gay types personally. But I believe for libertarian self-reliance to work, then a mandated level playing field is necessary. For me, it’s the lesser of two evils.

  15. posted by Mike in Houston on

    Stephen says: “For all those declaring the supremacy of the state over an individual’s religious convictions, and its authority to force behavior that violates religious convictions, shame on you.”

    “Shame on you”?

    Really? What an interesting way of engaging in debate about civil liberties (and whether or not someone’s actual religious freedom is curtailed by being made to abide by business regulations).

    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      “Shame on you”? Really?

      Stephen is really wound up on this issue, for whatever reason. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen him so close to the edge of flipping off into a rant, and I’ve been reading IGF since 2004.

      • posted by Mark on

        And yet as wound up as he is, he doesn’t say whether he supports repeal of the public accommodations section of the Civil Rights Act. If we should be shamed by public accommodations laws dealing with sexual orientation (about which, it seems, Stephen now supports total repeal, since any anti-gay owner can cite the Bible), should we also be shamed by public accommodations laws that force anti-black business owners who cite the Bible to nonetheless serve black customers?

        • posted by Mike in Houston on

          Here is another quote from the decision, which rationally lays out the constitutional boundaries that seem to be beyond some folks:

          “In a constitutional form of government, personal, religious, and moral beliefs, when acted upon to the detriment of someone else’s rights, have constitutional limits. One is free to believe, think and speak as one’s conscience, or God, dictates. But when actions, even religiously inspired, conflict with other constitutionally protected rights–in Loving the right to be free from invidious racial discrimination–then there must be some accommodation. Recall that Barnette was all about the students; their exercise of First Amendment rights did not infringe upon anyone else. The Huguenins cannot make that claim. Their refusal to do business with the same-sex couple in this case, no matter how religiously inspired, was an affront to the legal rights of that couple, the right granted them under New Mexico law to engage in the commercial marketplace free from discrimination.”

        • posted by Tom Scharbach on

          And yet as wound up as he is, he doesn’t say whether he supports repeal of the public accommodations section of the Civil Rights Act.

          Don’t hold your breath waiting. Stephen rarely offers any insight into what he believes. Even when he appears to give us a look at personal convictions, it is usually chimera.

          Take this post on marriage equality and abortion, for example.

          Read the last paragraph a couple of times, and see if you can discern where Stephen stands on the question of whether the government, rather than individual citizens, should be the arbiter of moral decisions with respect to abortion.

          I can’t. That’s what I mean.

      • posted by Dale of the Desert on

        Changing and regulating behavior seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable and essential function of the law. I mnay have to tolerate your beliefs or attitudes, but I need not tolerate your behavior if it endangers my position on a level playing field. If you loath me and wish me dead, I will respect your right to feel that way, and I will likely keep my distance from you wherever possible. But you should not be permitted to act out on that wish for my demise, whether in the name of religious conviction or not.

        In the case under discussion, I have the nagging suspicion that the brides-to-be set this photographer up, a sort of entrapment if you will, and I suspect they would not have actually hired her in any event. But the point is that, regardless of whether their motivation was earnest or nefarious, the decision on whether or not to hire a photographer should be that of the client, not of the photographer whenever the latter is offering a service in the general public arena.

  16. posted by Don on

    its kinda quiet here about the Carl DeMaio dust-up dontcha think? After all the Filner is evil AND a democrat, I would think Carl gettin’ busted or at least accused of masturbating in the City Hall toilet would at least warrant a mention.

    Especially after Filner got a pretty good rousting.

    Then again, maybe not. after hoisting everyone else up, it must be hard to find the hoist attached to one’s own petard.

  17. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    I think this comment gets it right.

    The progressives commenting here are declaring, Thou shall have no God other than the progressive state, and thy fealty to the progressive state shall take precedence over any religious conviction, for any God that is placed above the progressive state is a false God (the state being the only true, scientific, and progressive deity worthy of worship).

    You believe that progressives worship the state as a deity?

    To my mind, that is as ignorant as insisting that Catholics worship statues.

    But I acknowledge that your view is very common among conservatives, so I guess it is a case of to each his own, Stephen.

    To my mind, you’ve all gone right over the edge.

  18. posted by E. Carpenter on

    Look at the Christian history here in North America, from Colonial times to the present.

    Devout mainstream Christians, for several hundred years, claimed that slavery was sanctioned by God and the bible, and that Black people were inferior in the eyes of God. After slavery was abolished, they still claimed that racial segregation was the will of God. When racial segregation was abolished, many still claimed that racial intermarriage was sinful, and should be criminal, since it was against the will of God. These positions are no longer mainstream, but they all still exist as minority religious interpretations in the U.S.A..

    If you say businesses open to the public don’t have to serve gay customers if they have religious objections, you also have to say they don’t have to serve racially diverse couples, mixed-race people, Black people, etc if they have religous objections.

    If you carry granting religious exemption to the laws to it’s conclusion, you also have to allow people to enslave other people if they do it according to the rules laid down in the bible or another holy book, you have to allow people to sell their daughters since it’s sanctioned by God in the bible, and you have to allow a whole raft of other practices (like killing children who curse at their parents) which are endorsed by the Bible and other holy books, but which violate the fundamental freedoms which we claim this country is founded on.

    Discriminating against Gay people in a business which is open to the public is against the law in many jurisdictions, and Christians and other religious people have to accept this additional restriction on their behavior, along with the anti-slavery and anti-daughter-selling and can’t-kill-kids-for-cursing restrictions. Just because a religion’s holy book says something is ok does not mean it is either moral or right, and behavior which discriminates against whole classes of people on religious grounds has no place in public commercial enterprises. And some behavior, like the killing of kids for cursing at their parents thing, has to be prohibited even in religious contexts, for the protection of children. “God told me to do it” is just not enough to justify some behaviors.

    • posted by Jorge on

      If you say businesses open to the public don’t have to serve gay customers if they have religious objections, you also have to say they don’t have to serve racially diverse couples, mixed-race people, Black people, etc if they have religous objections.

      They don’t.

      If you carry granting religious exemption to the laws to it’s conclusion, you also have to allow people to enslave other people if they do it according to the rules laid down in the bible or another holy book

      Actually, that’s not true at all. The Thirteenth Amendment controls. In situations where the Thirteenth Amendment conflicts with the First Amendment, such as the one you mentioned, the level of clarity in the latter amendment will overrule the First Amendment. At the time the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, the controlling law on slavery in the United States was the Supreme Court decision in the Dred Scott case.

      Similarly, if there is cause, there are limits on the First Amendment. For example, the First Amendment places tremendous protections on religious beliefs, acts of worship, and on such things as ordination and selection of “ministers” and followers. Far more limited are protections to civil actions that are taken because of one’s religious beliefs. Understand the distinction? You can call President Bush the Devil because you believe Jane Fonda said so, but you may not exorcise him.

      You are trying to suggest is that there are no limits to civil rights laws. If even the Bill of Rights can be limited by other compelling legislative forces, how can you posit that these same legislative forces cannot be even more restricted by the Bill of Rights itself?

      The logical conclusion of religious exemption laws is that they exist to enshrine and define a constitutional right to be of equal importance as civil rights legislation that goes above and beyond the protections of the Bill of Rights. This is true of civil rights protections for blacks, and it is true of civil rights protections for gays.

      In the case of state law, they have their own constitutions which may be stronger than the US Constitution. But now this case is in federal court, and the states may not overstep the US Constitution.

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