Who Supports Freedom of Expression, and Who Doesn’t

The libertarian Cato Institute has a major new survey report on The State of Free Speech and Tolerance in America.

Among the many, many findings were several on LGBT-related issues. For instance, the national survey of more than 2,500 U.S. adults found that just half of Americans (50%) say that business should be required to provide services to gay and lesbian people even if doing so violates their religious convictions, but 68% say that bakers should not be required to bake a custom cake for same-sex weddings if it violates religious convictions, while only 32% would force them to do so.

By party, just over half (52%) of Democrats would require bakers to bake a custom cake for same-sex weddings, while 13% of Republicans would require that a baker do so. LGBT progressives who think that they have sweeping support for this are mistaken.

On hate speech, 40% think government should prevent hate speech in public. Also, 59% of liberals say it’s hate speech to say transgender people have a mental disorder, while only 17% of conservatives agree. And 51% of Democrats support a law that requires Americans to use transgender people’s preferred gender pronouns.

Looking further at LGBT issues, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say a business executive should be fired if he or she believes:
— transgender people have a mental disorder (44% Democrats vs. 14% Republicans).
— homosexuality is a sin (32% Democrats vs. 10% Republicans).

While some may feel that personal belief unrelated to job behavior in this circumstance shouldn’t cause anyone to be fired, it’s interesting that Americans appear more opposed to a lack of acceptance toward transgender people than toward gays and lesbians.

Guy Benson shares his take:

3 Comments for “Who Supports Freedom of Expression, and Who Doesn’t”

  1. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    From the CATO findings:

    Americans Say Wedding Businesses Should Be Required to Serve LGBT People, Not Weddings

    The public distinguishes between a business serving people versus weddings:

    • A plurality (50%) of Americans say that businesses should be required to “provide services to gay and lesbian people,” even if doing so violates the business owner’s religious beliefs.
    • But, 68% say a baker should not be required to provide a special-order wedding cake for a same-sex wedding if doing so violates their religious convictions.

    Few support punishing businesses who refuse service to same-sex weddings. Two-thirds (66%) say nothing should happen to a bakery who refuses to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. A fifth (20%) would boycott the bakery. Another 22% think government should sanction the bakery in some way, such as by fining the bakery (12%), requiring an apology (10%), issuing a warning (8%), taking away their business license (6%), or sending the baker to jail (1%).

    I wonder what the results would have been if the question had been about a baker providing special-order wedding cake for:

    (a) a wedding for divorced and remarried couple, if doing so violates the baker’s religious convictions; or
    (b) a wedding of another (e.g. Christian or Jewish or Muslim) religion, if doing so violates the baker’s religious convictions; or
    (c) a wedding between a mixed-race couple, if doing so violates the baker’s religious convictions;

    and so on, running through the permutations of likely religious objection to particular weddings.

    I don’t know, but I suspect that the results would have been quite different, depending on the case.

    That leads to a few thoughts:

    (1) Public opinion, particularly public opinion on controversial, highly politicized issues, measured in the heat of the moment, is not a good guide for sound public policy, if for no other reason than that public opinion changes over time as the controversy calms down. If the public had been polled about laws requiring a baker to provide a special-order wedding cake for interracial marriages in 1969 (two years after Loving, at a time when about 75% of Americans opposed interracial marriage), results would almost certainly have been quite different than if the poll were taken today.

    (2) Although CATO’s polling focused exclusively on religious objection to same-sex marriage, the constitutional question that will be answered by the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop cannot be confined to same-sex marriage, unless the Supreme Court holds that religious objection to same-sex marriage is entitled to a special, elevated level of constitutional protection not afforded to religious objection to other (e.g. interracial, inter-religious, inter-denominational, and so on) weddings. I don’t think that the Supreme Court will make that holding, and I cannot come up with a sound basis on which the Supreme Court could do so. As much as conservatives want to be able to carve out special exemptions to public accommodations laws permitting targeted discrimination against same-sex weddings in particular, and gays and lesbians in general, the constitution doesn’t work that way, and doesn’t permit it unless clear and compelling reasons closely related to the common good exist for doing so.

    With respect to CATO’s polling overall (as in “Who Supports Freedom of Expression, and Who Doesn’t”), the polling demonstrates, yet again, that Americans have high regard for free speech that agrees with their opinions, but not so much otherwise.

    That’s not news to me, having supported the ACLU’s efforts to protect freedom of speech for decades.

    It shouldn’t be news to anyone else, either. Remember Westboro Baptist and the number of states/municipalities that tried to ban their protests at soldier’s funerals?

  2. posted by Jorge on

    “College Students, African Americans, Latinos Say Disrespectful People Don’t Deserve Free Speech Rights.”

    They don’t. They deserve to be spanked. Disrespectful people shame their parents and their upbringing.

    That’s a sloppy question because it mixes the issue of civil liberties with the issues of moral and social order. Zsa Zsa Gabor infamously slapped a police officer. Antifa wants to “punch a Nazi.” These may or may not be the right things to do at a moment in time. Violence, used sparingly, sends a powerful message about the need to respect social boundaries and engage in moral conduct. But a society in which everyone is judge, jury, and executioner leads to terrible abuses of power. You have to be prepared for the consequences of committing violence in a society that cannot afford not to punish it.

  3. posted by David Bauler on

    Many Americans like freedom of expression when they like what is being expressed.

    For example; Why cant a small time baker avoid making cakes for say, Irish or Swedes or Catholics based on the same principle being used with gay wedding cakes?

    In the area of election law, we often see certain political parties getting more freedom of expression then others, with people usually only objecting if it impacts their party.

    This sort of hypocriscy may be acceptable in certain social settings, but making it a legal idea, is just wrong.

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