Florist Case Sent Back for Rehearing


More. Tyler O’Neil at PJ Media writes:

It appears Stutzman will have to show what Phillips showed — that anti-Christian bias was fundamental to the original ruling against her. This will prove more difficult than in Phillips’ case, and the odds are good that the Washington Supreme Court will reissue its old ruling, again prompting a Supreme Court appeal.

Perhaps in 2020 or 2021, the Supreme Court will finally defend free speech and religious freedom, explaining that a Christian florist’s decision to opt out of serving a same-sex wedding is fundamentally different from refusing to serve all LGBT people. Only at that point will justice truly have been served.

Compromise Can Be the Best Way

A compromise on LGBT nondiscriminination rights and religious liberty rights requires that both sides recognize that the other also has rights, and that sometimes these rights conflict and reasonable and workable compromises must be sought.

I’m more partial toward recognizing the right not to be forced to engage in activities that violate religious conscience in the private sector, and in particular the rights of small business owners not to be forced by the state to engage in expressive activities that violate their beliefs. But it seems like the outcome of this North Carolina case regarding a public official is fair to both sides—the individual magistrate does not have to officiate at the same-sex wedding ceremony as long as someone is on hand to provide these services.

This, by the way, differs from the situation in 2015 involving County Clerk Kim Davis in Kentucky, where she would not allow anyone in her office to issue same-sex marriage certificates, including clerks who had no issues with doing so.

A different compromise was reached in that case: Gov. Matt Bevin issued an executive order that removed the names of all county clerks from marriage licenses issued in Kentucky. I wrote at the time:

Government officials are responsible for following the law of the land, even when doing so is at odds with their own religious beliefs. They are public servants, not private, self-employed service providers.

But it’s for the good if a small, symbolic action can defuse a contentious “culture war” face off and serve civility without diminishing individual rights, and I tend to see that happening here.

Allowing individual magistrates to opt out as long as no couple is denied a prompt marriage takes things a bit further, but if no couple is harmed I don’t see a problem. It’s akin to not making religiously observant employees work on the sabbath.

Tolerance Is Not a One-Way Street

A word of caution from Andrew Sullivan, an early, forceful advocate of marriage equality and supporter of Barack Obama:

The freedom of any baker to express himself is, in this respect, indistinguishable from that of any gay person to do so — a truth that our current tribalism blinds so many to. I hope, in other words, that the baker prevails — but that the Supreme Court decision doesn’t turn on religious so much as artistic freedom.

More. The response from many on the LGBTQ+ progressive left has been fear-mongering, with little to no empathy for religiously conservative small business owners and often dismissive of religious liberty itself and the right not to be coerced by the state, on pain of losing one’s livelihood (or worse), to engage in expressive activity that violates deeply held religious belief.
Slate: How Clueless Straight White Guys Excuse Religious Homophobia.

What the left keeps getting wrong:

Not Just Off the Shelf


The Wall Street Journal opines:

At issue is whether baker Jack Phillips, who opposes same-sex marriage out of sincere religious beliefs, can be compelled to custom design a cake for a gay nuptial. …

While some on the left liken Mr. Phillips to hotel owners in the Jim Crow era, there’s no evidence of invidious discrimination. Mr. Phillips and others who have denied wedding services to same-sex nuptials have consistently served gays in other contexts. Mr. Phillips said he would sell the gay couple other baked goods—simply not a custom wedding cake.

As the editorial notes, the issue pits the government’s interest in social equality against an individual’s constitutional right to express his beliefs.

Islamaphobia?


Meanwhile: Advocates protest anti-LGBT violence, Islamophobia in Dupont Circle.

There seems to be a fair amount of confusion over whether criticism of Islamic homophobia is Islamaphobia. But try this: would these advocates rally in defense of the rights of Christian fundamentalists? Alternatively, would they ever demand that a halal bakery create desserts for a same-sex wedding?

More. Chris Barron, in a blurb for the satirical Social Justice Warrior Handbook, says it’s invaluable for “the modern LGBTQIA activist desperate to fight the oppression of pronouns and gender specific bathrooms all while ignoring the barbaric treatment of LGBT people in the Islamic world.”

The Rejection of Compromise: Take Two

The polarizing conflict between religious liberty (here without the delegitimatizng “scare quotes” so ubiquitous in LGBT circles) and gay rights/LGBT anti-discrimination law was addressed by Jonathan Rauch, a past Independent Gay Forum contributing author, when he spoke at the University of Illinois Law School recently (viewable here via YouTube, about 40 minutes).

Rauch starts by noting that to understand where we are in the discussion of gay rights versus religious liberty, consider two bills now before Congress:

One is called the Equality Act. It would grant [LGBT] Americans…protection from housing, employment and public-accommodations discrimination under federal law, which is something that we lack at present. It’s championed by Democrats and liberals.

The other piece of legislation is called the First Amendment Defense Act, or FADA. It would pre-emptively shield all those people who object to same sex marriages or who choose to discriminate against same-sex marriages…whether on religious or moral grounds…from any federal sanction or disallowance of benefit…. It is championed, as you would imagine, by Republicans and conservatives.

Though coming at the question from opposite corners, the two bills have something in common: each tries to take all the marbles and leave the other side with nothing, or at least with as little as possible. The Equality Act includes a provision revoking any protection which religious objectors might enjoy under the [federal] Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The First Amendment Defense Act shields the objectors from discrimination while leaving gay people wholly unprotected from discrimination under federal law.

If these bills are opening positions in a negotiation, then what should ultimately happen is legislative bargaining leading to the obvious compromise: protections for gay people plus exemptions for religious objectors.

That, however, seems unlikely to happen because advocates on both sides aren’t interested in forging a compromise—which, Rauch notes, is “emblematic of an unfortunate development: an issue on which a few years ago there seemed to be reasonably good prospects for reasonable accommodations…has hardened into legal and political trench warfare.”

To which I’d add, the polarization/compromise-rejection serves those who don’t actually want a solution because they profit from permanent cultural warfare. And that’s because ongoing cultural war equals (1) big money flowing to advocacy groups and (2) hot-button issues that the political parties can use to fire-up their respective bases.

The Methodists’ Time for Choosing

The United Methodist Church—the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the U.S. and the third largest U.S. denomination overall—ends its quadrennial general convention in Portland, Ore., later this week. As the Washington Post reports:

The focus has been on whether to change or keep the denomination’s rejection of homosexuality. But a broader question is up for a vote: What do the 13 million Methodists from Africa to Asia to America have in common? …

Delegates from dozens of countries will consider the possibility of full inclusion of LGBT people, the “agree to disagree” option, whether gay people can be ordained, the question of officiating at same-sex weddings, whether such weddings can be held in Methodist churches and whether the current Book of Discipline wording should remain.

Roughly half of the denomination’s members are from the U.S., and while it appears a majority of North American conference delegates support LGBT inclusion, 30% of the delegates come from Africa, “where Methodists tend to be much more conservative on issues of homosexuality,” the Post reports.

Of the three options (1) maintain the anti-LGBT prohibitions, (2) embrace LGBT inclusion, and (3) let difference countries/regions adopt their own policies, the last may be the best that can be hoped for, and indeed the right solution for a church so at odds with itself. But there’s a strong likelihood that the anti-gay contingents, with some support from conservative U.S. Methodists, will keep the prohibitions in place. We’ll see.

The conference is also dealing with four measures proposing the church divest its investments from Israeli companies, and last January the church’s pension fund removed five Israeli banks from its portfolio. If the conference maintains its anti-gay policies and extends its anti-Israeli policies, then U.S. members should seriously consider whether affiliating with a global church that shuns the light and embraces bigotry is where they wish to celebrate the Lord.

Update. They punted, voting to delay all consideration of gay-related proposals via a commission that will spend at least two years reviewing policy on the subject:

But global membership is moving in the conservative direction, and during the Conference the progressives were watching their many proposed measures advancing equality get voted down in subcommittees, while conservatives’ efforts to strengthen the rules were advancing. …

Yet several conservative United Methodists from Africa spoke Wednesday from the floor, demanding their chance to vote on measures aimed at shoring up the ban on gay life. Conservatives in the church have been pushing for trials and other punishment for United Methodist pastors who come out or who officiate at same-sex weddings.

And this:

The vote Wednesday night in Portland, Ore., came one day after news leaked that bishops and various leaders were meeting over a plan to separate.

I wish the U.S. church had voted to leave.

More. On a positive note, the anti-Israeli propositions also lost. I should have clarified that the anti-Israeli push came predominantly from U.S. progressives, who also were among those supporting the gay-inclusive resolutions—the same conundrum we see with the Presbyterians and other denominations where the progressive left is at odds with the conservative right, and fie on both.

For Schism

The primates of the worldwide Anglican Communion on Jan. 14 suspended the Episcopal Church USA “from full participation in the life and work of the Anglican Communion” for a period of three years, to give the Episcopal Church time to recant its pro-gay ways.

The motion, presented to a gathering of archbishops in Canterbury Cathedral, was backed by the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), which consists of conservative Anglican bishops and leaders working “to guard and proclaim the unchanging, transforming Gospel through biblically faithful preaching.”

To translate, the issue was the Episcopal Church’s ordination of gay clergy and its policy of allowing churches to perform and sanction same-sex marriages.

The anti-gay Anglicans include a small number of U.S. and U.K. “high church” or Anglo-Catholic traditionalists who seek to be more reactionary on matters theological than Rome. But the main thrust for disciplining the U.S. church comes from the vast majority of Anglicans who reside outside the West. Specifically, African bishops, representing 60 percent of Anglicans worldwide, resist Western tolerance of homosexuality, to put it mildly.

As David Boaz writes in Newsweek, there was fear that archbishops from six African countries—Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, South Sudan, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo—might have walked out if the archbishop of Canterbury, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, didn’t sanction the U.S. Episcopal Church for consecrating gay bishops and allowing Episcopal churches to perform same-sex weddings. Boaz praises the Anglican archbishop of South Africa, who has urged his church to abandon its “practices of discrimination,” which distinguishes South Africa on a continent where virulent homophobia is treated as gospel. (Despite racial oppression, South Africa is a country where Western enlightenment values always had a foothold, Boaz notes, which was significant in defeating Apartheid.)

In contrast, let’s look at some of the churches that demanded the U.S. Episcopal Church be sanctioned. The Anglican church in Uganda has no problem with draconian laws persecuting gay people:

In response to the Anglican Church of Canada’s intervention, Bishop Joseph Abura of the Karamoja Diocese wrote an editorial saying, “Ugandan Parliament, the watch dog of our laws, please go ahead and put the anti-Gay laws in place. It is then that we become truly accountable to our young and to this country, not to Canada or England. We are in charge!” Although the Anglican Church in Uganda opposes the death penalty, its archbishop, Henry Luke Orombi, did not take a position on the bill.

Some prelates of the Rwanda church joined in their country’s tribal genocide:

Tutsis were murdered en masse in Rwanda in part because they flocked to places of worship for refuge…. In fact, both the Catholic and Anglican churches in Rwanda were deeply complicit in the genocide. … Astonishingly, church figures across Rwanda played a leading role in legitimizing and even inflicting genocidal killing.

These are the churches that anti-gay American Anglicans have chosen to affiliate themselves with.

The United Methodist Church—the nation’s largest mainline denomination—faces a similar issue as it remains officially opposed to same-sex marriage and defrocks it’s ministers who perform same-sex weddings. Here, too:

Many observers—both inside and outside of the [Methodist] church—note that the global nature of the church, in particular its growth in Africa, where homosexuality is often still taboo, is a major hurdle for those hoping to change church policy.

Let the churches of the light rise up to the Light; and those that present their hatred as righteousness dwell in the heart of darkness together.

More. I say, vote yes for independency, as Americans did in 1776.

Also, the Pilgrims, who were Separatists and not Puritans (despite the common misperception) had it right. They wanted to separate from the Anglican Church and believed attempting to “purify” it would only corrupt them.

Furthermore. Before the Jan. 14 vote, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry told the primates gathering in Canterbury:

Many of us have committed ourselves and our church to being ‘a house of prayer for all people,’ as the Bible says, when all are truly welcome. Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all.

I also like this thought. Catherine M Wallace, a cultural historian and literary theologian, writes:

Like Christians of the past, we are to engage the tradition with the best critical tools and broadest moral sensitivity available to us, trusting that God is with us and within us, calling us always to courage and to compassion, calling us to be bread for a starving world. …

For some people, religion must be rigid, absolutist and judgmental in order to count as “religion.” That need for self-righteous absolutes is perhaps the deepest anxiety of all.