Political Disagreement and Demonization

On Donald Trump’s selection of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate, the Washington Post reports:

Clinton backers criticized Pence as a social warrior. Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay rights advocacy group, called him “the face of anti-LGBTQ hate in America.”

The governor, Griffin said, “has made attacking the rights and dignity of LGBT people a cornerstone of his political career — not just a part, but a defining part of his career.”

Pence’s gubernatorial tenure has been marked by a law he signed last year that could have allowed businesses to refuse service to gay people — sparking a national firestorm and a backlash from the business and — professional-sports communities that forced Pence to revise the statute.

A bit of perspective here. Griffin is a long-time personal and professional associate of the Clintons, a hyperpartisan who sees his role as funneling LGBT labor, votes and dollars to the Democratic party.

Pence is a social conservative, to be sure. But in Griffin’s view and that of the LGBT establishment, any disagreement with the left-progressive LGBT agenda makes you a ripe target for demonization. This is important, because it suggests that there can be no legitimate disagreement on the competing rights of gay legal equality and individual religious freedom.

The LGBT establishment and liberal media can put all the scare quotes they want around “religious liberty”—the way that social conservatives used to (and sometimes still do) put scare quotes around “gay marriage.” That doesn’t overcome the inconvenient truth that, in America, individuals do (or at least should) have the right not to be compelled by the state to engage in activities that violate their religious faith. And claims by the liberal left that such faith is wrongheaded does not (or should not) rob believers of that right.

Competing rights, in a constitutional system, are not easy to reconcile, and there will always be conflict around them. Demonizing those on the other side—the default position of the progressive left—only makes clear who the haters are, and, increasingly, it’s usually not the social conservatives.

That said, the Indiana religious freedom bill was, in my view, poorly constructed. Legislation to protect the rights of small business owners not to be compelled to provide creative services for same-sex weddings should not single out gay people as a class for whom discrimination is generally permissible. I don’t believe that was the intent of the legislation, but its supporters left themselves vulnerable to that interpretation.

On the wider issue of the 2016 presidential campaign, I’ve made it clear that I’m supporting the Libertarian party ticket of former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and his vice presidential running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld—not because I have any illusions that they’ll win, or even because I agree with them on every issue (I don’t), but because I think supporting third parties whose views mostly align with your own may eventually have a constructive effect on the two major parties, if you believe (as I do) that both have gone seriously astray.

I see Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as untenable candidates, for different reasons. And sure, if LGBT rights is your predominant interest and you feel it is absolutely vital to ensure that the government force owners of small bakeries and independent wedding planners to provide their services to same-sex weddings (because, you know, “Jim Crow”), then of course you’ll be behind Clinton.

But while I find Trump’s nativist appeals and economic nationalism wrongheaded, and his style far beneath the dignity of the presidency, I think Clinton’s foreign policy misjudgments as Secretary of State (especially as regards Libya), her grossly misguided handling of classified e-mails and lying about it, her providing favors for Clinton Foundation donations, her pandering to the teachers unions in opposing vitally necessary public education reforms, and now her championing of the worst ideas of Bernie Sanders as regards entitlement expansion, all make her unacceptable.

I’d like the Democratic party to move back to the center on economic issues, and for the GOP to let go of its opposition to gay legal equality. I support reasonable restrictions on late-term abortions, especially partial birth abortion which seems to me little different from infanticide. Also, I don’t think the federal government should be using taxpayer money to pay for abortion, which a great many taxpayers view as the taking of human life.

And I don’t have a problem with allowing independent service providers to turn down gigs involving same-sex weddings if, in their view, to take those assignments would violate their religious faith (civil servants, as government employees, are different).

I’m sure that, in Chad Griffin’s view, that makes me a “hater.”

More. Walter Olson tweets about Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Pence backed along with other social conservatives:

Reminder: Indiana RFRA law had fairly moderate content, but sank in part b/c it was seen as pet project of so-con hard-liners around Pence.

It all brings to mind Chris Bull and John Gallagher’s book on the culture wars of the ‘90s, Perfect Enemies, in which they observed: “As some leaders on both sides have discovered, it is easiest to raise money when your opponent is demonized out of all recognition.”

Which, of course, takes us to Everyone I don’t like is Hitler—demonstrated here and elsewhere—and Why everyone we don’t like is not.

GOP Platform Goes Back to the Past

Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory T. Angelo writes:

…the Republican Party passed the most anti-LGBT Platform in the Party’s 162-year history. Opposition to marriage equality, nonsense about bathrooms, an endorsement of the debunked psychological practice of “pray the gay away” — it’s all in there. … When given a chance to follow the lead of our presumptive presidential nominee and reach out to the LGBT community in the wake of the awful terrorist massacre in Orlando on the gay nightclub Pulse, the Platform Committee said NO.

The committee was stacked with social conservatives, a large number of whom were pledged to Ted Cruz. Nevertheless, LCR remains committed to “take back the Party,” and it will happen, but not this year. As Guy Benson tweets, “…that is where the party remains today, even as many GOP-leaning voters now favor SSM, especially among younger demos…”

From The Hill:

The majority of the panel was made up of hard-line social conservatives such as Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. Perkins and other social conservatives on the panel had a strong enough majority to push through the bulk of the measures they sought.

But the Perkins wing was met with vocal opposition from Annie Dickerson, an adviser to billionaire GOP donor Paul Singer, who is a proponent of same-sex marriage and other issues championed by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Dickerson fumed as her socially liberal proposals went down and the socially conservative measures she opposed sailed through the subcommittee.

The Federalist argues that some of the reaction is exaggerated:

Others also reported that Republicans had scrubbed and stripped “LGBT language” from a plank dealing with Islamic terrorism, even though the GOP had stripped any mention of all individual groups, including Christians, Jews, and women. That certainly gives the news a different context.

Some reporters seem to be creating the impression (or maybe they believe) that conservatives are so homophobic they’re unwilling to accept the notion that radical Islam targets gays, even after Orlando. This is absurd and willfully misleading. Most conservatives have gone out of their way to point out that Islamism is genuinely and violently homophobic. It is often liberals who refuse to acknowledge that radical Islamic terrorism has a purpose and that it is what drove someone to specifically target a gay nightclub.

And let’s recall that there is much destructive nonsense of the leftist variety in the Democratic platform as well. Both parties now use these quadrennial declarations to placate their most ideologically hardcore activists, expecting (and hoping) that the general public won’t take much notice. That doesn’t excuse these expressions of extremism, it just explains what’s going on.

A final point. On another issue dealing with sexuality. the GOP platform takes aim at porn. David Boaz writes about the anti-porn plank:

A Republican National Convention platform committee has declared pornography “a public health crisis.” Committee members don’t seem to know what “public health” means.

I’ll just mention than while not all feminists see pornography as a threat to society, anti-porn feminists find themselves oddly aligned with religious right social conservatives on this matter—even though the increased availability of pornography tracks with declining statistics for violent rape.

More. The two-party system:

New York Times: Emerging Republican Platform Goes Far to the Right.

Washington Post: Democrats shift to the left in this past weekend’s platform fight.

Furthermore. Another Washington Post report, While Trump stays out of it, GOP platform tacks to the right on gay rights, has some interesting observations:

Chris Barron, a gay conservative strategist, said the platform is a document with few teeth. …

“Platform fights are like the fourth game of an NFL pre-season — the stars don’t play, the games don’t count, and if you win, it’s irrelevant,” said Barron….

“Every four years the nominees make it clear that they don’t speak for the platform,” he said. “They speak for themselves. We have the most pro-gay nominee of the Republican Party ever in Donald Trump, and that’s what matters.”

Maybe, or maybe a bit of “Who wanted to be invited to your party anyway.”

The Culture War’s Changing Tides

Columnist Barton Swaim, writing in the Washington Post, asks: The left won the culture war. Will they be merciful?

Swaim takes note that a growing number of religious conservatives “are rethinking their role in American society and politics,” as they concede they’ve lost the fight to have the law and culture reflect their traditionalist views on marriage and sexuality. Increasingly, they now seek, in the words of Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, “to live faithfully in a world in which we’re going to be a moral exception.”

Many religious social conservatives (albeit with some notable exceptions), writes Swaim:

are determined only to remain who they are and to live as amiably and productively as they can in a culture that doesn’t look like them and doesn’t belong to them. In time, this shift in outlook may bring about a more peaceable public sphere. But that will depend on others — especially the adherents of an ascendant social progressivism — declining to take full advantage of their newfound cultural dominance. I see few signs of that, but I am hopeful all the same.

I’m perhaps less hopeful, given the trope of the progressive LGBT left that social conservatives denied us freedom and liberty and so now it’s our turn to take away theirs (especially when doing so serves the progressive view that “equality” supersedes all other rights). It’s all sadly reminiscent of the many times throughout history when members of a persecuted class have gained cultural and political ascendancy, and then persecuted their former persecutors, often with a vengeance.

And yes, I’m talking about, among other indications of intolerance backed by state power, forcing religiously conservative independent service providers—at risk of paying exorbitant fines and/or being driven out of business—to create gay-messaged wedding cakes and to artfully plan, cater and photograph same-sex weddings.

More. From New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, The Liberal Blind Spot:

“In a column a few weeks ago, I offered ‘a confession of liberal intolerance,’ criticizing my fellow progressives for promoting all kinds of diversity on campuses — except ideological…. Almost every liberal [responding] agreed that I was dead wrong. ‘You don’t diversify with idiots,’ asserted the reader comment on The Times’s website that was most recommended by readers (1,099 of them). Another: Conservatives ‘are narrow-minded and are sure they have the right answers.'”

(hat tip: Walter Olson)

More. Via a Wall Street Journal op-ed, ‘Freedom of Worship’ Isn’t Enough:

One Colorado, a gay-rights group…wanted to amend Colorado’s constitution to define religious freedom as “the ability to engage in religious practices in the privacy of a person’s home or in the privacy of a religious organization’s established place of worship.”

More. Via the New York Post, Evangelical Christians wonder where the hell their power went:

Politically, old guard religious right organizations such as the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition are greatly diminished or gone, and no broadly unifying leader or organization has replaced them. In this year’s presidential race, the social policy issues championed by Christian conservatives are not central, even amid the furor over bathroom access for transgender people. …

“If a homosexual couple comes in and wants a cake, then that’s fine. I mean I’ll do it as long as I’m free to speak my truth to them,” said Slayden, taking a break after the lunchtime rush. “I don’t want to get (to) any point to where I have to say or accept that their belief is the truth.”

The problem, many religious conservatives say, is that government is growing more coercive in many areas bearing on their beliefs. They say some colleges — citing a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that required school groups to accept all comers — are revoking recognition for Christian student clubs because they require their leaders to hold certain beliefs. …

And this:

Trump uses rhetoric that has resonance for Christian conservatives who fear their teachings on marriage will soon be outlawed as hate speech. “We’re going to protect Christianity and I can say that,” Trump has said. “I don’t have to be politically correct.”

Progressives think they represent all that is, well, progressive, even as they go about working to deny liberty to others, and then defend themselves citing how conservatives worked to deny them their liberty—as if that then makes it ok to do unto others as they tried to do unto you.

Diehards on the Anti-Gay Right

A Statement Calling for Constitutional Resistance to Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, was recently issued by anti-gay social theorist Robert P. George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, and co-signed by others on the anti-gay right.

Their statement calls on “all federal and state officeholders” (1) To refuse to accept Obergefell as binding precedent for all but the specific plaintiffs in that case; (2) To recognize the authority of states to define marriage, and the right of federal and state officeholders to act in accordance with those definitions; (3) To pledge full and mutual legal and political assistance to anyone who refuses to follow Obergefell for constitutionally protected reasons.

The arguments proffered by the statement’s signers are, basically, that the majority’s reasoning in Obergefell was wrong and therefore it is not binding (apparently, officeholders are only sworn to uphold Supreme Court decisions they agree with). They also contend, as do others on the far right, that Supreme Court rulings are only applicable to the those specific parties that brought the suit and that the court has no power to overturn state laws passed by legislative majorities.

Some of this language is intended to sound vaguely libertarianish, but libertarians don’t believe in upholding majority dictates that violate individual rights.

The Constitution’s framers sought to limit the power of the majority to curtail the liberty and rights of individuals. As George Will recently pointed out, “In a democracy, the strongest force is the majority, whose power will be unlimited unless an independent judiciary enforces written restraints, such as those stipulated in the Constitution.”

Interestingly, some on the political left have also, when it suited their needs, argued that it is improper for courts to overturn laws passed by a legislative majority. These arguments were recently heard in some of the defenses of Obamacare after it came under judicial scrutiny.

Although the anti-gay-marriage statement’s co-signers high-handedly compare Obergefell to Dred Scott, their own actions are similar to southern segregationists who believed that Brown v. Board of Education was not binding on states that preferred to continue treating black students as separate and unequal.

The George manifesto was trumpeted by anti-gay activist Maggie Gallagher, who notes that George has also launched a PAC, the Campaign for American Principles, to support like-minded office seekers.

Be that as it may, this is all a rearguard action by the defeated. While they may envision a nation full of Kim Davises, those officials who believe their allegiance to fundamentalist religion supersedes their duty to uphold the law as interpreted by the highest court will remain few and far between.

And they have done a disservice to those private citizens who argue for the right to be left alone and not compelled to provide services to same-sex weddings. The cause of these independent businessowners is now, to their great disadvantage, mixed together with that of intransigent government officials whose very job is to treat all citizens as equal under the law they have sworn to uphold.

Elsewhere, blogger Jon Rowe reveals in Really Professor George, et al.? that George’s statement selectively quotes (or, in effect, misquotes) Abraham Lincoln, who, Rowe shows, “obviously disagreed with Dred Scott” and urged working to overturn it, but (despite George’s assertion) did not believe Supreme Court decisions could be summarily ignored.

More. Dallin Oaks, a member of the Council of Apostles, the LDS church’s governing body, repudiates Kim Davis (and the whole Robert George crowd), signaling Mormon officeholders not to be lured into their folly:

“All such [government] officials take an oath to support the constitution and laws of their jurisdiction. That oath does not leave them free to use their official position to further their personal beliefs—religious or otherwise—to override the law. Office holders remain free to draw upon their personal beliefs and motivations and advocate their positions in the public square. But when acting as public officials they are not free to apply personal convictions—religious or other—in place of the defined responsibilities of their public offices. All government officers should exercise their civil authority according to the principles and within the limits of civil government. A county clerk’s recent invoking of religious reasons to justify refusal by her office and staff to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples violates this principle.”

Religious Liberty Isn’t Just ‘Code for Discrimination’

Speaking at the Values Voters Summit, what most of the GOP presidential candidates said on LGBT issues presented a rogues’ gallery, as the Washington Blade reports.

But I again take exception to this common flippancy by LGBT activists and media: “protecting religious liberty…is considered code for conservatives to mean promoting anti-LGBT discrimination.” Certainly in the case of government officials like Kim Davis and her right-wing defenders, religious liberty is misused to justify government discrimination against gay people. But in civil society there is an important right to religious dissent and noncoercion that the government can and does violate, as I’ve previously discussed (most recently here).

Both social conservatives and progressives have proved to be blind guides on this matter, ginning up hysteria and supporting the violation of individual rights for their own purposes.

Value Voters Summit: Road to Nowhere

Via The New Republic:

Despite the hallelujahs, what this year’s [Value Voters Summit] ended up highlighting was not the resurgent power of Christian conservatives in the Republican Party, but how much their influence on the policy debate has diminished. As usual, most of the major GOP presidential contenders—even the unlikely figure of Donald Trump—came courting the crowd of 2,700 who’d registered for the event. But they offered little besides effusive praise for Kim Davis and utterly vague—if not utterly unrealistic—promises to champion religious liberties in the White House. When the summit-goers left Washington to scatter back to their hometowns across America, they left with no clear idea of what to fight for next—or how.

And let’s note the GOP contenders who avoided the whole bigoted circus, including Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Carly Fiorina.

More. Via Reason: “Donald Trump Literally (& Hypocritically) Promises to Save Christmas.”

Being Reasonable

Rod Dreher has a good post about the martyrdom of Kim Davis.  He is concerned about the effect of her case on religious freedom in general.  But he’s ignoring the central protection Kentucky itself has instituted to protect religious liberty.

Prof. Eugene Volokh has the best analysis of the actual law, and the Kentucky religious freedom protection statute seems very clear that the state would make a reasonable accommodation for Davis if she were interested in being reasonable.  In fact, the religious freedom laws passed by both the state and federal governments in the last two decades, are weighted — sometimes unreasonably (in my view) — in favor of religious freedom.  Despite my feelings, that is a policy choice elected officials have made, and it is the law.

Davis’ best argument is that she doesn’t want to have her name on state marriage certificates if they will be issued to same-sex couples, because the use of her name in those circumstances violates her religious beliefs.  The statute only requires her beliefs to be sincere, not objectively reasonable or even consistent.  Under the Kentucky law, if it is not unduly burdensome on the state to remove her name, she could continue to serve in her job.  That would require either reconfiguring how Kentucky marriage certificates look and perhaps having to reprint all of them going forward, or perhaps somehow scratching her name (if not her office title) from them.  These options may or may not be reasonable given the specifics of what processes are in place, which ones are required by state statute, etc.

Volokh says this is a “modest” request. That might be true, though “modest” might not be the word I’d use. If one elected official in one Kentucky county can bring lawful marriages in her jurisdiction to a virtual halt because of her religious beliefs, and demands that her view of religion be accommodated countywide, and possibly statewide depending on the statutory rules for marriage forms, that seems to me immodest in the extreme.

Davis’s case is extraordinary because she has insisted that her personal religious belief should govern, not just her own actions, but those of her entire office, including (in her view) all of the people who work for her.

Compare the extent of her preferences to those of Judge Vance Day in Oregon.  Judge Day has announced that he will not perform same-sex marriages due to his religious beliefs. Unlike the office of a county clerk, the performance of marriages is entirely discretionary for a judge. In fact, Judge Day specifically told his staff that they should forward any requests for same-sex marriages to other judges who do not share his religious objections.  Judge Day has at the very least made it clear that his religious objections are his own, and made an accommodation to the same-sex couples who might have approached his office to make sure that their rights are protected at the same time that his religious beliefs are respected.

Here is another example, one cited by Dreher that works in the opposite direction.  Gavin Newsom, as mayor of San Francisco, announced in 2004 that he felt California’s law prohibiting same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, and that henceforth City Hall would be happy to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples, which is did, to great joy.  Dreher calls this “lawlessness,” and implies that those who supported Newsom are hypocrites if they oppose Davis.

Newsom went beyond his authority as mayor, but he was not, as a NYTimes editorial quoted by Dreher suggests, defying a court order.  In fact, the California Attorney General challenged the mayor’s political grandstanding, and when the California Supreme Court ruled against Newsom, the marriages ended.  Dreher’s comparison of Newsom to Davis would hold only if the mayor had truly disobeyed the court ruling and maybe gone to jail for that.

Moreover, while Newsom was indeed acting (or more accurately overacting) on a moral principle, it was one grounded in the civil law, not God’s.  The prior year, the Massachusetts Supreme Court had ruled that the state constitution protected the rights of same-sex couples to get married.  While Newsom was in grave error about his own authority, he also knew when the stunt was over.

Davis now has to make that same determination.  She can be a martyr for as long as she likes.  Kentucky officials can determine whether it makes sense to accommodate her religious beliefs and remove her name from marriage certificates.  The question is whether she is going to be reasonable enough to accept the terms she, herself, offered.

The Kim Davis Circus

(Continuing the discussion from the prior post….)

Legally correct, perhaps, but “jailed for refusing to marry the gays” is like giving anti-gay-marriage Ky. county clerk Kim Davis the religious right martyrdom prize, sure to cause a surge in their fundraising. Apparently, there is no way just to remove Davis from office for failing to carry out her duties.

Walter Olson offers some pertinent observations, including that:

Among Republican White House candidates, Carly Fiorina seems to be among the few willing to draw appropriate public-private distinctions: “when you are a government employee, I think you take on a different role.” Also from a conservative perspective, Dan McLoughlin has a thoughtful what-goes-around-comes-around view on lawlessness and the pervasiveness of double standards.

Huckabee, of course, is a complete embarrassment.

On the other hand, it is also true that if this were a liberal clerk citing her Quaker faith to refuse to sign gun permits, conservatives would be up in arms (not literally, at least in that county) while at least some progressives would defend her right to ignore the law.

More. Kasich on Ky. clerk: ‘She has to comply.’ GOP presidential contender Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) said on Sunday that state marriage clerks should issue same-sex marriage licenses even if they morally oppose the practice. “She’s not running a church,” Kasich said.

There is now a real split between Fiorini, Kasich, Bush, Graham and (with greater equivocation) Trump and (via second-hand reports) even Carson, versus Davis-defenders Huckabee, Cruz, Walker, Jindal, Santorum and Paul.

Some progressive sites play up GOP support for Davis, but the real story is how many of the contenders have come out against her.

Furthermore. Sprung! It’s a good thing — yes, she should be removed from office. But making her a martyr plays into our opponents’ hands.

When the Political Party Goes Unmentioned…

John Corvino makes good points about Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who has been refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on the grounds that doing so would violate her religious beliefs.

However, like most of the mainstream media coverage, the party on whose ticket Davis ran goes unremarked, which should have been a dead give-away. If someone is held in disdain, the mainstream media always lets you know if they’re a Republican. When it’s a guessing game, you can bet it’s otherwise.

More. To clarify, the original NY Times piece did not mention her party, but did so in subsequent, more recent reports.

And then there’s this: From the New York Times:

Correction: September 3, 2015
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated Kim Davis’s political affiliation. She is a Democrat, not a Republican.

And this from the Washington Post (via Instapundit).

Furthermore. Lesson learned? The Washington Post now reports:

Davis narrowly won a three-way Democratic primary in 2014. She cruised to victory in the general election, before same-sex marriage was on the radar, and many supporters of LGBT rights voted for her in November because she was the Democratic candidate.

(continued in next post)

Update: Many weeks into the controversy, Kim Davis switched her political affiliation from Republican to Democrat, following the support she received from GOP social conservatives. Despite the chortling from the peanut gallery, this in no way mitigates the point that when she was a Democrat, the press downplayed her party identification. Now that she’s in the GOP, that won’t be the case.