Tag Archives: religious freedom

Twelve Post-Veto Ethics Observations On The Arizona “Religious Freedom” Bill


1. As we now know, Governor Brewer vetoed AZ SB1062, the so-called “religious freedom” bill that was widely (and accurately) interpreted as support for discrimination against gays. In the previous post, I suggested that her delay in doing so sent a message that was as hostile to gays as the law itself: if she felt the law was ethically wrong, then she should have and would have announced that she would not sign the bill long ago. Instead, she waited to see how much economic damage the law would do to the state, and then vetoed it, not because this was the right ting to do, but because it was the pragmatic thing to do. (As the satiric Borowitz Report put it, “The state of Arizona found itself in the middle of a conundrum today as it awoke to the awkward realization that gay people have money and buy stuff.”) USA Today noted that, to the contrary,”Some political insiders believe Brewer has allowed furor over the legislation to build to thwart social conservatives’ attempts to push a similar bill later.” I doubt it, but if so, Brewer allowed her state and her fellow Republicans to be represented nationally as homophobic for as long as possible to spare herself the inconvenience of vetoing a second bill.

2. Despite the extravagant debate over the bill, almost no commentators actually published the bill’s text in the commentary. The reason appears to be that since the bill is really an amendment of an existing law, it takes a modicum of intelligence to figure out what’s going on. Here it is (the original law is in black; the new text is in blue; what has been removed in the amended version is struck through): Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

The Klan’s Birthday Cake, Individual Boycotts And The Ethics Of Refusing to Give Service To Jerks

"Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday, Dear Racists..."

“Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday, Dear Racists…”

[UPDATE: Apparently, the “news story” that prompted this post is a fake. In that case, I want to thank the hoaxers for  inadvertently sparking a useful discussion—nothing in my post is dependent on the factual nature of the story. I wasn’t the only one fooled, and I originally noted the links on reliable sites. On the other hand, to hell with people who plant fake stories that are not obviously tongue in cheek or satirical: it’s a despicable practice, and abuse of the web, and right down there with public vandalism and creating computer viruses as unforgivable public conduct. I apologize to readers here for misidentifying a false story as true, but I’m not the unethical jerk involved. If anyone knows who that is, please forward their names. I have some choice words for them.]

As I wrote the first time I stuck my ethics big toe into this kind of controversy, I am conflicted over the current trend of forcing certain kinds of service providers to serve customers they just don’t feel like serving. I have consistently come down on the side of the rejected customer, even when the service, as in the case of bakeries and photography salons, edges perilously close to art. I think I am there still, but my resolve is weakening. I think. Let’s look at this again, in the context of the kind of recent case that always eventually occurs when one sits on the slippery slopes.

A three judge panel of a Georgia appellate court recently ruled in favor of Marshall Saxby, the Grand Wizard of a local KKK chapter, after he sued a local bakery for refusing to bake a cake for the KKK chapter’s  annual birthday party. Elaine Bailey, who owns Bailey Bakeries, said she rejected the Klan its activities violated her religious beliefs, and Saxby claimed that Bailey’s refusal of service discriminated against his religious beliefs.

The difficulty with making an ethical call on this case and others like it (and sort of like it, arguably like it or a little bit like it) is that the crucial question in ethics analysis, “What’s going on here?” cannot be answered with certainty or clarity. There are ethical arguments and ethical principles, on both sides, making the issue an ethical conflict (rather than an ethical dilemma). In an ethical conflict, we must prioritize among important ethical principles that are opposing each other.

Let’s answer “What’s going on here?” in some of the various ways this case allows, as if only one of these ethical principles were in play: Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Race, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, U.S. Society, Workplace

Ethical Quote Of The Month: Justice Richard Bossun of The New Mexico Supreme Court


[The quote that follows is from the concurring opinion in the just-decided case of  Elaine Photography v. Willock, which challenged the proposition, discussed and endorsed on Ethics Alarms in several posts, that a business could not and ethically should not refuse service to same-sex couples.]

“On a larger scale, this case provokes reflection on what this nation is all about, its promise of fairness, liberty, equality of opportunity, and justice. At its heart, this case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others. A multicultural, pluralistic society, one of our nation’s strengths, demands no less. The Huguenins are free to think, to say, to believe, as they wish; they may pray to the God of their choice and follow those commandments in their personal lives wherever they lead. The Constitution protects the Huguenins in that respect and much more. But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life.

“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.”

——- New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Bossun, concurring with opinion in Elaine Photography v. Willock, which rejected the claim that legally requiring a photography shop to take photographs of a same-sex marriage was a violation of the First Amendment.

You can read the Volokh Conspiracy take on the case here, and here; Ken White has his usual trenchant observations at Popehat.

From an ethics perspective, however, Justice Bossuns’s words need no enhancement. I could not agree more, nor say it better.


Graphic: Illinois Family



Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Ethics Quotes, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

Unethical Website Of The Month: Minnesota For Marriage

No, nobody's saying you can't advocate your beliefs, archaic and destructive though they may be. Just make sure they don't stop people from buying flowers and cakes like everyone else...

No, nobody’s saying you can’t advocate your beliefs, archaic and destructive though they may be. Just make sure they don’t stop people from buying flowers and cakes like everyone else…

I’ll spare you much commentary on this one, but it’s eye-opening in tone and content: an indignant, angry appeal to protest on the theory that legalizing same-sex marriage in Minnesota constitutes an attack on the freedom of religion.

A sample:

 “Now over 1.4 Million Minnesotans are considered the legal equivalent of “bigots” and have NO protection to live out their beliefs in the public square. The gay “marriage” law allows churches and SOME religious organizations to define marriage as only between 1 man and 1 woman. But, people of faith know that living out your beliefs means living what you believe OUTSIDE the walls of your church.

“Gay “marriage” supporters and their allies in the MN Legislature seem to think that Minnesotans with deeply held religious beliefs about Marriage will be content to believe that marriage is the union of 1 man and 1 woman in the walls of their church and then stay SILENT about those beliefs outside those walls. So, the MN Legislature passed the gay “marriage” bill with no protections for people outside the walls of their church. The MN Senate had the chance—and refused—to protect the religious liberty rights of Minnesotans outside their church walls….Now Minnesotans with the deeply held belief that marriage is the union of 1 man and 1 woman cannot act on this belief in the way they do their business or the way they practice their profession.

“The Minnesota Department of Human Rights has already confirmed our worst fears:  There is NO religious liberty protection for people of faith in the public square. The Department states specifically that nonreligious organizations are NOT exempt from the law and that nondiscrimination laws can (and will) be used as a weapon to punish people of faith. For example, if a Christian, Jewish, or Muslim florist refused to provide flowers for a same-sex “wedding” based on his religious beliefs, the same-sex couple can “file a claim with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights against the entity that discriminated against them.”

“Bottom Line?  The gay “marriage” lobby and their allies in the MN Legislature view Minnesotans of faith as “bigots” and will punish them accordingly using MN Human Rights laws—forcing men and women of faith to choose between their livelihood and their convictions.

“That is not acceptable.” Continue reading


Filed under Citizenship, Etiquette and manners, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Love, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Romance and Relationships, The Internet, Unethical Websites

The Florist, The Gay Wedding And The Slippery, Slippery Slope

OK, she's a jerk. But is it ethical to say she can't be a jerk? Isn't America about having the right to be a jerk?

OK, she’s a jerk. But is it ethical to say she can’t be a jerk? Isn’t America about having the right to be a jerk?

Arlene’s Flowers & Gifts proprietor Barronelle Stutzman had been selling flowers to Robert Ingersoll and his partner, Curt Freed, his partner, for a decade, but drew a line in the sand when they wanted her business to supply the floral arrangements for their same-sex marriage. She refused, citing her relationship with God. This week, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a consumer protection lawsuit against  Stutzman, drawing a line of his own.

There are legal and ethical issues mixed up here like gazpacho, and some of them are not difficult. For example, whether Stutzman should have the legal right to do so or not, her decision to reject and stigmatize long-time customers is indefensible ethically. It is cruel, unfair, ungrateful and disrespectful. They were good enough to profit from for ten years, but not good enough to accommodate at the most important time of their lives? Such conduct earns a massive ethics “Yechh.”  Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy

Comment of The Day: The Same-Sex Marriage Wars


The Inquiring Mind left a plaintive and provocative comment on an earlier post regarding the gay marriage controversy, now once again above the fold, and it was apparently swallowed by my spam file. I haven’t see much of an uptick in Ethics Alarms comments lately (and tgt is on semi-hiatus), but the spam has gotten out of control: apparently this post was deleted, even though I try to check the spam comments (about 500 a day now) to make sure legitimate ones don’t get thrown out with the bath water. I apologize to IM, and am posting the recovered comment partially in compensation, and also because he expresses a sentiment that I have heard and read from others.

I’ll be back at the end; in the meantime, here is Inquiring Mind’s Comment of the Day regarding the tactics of gay marriage advocates:

“Jack, since the aftermath of Prop 8, I have always wondered – is the thuggery/coercion and thought control a “bug” associated with the push for gay marriage, or is it a “feature” that comes with the enactment of gay marriage?

“I just want to review the conduct of gay-marriage supporters: Continue reading


Filed under Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Religion and Philosophy, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

The Homophobic Counselor, the Ethical Bigot, and the One-Legged Tarzan

Jennifer Keeton was expelled from the graduate program at Georgia’s Augusta State University in 2010 because her Christian religious convictions dictate that homosexuality is sinful and voluntary conduct, rather than an innate sexual orientation. A court upheld the school’s right to expel her on the basis that her beliefs made it impossible for her to meet their counseling standards, which the court ruled were neutral, and did not discriminate against her speech or religion.

The case may raise legitimate constitutional issues. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a conservative legal group, and Constitutional Law professor Eugene Volokh (of Volokh Conspiracy fame) are assisting Keaton as she attempts to get reinstated. Ethically, however, I don’t think she has a leg to stand on.
In fact, I think her position resembles the old Dudley Moore-Peter Cook comedy routine where Moore is one-legged amputee who cries foul at being “discriminated against” by a film director who refuses to consider him for the role of Tarzan:

Similarly, how can a counselor claim to be able to provide full and competent services when her attitude toward gays dictates an unsympathetic, hostile and scientifically discredited point of view? Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society