Ethics Abomination I: Georgia’s HB 757
Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed the controversial “religious liberty” bill yesterday. Well, good. HB 757 was an ugly, ignorant, unethical law in many ways, and almost certainly unconstitutional on its face.
It began with outrageous fear-mongering, appealing to right-wing hysteria and ignorance…
[R]eligious officials shall not be required to perform marriage ceremonies, perform rites, or administer sacraments in violation of their legal right to free exercise of religion; to provide that no individual shall be required to attend the solemnization of a marriage, performance of rites, or administration of sacraments in violation of their legal right to free exercise of religion;
Ridiculous. No law, state or national, can require a pastor or minister to perform a wedding, nor could any citizen be required to attend one. These are both unalterable First Amendment no-nos, and any legislator who doesn’t know that is too ignorant to hold office. Laws should not be sops thrown to slobbering mobs, and that’s what this part of the law is—unless it’s proof that Georgia legislature is itself a slobbering mob.
Then the law ends by greasing the wheels for outright anti-LGBT discrimination:
Except as provided by the Constitution of this state or the United States or federal law, no faith based organization shall be required to hire or retain as an employee any person whose religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith based organization’s sincerely held religious belief as demonstrated by practice, expression, or clearly articulated tenet of faith.
A refusal by a faith based organization to hire or retain a person pursuant to subsection (b) of this Code section shall not give rise to a civil claim or cause of action against such faith based organization or an employee thereof or result in any state action to penalize, withhold benefits from, or discriminate against the faith based organization or employee based on such refusal.
You have to really, really hate and fear gay citizens not to reject such a bill. The religious right seems determined to undermine both religion and conservatism by its stubborn refusal to accept the fact…fact,fact,fact...that people who lived in small tribes two thousand years ago and needed as many children as possible had a good reason to discourage homosexuality, which they understandably but erroneously believed was a conscious choice. Today, holding that same view is ignorant and inexcusable, and making laws that embody it unkind, cruel, and wrong.
In 1956, nobody complained when three prominent buildings in the New York skyline did this on Easter:
Today, it would unthinkable. Many major newspapers never mentioned the holiday at all. A prominent reason for Easter’s slow disappearance from the cultural scene is that organized religion and its most fervent followers have degraded the image and trustworthiness of religion generally. It wasn’t just the Catholic Church’s betrayal of its principles and its trusting young in the sexual abuse scandal, or the televangelists who stole money from old ladies and lived lavish lifestyles while performing fake miracles on TV. Religion is being marginalized by the conduct of the religious.
In 1956, gay Americans were persecuted culture-wide because of ancient ignorance, fear and hate. Along with other groups that were victims of bigotry, gays began to assert their human and civic rights in the Sixties, and most of the nation’s citizens, many of whom know and work with law-abiding, admirable LGBT men and women every day, have come to understand that the old biases were wrong, and did immense damage. There is a rapidly dwindling but influential few, however, who refuse to acknowledge, not that times have changed, but that anti-gay discrimination has always been unethical. They seem determined to bring down religion in America as well as conservatism in their futile, indeed juvenile effort to resist enlightenment.
Well, keep it up, everyone, and see what happens. Religion was once seen as an unequivocal force for good in the United States, and now it is increasingly regarded as the source of hate and division. These kinds of bills just speed up the process.
Ethics Abomination II: Corporate Extortion
When Georgia’s HB 757 was passed by the legislature, corporations from Atlanta stalwart Coca-Cola to the NFL to the production company for “The Walking Dead” announced or implied that they would stop or significantly curtail their business in Georgia if the law passed. This kind of corporate extortion has become increasingly popular since Arizona was forced to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a national holiday by similar corporate boycott threats. It is, of course, an anti-democratic tactic, but never mind: no pundits dare to criticize the fact that corporations are using their economic muscle to veto the will of the people and turn representative democracy into a corporate dictatorship. Few anti-corporate warriors have the integrity to see this as an abuse of corporate power, which it clearly is.
The trend, an ominous one, was boosted by the mirror-image effort of various Democratic mayors last year to declare Chic-Fil-A a corporate persona non grata because its CEO was not a gay marriage supporter. Something similar is going on now as San Francisco’s mayor and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have declared that government employees won’t be allowed to travel to North Carolina, because those officials don’t approve of the state’s LGBT-hostile “bathroom bill.”
What business is it of New York and San Francisco to tell North Carolina what laws it should enact? What if North Carolina responds by banning travel to New York City because Mayor de Blasio is promoting public urination? What’s stopping all local and state laws from having their duly passed laws undermined by power plays and boycotts from out-of-state busybodies and grandstanding corporations? There is an effective mechanism for removing unconstitutional laws, and beyond that, a state’s citizens have a right to govern themselves. The rest of the nation is free to criticize all it wants. The rest of the nation should not, however, hijack the governing process of other jurisdictions.
Is it possible that progressives do not see the inconsistency and hypocrisy of their wild attacks on the Citizens United decision, which merely allows groups and corporations to make their views on candidates and policies known, while cheering the use of corporate muscle to force governments to abandon duly passed laws? I suppose it is possible: bias makes you stupid. In truth, encouraging corporations to threaten to remove jobs, contract and tax revenue to bend state and local governments to their will is a far greater threat to democracy than merely letting them express their views. Progressives don’t see it that way, however, because “by any means necessary” is their motto. Corporate power interfering with democracy is just fine as long as the corporate bullies are allied with progressive agenda items.
Unfortunately, the only way to put a stop to this sinister practice is for a governor like Deal to sign some bad bills in defiance when corporations try to twist his arm. Laughably, Governor Deal said, in his statement announcing the veto,
“Some within the business community who oppose this bill have resorted to threats of withdrawing jobs from our state. I do not respond well to insults or threats.”
That’s funny: it looks like he responded exactly as the corporations wanted him to.