Considering the Retrograde Mississippi Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, This Shouldn’t Be Surprising At All…

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Erica Flores Dunahoo and Stanley Hoskins have complained that the owner of a recreational vehicle park near Tupelo, Mississsippi. refused to rent a space to them earlier this year because of the colors of their skin. They say that Gene Baker accepted a $275 rent check, gave Erica a hug and invited her to church. The next day he called her and said, not quite as friendly, “Hey, you didn’t tell me you was married to no black man!”

Is that a problem, she queried?  “Oh, it’s a big problem with the members of my church, my community and my mother-in-law. They don’t allow that black and white shacking.”

Ah. So you are a moron, then, am I correct, sir? Yet why would Baker not believe this is completely fair and reasonable, since the current culture of his state, recently defined by the freshly signed Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, is that religion allows citizens to behave like bigoted, meddling jackasses as a matter of conscience?

The new law, one of a flurry of such foolish, divisive and destructive measures popping up in states determined to embarrass Republicans and Protestants while causing Founding Fathers to do backflips in their graves, allows those who object to same-sex marriages or an individual claiming to be a gender other than what was “objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at birth” to use “conscience” as justification refuse to provide services.

I call these “right to be an asshole” laws. They are of dubious constitutionality, but their ethical status isn’t dubious at all.  They assert the right to interfere with the autonomy, lives and free choices of other law abiding citizens, denigrating, inconveniencing, stigmatizing  and marginalizing them in the process, because they believe religion justifies their doing so.

Mississippi’s Governor Phil Bryant, a Republican (of course), said the law protects an individual’s rights to act in a manner consistent with his or her “deeply held religious beliefs.” When a religion’s deeply held beliefs divides societies and harms people who are harming nobody at all but simply trying to live, such a religious belief  argues for a severe curtailment of society’s deference to religion. If your religion will not allow those with different beliefs live in harmony and equality with the rest of society, your religion  deserves neither deference nor respect. See, for example, whatever yahoo religion Mr. Baker belongs to. You say that there is an ethical difference between using religionas an excuse to refuse to rent a space to a multi-racial couple and refusing to rend a space to a same-sex couple? Right. Ask Mr. Baker if he can articulate it. Better yet, ask Phil Bryant.

Under the law, an individual could legally refuse to rent a space for a same-sex wedding, refuse medical services, refuse to sell a ring or rent a tux for a same-sex wedding, or like Kim Davis, refuse to do her official duty for a same-sex couple because others—you know, non-drooling bigots—will provide them. “It specifically says that is a case where a person has a religious conviction, they can decline, but they must provide somebody in their office to provide that service,” state Rep. Andy Gipson, a Republican (naturally) explained. If Andy had taken a junior college ethics course, he would know that this violates Kantian Ethics 101: it isn’t ethical to engage in conduct that would be disastrous if everybody did it. And in a state where churches are telling their congregations that you better not be married to no black man, how sure is it that everybody won’t eventually be blocking services to gays, transgendered, and same sex couples?

Bryant said in a statement that he signed House Bill 1523 because he wanted to protect “sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals, organizations and private associations from discriminatory action by state government or its political subdivisions.” This is either toxic stupidity or an outright lie. The bill is designed to sanctify discriminatory conduct and the mistreatment of law-abiding individuals based on the sole fact that someone is offended by the fact of their existence. In substantive terms, what positive is accomplished by refusing to sell a ring to a same sex couple, or refusing to bake them a cake? Absolutely nothing. Merchants sell with impunity and disinterest to fools, criminals, wife-beaters, rapists, child molesters and New York Yankee fans, and sleep like babies at night, yet we are supposed to believe that their religion should allow them to take special measures to inconvenience and humiliate LGBT individuals? Nonsense. Tell us another. Make this one more plausible, though, so you don’t insult my intelligence again.

I am not so worried about the victims of this epically stupid and cruel legislation. Oh, knocking it down and burying it will waste time and money, and society will be further divided by hate and ignorance, and  excessive zeal on both sides will harm the innocent as it always does, but in the end, these stubborn cultural Neanderthals in Mississippi, North Carolina and elsewhere will lose, their laws declared unconstitutional and their states further stereotyped and ridiculed. Nothing could be more certain.

No, I worry about the permanent damage, as if any more can be borne, that is being done to the prestige and reputation of religion and the philosophy of conservatism. This warped and irresponsible application of both for no higher purpose than to avoid the accumulated cultural wisdom regarding right and wrong will—will—poison these concepts in the minds of rising generations, and render them spoiled and useless to society. That will be terrible for everyone, for religious institutions and conservative principles have been and should be vibrant forces for good in society. If they are most prominently abused to further bigotry and injustice, however, bigotry and injustice alone will soon be what they represent.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

And wrong.

_________________________

Sources: ABA Journal, Washington Post

97 thoughts on “Considering the Retrograde Mississippi Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, This Shouldn’t Be Surprising At All…

  1. Gad, I am an out-and-proud homophobe of mongrelized racial origin, and even I don’t like where this Mississippi “law”* is going.

    Because after all, first they went after the same-sex couples…until the feds and big corporations extorted their notions of compliance with correctness (“Do as we say, or we won’t dispense federal funds to your state/do business in your state!”)…and next, they went after the homophobes…

    *”law” is in quotes as a salute to Martin Luther King for his memorable assertion: “An unjust law is no law at all.”

    • A follow-up on the extortion via withholding of federal funds: It’s the same as saying, “We’re going to take your money, and you (Mississippi, North Carolina, etc.) are not going to get any of it back, unless you do as we say.”

      So it isn’t just extortion; it’s aggravated robbery followed by extortion. Plainly and simply, the federal government’s doing such is an act of war.

      • Are you kidding? It’s federal funding. By definition, it’s not the state’s money, it’s the federal government’s money.

  2. I’ve heard there are many folks with a deeply held religious belief and moral conviction that all infidels should be exterminated. I do hope Bryant and our various governments are willing to discriminate against rather than protect those folks.

    • My comment requires clarification. “Discriminate” should be in quotes. In this case, by “discriminate”, I meant hold those folks equal under the law. In still other words, don’t discriminate by allowing some folks to skirt the law (and otherwise ethical behavior) due to their deeply held religious beliefs.

  3. No True Conservative…..

    To all those right of centre (a place I naturally belong) – we’ve let the name and reputation of the right get hijacked, something that happened a long time ago.

    These are not rare exceptions, the loony fringe, Trumpism is, if not a majority, a plurality. Cruz’s Dominionism takes up much of the rest.

    Bigotry and Injustice are what the right represents now, the accusation is not unfair, and not cherrypicking.

    Very fortunately a large number of people who are in name on the right, don’t subscribe to either. They just abet the bigots, as those reasonable people on the left have abetted the stalinists in the past, and have a distressing tendency to excuse the inexcusable authoritarians even now.

    • Or maybe, people have decided that given a choice between the LGBT agenda and the First Amendment, they’d rather protect the First Amendment.

      I’m sorry, but I think a lot of people on the left tend to use cries of racist/sexist/bigot/homophobe/xenophobe to cover up for the many failings on the left. The War on Poverty has arguably made many problems in certain locales in the country (and a certain demographic) worse. Crying “systemic racism” and “white privilege” makes for a very useful distraction and ensures that the affected demographic closes its mind to alternatives to the failed War on Poverty.

      You seem to be falling into the same trap.

      • There’s no First Amendment issue here. None. Refusing to treat one citizen like another because of matters having no possible effect on you of any kind is not a legitimate excercise of religious beliefe. It is using religion to rationalize being a cruel jerk, and defying the First Amendment. Citing the LGBT agenda is akin to talking about the Jewish conspiracy.

        Mistreating people because you don’t like their “kind” is neither ethical, nor moral, nor religious, and I very much doubt that it can be legal, either.

        • I’ll say this once: Disagreement with a legislative/political agenda is NOT being a bigot, cruel jerk, or mistreating anyone. Furthermore, quite frankly, I resent being lumped in with anti-Semites. Stuff like that makes me more inclined to vote for Donald Trump should he win the general election.

          As for the First Amendment, why not brush up on the whole HERO saga – particularly how the mayor of Houston subpoenaed pastors who opposed the ordinance until she was shamed into pulling them?

          • 1) You’ve said it twice within two comments.
            2) People wanting be served, purchase and have the same rights as other citizens is not a “political agenda,” but a cultural and societal right. Nor is insisting that the laws apply to all people regardless of gender or sexual orientation a political agenda. Calling Constitutional mandates a political agenda is an argument fallacy. Political agendas are debatable, legal mandates and ethical absolutes are not.
            3) Bigotry is a condemnation of a group and its individuals for what the group is, rather than any volitional illegal or societal harmful act the individuals of the group engage in. When it was believed, mistakenly as it turned out, that LGBT individuals were bad citizens, likely criminals, and dangerous to civilization, the moral strictures against them seemed practical and could be justified under the law. Now that we know that these individuals are no more dangerous or worse members of society by dint of their sexuality than any other people, the moral, a.k.a religious, hostility towards these individuals was no longer justifiable. Since it no longer was consistent with fact or science, all that was left was morality: God said so. That’s something to respect until it is carried out of the church into action in the public square harming citizens.
            4) Once it extends outside the Church and the home, it is bigotry. Faith does not justify discrimination, and to try to extend faith-based discrimination beyond its legal limits is an act of bigotry, because there is no other excuse for it in science, ethics, common sense or law.

            • ) People wanting be served, purchase and have the same rights as other citizens is not a “political agenda,” but a cultural and societal right. Nor is insisting that the laws apply to all people regardless of gender or sexual orientation a political agenda. Calling Constitutional mandates a political agenda is an argument fallacy. Political agendas are debatable, legal mandates and ethical absolutes are not.

              Perhaps you should arrticulate exactly what type of discrimination the law allows.

              http://www.thebatt.com/opinion/guest-column-years-after-a-gay-rights-ruling-changed-a/article_4d6b6198-d820-11e4-8254-8ff44b4cdc3d.html

              In the former, as in renting a car or selling groceries, the rendering of a service or product requires neither knowledge of one’s beliefs nor participation in them, and they are included in the definition of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But, in the latter, services like printing flyers for the KKK, or baking a cake that says “NO Gay Marriage” for the Family Research Council, both knowledge and active advance of those beliefs is required, and are not services previously understood in law as “public accommodations.”

              Then we go to the text of the law.

              “The state government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person wholly or partially on the basis that the person has provided or declined to provide the following services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, celebration, or recognition of any marriage, based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 2 of this act”‘

              It still does not mean that the guy selling tacoes on the street corner gets to discriminate.

              • Printing a church program that says nothing about gay marriage except the names of the couple is not “participation.” nor is it a justifiable service that can be legally withheld due to bias. You can’t make a printer print a message he doesn’t agree with, though his printing it doesn’t really suggest he does agree, but he should have no right to withhold neutral services based on religious bias. Society breaks down that way, and yes, it is exactly like refusing to print a program for an inter-racial marriage. Exactly. No difference at all. Which is the post.

            • 1) My apologies.
              2) The “free exercise of religion” is also a right. So are freedom of association and freedom of speech, ones expressly spelled out in the plain text of the Constitution. Those who seek to enact the “legal mandates” (or in other words, enacting their legislative agenda) are, in my opinion, trampling on those rights – rights that predate from the rulings where Anthony Kennedy invented a right to same-sex marriage.
              3) The arguments against abortion since Roe v. Wade have included moral arguments (notably from the Catholic Church). A sense of morality is often used to determine what legal madates should be. The only question here is WHOSE morality gets enacted into legal mandates – the Religious Right’s morality or the “progressive” left’s morality.

              Three years ago, you posted a comment of mine as Comment of the Day. The comment had been written in August of 2012, but languished in your spam file for an extended period. I will refer back to it:
              https://ethicsalarms.com/2013/03/28/comment-of-the-day-the-same-sex-marriage-wars/

              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:

              * The harrassment of proponents of Prop 8, including death threats received by my best friend’s wife, enters into my thinking on this front. Then there was the treatment Carrie Prejean received at the hands of Perez Hilton and Shanna Moakler, among others. Then there is the attempts to expel Julea Ward and Jennifer Keeton from counseling programs – because their worldview was informed by the same sort of Christianity.
              * The legal assault on Elane Photography and other businesses run by Christians who aren’t saying they cannot have their wedding or commitment ceremony, but are asking they not be forced to take part in it – even if it is photographing or baking a cake.
              * The theft (or leaking) of the National Organization for Marriage’s tax return earlier this year. Then there is what is going on with the Boy Scouts since the 2000 decision that upheld their right to decline to allow gays to join.
              * The mayors vs. Chick-fil-A
              * The bomb threat called in during yesterday’s Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.
              * The unethical (by your own admission) conduct of Vaughn Walker and the blind eye turned towards it.

              So, is it a bug, or a feature? The pattern of conduct I am seeing indicates that thuggery/coercion, and thought control are a feature of gay marriage, with religious freedom becoming a dead letter, by the admission of some proponents of gay marriage.

              If this is how the advocates act when they have relatively little power over their opponents, then how will they act with even more power? As far as I can tell, they have no problem trampling over my core freedoms. As such, it comes down to a case of “my rights or theirs” – and in that sort of case, can anyone blame people for fighting to preserve what they feel is rightfully theirs?”

              I will note now, that with the Windsor and Obergefell rulings, the advocates of gay marriage have gained the additional power I worried about based on the pattern of bullying, thuggery, and coercion that’s been directed at CEOs like Brendan Eich to small business owners like Aaron and Melissa Klein.

              Today, the Religious Right isn’t fighting to repeal gay marriage – they are now asking not to be forced to participate in something they believe is wrong. To maintain their First Amendment rights – something that the increasingly totalitarian left is all too willing to squash.

              I can provide post after post from this very blog where the thuggery and bullying have been discussed, Jack. At what point have they gone too far?

                • It’s what I have been trying to articulate in all the posts on this subject. The constant pattern of bullying, thuggery and coercion pushed me to support RFRA laws and the First Amendment Defense Act.

                  Also, as someone who has done creative writing and commentary, the notion that the power of the government can be used to coerce someone to create something that celebrates something that the person opposes on moral grounds – or a message that one does not wish to convey – is very frightening on multiple levels to me. It should terrify everyone.

                  Today, cakes, photographs, and floral arrangements. What will it be tomorrow, disagreeing with “progressives” about “climate change?” Oh, yeah, we already have some Torquemada wannabes at Attorneys General for Clean Power doing that.

                  Given the choice between a totalitarian left and some assholery on the right, I choose the assholes.

                  • “The constant pattern of bullying, thuggery and coercion pushed me to support RFRA laws and the First Amendment Defense Act.”

                    That’s an emotional response, not a rational argument.

                    • I disagree, Jack. Support of RFRA laws and the First Amendment Act are rational and logical actions of people who have justifiable concerns about the pattern of bullying, thuggery, and coercion carried out by and on behalf of the LGBT community. I mean, the Boy Scouts eventually gave in after 13 years of bullying following the Dale v. Boy Scouts case in 2000 upheld their freedom of association – and the right to NOT be compelled by the government. By any objective standard, that pattern, including the mayors who targeted Chick-Fil-A, warrants a response.

                      We’re no longer debating about whether same-sex marriage should be legal. The Supreme Court rulings in Windsor and Obergefell have imposed it on all 50 states. The Religious Right is simply asking they not be forced to have involvement in a same-sex wedding.

      • You’re speaking to someone who is now forced by law to use male restrooms in NC. Regardless of my Female ID, female anatomy, my OB/Gyn’s testimony etc. Because Pi=3, the Earth is flat, and marks on a piece of paper, not biological facts, defines biology according to GNP dogma.

        The NC legislature only followed the Republican National Committee’s resolution on the subject, and have the right to feel hard done by. After all, all they did was implement the written GOP policy that everyone has always ignored as a meaningless sop to the idiots, never actually to be implemented.

        This is no Academic exercise. This is real, and personal. Please forgive me if I therefore do not give your philosophical musings the respect they deserve, nor engage with your …. “Meaningless blather” would be unjust, these would be important issues if these actual, real, factual not hypothetical actions weren’t really happening. As they are though, I can’t help treating such deep philosophical conjectures as irrelevant background noise. A failing on my part.

        I can only hope that sanity will prevail, and I can then engage with you in a constructive, helpful dialogue about to what extent you’re correct (a lot, I expect), what can be done about that, to what extent are you incorrect, and hopefully to determine a better way of doing things that doesn’t offend either of our senses of propriety overmuch. It’s essential that be done eventually, but right now the house is on fire and we both need to be reaching for extinguishers and evacuation plans, not discussing building codes.

        • Disagreeing with a legislative/political agenda is not prima facia proof of bigotry. Nor is objecting when the courts are used to impose something that the democratic process has rejected – in some cases, by decisive margins.

          I’m not exactly capable of emotional detachment. In the wake of Prop 8, my best friend’s wife got death threats. Because being a faithful Catholic, she worked to overturn the California Supreme Court’s decision to re-define marriage as leaders of her church urged their flocks to do so.

          Similarly, the faith I grew up in (Mormon) was the target of anthrax hoaxes and vandalism. Why? Because the leaders of that church spoke out on what they viewed as a moral issue and worked within California’s process to overturn that ruling.

          It’s kinda real and personal for me, too.

          • “Disagreeing with a legislative/political agenda is not prima facia proof of bigotry.”

            As Jack said, this is NOT a “political agenda,” and your repeated assertions don’t make it so. See his points above. And read them carefully, he stated it precisely and beautifully.

            And despite your saying this is “kinda real and personal for [you] too,” there is no moral equivalency here with ZoeBrain.

            –ZoeBrain is talking about the legal and constitutional rights to conduct her daily life as a human being like any other.

            –By contrast, you, and the Catholics and the Mormons in the cases you mentioned, were working to foist your own particular religious beliefs on the population at large. Pakistan and the Taliban notwithstanding, the direction of social movement across time and across the world, very much led by the US constitution, is headed in the opposite direction – of NOT foisting religious beliefs on non-believers.

            Any religion is free to believe what it wants. That freedom ends when it comes to affecting other people in the conduct of their daily lives. Using a public rest room certainly falls within that range.

            I don’t claim your passion is faux. But I do call it seriously misguided, and more dangerous for the fact of that – you actually believe that your beliefs ought to be imposed on others.

            • Charles,

              So you are okay with the power of the government being used to coerce someone into expressing something (an opinion or idea) that they disagree with?

              Maybe a baker who doesn’t want to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding is a jerk, but they aren’t saying “You can’t be married.” All they are asking is that they not be punished for refusing to be involved with a same-sex wedding.

              I’d rather take my chances with assholes on the Religious Right than further empower the totalitarian bullies on the left.

                  • Point noted, and taken.

                    What would Inquiring Mind say about the case of a taxi or Uber driver asked to drive someone to a gay wedding? Would the driver be able to claim they were being forced to “participate” in something they disagree with?

                    What if the taxi driver didn’t realize until they arrived at the destination that it was the site of a gay wedding? Would the driver have the right to claim they were duped into being forced to participate?

                    What if the passengers were a gay couple – would the driver have the right to refuse service to a gay couple BECAUSE THEY WERE ON THE WAY TO A GAY WEDDING? (In other words, would the definition of ‘participation’ be allowed to usurp existing anti-discrimination laws?)

                    • Great example of the absurd and intellectually dishonest definition of “participate” being pushed in these laws and by their defenders so that they can, in fact, simply demonstrate their disdain for the lives of other Americans.

                      On a utilitarian scale this fails completely: there is NO positive value of this antipathy, and very clear and tangible negative ones. From a Kantian perspective it fails as well, and it is a Golden Rule negation.

                    • Awesome comment: you reminded me there are (at least?) three major ethical frameworks: utilitarian, Kantian, and, forgive me for not knowing a more precise term, “Golden Rule-ism.”
                      Systematically applying the three can occasionally produce great clarity – like you did on this one.
                      Elegant.

              • 1. As I have written elsewhere on this thread, a custom gay cake is forced expression. A generic wedding cake is not.
                2. They are saying “You can’t be married.” If everyone took the same course, they couldn’t be married, ergo that is what they are saying.
                3.Not involved. You are cheating. The term is “participate.” They are “involved” in the wedding if they pay taxes on the road it takes to get to the church.
                4. #22: “It’s not the worst thing.”

    • …[A] large number of people who are in name on the right, don’t subscribe to either. They just abet the bigots, as those reasonable people on the left have abetted the stalinists in the past, and have a distressing tendency to excuse the inexcusable authoritarians even now.

      I was attracted to this blog to begin with because I had come to take issue with the tendencies zoebrained mentioned (among others) in general, and partisan politics in particular. I now find myself more and more often clinging to it as to a voice crying in the wilderness, and I find that even more disturbing than the ideas that brought me here in the first place.

      • You’re not Robinson Crusoe there. Not alone.

        I have to believe the current situation is an aberration, too many of those who I know who disagree with me are rational, kind people. As are most of those who agree with me.

        The pace of unreason appears to be accelerating though, past conventions and customs that put a brake on insanity are now being broken (pardon the pun).

        • A good (bad) pun always carries an automatic pardon – not to mention a healthy whiff of envy. Puns are one of the few pieces of evidence we have that reason remains.

  4. The problem, though, is that the LGBT community has decided to use the power of the government to FORCE people who have strong, sincere, moral objections to participating in same-sex weddings or face massive fines for their refusal to do so. Oh, yeah, coupled with the usual thug tactics, like those faced by Memories Pizza and Sweet Cakes by Melissa. They chose to use the courts to impose same-sex marriage (and yes, it was imposed on 31 states whose people, through the vote, refused to consent to same-sex marriage). The LGBT community is demanding that the Religious Right accept and participate in something that the Religious Right finds utterly immoral, and is willing to use the government to force those actions.

    Between this, and the actions of 16 state attorneys general who seem to be channeling Torquemada, I’m of the opinion that the First Amendment is under attack.

    • The problem, though, is that the LGBT community has decided to use the power of the government to FORCE people who have strong, sincere, moral objections to participating in same-sex weddings or face massive fines for their refusal to do so.

      Utter baloney. No Church can be forced to hold or recognize a gay marriage, nor can anyone be forced to participate in one. Arguing that selling services or products that may be used in a ceremony one has no interest in or even objects to is”participating” tortures logic, language and fact. It’s none of a hardware store’s business why I need a hammer, and none of a baker’s business why a couple wants a cake. Yours is a bad and desperate argument, and repeating it doesn’t make it better or more truthful.

      • “It’s none of a hardware store’s business why I need a hammer, and none of a baker’s business why a couple wants a cake.”

        Buy a cake from the display case, no problem. On the other hand, if you want me to bake a custom confection for your gay wedding and put a topper on it of two dudes, that’s a problem.

        You should read UCLA Professor Eugene Volokh’s amicus brief on the Elane Photography case. FYI, Prof Volokh supports gay marriage, but sees serious problems in coercing others to assert messages which they disagree with, because speech that is compelled is every bit as unconstitutional and repugnant as speech that is suppressed.

        http://volokh.com/2012/11/02/amicus-brief-in-elane-photography-v-willock-the-new-mexico-wedding-photography-case/

        • BTW, lawyers can turn away clients if the have a “fundamental disagreement” with the client’s position. The Sweetcakes by Melissa defendants found this out when they were rejected by numerous lawyers.

          If lawyers can turn down clients with whom they have a fundamental disagreement, then why cannot wedding photographers, florists, and bakers do the same when someone wants to enlist their talents to do something their conscience cannot abide, like the lawyers do?

          is it because some animals are more equal than others/

        • 1. The most infamous cake case did not require a custom cake with gay messaging.
          2. “Buy a cake from the display case, no problem. On the other hand, if you want me to bake a custom confection for your gay wedding and put a topper on it of two dudes, that’s a problem.” It shouldn’t be a problem, but if someone wants to be a jerk, they can be. However, if the couple wants to furnish its won “dudes,” no legitimate beef exists.
          3. Don’t presume to tell me what I “should read”—of course I read Volokh’s amicus, and everything else he’s written on these cases. I consider that comment an insult. Watch it.
          4. I agree with the point that photography is an expressive art (and have said so here), and to make a photographer work on ANYTHING he doesn’t want to is compelled speech—but it’s not a religious issue, its speech, and has nothing to do with “participating in a wedding.”

          • 3. Don’t presume to tell me what I “should read”—of course I read Volokh’s amicus, and everything else he’s written on these cases. I consider that comment an insult. Watch it.

            Sorry for not being clairvoyant and not knowing that you had already Volokh’s amicus briefs.

            • It’s not clairvoyance, it’s simple respect. I’m a professional, legal ethics is my field, and I don’t wing the blog or its analysis. “Have you read…?” would have been fine. “Should” presumes that I have not and have been negligent, since this is essential scholarship on the point.

    • “decided to use the power of the government to FORCE people who have strong, sincere, moral objections to participating in same-sex weddings or face massive fines for their refusal to do so.”

      I think you’re confusing the US with Pakistan, and US constitutional law with Sharia law.

      When your religious beliefs get used to shut down ordinary citizenry behavior, like buying a cake or a sheet of sandpaper, then your religious beliefs need a little trimming. Freedom of religion in the US means you get to practice your religion, except insofar as it infringes on my freedom to practice my religion, or my daily life as a citizen.

        • Charles, you blew right by the essence of the problem: fundamental beliefs in intractable conflict – for which, a third party is wholly unsuited to intervene to resolve. And, when such a third party’s intervention is unwelcomed by at least one of the conflicting parties, any imposed resolution comprises a greater tyranny than any which either of the conflicting parties are ever capable of imposing on the other.

          • “the essence of the problem: fundamental beliefs in intractable conflict – for which, a third party is wholly unsuited to intervene to resolve.”

            I do not accept your definition of the “essence of the problem.” Because your definition essentially disavows the purview of the constitution and the rule of law. If you accept living in this country, you accept that there is an arbiter for “fundamental beliefs in conflict.” And there is a third party: the constitution.

            • “And there is a third party: the Constitution.” No, the Constitution is not a third party; it is a tool intended primarily (at least, originally) to limit the powers of the federal government as a third party, and to limit the powers of all systems of governance from encroaching on individuals’ freedoms, including freedom of conscience (or, freedom of religion, if you prefer).

              In more recent times, the Constitution has indeed been wielded, even re-imagined and thus wielded, in a manner increasingly hostile to individuals’ freedoms and beliefs. The abuses intended and resulting from such re-imagining and wielding are becoming more evident and numerous every new day. The group-privilege wielders will swear they are advancing freedom for all individuals in their favored group for the sake of greater justice for everyone, even while engineering destruction of even larger groups’ (and even more individuals’) freedoms. The arbitration of conflicts is becoming increasingly minoritarian, thus setting the stage for emergence of one or several privileged minorities to monopolize arbitration.

              It is most telling when an encroachment on one or several members of one particular minority or another is condemned as a “violation of fundamental rights,” while the eventual redress for such encroachment is itself an encroachment of the same kind, but instead is praised as “justice” or “victory for equality” or “correct balancing of privileges.”

  5. The Second Coming (Yeats)

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The darkness drops again; but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

  6. “Treat other people exactly as you would like to be treated by them – this is the essence of all true religion.”

    Matthew 7:12

    It would be nice if the so called Christians who are pushing for these laws would actually follow the teachings of Christ instead the teachings of their ministers and political leaders.

  7. All silliness aside, and without resorting to juvenilia (easier to do without SMP egging that angle on), Jack, what’s the difference between Bible-belters not wanting to participate in any way with things that they find objectionable and the following examples:

    1. Conscientious objection to military service in time of war or national emergency (the SCOTUS said you don’t even need to have a specific religious basis, just a sincerely held belief, in Seeger v. US)

    2. Anti-vaxxers refusing to have their children vaccinated against dangerous illnesses (increasingly being recognized, even though it’s based on junk science)

    3.The Amish being allowed to opt out of what’s otherwise mandatory levels of education. (Wisconsin v. Yoder)

    4. Muslims being allowed to object to and even silence relatively benign Christmas observances in public schools.

    5. Atheists sometimes successfully suing over static war memorials that have crosses on them.

    6. Schoolchildren being allowed to opt out of the pledge of allegiance or other civic observance if it would violate some belief.

    I ask this because, given all of the above, it’s very easy to come to the conclusion that tolerance is “for me but not for thee” and that every group except Christians is entitled to accommodation, but Christians are only entitled to make accommodations. It’s all well and good to say there’s no First Amendment issue, the objecting business owners are deluding themselves or masking hate with religion, but when the surrounding climate says otherwise, or creates the perception of saying otherwise, those words are going to ring hollow. In turn, those words ringing hollow is what drives people who think they ring hollow to turn to someone who says something else, i.e. Trump.

    • 1. Conscientious objection to military service in time of war or national emergency (the SCOTUS said you don’t even need to have a specific religious basis, just a sincerely held belief, in Seeger v. US)ing

      Easiest in the group. Relieving consciencious objectors is common sense, because they don’t figure to be any good at what they object to; they are being excused from killing, which everyone understands is a dark area of moral ambiguity, and they still had to participate. Meanwhile, baking a cake is not participating in a wedding.

      There is some similarity—a lot of CO’s are using the law to duck their duties out of cowardice, and pacifism is unethical.

      2. Anti-vaxxers refusing to have their children vaccinated against dangerous illnesses (increasingly being recognized, even though it’s based on junk science)

      They are ignorant assholes who harm society. There’s not much difference. At least they aren’t using religion as a tool of discrimination.

      3.The Amish being allowed to opt out of what’s otherwise mandatory levels of education. (Wisconsin v. Yoder)

      They don’t hurt or affect anyone outside of an isolated community.

      4. Muslims being allowed to object to and even silence relatively benign Christmas observances in public schools.

      Anyone can do that, not just Muslims, and not just the religious. The schools can’t push one religion over another.


      5. Atheists sometimes successfully suing over static war memorials that have crosses on them.

      Similarity: it’s stupid and wrong. Dissimilarity: it doesn’t target innocent living people.

      • And #6?

        Let’s tighten #1 up a little. How about those hardy, principled souls who not only won’t join a rifle platoon (although some who picked up the rifle, like Alvin York, were in fact good at it) but won’t do alternative service like being a medic or taking the place of a fireman who’s being released for military service? How about those who even oppose paying taxes because they might pay for a war?

        Some hail folks like Dorothy Day as heroes or saints, I think they’re just frauds. However, I can’t see why someone like her is a hero, and someone who sends a gay couple packing because of piety is a villain.

        • P.S. #5 does target people sometimes, although indirectly in a Mafioso way. “Charming small town you got here, except that memorial in the park with that cross on top. Mr. Smith doesn’t like crosses, so he asked us to come talk to you and see if we can work something out. Lawsuits are expensive, and we know you want those shiny new fire trucks that will make your town that much safer. So, here’s the deal, you pull that memorial out, and we go away and you keep the money you need to get those trucks. You don’t pull it out, and well, lawsuits are expensive. “

      • A song would be really cool, and it would relieve the pressure forced by that creative genius you have lurking inside. Your song could live in history as the anthem to equality and anti-bigotry that brings the 2020s into something resembling sanity. Does WordPress allow you to portray a score, or would we have to sing along to a tune we already know? I know this sounds much more sarcastic than it is intended to be, but if you go to the effort of writing it, I’ll go the effort of singing it.

  8. You really need to read the laws before commenting on them. It was not a blanket license to discriminate. It limits itself to religious organizations, persons fostering or adopting a child, and providers of certain custom services. It does not mean the guy selling tacoes on the street corner gets to discriminate.

    • Michael, no law should EVER give ANYBODY the right to discriminate. Most especially should it not give INDIVIDUALS the right to discriminate. Laws should never be aimed at INDIVIDUALS but at making society in general better or safer.

    • I didn’t say it did. Of course I read the law-. It allows Kim Davis to refuse to do her job. It allows state employees to discriminate outright: The state government shall not take any discriminatory action against a state employee wholly or partially on the basis that such employee lawfully speaks or engages in expressive conduct based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 2 of this act

      Custom Services?

      (a) Photography, poetry, videography, disc-jockey services, wedding planning, printing, publishing or similar marriage-related goods or services; or

      (b) Floral arrangements, dress making, cake or pastry artistry, assembly-hall or other wedding-venue rentals, limousine or other car-service rentals, jewelry sales and services, or similar marriage-related services, accommodations, facilities or goods.

      Selling jewelry? Renting a hall? Renting a limo? “Similar marriage-related services, accommodations, facilities or goods” would certainly include the taco seller, if he was asked to provide tacos for the reception.

      Can you say “Void for vagueness and over-breadth”?
      Sure you can!

      • It carves out an exception for marriage related services. Overbroad, maybe, not void for vagueness. However, the message is: “Fudge packers and clam bumpers, get out! We don’t want you here!”

          • I decided I would not use juvenilia when speaking myself on this thread. I believe a great many of those who would assert their rights under this act would use precisely that kind of juvenilia, because when you have a visceral problem with something it’s very easy to short-circuit the thinking process and simply call names like fudgepacker, butt pirate, etc., or make up expressions you think are clever, like plumber who comes in the tradesman’s entrance.

            • Oh, now I get it. You can say anything you want so long as you put it in someone else’s mouth. Just speaking for myself: the words look just a leetle bitty bit familiar, as in “you’ve used them before and they were coming out of your mouth then, without question.”

              I’m thinking of a word myself. Can you guess what it is? That’s right. Hypocrite. You’ve let bits and pieces of your life out and it’s clearly been a hard road. And maybe you just decided to stop at that particular point where your brain decides it’s not in charge of your “viscera.” Keep just that bit back, hug it to yourself, hell, you love those words. They make you feel all warm and fuzzy, knowing that you can toss them out any time you feel like it and not care who you demean, conveniently forgetting that a great many people read what you write here, and that it’s you, Steve-O-in-NJ, writing it, someone who has no trouble using vocabulary to inform, converse, amuse, or provoke … so it couldn’t possibly be the hurtful, harmful, totally gratuitous insult it is. Whether you intend it to be or not makes no difference since you are unable to care whom you damage. Only your brain would be able to care, but you made a conscious decision with your brain to NOT care; your viscera … entrails … intestines, a body part that does not have a voice [heh heh, it makes noises, hyuhhuh], the non-brain body part that is unable to care or indeed to “think” at all, allows you to not care whenever you have a need to lash out.

              I know this is not going to make one whit of difference to you, so I am speaking instead to those who will have need of a voice that originates in a brain, and not in a constipated colon.

              • You’re right. It makes not a whit of difference to me. My posts speak for themselves. Oh, and about your comment that I’m thinking with a constipated colon, who’s being juvenile now? Pot to kettle…come in kettle…you are black, that is all.

                • Wrong again and completely. It’s your own lack of vocabulary or perhaps my tendency to wordplay that caused your incorrect conclusion: “colon” was a polite reference to the subject of your crude insults, and “constipated” is a common — and polite — reference to circumscribed, stiff, obstructed, hindered or impeded movement, as with traffic or thought, or as in author John Fowles “united only in a constipated hatred of change of any kind” and a not-infrequent description of vocal performances in music reviews.

                  My posts do not speak for themselves: they speak for me and sometimes for others, and I expect to be able to defend, explain or apologize for them as would any adult.

                  • “A voice that originates in a constipated colon.”. In other words, I am thinking with my lower intestine and my brain is the hardened shit that results after constipation. You may believe that, but it sounds like a playground insult among 6th graders. I got it exactly right the first time, so go shop your insults elsewhere.

                    • “A voice that originates in a constipated colon.” You are apparently quoting yourself since those are neither my words nor my intention. Quite the opposite, since I was offering examples of common connotations of the word “constipated” at the time, this one referring specifically to a constriction of the vocal cords.

                      You DID get it right the first time. And I understood it correctly: you will continue to engage freely in the (yes, juvenile) abuse of a group of people solely on the basis of one of their supposed sexual practices … the practice of anal intercourse which, as I’ve pointed out before, is also the oldest ongoing form of contraception known to human beings … because you have a personal problem with it.

                      Do so. I will continue to call you on it.

      • The state government shall not take any discriminatory action against a state employee wholly or partially on the basis that such employee lawfully speaks or engages in expressive conduct based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 2 of this act

        How is this discrimination.

        Selling jewelry? Renting a hall? Renting a limo? “Similar marriage-related services, accommodations, facilities or goods” would certainly include the taco seller, if he was asked to provide tacos for the reception.

        Here is the key.

        It has to be marriage-related, meaning that it is done in coordination with a wedding celebration. It does not apply to the guy selling tacoes on a street corner.

        • 1. It’s discrimination because the government is supposed, and must, do its jobequally for all citizens. If a government employee won’t do that, the employee should quit or be removed. If everyone did this, the government would cease to function for certain Americans. Moreover, by allowing individual discrimination in its ranks, the government ratifies it.

          2. Marriage related is way, way too broad, and marriage related is not “participating.” Is selling shoes to a groom in a same -sex marriage participating? How about filling the groom’s teeth so he looks good? How about giving him a haircut? It DOES apply to the tacos if they are feeding wedding guests…no different from the cake..both food, same mouths.

  9. I got married in my hometown, and my hub lived here, showing up at the last minute for the license (there’s a time limit in TX). My family and I, on trips home, put it all together. My husband had almost nothing to do with the actual wedding except showing up. We didn’t write our names on stuff like the cake. I could have been marrying a baboon, and no one would have been the wiser. There was not a single person who sold me ANYTHING who participated in the wedding. Period. Participation in it was just the two of us and the actual pastor who performed the ceremony. It was a non-denominational chapel on a state college campus. If I’d been an asshole, someone could have denied me service- that’s protected. But barring persons being assholes (I’m thinking of the Starbucks video), there’s no right to deny service. And heck, they’d actually have a good dodge if they were smart enough to just say they were already booked and be done with it. Wouldn’t that be constitutionally ok? Without being an asshole?

      • If the objections are religious, and the religious feel that god knows all, sees all and has dominion over the entire universe, or at the very least this solar system… Let God speak for himself.

        So far, he doesn’t seem too interested.

        God did not author dogma, it is man’s authorship. You can claim it was inspired by god, but you can claim anything, it remains unsubstantiated.If there were a universal god, there would not be regional religions.

      • HAHAHAHAHA!!! Yes. Many of our theatrical brethren have. Heck, he saw our show, dude, you just missed him. But shockeroo, he doesn’t talk much in public, especially when theatricals are about. He’s even in FB pix, though rarely, because he’s private na dhates their facial recognition stuff.

  10. Human logic is so warped by truisms. Why are we discussing the competition between religious freedom and the principle of respecting others? Once we strip away the artificial distinction between religious beliefs and any other beliefs, everything becomes more obvious.

    It makes no sense at all to say that people are free to believe whatever they want but that they should not impose those beliefs on others in public. Society is built on a foundation of mutual beliefs, beliefs about the best obligations we can all impose on ourselves on behalf of each other. Fundamental disagreements or paradigm mismatches about ethics and rights cannot be ignored, because they disrupt the fabric of society itself. (No, gay marriage in itself doesn’t disrupt the fabric of society; the fact that only a small percentage of the population can discuss it respectfully and intelligently indicates the fabric has been looking for an excuse to unravel.)

    “Religious freedom” is an excuse to avoid difficult conversations and careful thought, and just sweep the differences under the rug. The only reason that’s possible is because (most) people decided they would prefer to ignore each other rather than kill each other, but that doesn’t make the underlying misunderstandings go away. They show up in politics because the law of the land is the only place where people have no alternative but to deal with each other’s beliefs about right and wrong (or leave the country). If we face our disagreements head on, but with the goal of learning, there is no reason “tolerance” needs to last forever.

    I would never tell a person who believes that gay marriage is an offense against a magical energy being that they should keep that belief to themselves, any more than I would ask it of someone who believes that evolution is a more accurate and useful concept than creationism. People who keep beliefs to themselves rarely get the opportunity to learn they’re wrong. Of course, people who never shut up about their beliefs and listen to alternatives never learn either. Ideas should be sent out into the world to stand on their own. Most of them will be torn to shreds, and that’s good. The ideas that don’t survive weren’t useful, at least not by themselves.

    There is no way to defend religion as a concept, let alone its exercise, because religion is an arbitrary collection of descriptive and normative beliefs with a lot of people who consider them somehow existentially important. Religion in general cannot be defended ethically or legally, because its beliefs could say literally anything. Any such defense would merely be an excuse to completely ignore skepticism and critical thinking in the name of… somehow being morally superior in a way that critical thinking and skepticism… somehow prevents. However, most (but not all) religions allow critical thinking in ways that don’t threaten their tenets, because the ones that don’t are even more horribly crippled due to their intellectual bankruptcy. Few complain because few know how to think critically, or value the practice.

    On the whole, religion seems to be strictly worse than secular humanism, especially ethically. The only reasons it survives are that so many people are unwilling or unable to seriously consider that it might be wrong, and the persistence of the condescending idea that people and the country somehow can’t function without it. Those were the same means by which slavery survived so long. Like slavery, religions run the gamut from cruel and barbaric to gilded cages, but unfortunately, prisoners of the mind take more than laws to emancipate.

    Mind you, I don’t believe in persecuting people for what they believe. There is no reason to use intellectually bankrupt methods to fight intellectual bankruptcy, and many reasons not to. It is, however, unethical to allow willful ignorance to exempt people from the law and from ethical principles. Religion is never an excuse for anything. Because religious people tend to be in the majority, they can get away with being the naked emperor demanding that everyone admire his clothes. While the law cannot and should not make thoughts illegal, that doesn’t mean those thoughts have any truth to them. It certainly doesn’t mean that laws have to ignore evidence and consistency; we couldn’t have safety laws if we didn’t have evidence of what is safe. You aren’t obligated to believe anything in particular, but you are obligated to question your beliefs.

    Any religious people (particularly monotheists) who are offended by my words, I encourage you to attempt to convince me that energy beings exist that fit the impossible descriptions you ascribe to them, and that any ethical truth can depend on the existence of an energy being. For you to give up on convincing me of what you consider to be the truth would be a serious insult to my sincere desire and ability to identify truth, or perhaps a self-indictment of your understanding of your own “deeply held beliefs”. So, then, will you shun learning about ideas you’ve pre-judged to be wrong, living with the fact that you didn’t have enough faith to put your beliefs to the test or enough goodwill to share them with a sincere seeker of truth, or will you risk transforming into a better person the current you would not recognize?

    • Gilded, polite anti-religion, nothing more. It’s two steps up from the crude anti-Christian rants we often hear from the assholes who hate God and the idea of a god because their own lives suck or because they want to give their malice free reign, and a step up from the snide insults the lefty intellectuals use, but it’s still just anti-religion in a nice package. I’d double check my history if I were you. Yes, a lot of sins have been committed in the name of religion and a lot of sins have hidden behind religion. However, the worst regimes in history were the atheist ones: revolutionary France, where a date with the guillotine was easily scheduled for any reason or no reason, Bolshevik Russia, where the Cheka were all about state terror, Nazi Germany, where Hitler put 4 million Catholics to the sword as well as 6 million Jews, and Pol Pot’s Cambodia, where 1/3 the population was killed outright or starved. Let’s not forget Maoist China and Ceaucescu’s Romania, not to mention the Kims’ slave state of North Korea, the small but brutal regime of Enver Hoxha in Albania, and the pale shadow that was Chavez’ Venezuela, where men dared set themselves up as gods. Atheism has nothing to teach believers in terms of right and wrong, except perhaps how to be more efficient in one’s wrongs. I’d also ask where are the atheist hospitals, the atheist orchestras, the atheist charities, the atheist artists? There are plenty of secular charities, yes, but I can’t think of one atheist organization that does anything other than hurl insults, file lawsuits, and make life that much less pleasant.

      • You’re right; atheism on its own is insufficient for being ethical. But are you saying it is incompatible? Do you think ethics requires a person to fear retribution from an omnipotent Big Brother? Your subjective history lesson doesn’t indicate to me that atheism is worse (don’t forget the Crusades, the conquistadors, the Inquisition, the Troubles, ISIS, et cetera…), just that neither atheism nor religion is sufficient to teach ethical thought and behavior. Humans are adept at finding excuses to indulge their malice no matter what they claim to believe.

        Yes, I am anti-religion, because as far as I can tell, “religion” is only a label that groups of people use to get away with willful ignorance of science, philosophy, and ethics. “Don’t talk about religion” means “let these people live in a delusion.” I tolerate it for now because if I were to go around deconverting people I would disrupt families and communities, and in the U.S. religion is usually fairly harmless, except when it’s used as a shield for cruel behavior, or when it’s forcing otherwise good people to shun those they really love because they believe they have to.

        It’s no secret that atheism as a concept doesn’t teach right and wrong (though many atheists do). Atheism merely holds that you can’t just be handed right and wrong from a magical energy being, especially an unfathomable one. In and of itself, it has no moral code; it serves to reject moral codes and empirical beliefs held on blind faith. Granted, those moral codes can be better than nothing, but atheism doesn’t mandate rejecting moral codes, just ones you don’t understand. Most people never learned to understand much of anything, so I can see where that policy would be intimidating.

        Do I advocate everyone relinquishing religion and replacing it with nothing? Absolutely not. I have my own code of ethics, derived from scratch, with no need to believe in a cosmic adjudicator. I would advocate its adoption and improvement by the world at large. Ethics doesn’t come from religion; it was adopted by religion so that it could survive, which is why most religions historically haven’t bothered applying ethics to outsiders.

        As for atheist charities, they don’t tend to advertise their belief systems in their activities like religious ones do. Atheists usually just quietly donate to charity, without making a big deal of it. If you see anything labeled as atheist, then yes, it will probably be geared towards at least showing people atheism does not equate to unethical, and quite possibly showing people that religion is not as accurate or useful as they think, and certainly not necessary. Don’t confuse the followers with the idea, though. It’s entirely possible, normatively, for a person to be a jerk and another to be a saint. That doesn’t make the one person’s description of reality wrong and the other’s right.

        • Having no religion is no problem. Being anti-religion is, the same as being anti-color or anti-gender is. It’s your own damn business if you choose to believe or not. It’s your own damn business if you think the beliefs of others are whatever. However, when you insult, attack, or hurt others based on their beliefs, we have a problem. I don’t need or want another Craig Hicks who does nothing but bash belief until his simmering hatred leads him to kill three people.

          Subjective history? Hardly. I didn’t say one thing that wasn’t true, and frankly I think a lot of the modern totalitarian left began with Diderot’s statement that he wanted to hang the last king with the entrails of the last priest. Thankfully he did not succeed and most of the revolutionary French leaders ended up on the same scaffold where they sent so many others.

          But, let’s talk about the historical examples you gave. The thought that the Crusades were some kind of assault on the peaceful Muslim world is discredited. The Muslims had engaged in almost four centuries of aggression against Europe before Urban preached the call to arms. Clash of cultures? Sure, but as much about land and revenge and crescent must bear as much fault as cross.

          The Conquistadores didn’t do such wonderful things, true, and at least one, Cortez, was religiously motivated…after he saw that the Aztecs committed human sacrifices It was as much about gold and land as religion, though.

          The Troubles certainly had a religious element, but was as much about land, jobs, and lingering bitterness over 800 years. The Inquisition was an abuse of faith to steal property, and ISIS is about violence as an end in itself. The last two are the only real abuses.

          • Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply your historical facts were subjective. I meant that your conclusion that atheism was somehow worse than religion based on a section of atheist totalitarian regimes needs more support, because it looks biased. I’m not really interested in the historical aspect, though. It’s already evident that neither religion nor the lack thereof are sufficient to be good, and since I’m not claiming atheism is “good”, there’s no reason to compare the two. Let’s take an objective look at religion by itself.

            Where did you get the idea that religion was similar to race or gender? Race and gender are superficial descriptors of a person, which can’t be “wrong”, not assertions made by a person about ethics and science, which can be very wrong. Additionally, it’s true that you can’t choose what religion you’re raised with, but you can always choose to think critically about what your religion asks you to believe, and reject what doesn’t make sense. Even though what you believe to be true based on your experiences isn’t really a choice, questioning it and seeking out alternative ideas is. Thus, the fact that so many of the religious people of the world arrogantly assume that somehow they were raised with the one true worldview, dismissing all the people who think the exact same thing about their own religions, is a continuous negligence.

            Furthermore, the beliefs of other people regarding right and wrong are absolutely my business, and they’re yours, too. What other people consider right affects my life, because it leads them to make laws and take actions that affect me. That applies to religion, politics, culture, and anything else involving serious normative beliefs. This isn’t like having a favorite band. Having any beliefs at all about “right and wrong” is fundamentally incompatible with minding your own business; it’s what makes society a society, instead of just a bunch of warring clans with treacherous internal politics. Sure, you can hold that the non-initiation of aggression is the only rule, but how does that apply to people in other countries?

            Finally, if a misunderstanding of some aspect of reality affects a person in a negative way, even if it doesn’t directly affect me, it’s my ethical duty to make an effort to disabuse people of the false concept. I’m not an isolationist. However, since I cannot enforce anything merely because I think I’m right, I use empathy to persuade people to listen and consider alternatives to their beliefs (that’s how I avoid breaking the non-aggression principle). If we can’t discuss right and wrong, listen to each other, and come to common conclusions based on a mutual frame of reference, if we continue to instead send our different clichés of “freedom of X” to duke it out in the arena of public sentiment, we don’t have a society. We have a Tower of Rabble.

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