Comment Of The Day #1: “Considering the Retrograde Mississippi Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, This Shouldn’t Be Surprising At All…”

same sex-cake-cutting-

Frequent and thoughtful commenter Inquiring Mind is regularly roiled by efforts to punish members of society and the business community who carry their objection to same sex marriage outside of the home and the church into the workplace and the marketplace. Here is his Comment of the Day, posted a day late, on the post about the Mississippi law the allows certain forms of discrimination against LGBT citizens, Considering the Retrograde Mississippi Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, This Shouldn’t Be Surprising At All…

(I’ll be back for some comments at the end.)

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.

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 mandates 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.  I will refer back to it:

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?

 

I’m back.

To answer the last question first, the thuggery and bullying have gone too far many times. Ganging up to get someone fired because they supported the anti-gay marriage position in a state referendum is too far. Targeting a business specifically to provoke it into a legal battle over its right to, for example, refuse to rent a property for a gay marriage is too far.  Driving a pizza joint out of business because a politically naive owner was goaded by an interviewer into stating that it would not cater a same-sex wedding reception is too far.

This is one of IM’s core points, and it’s not persuasive. The validity of a cause is not made greater or lesser by its supporters’ excesses. John Brown’s murder and terrorism did not mean that the defenders of slavery had increased justification by selling and enslaving human beings. If Inquiring Mind’s point is that unfair and excessively coercive tactics provoke more resistance and resentment,  I agree, but that only is an indictment of the LGBT activists’ strategy and tactics, not their cause. It’s a bug, in other words.

It isn’t gay marriage that the adamant objectors feel that shouldn’t have to participate in, it’s society itself. The spin that having to sell a cake or a dress to a couple in a same-sex marriage is itself participation is nonsense, an attempt to stretch the concept out of all form and meaning to justify discrimination, however sincerely held.  A law-abiding teller who allows me to withdraw my own cash to purchase a gun has not participated in the robbery I perform with it. The anti-monarchist coach who teaches the king not to stutter has not participated in the king’s national address. The Muslim grocer who sells me my Christmas goose has not committed blasphemy.

The reason religion and government may not mix is precisely because religious morality—a set of rules of conduct dictated by an authority— must not compete with secular government morality, or law…which is based on ethics. So is religious morality: the problem is that that most religious morality was built on ethics arising out of ancient concepts and assumptions that are often no longer valid—like the belief that women are subordinate and lesser human beings, or beliefs that homosexuality is a scourge of civilization, a form of wilful perversion, and should be treated like a crime or a plague.  American society has come to reject these and other ancient ideas, based on the  wisdom accumulated between then and now, and constructs its laws accordingly. Those who find it repugnant to accept society’s values as they evolve and are codified in law need to see if they can set up some kind of religious reserve, like the Amish, or consider relocating to nations that still treat homosexuality as a crime. They have no right, outside of their places of worship or homes, to refuse to abide by society’s admittedly amended values to the disadvantage of other citizens, .

“[T]hey are now asking not to be forced to participate in something they believe is wrong,” IM writes. That “something” is American society, and they have no choice but to participate in it. No one–not gays, not the law—are requiring that they participate in same sex marriages. Respecting the right of citizens to exercise their own rights isn’t “participation” in that exercise. But it is participating in society.

19 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day #1: “Considering the Retrograde Mississippi Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, This Shouldn’t Be Surprising At All…”

      • I know what you mean…sometimes the best stuff comes about only through exegesis…(then you feel dumb for having buried the lede!)

    • I almost overlooked this post, thinking you had answered it already, and more than once. I was wrong. The ethical perspective now suits the whole, not just its parts.

      • I never would have clarified it for myself without the thread..

        Just noticed you had already said what I had to say, with the kind of openness and objectivity that marks this blog* as a standout among the others. It also reminded me that it was this blog that made it worthwhile to pay attention to many of the thoughtful commenters as well.

  1. . Respecting the right of citizens to exercise their own rights isn’t “participation” in that exercise.

    I have not heard anyone claim it is okay to disrupt a same-sex wedding.

    Refusing to photograph a same-sex wedding is not disrespectful of anyone.

    • I’m with Professor Volokh on this on: photography by definition is an expressive are, like performing. No, no one should be required to photograph anything, except a drivers license. But that has nothing to do with religious freedom.

  2. Jack, you wrote: “The reason religion and government may not mix is precisely because religious morality—a set of rules of conduct dictated by an authority— must not compete with secular government morality, or law…which is based on ethics. So is religious morality: the problem is that that most religious morality was built on ethics arising out of ancient concepts and assumptions that are often no longer valid. . .”
    I have some problems with your assertion and I write this from the point of view of someone who is not particularly religious, but influenced by Eastern Thought. Secular government morality, or law has not done so well historically. For example, Communist China under Mao and his successors, the former Soviet Union under Stalin and his successors, Pol Pot, Fidel Castro and his more “enlightened” brother Raul, and other numerous secular despots. I really do not think that ethics resulting from The Ten Commandments or The Five Precepts (in Buddhism) are no longer valid. Neither is “Love thy neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). So let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. The United States was founded by believers in a benevolent God. I myself am deeply suspicious of secular ethics as they have frequently resulted in grave injustices.

    • “The reason religion and government may not mix is precisely because religious morality—a set of rules of conduct dictated by an authority— must not compete with secular government morality, or law…which is based on ethics. So is religious morality: the problem is that that most religious morality was built on ethics arising out of ancient concepts and assumptions that are often no longer valid. . .”

      Your critique doesn’t follow from what I wrote. The underlying principles of both religious morality and secular morality—ethics—are largely the same except for the provisions related to worship and ethics. Take away the first 5 commandments, which are just commands of worship, and the remaining 7 aren’t religious: they are ethical rules of reason based on survival. I never said the Ten Commandments weren’t valid, and wasn’t speaking of them. The ones based on ethics are very valid. The ones that just order people how to worship have no general use. Old moral laws are an essential foundation for any secular code, and I would be the last one suggest junking them. but the are not holy mandates without basis in experience and reason.

        • Never understood that logic or argument. It essentially excludes the existence of ethics, of the ability of human beongs to use experience and reason to figure out what is right, without cosmic punishment hanging over their heads as a threat.

          • Some need the threat of cosmic punishment hanging over their head. Liberal secularists tend to believe that people are basically good. History seems to prove otherwise. See *Hitler’s Willing Accomplises*.

            • Oh, lots of people need it…that’s why religion is valuable, like cattle prods are valuable to keep the herd in line. And people aren’t intrinsically good, either. But they can learn.

            • If you need cosmic punishment to keep you from going on a killing spree then by all means believe in cosmic punishment. Just don’t wield it as a cudgel against other people and we’re good.

              It won’t work for me, I’m too rebellious. Show me a cosmic punisher and all I see is evil. What kind of monster meets out eternal punishment? Even Hitler surely could be paroled after a thousand years, or a million or a billion or a trillion. Forever? Screw that. Screw the entity that would do that.

      • Jack, at the risk of giving you a big head (because I’ve already complimented you twice this week), that is a brilliant exposition of the relationship between religion and ethics.
        Thank you.

    • I am new here, but I will wade in. There have been many troubled “atheist governments”, but they typically had issues because their atheism was exclusionary. They were outright hostile to people with religious beliefs, which caused most of their issues.The US has been a success because it is inclusionary, not because of any particular religious motif.

      You mentioned the 10 commandments and 5 precepts, but our country isn’t founded on any of those. Allow me to explain:

      Commandments:
      1: Have no other gods->The US Constitution has the opposite rule.
      2. Make no idols->US Constitution allows your right to idols
      3. Don’t take name in vain->US Constitution expressly allows
      4. Keep Sabbath holy->No law
      5. Honor Mom&Dad->No law
      6. No murder->Law in all states
      7. No adultery->only in some places
      8. No stealing->Law in all states
      9. No perjury->Law in all states
      10. No coveting->No law

      5 precepts:
      1. Do not harm any life->No law
      2. Do not steal->Law in all 50 states
      3. Respect each other->No law, but maybe kinda the civil rights?
      4. Speak kindly->US Constitution says you can do the opposite
      5. Avoid self harm->Drug law

      So, out of 10 commandments, we only institute 4 of them in our laws and expressly forbid three. The 4 we did institute can all be found in much older secular laws, going all the way back to the code of Ur-Nammu.
      The 5 precepts do a little better, but only because they are vague. We have a law that advocates your ability to speak unkindly(1st Amendment).

      Our federal and state laws share more in common with the laws of Hammurabi and Ur-Nammu than any religious texts. Both Hammurabi and Ur-Nammu predate the Bible by millenia. The religious texts don’t really have a lot of information for how to operate a country, unless you count Daoism. The reason we share more in common with Ur-Nammu is because there are certain rules that are required for any orderly society. We understood those rules thousands of years ago and we understand them today. Some of them show up in the 10 commandments, but only because they were well-known rules for any society.

      Secular ethics aren’t really a problem. There are bad secular countries and there are bad theocratic countries. The problem is intolerance. Atheists just tend to be the most intolerant bunch.

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