One More Time: A Correct Decision Because There Is A Right To Be A Jerk, Even Though Being A Jerk Isn’t Right

This decision should have been easy; it should not have has to go to an appeals court.

Carl and Angel Larsen (above) operate the Telescope Media Group, a Minnesota videography company.  In 2016, they claimed  Minnesota’s anti-discrimination laws required them to make videos of same-sex marriages, which they say their religious beliefs oppose. They challenged the Minnesota Human Rights Act as unconstitutional. The relevant provisions state,

“…It is an unfair discriminatory practice . . . to deny any person the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of a place of public accommodation because of . . . sexual orientation.

…It is an unfair discriminatory practice for a person engaged in a trade or business or in the provision of a service . . . to intentionally refuse to do business with, to refuse to contract with, or to discriminate in the basic terms, conditions, or performance of the contract because of a person’s . . . sexual orientation . . . , unless the alleged refusal or discrimination is because of a legitimate business purpose…”

The Larsens told the lower court that they wanted to make films that promote their view of marriage as a “sacrificial covenant between one man and one woman.” Thus they will only film heterosexual  weddings, to “capture the background stories of the couples’ love leading to commitment, the [couples’] joy[,] . . . the sacredness of their sacrificial vows at the altar, and even the following chapters of the couples’ lives.” They also, they said,  intend to post and share these videos online, in order to “affect the cultural narrative regarding marriage.”

 U.S. District Judge John Tunheim  dismissed their case, comparing  their stated mission of  promoting marriage as a bond between one man and one woman was comparable to posting a sign that said “white applicants only.”

Bad opinion, bad logic, bad judge. The couple made clear that they will “gladly work with all people—regardless of their race, sexual orientation, sex, religious beliefs, or any other classification.” However, as ” Christians who believe that God has called them to use their talents and their company to . . . honor God,” the Larsons decline any requests for their services that they feel conflict with their religious beliefs, and so state in their promotional materials.

In a 2-1 decision,  the three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit reversed, ruling that the Larsons have a First Amendment right “to choose when to speak and what to say.”

Of course. While one may argue whether a cake is “speech” under the First Amendment, there is no persuasive argument that a video or film is not protected communication and speech by definition. The opinion cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1995 landmark decision in Hurley vs. Irish American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston, noting that the Court “drew the line exactly where the Larsens ask us to here: to prevent the government from requiring their speech to serve as a public accommodation for others.”

As with the various baker and wedding photo cases, I find the Larson’s conduct obnoxious, divisive and unnecessary. How does simply filming a wedding—I don’t care if it’s between a man and a musk-ox—constitute an endorsement, support, or a violation of their religious beliefs? It doesn’t. It can’t. Refusing to make a video of a wedding is an insult to any couple that requests it, and cruelly implies that they are less than worthy of association. Sure, the videographers have a right to withhold their services, but they are being jerks to do so. This is a Golden Rule matter. A law shouldn’t be necessary.

However, the Larsons should have the choice of whether to be good, ethical members of the community, fair and compassionate, and not be forced to act the way the State thinks they should act, even if the State happens to be correct, under threat of  90 days in jail and up to $25,000  in fines. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-up, 7/18/2019: Heading Toward An Ameriac Where “America” Is Banned, Where It’s Illegal To Call An Illegal Illegal, Where Judge’s Say “Good Work!” To Felons, And Where Illiterate Celebrities Are “Influencers”

Aiiii!

Everything is seemingly spinning out of control!

1. For example, this stupid controversy, and surprisingly, it involves the Kardashian family. Kylie Jenner, Kim’s half-sister, is, as you may know, a “social media influencer,” which means companies pay her millions to use Instagram to promote their brands or products to the mouth-breathing idiots who follow this fatuous and useless celebrity.

Kylie recently issued a post featuring this photo of herself nude in a huge straw hat…

 

which rankled another “influencer,” Amanda Ensing—how can someone get paid to influence people when I’ve never heard of them?— who accused Jenner of stealing her pose.  Ensling has more than one million followers on both YouTube and Instagram, where she posts her outfits, makeup looks, travel experiences, and hairstyles, and  had previously appeared on Instagram like this…

She implied that Jenner had engaged inInstagram pose plagiarism, or something. (There’s no such thing.) The ever-articulate half-Kardashian lashed back, in words reminiscent of Dryden or Wilde in high form,

“from the words of Kim K ur not on my mood board but i did get my inspo off Pinterest”

This exchange justified breathless accounts in People, The Daily Beast, Cosmo, E!, Us, and dozens of other websites, as well as celebrity cable shows, spreading the false impression that what these semi-literate narcissists  say or do matters, thus increasing their ability to make our young trivial and even dumber that our schools make them.

Apparently Pierre Auguste Renoir isn’t active on social media, or he might have complained to both “influencers.”

2. From Minnesota, a very different kind of stupid: In an epic example of woke virtue-signaling because Nationalism Bad,  the city council for St. Louis Park in Minnesota decided to end the practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at its meetings—you know,  to be more “inclusive,” which means to pander to members who don’t care that much for the United Sates of America.  Then they were shocked to discover that a very vocal majority of constituents found the move offensive, so the city council members did a complete 180,  said, “Never mind!” and reversed themselves unanimously,though complaining bitterly and implying that Deplorables made them do it. Integrity! Principle over expediency! Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 5/4/2019: No Trump, No “Resistance.” Enjoy!

Good Morning!

This song, the only “hit” (kind of) by “The Carpenters” sung by Karen’s brother Richard, matches my conflicted mood today. Richard’s teasing and criticism played a part in killing his sister, who possessed one of the most wonderful voices of any popular female vocalist in U.S. history, but who was doomed by anorexia. I am also both perplexed and amused that someone with a lisp would choose a song that repeats “Saturday” as his break-out solo. I wonder if Karen teased him about that?

1.  More on high-testosterone competitors in women’s sports. As I recently wrote here, I am floating in an uncharted sea of uncertainty on this issue, especially regarding Caster Semenya, the intersex South African track star. I do know, however, that I applaud her defiance of the recent court order dictating that she will have to take testosterone-lowing medication if she wants to compete. After a race this week, which she won, as usual, Semenya was asked if she would take the drug. Her answer:  “Hell no.”

Athletic organizations are treading through a mine field here. If they regard taking performance enhancing drugs as cheating, as they should, demanding that certain competitors with natural physical and genetic advantages should take performance-handicapping drugs seems like a double standard.

2. Stop making me defend Woody Allen! I have been unable to watch an Allen movie, even old favorites like “Bananas,” “What’s Up. Tiger Lilly?,” and “Annie Hall,” without gagging since the comic/director cheated on Mia Farrow with her adopted teen-aged daughter, to whom he was a virtual father, and then married her. Thus I have watched none of his films at all. I didn’t need to make a judgment about his daughter’s claims that he sexually molested her, which Allen denies, and since I have no more evidence than the she said/he said (and my certainty that Allen is a certifiable creep), I can’t. However, once Dylan Farrow and her vengeful mother Mia renewed their accusations against Allen while #MeToo was raging,  virtually all of Hollywood turned on Woody, even actors who had worked with him well after Dylan first made her claims. What changed? Nothing, really, except that now they are afraid of social media retribution, so they are pretending to be horrified at what didn’t bother them previously and assuming Woody’s guilt because “believe all women” is the “woke” place to be.

Well, Woody is a creature of Hollywood: this is unethical and unfair, but as Hymen Roth would tell him, “This is the life you have chosen.” Translation: if you voluntarily spend your career in (and benefiting from, and contributing too) an ethically warped culture, don’t expect a lot of sympathy when it turns on you.

This is more troubling: apparently Woody has a completed manuscript of his memoirs, which would have once sparked a publishers auction and an eventual multi-million dollar advance. Now, however, no publisher will pay a cent for it, because “while he remains a significant cultural figure, the commercial risks of releasing a memoir by him were too daunting.”

That means that the publishers are afraid of boycotts. How courageous. Allen is a significant cultural figure as well as a talented humorist. His memoirs have cultural importance, and they belong in the historical record, loathsome as find the man. Easily as loathsome are William Jefferson Clinton and his wife, yet both of them managed to score 7 figure book advances for memoirs they didn’t even write themselves.

Essentially what is happening to Woody is human statue-toppling. He is being erased from the culture despite never having been charged with or tried for a crime (unlike Bill Cosby and O.J. Simpson) because it is a sign of virtue among sufficient numbers of people with social media access to assume he is guilty. The boycott and progressive bully culture is a direct threat to basic freedoms. I’d regain some respect for Woody Allen if he would say so. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/29/18: ‘Infuriating Stuff I Wish I Didn’t Have To Know About Or Write About’ Edition

Screaming from mountain tops does no good, I know, but this is the life I have chosen…

Good Morning.

(My beautiful Christmas tree is drooping already, despite meticulous care. (Did you know that in Philadelphia it’s called a “Holiday Tree”? Did you know they had gone mad in Philadelphia?) I’ve had some last until February first. Not this one, I fear.)

1. Like most of the journalism establishment here, only less subtle about itDer Spiegel reporter Claas Relotius was exposed this month to be that publication’s version of Stephen Glass, a star journalist who just made stuff up. He, however, made stuff up to play to anti-Trump sentiments abroad, writing multiple stories to show how bigoted and backward the town of Fergus Falls, Minnesota was, explaining why it went for President Trump in the 2106 election.

The New York Times story on the hoax shows how Relotius could have accomplished the same mission using just spin, slanted framing and old fashioned bias. Read the thing: it just drips with thinly veiled contempt for Trump voters, and the President, of course. “The election results speak for themselves,” says the Times, knowing how the typical times reader will take that. The Times reporters reveal that the town isn’t full of racist yahoos as if that is news in itself.

2. Can’t let this pass, unfortunately. President Trump and first lady Melania Trump were taking calls from young children wondering about Santa’s whereabouts on Christmas Eve, as part of the NORAD Santa tracker (which I think is a waste of money no matter what it costs, and an example of the government being involved where it should not be), and had  this conversation  with 7-year-old Collman Lloyd which was videoed on both sides;

Collman told the President about the Santa visit preparations underway at the Lloyd household, saying “Probably put out some cookies and then we’re hanging out with our friends, so that’s pretty much all.”

The President: “Well that’s very good. You just have a good time.”

Collman: “Yes, sir.”

The President: “Are you still a believer in Santa?”

Collman: “Yes, sir.”

Trump: “Because at seven it’s marginal, right?” 

Collman: “Yes, sir.”

The trivial exchange triggered more Trump-bashing and a ridiculous amount of negative commentary. This approaches blind hate at a pathological level. The focus of the attacks were that the President’s “marginal” line supposedly destroyed the girl’s belief in Santa Clause. Ugh.

  • She later said that she had no idea what “marginal” meant. We  all know Trump can’t talk: this is Julie Principle territory. The only way one assumes that his intent was to shatter the girl’s innocent faith is if one thinks the President is a monster…which is what the news media wants the public to think.
  • If I had to guess, I would say that he was noting that not all of her friends did believe in Santa—which is, studies say, true. My son was a skeptic at 6. I. in contrast, believed in St. Nick until I was 28…
  • Collman also said that what the Evil Scrooge Trump said didn’t cause her not to believe in Santa, though this could be called moral luck.
  • Even at seven, a personal exchange with the President of the United States would have meant so much more to me than any dents in my Santa Claus beliefs that I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Of course, when I was seven it was the norm that all citizens respected and honored the President, because that was whom our democracy chose to lead us.

Continue reading

Mostly Non-Baseball Ethics Musings While Nervously Watching The World Series [UPDATED!]

1. Dave Roberts did indeed get a standing ovation from the Boston fans when he was introduced in the pre-game ceremonies. As I promised…

2. Another family has written an attack letter against a member running for office. This is the second instance of this ugly campaign tactic this election  cycle. I don’t care what party is involved, or who the candidates are. Amy family members who would do this are contemptible.  The Laxalt family members, the culprits this time, even wrote that they didn’t know their target very well. If they don’t know him, why do their opinions matter?  Have they no decency? Has no one any decency?

3. I thought my left-wing echo-chamber addled Facebook friends were kidding when they suggested that President Trump and the Republicans were paying for the herd of illegal aliens marching on our borders. No, apparently some progressive pundits and journalists are actually claiming this, with a Blasey Ford level of evidence. You know, none. So illegal immigrants, encouraged by open-borders rhetoric from American progressives, Democrats and the biased news media, set out to force themselves past our laws and borders, and because this display risks enlightening the public about just how irresponsible and dangerous the left’s romanticized fantasy about illegal immigration is, they are denying that it’s real, and blaming it on Trump. Amazing.

4. Now here’s a campaign controversy you don’t see very often: the Democratic  candidate for the Minnesota State legislature may have married her brother. I  might argue that such incest is not necessarily relevant to her qualifications as a legislature, except that there is evidence that the marriage was a factor in possible immigration fraud and student loan fraud. Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Pick-Me-Up, 8/14/2018: Fools, Knaves And Hypocrites

Good afternoon!

1. Unethical tweet of the week, right wing nut division: Jerry Falwell Jr, who heads Liberty University. The acorn that didn’t fall far from the tree tweeted:

Are there any grownups w/ integrity left in the DOJ? When I was a kid, I watched Repubs join Dems to force Nixon out. Now Dems won’t join Repubs to lock up Comey, Lynch, Ohr, Rosenstein, Strzok, , & maybe even despite damning evidence!

Here’s an ethics tip for college age students and their parents: if the leader of a school has this tenuous a grip on basic Constitutional law, pay tuition to some place, any place, else.

2. Then we have the left-wing Pro Publica, which is trying to fuel the desperate Democratic efforts to find dirt on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and thus issued this…

3.  Which political party is more deranged today? Well, an  Ipsos public opinion survey claims that 43 % of self-identified Republicans agreed that “the President should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.”  Only 36% of surveyed Republicans disagreed with giving a President the power to shut down news outlets like CNN and The Washington Post.

First of all, this primarily raises legitimate concerns regarding the educational level and intelligence quotient of Americans.  99% of those polled could advocate repealing the First Amendment, just as a majority could proclaim its belief that the national language ought to be Finnish. It’s not happening. Professor Turley’s take-away is that “Trump has truly and irrecoverably changed the party and much of the country . . . and, in this case, not for the better.” Baloney. The fact that journalists have exposed themselves as being partisan operatives uninterested in conveying facts to the public in a fair and unbiased manner has changed the public perception of the value of the news media, and not for the better. Whether the change is “irrecoverable” depends on whether American journalism sees the dangerous error of its path over the past several decades, and becomes trustworthy again. Continue reading

Blue Monday Ethics Warm-Up, 5/7/2018: Fake Brain Death, Horrible History, Bad Bills And Worse Journalism

It’s Monday!

1  In thousands of little ways...Insidious, biased, deceitful, distorted and unfair information is fed to the public by the news media, unflagged or corrected by editors, presented as legitimate punditry and journalism either intentionally to warp public opinion for leftward political gain, or out of pure incompetence, depending on how much one accepts Hanlon’s Razor. The little ones, like the tiny repetitive concussions that over time give NFL players brain disease, may be more insidious than the whoppers.

Here is a typical example. Progressive op-ed writer David Leonhardt concludes his column about how Amazon is a dastardly monopoly endangering his beloved book stores by writing,

“Once the country emerges from the Trump presidency, I hope we will have a government that takes monopolies seriously.”

It takes magnificent gall to lay the power of Amazon at Trump’s doorstep. The internet giant built its virtual monopoly to its current power on Obama’s watch, with a Justice Department that looked the other way. Why? I wonder if it had anything to do with the massive co0ntributions Amazon magnate Jeff Bezos sent the Democrats’ way, or the fact that his newspaper, The Washington Post, was a reliable cheer-leader for Obama through is entire administration. Never mind: Leonhardt’s editors allow him to mislead readers into believing that Amazon is being allowed to do its worst because of Donald Trump.

Oh…did you notice the conflict of interest disclaimer pointing out the Post-Bezos-Amazon connection for those readers who might want to know that the Times’ rival for national newspaper primacy is owned by Amazon’s CEO? Neither did I. Maybe when the Times emerges from its fake news and blatant partisanship stage, it will start taking ethics seriously.

2.  Today’s Fox News incompetence note. I literally stopped on Fox News for 45 seconds this morning, and heard a lovely, buxom, Fox blonde clone report this story by saying, “the boy was brain dead for two months, then woke up.” [The original typo had “bot” instead of boy. A good time was had by all]

No, you idiot. He was not brain dead at all, because when you are brain dead, you’re dead, and you don’t wake up.  Doctors may have thought he was brain dead. He may have seemed to be brain dead. But he wasn’t brain dead.

Fake news, and stupid news.

Fox News.

3. The logic of Hollywood anti-gun zealots in a horror movie. A decent horror move could be made about the San Jose Mystery House, where Winchester rifle heir Sarah Winchester built a maze of rooms and stairways to keep her personal demons at bay. “Winchester” isn’t it, because its mission was to bludgeon audiences for two hours with perhaps the silliest anti-gun message ever devised. You see,  rumors persisted while Sarah was alive that she was building rooms for all the ghosts of victims of her father-in-law Oliver Winchester’s repeating rifle to reside. Thus workmen claimed the site was haunted. “Inspired by real events,” as the film says (the “real events” being the sensational tabloid tales), “Winchester” posits that the ghost of a Confederate soldier whose two brothers were killed in the Civil War has returned to get revenge. Sarah is racked with guilt, because, she says, the Rebel muskets were no match for the North’s repeating rifles, and “they never gave them a chance.”

Yup, those are the rules in war, all right: always give the soldiers trying to kill you a chance. Later, all the angry victims of the evil Winchester come out to glare: Native American, children, suicides, slaves. Continue reading