I’d like to lighten things up with a few fun little items. These are too dumb to feed your outrage monster. They’re just good for a chuckle.
You’re gay because climate change.
I’ve seen a lot of gay conspiracies in my time, but this comment at LifeSiteNews has to be one of my favorites.
The gay agenda is part of the greening of the globe. The left considers co2 to be the cause of global warming and that too many people are breathing on the planet .They know that sexual urge is too powerful to sublimate so they go for queering the public so they won’t breed.The U.K. did a study last week saying the happiest married couple are gay with no children.
This adds new depth to the classic imperative, It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes. By the way, that theory has garnered four up-votes.
NOM isn’t a regular mom. NOM is a cool mom.
I no longer spend a lot of time on NOM because they don’t seem even the slightest bit relevant anymore. I do check in, though, and here’s what they have for us today.
Despite being grammatically incorrect, our culture has officially made the verb “fail” into a noun, and the expression seems here to stay.
If you’re not a grammar geek, just skip this paragraph. NOM, of course, messed up that sentence something awful. As written, “Despite being grammatically incorrect” modifies, “our culture,” in which case the “Despite” makes no sense at all. Obviously, that phrase is meant to describe making a verb into a noun, but the sentence just isn’t built like that. I can imagine why no one else might find this amusing, but I spent too many years teaching the sentence correction section of the GMAT and explaining to students why they should never write things like, “Grazing on the succulent grass, we saw a herd of buffalo.” Of course, NOM’s sentence is extra fun because it’s actually about grammar. And for all of you eager to point out my own grammatical mistakes, let me assuage your concerns by saying shut up.
NOM then takes even more time to enlighten its readers about the FAIL phenomenon.
It pops up on social media all the time: a major political gaffe or celebrity embarrassment, for example, is labeled a major #fail, as occurred at the recent Oscar ceremony with John Travolta’s unfortunate pronunciation of artist Idina Menzel’s name.
That’s adorable because, for their readers, it’s necessary.
And then there’s the hashtag, as in #hashtagsareover. And I’m not sure hashtags were ever under when it comes to essays. NOM says “fail” seven times in this piece and every time it puts that damn hashtag in front the word, even in complete sentences.
…we witnessed a huge #fail…the major #fail of the media…we can turn our public discourse from a major #fail to a big #win!
Oh my. These carefully-explained attempts to be hip are always delightfully painful.
White homo demons with American Express cards
Finally, you may have seen this video from Atlah World Missionary Church Rev. James David Manning, in which he warns black women that Obama has unleashed homosexual demons on black men. Most people are reacting to the religious nuttery of it, but my favorite part was completely secular. He warns the ladies in his congregation:
You will have a very hard time competing against a white homosexual male. He’s usually got money. A white homo usually has an American Express card, he usually has an opportunity at the theater. Homos love the theater. They love to go out to dinner, parties. They love that kind of a thing. And as a black woman, you can’t compete!
Something tells me the Rev. Manning would love an invite to the theater. Have a good weekend!
I recently discovered “The Negro Motorist Green Book.” Here’s the cover.
And here are the first two pages (don’t worry if you can’t read them; I’ve transcribed some bits below).
It’s a fascinating document from what ought to be a bygone era. From page 1:
With the introduction of this travel guide in 1936, it has been our idea to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trips more enjoyable.
The Jewish press has long published information about places that are restricted and there are numerous publications that give the gentile whites all kinds of information. But during these long years of discrimination, before 1936 other guides have been published for the Negro, some are still published, but the majority have gone out of business for various reasons.
And from a few pages later:
Through the ages, men of all races have moved from place to place. Some to seek new lands, others to avoid persecution or intolerance and still others for the sake of adventure.
Today, men of all races continue to move and for much the same reasons, though since the days of the foot-traveler and the ox-cart, they travel with much more convenience and comfort and at far greater speed.
For most travelers, whether they travel in modern high-speed motor cars, streamlined Diesel-powered trains, luxurious ocean liners or globe encircling planes, there are hotels of all sizes and classes, waiting and competing for their patronage. Pleasure resorts in the mountains and at the sea shore beckon him. Roadside inns and cabins spot the highways and all are available if he has the price.
For some travelers however, the facilities of many of these places are not available, even though they may have the price, and any traveler to whom they are not available, is thereby faced with many and sometimes difficult problems.
The Negro traveler’s inconveniences are many and they are increasing because today so many more are traveling, individually and in groups.
My first — and enduring — reaction to this was admiration. What dignity in the face of indignity. These passages etch two different worlds in gracious and straightforward prose.
Reading it today, seven or eight decades later, it’s impossible not to ally oneself with the “Negro motorists,” in defiance of those who degrade them to whatever degree was in their power. My idealized self, if I lived in those days, would only patronize the businesses in this book. But I’m not my ideal self, and I have to admit I’d likely have come up with excuses to break any such rule. That’s to my shame. But I can only admire the stoic perspective of the book’s readers as they plan cross-country trips, undeterred by mile after mile of bigotry.
And so my second reaction was sadness. There’s an attitude in these pages I can’t quite name. It’s not resignation. Resignation connotes giving up, and people determined to travel and experience the world, regardless of the obstacles, have certainly not given up. But there is an acceptance: This is the way things are today. These readers may be working hard for change, but for now they live in the parameters of a racist society. Freedom rides are decades away, and even then, you’d never take your children on them.
My third — and fleeting — reaction was simple: This is the world our anti-gay opponents want for us. A world where bakers and florists turn us away. Where reservations at a bed and breakfast mean nothing when the owner sees you in person with your spouse. Where a government employee, whose salary is paid for by your tax dollars, sends you to a town ten miles away for your marriage license. This is the world they want for us.
I was born in 1962. I came out in 1983, and I’m old enough to remember our own Green Books. The most prominent was the Damron Guide. It listed “gay-friendly” hotels and restaurants in major cities. In smaller communities, it told you where to go to meet like-minded men when the local authorities wouldn’t tolerate gay bars, or when showing your face in one could cost you everything.
I remember the summer between my junior and senior years of college, when I was traveling Vermont lobbying for a balanced budget amendment, and I was determined to find a safe gay space to try and finally begin my gay adolescence. The Damron Guide was out of date, and the bar it listed in Burlington was closed down. I called tourist information, counseling hotlines, even the Department of Parks and Recreation (recreation, right?), ultimately reaching someone at the local Chamber of Commerce. The man who answered turned away from the phone to call out, “Hey guys, anyone know where there’s a gay bar in town?” I wanted to hide under my hotel bed. But they gave me a referral, and when I called them, they said, “No, not anymore,” but referred me to another bar where I could finally, terrified, find a man to touch.
The Damron guide, and resources like it, had to change over time. Thank God. It became no longer dangerous to identify yourself as gay. You could be gay in any number of destinations, and if you consulted guides, it was only because you want to find out where gaydom was dominant. (By the way, if you’re a straight person naive enough to ask, Why would you segregate yourself like that?” let me offer this thought experiment: Would you rather spend Spring Break surrounded by members of the opposite sex who have no interest in you, or would you rather immerse your vacation in place where the folks you’re into might be find you luscious?) But when it comes to the Damron Guide, in the coasts, at least, and in major cities, I no longer had to worry about getting kicked out of a restaurant merely for putting my hand on the hand of my partner. Frankly, at this point, I’m not sure how many gay 20-somethings (or even 30-somethings!) even remember the Damron Guide, much less rely on it when they travel.
But the recent surfeit of religious freedom bills could change that. These bills would endorse a world where bakers and florists turn us away. Where reservations at a bed and breakfast mean nothing when the owner sees you in person with your spouse. Where a government employee, whose salary is paid for by your tax dollars, sends you to a town ten miles away for your marriage license. And thus the Negro Motorist Green Book would be reborn. Where can we eat? Where can sleep? Where can we find government employees who won’t turn us away?
This may surprise you, but I’ve always had mixed feelings about discrimination law. Years of adolescent abuse let me with a misanthropic streak that cries, “Who the fuck are you to tell me what to do?” I understand the sentiment of those who are not anti-gay, anti-black, anti-Jew, yet still want to leave individuals with the freedom to choose whom they’ll associate with.
But I have to recognize that our real and substantial opposition comes from those who have no coherent philosophy, who in the same breath can say:
No one should be forced to serve a customer against their will,
No one should be allowed to discriminate based on race,
without realizing the contradiction. I’ll grant no quarter to those hypocritical conservatives. They want to deny gays service by invoking principles they don’t apply to other minorities. They are not principled, if “principled” means something that rises above circumstance and political calculation.
Now step back. As I wrote this, I realized my error. Our opponents don’t want us relying on a book like this. The truth is this: They don’t want to such a book to exist.
Their ideological forebears had no problem with the idea of a “negro” class, especially one that kept in its place. They recognized that their maids* and low-paid laborers had to have businesses that catered to their needs, and frankly, the more separate the better. But the fervent advocates of “religious freedom” have something else in mind. They want no one to provide us with wedding photos, with honeymoon suites, with spousal benefits. For that limited, loud, and dwindling group of Christians, this is their version of the Great Commission, which demands that everyone refuse service to same-sex couples, which imposes a theological obligation on our opponents to make sure our lives are miserly as they make they can make them.
Our opponents do not want a “Green Book” for gays and lesbian. No. Their goal is for any such book to be empty. They want the conversion of the whole human race to their belief, where we have no one to provide us with service, because no services is what we deserve.
I meant this to be short post, and it’s not. And I’m surprised at how much it’s upset me. But — as a way of grounding myself — I’ll close with the quote that inspired this whole post: the piece from the Negro Motorist Green Book that says:
There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for is to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment. But until that time comes we shall continue to publish this information for your convenience each year.
It is absolutely impossible to view that goal as anything but wholly and entirely good. As something no one can oppose. And at this point, in early 2104, all we can ask is: What side are you on? So really…
What side are you on?
*In case you’re wondering, my father’s mother was a maid, and I will never denigrate honest work done by honest folk.
Some arguments are too incoherent to be refuted. They’re grounded in so many ridiculous assumptions, so much misinformation, that it’s impossible to find the one key flaw on which to base your rebuttal. It’s like trying to turn back a flood of stupid with a teacup. The only recourse is to the take the argument seriously, even enthusiastically, and watch it collapse. Stephen Colbert is great at that.
Lately I’ve been trying to point out the contradictions and hypocrisy of those pushing “religious freedom” laws, and influential conservative Erick Erickson has done me a favor by making it all too clear.
In December of 1865, the several American states ratified the thirteenth amendment constitutionally ending involuntary servitude in the United States. In the twenty-first century, Americans are coming full circle. In a number of states, a black man can again be forced by the government to work involuntarily for a white man.
Not since the nation eliminated Jim Crow laws during the civil rights era have we seen such a bizarre conundrum. But if the black man is a Christian and the white man is gay, a court can forcibly order the black man to serve the white man or drive the black man from business.
What a load of crap! I don’t know what else to call a statement so ridiculously and self-evidently false. “Not since the nation eliminated Jim Crow laws during the civil rights era have we seen such a bizarre conundrum”? Hardly. This “conundrum” has been continuously in place for 50 years, ever since Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states:
All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.
This is the law that establishes “a court can forcibly order the black man to serve the white man or drive the black man from business.” 50 years, Erick — it’s been place for 50 years.
But I don’t even have to invoke this law to demonstrate Erick’s incoherence. Just a few lines later, he writes:
Despite the histrionics of some, no one suggests that anyone be allowed to simply deny service to any class of people, be they black or white or gay or straight. The issue only arises in the context of gay weddings.
I just want to sit him down, look him in the eye, and say very slowly,
Erick, if you’re not suggesting that anyone be allowed to simply deny service to any class of people…
…then you’re endorsing the idea that a court can forcibly order the black man to serve the white man or drive the black man from business.
I doubt it would do any good. He must already know the Civil Rights Act imposes what he calls “involuntary servitude.” And apparently he gets that it would be political suicide to push for legalizing racial discrimination. But he and his colleagues will keep trying to have it both ways for as long as they can. Maybe if we draw them a picture:
Feel free to steal that. Post it on Facebook. Perhaps a picture really is worth a thousand words, even if it’s only a picture of words.
I’ve been surveying the anti-gay reaction to the epic crash-and-burn of Arizona’s religious freedom law. I can sum it up like this:
The bill failed because liberals lied about it: This bill was needed to make sure Christian bakers wouldn’t have to sell wedding cakes to same-sex couples, but it wouldn’t have given anyone the right to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
Laws forbidding discrimination against gays are wrong because they violate the Constitutionally-guaranteed right to freedom of association, but laws forbidding racial discrimination are fine because GAAAAAAY.
And they wonder why they keep losing.
Are all these religious freedom bills really about religious freedom? And by that I mean the principle of religious freedom — freedom for everyone, not just for members of the anti-gay tribe. Apparently for Ryan Anderson, the Heritage Foundation’s expert on marriage, the answer is a resounding NO – religious freedom is not the issue.
A lovely aspect of Twitter is the way it enforces bluntness. Sure, the 140-character limit wipes out any shot at subtlety or nuance, but it also spares us the onslaught of rhetoric that people so often use to wrap ugly views in a soft, gauzy glow. Look at this exchange on Ryan’s twitter feed. The first message is someone challenging Ryan on his discrimination argument, followed by Ryan’s reply.
Ah, racism is wrong. Ryan’s bluntness reveals two things. First, that he doesn’t think anti-gay discrimination is wrong. I guess that’s not a news flash, but it contrasts with disingenuous commentators who say, Of course I’m opposed to discrimination, but we have to respect people’s freedom. (By the way, I don’t find that indefensible; I just rarely find it to be sincere.)
Second, he shows this isn’t about religious freedom for him. Sure, he thinks racism is morally wrong. And that’s based on his religious views. But others may (do!) find their faith not only fails to find racism wrong, but actually mandates it. These are both religious views. From a “religious liberty” perspective, the only difference is that one of them is part of Ryan’s religion while the other is not — but Ryan wishes liberty only for his own beliefs.
Which, of course, is how we know Ryan isn’t really an advocate for religious freedom.
Keep in mind, this is the man who wrote:
Really, though, he means liberty protects the right of people to do things you and I might disagree with, but if he disagrees with them, then liberty can go bake a cake. Freedom for me, but not for thee.
With NOM collapsing like a crumbling tenement, the main political force opposing same-sex marriage seems to the Heritage Foundation, working through its resident expert Ryan T. Anderson, a co-author on Robert George’s egregious What is Marriage?
Ryan, of course, is a big supporter of Turn-Away-the-Gay bills. Yesterday, in quick succession, he issued a series of tweets explaining why, in language that made me laugh out loud.
Let’s keep these handy for when he turns his attention back to banning same-sex marriage. But wait, he doesn’t do that, because there are no bans on same sex marriage. From the day before:
Of course, because laws that only allowed men to vote didn’t ban women voters, and that only allowed Christians to hold office didn’t ban Jewish office-holders, and that only allowed men to be King of Gondor didn’t ban orcs from ascending the throne.
Sorry about that last one. For a moment there I suffered a bout of Ryan-itis: the inability to distinguish fact from my fantasy.
Media reports are understating the horror of Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law. For instance, from the Associated Press:
It sets life imprisonment as the maximum penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as repeated gay sex between consenting adults and acts involving a minor, a disabled person or where one partner is infected with HIV.
In fact, it’s much worse than that. In fact, Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law can put you away for life just for opposing Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law.
The logic is pretty simple:
- The law says: “A person who commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality shall be liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for life.”
- One way of committing aggravated homosexuality is to be a “serial offender” against the law.
- A serial offender is “a person who has previous convictions of the offence of homosexuality or related offences.”
- Related offences include a variety of things, like counseling someone to have gay sex; getting same-sex married; or “promotion of homosexuality,” a grab bag covering any activity that:
- “funds or sponsors homosexuality or other related activities” or
- “offers premises and other related fixed or movable assets for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality” or
- “uses electronic devices which include internet, films, mobile phones for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality” or
- “acts as an accomplice or attempts to promote or in anyway abets homosexuality and related practices.”
The penalties vary for a single related-offence violation, but if you’re convicted of a combination of these offences, or convicted of one offence multiple times, then you’re a serial offender, guilty of aggravated homosexuality, and subject to life imprisonment. So if you speak out against this law, and you keep speaking out against it, then you’re someone who “attempts to promote or in anyway abets homosexuality and related practices.” On your second or third conviction they can put you away for life.
This law is worse than the news accounts are making it out to be. It doesn’t just imprison gay people. It imposes a lifetime sentence on our allies, too. It doesn’t just make us into criminals and pariahs. It condemns anyone who might question this horrid law. It doesn’t just put Uganda in the dark ages. It’s built to keep the country there forever.
I could use some lawyers to chime in here, because to me it looks like Arizona is on the verge of abolishing the rule of law statewide.
Arizona legislators, as you know, are working on a “religious freedom” bill to keep the state a safe haven for anti-gay discrimination. Critics have pointed out the bill would legalize discrimination against just about anyone, but I don’t think that description goes far enough.
As far as I can tell, the bill could theoretically suspend just about every Arizona state and local law — at least temporarily — and introduce a new legal era in which citizens, businesses, and organizations get to decide which laws apply to them.
I can imagine the many sensible objections to this interpretation, so let me bring them up and address them.
Isn’t this just about anti-gay discrimination? Would it really bring all laws into question?
The bill says:
Except as provided in subsection C of this section, state action shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.
But that’s just about exercising your religion. How do you get to “all laws”?
According to the bill:
“Exercise of religion” means the practice or observance of religion, including the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief—
So at least they’d have to show it’s official religious doctrine!
Let me finish:
“Exercise of religion” means the practice or observance of religion, including the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.
Emphasis added. That means you can do something ordinarily illegal (or decline to do something the law requires) as long as you claim a religious reason, even if your choice isn’t mandated by your religion, important to your religion, or really even part of your religion — or rather, your “larger system of religious belief.”
But the lawbreakers have to prove their case, right?
They have to prove three things:
- That the person’s action or refusal to act is motivated by a religious belief.
- That the person’s religious belief is sincerely held.
- That the state action substantially burdens the exercise of the person’s religious beliefs.
We’ve already shown that (1) is vague enough to include just about anything, which makes it easier to prove (2), especially in the absence of mind-reading juries.
That still leaves the “substantial burden” requirement. In fact doesn’t the law say “the term substantially burden is intended solely to ensure that this article is not triggered by trivial, technical or de minimis infractions”?
But what is a substantial burden? UCLA law school professor Eugene Volokh explains the Supreme Court’s treatment of the concept:
Requiring people to do something that “is forbidden by [their] faith” qualifies as a substantial burden on religious practice….So does requiring people not to do something that is required by their faith……
“While the compulsion may be indirect, the infringement upon free exercise is nonetheless substantial.”…And that is so even where the relevant “conduct proscribed by a religious faith” is indirect complicity in other conduct, and the complicity line that the religious claimant draws appears inconsistent or unsound to the reviewing court… “It is not for [secular courts] to say that the line [the claimant] drew was an unreasonable one.”
Read the whole thing. Basically, though, you don’t have to establish the law is making you personally violate your religion (or, in the case of this Arizona bill, whatever vague religious sentiment you have even if it’s not really part of your declared religion). All you need to show is that you feel somehow involved in someone else’s violation of your religious hunch, even if that connection seems inconsistent or unsound to the court.
So the “substantial burden” requirement is satisfied almost by tautology: any perceived violation of religious freedom, however tenuous the link to your actual religion, and however unreasonable it may seem to the court, is by definition a substantial burden. Is that the most expansive possible interpretation of the law? I would hope so. Is that the interpretation that the bill’s advocates will push for in court? I can’t imagine otherwise.
Does the bill ever allow the government to enforce its laws?
To a degree. It says:
State action may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it the government or nongovernmental person seeking the enforcement of state action demonstrates that application of the burden to the person’s exercise of religion in this particular instance is both:
- In furtherance of a compelling governmental interest.
- The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
In some cases, this is easy to establish. If you want to go all Leviticus and start stoning the wicked, the state can argue preventing murder is a compelling government interest and that laws against murder are the least restrictive way of accomplishing that. Same thing for a corporation that decides it can pollute a river because the Bible gives man dominion over the earth; laws against dumping toxic waste into a river are probably the least restrictive means of preventing toxic waste from getting dumped in a river. Depending, I suppose, on your definition of “toxic.”
(It is fun, as a twisted sort of game, to think of all the things an imaginative mind could justify under this bill.)
This two-step justification, though, isn’t always that easy. In fact, it’s part of the “strict scrutiny” standard, which is so tough and has been the death of so many laws that it’s been jokingly dubbed “strict in name, but fatal in practice.” At the very least, Arizona courts will have to step in and make some decisions, many of them extending up to the state Supreme Court. Some of these issues are already decided; others will be settled will quickly and easily; many, many others will not. But until that process is done (and here’s the complete set of Arizona state law; see how long it takes you just to read it, and then move on to the city and local law), we’re in legal limbo.
Of course, in reality the courts will immediately stay this entire law, and then find it unconstitutional. On the other hand, I say “of course” only because I hope/assume who reads the bill will find it clearly insane, and on that count I’m clearly wrong.
Hold on, you mentioned corporations. This is just about clergy and fundamentalist bakers. Corporations don’t have religious beliefs. Corporations aren’t even people!
Aren’t they? But I don’t have to invoke Supreme Court rulings. It’s all right there in the Arizona law, which “protects” the religious freedom of a whole motley crew of non-human people:
“Person” includes any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution or other business organization.
Okay. So that takes me back to where I started: As far as I can tell, the bill could theoretically suspend just about every Arizona state and local law — at least temporarily — and introduce a new legal era in which citizens, businesses, and organizations get to decide which laws apply to them.
That doesn’t sound so crazy now. Or it’s just as crazy, but it also seems plausible. And it’s based on a few simple points:
- The bill expands the definition of “person” to include, well, anything.
- The bill expands the notion of religion to include things that are not compulsory, central, or possibly even part of your religion — in other words, just about anything.
- The exceedingly subjective interpretation of “substantial burden” can include things that do not seem reasonable, sound, or consistent in a court of law; the tautological definition of “substantial burden” can include just about anything, given the wording of this bill.
- The mandated standard of strict scrutiny can strike down, well, not anything, but a huge and not entirely predictable chunk of the state’s laws.
Again, I’ll admit this is the most extreme interpretation of the law. But that’s no stumbling block for some of our opponents.
I’ll go even further with my speculation. A few years back I predicted that when NOM and their cohorts realized they couldn’t ban marriage equality in the courts, and then in the legislature, and then in direct votes by the people, they’d resort to going back to the courts to argue that our marriages violated their religious freedom. It’s hard to remember that some people rolled their eyes at me back then.
Now I have to wonder if the sweeping nature of this bill doesn’t represent a flaw in the eyes of their proponents, but is in fact a feature. This truly may not just be about discriminating against gays. Perhaps they’re thrilled at the idea that the bill would gut anti-discrimination laws in general. And perhaps they’re thrilled it would throw the entire legal structure into anarchy. The Tea Party wants a revolution. Perhaps this is their way of getting it.
As I said up top, I’d appreciate the input of any lawyers on this. Does the vague language of the law open the door to all manner of chaos? Let us know what you think. Also, check out Jim Burroway’s intriguing take on the bill.
Two and a half years ago, I offered up this ridiculous, extreme scenario as I tried to puzzle out just how far the advocates of “religious liberty” want to take us:
Suppose an on-duty police officer sees a known homosexual getting stomped to death in an alley by two men shouting, “Die, faggot, die!” He does nothing to stop it, and he lets the thugs escape, because he believes in Leviticus 20:13:
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.
His religious beliefs make it impossible for him to intefere with what he views as God’s will, or even to hold the assailants responsible.
Should this officer be penalized? Or would that violate his religious freedom?
That’s not ridiculous or extreme anymore. Kansas is right now passing a law that could make this a reality.
Kansas House Bill No. 2453 (already passed by the state House and on its way to the Republican Senate and Governor) begins like this:
Section 1. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no individual or religious entity shall be required by any governmental entity to do any of the following, if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender:
(a) Provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges; provide counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services; or provide employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement;
(b) solemnize any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement; or
(c) treat any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement as valid.
And later in Section 2, police and other government employees are explicitly exempted:
(d) If an individual employed by a governmental entity or other non religious entity invokes any of the protections provided by section I, and amendments thereto, as a basis for declining to provide a lawful service that is otherwise consistent with the entity’s duties or policies, the individual’s employer, in directing the performance of such service, shall either promptly provide another employee to provide such service, or shall otherwise ensure that the requested service is provided, if it can be done without undue hardship to the employer.
That bit I emphasized is a great loophole. It means if you simply change my scenario from a gay individual to a gay couple, then police officers could invoke their religious right to let the bashing continue, and then the station would have to send out another officer — unless this would cause “undue hardship to the employer,” in which case…sorry!
(Actually, as Mark Joseph Stern points out in Slate, it may not even need to be a couple; it could be an individual as long as the officer perceives that individual as celebrating a — well, not necessarily a marriage, but even just a “similar arrangement” to marriage.)
I have to hope the bill’s authors never intended this, or even better, that I’m misinterpreting the words that appear on the page. Perhaps the gay bashing would be such clear danger to public safety that it would override this new law. But the major effect, the simpler, obviously deliberate effect, is this:
No one in Kansas will have to recognize a same-sex marriage as valid. No one. Which leads to an inevitable conclusion:
Either these religious activists are frauds who don’t give a damn about religious liberty, or they’re on a path to destroying civil marriage for everyone.
Let’s take up the fraud question first. If religious liberty is such an issue, why does the bill focus on the gender of married persons — in other words, why only carve out a religious exemption for same-sex marriage? Some religions don’t recognize the unions of those who have divorced and remarried. Or who married outside the faith. Why not include those as exemptions, too? Basically, this Kansas law privileges some religious beliefs above others, which not only raises constitutional questions, but also signals that its advocates don’t care about religious liberty in general, but only leap into action when it comes to dealing with those homosexual people. They aren’t champions of religious freedom at all. They’re just frauds.
Unless I’m judging them too harshly, and this is just a first step. Unless they’re really not motivated by anti-gay animus, and want to create this exemption for all sincerely-held religious beliefs.
In that case we face the complete destruction of civil marriage. You can always find some religious reason not to recognize a union. I listed a few above but it’s easy to come up with more. The couple’s using birth control; the man is permanently sexually incapacitated; one partner is gold-digger and married under false pretenses; the bride was not a virgin and should have been stoned the next day; the bride is a widow, and should have only married her husband’s brother.
These reasons don’t have to be good or rational or even traditional. They just have to be sincere. And what an incentive to put on a show of sincerity. Employers could calculate all the money they’d save by refusing spousal benefits to their divorced/remarried staff and pow! they have a new sincere religious belief. Hell, sudden conversions happen all the time. Sudden conversions are traditionally a cause for joy.
Once that happens, the legal status of marriage means nothing. No individual, privately or publicly employed, will be legally obliged to acknowledge married couples as married. We’ll have nothing but a loophole so big it ravages marital law to the point where nothing is left.
But let me pull back from this slippery-slope argument. Instead of spinning wild-yet-perfectly-plausible scenarios, let’s put the burden on the people pushing these laws. Let’s hammer them with a few simple questions:
If this is about the principle of religious freedom, why the narrow focus on same-sex marriage?
Do you believe all sincere religious beliefs about marriage should be likewise privileged (and if not, why not)?
Do you a have a limit, a line beyond which religious beliefs no longer supersede law (and if so, where is it and why)?
I don’t mean these as rhetorical questions. They may have answers, good ones, but I haven’t seen them articulated. And in their absence, we see only two choices: either these religious freedom advocates are frauds, or they’re initiating the destruction of civil marriage.