Green Room

Chai Feldblum On Sexual Liberty vs. Religious Liberty

posted at 11:52 pm on October 5, 2009 by

Some interesting information about President Obama’s pick for EEOC commissioner, Chai Feldblum, is coming out.  She’s been added to the “smear list” of the “right wing blast machine” which is committing the unpardonable offense of quoting her accurately.  Just like we did Van Jones.  Hey, is it our fault if what you say is wildly at odds with what all us mouth-breathing, snake-handling, inbred red-staters believe?

For example, “we want to revolutionize societal norms” and “gay sex is a moral good.” (video here)

You know, even the most moderate of bible thumpers will generally have a problem with that.  Sorry, Pundit Spice, but we’d like to agree to disagree on that one.

Oh, wait.  We can’t simply agree to disagree.  Because Chai Feldblum, nominee for EEOC commissioner,  believes that sexual liberty should trump religious liberty.

To Feldblum the emerging conflicts between free exercise of religion and sexual liberty are real: “When we pass a law that says you may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, we are burdening those who have an alternative moral assessment of gay men and lesbians.” Most of the time, the need to protect the dignity of gay people will justify burdening religious belief, she argues. But that does not make it right to pretend these burdens do not exist in the first place, or that the religious people the law is burdening don’t matter.

“You have to stop, think, and justify the burden each time,” says Feldblum. She pauses. “Respect doesn’t mean that the religious person should prevail in the right to discriminate–it just means demonstrating a respectful awareness of the religious position.”

Feldblum believes this sincerely and with passion, and clearly (as she reminds me) against the vast majority of opinion of her own community. And yet when push comes to shove, when religious liberty and sexual liberty conflict, she admits, “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.”

She pauses over cases like the one at Tufts University, one of many current legal battles in which a Christian group is fighting for the right to limit its leaders to people who subscribe to its particular vision of Christianity. She’s uncertain about Catholic Charities of Boston, too: “I do not know the details of that case,” she told me. “I do believe a state should be permitted to withhold tax exempt status, as in the Bob Jones case, from a group that is clearly contrary to the state’s policy. But to go further and say to a group that it is not permitted to engage in a particular type of work, such as adoptions, unless it also does adoptions for gay couples, that’s a heavier hand from the state. And I would hope we could have a dialogue about this and not just accusations of bad faith from either side.”

But the bottom line for Feldblum is: “Sexual liberty should win in most cases. There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that’s the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.”

I appreciate that she is willing to consider the rights of religious folk before she dismisses them.  But to “pause” over the right of a any group to limit its leadership to like-minded people is radical.  If I start the “Heterosexual Married Sex Is Better” club, don’t pat me on the head and give me “respectful awareness” while telling me that I have to let a gay person who absolutely does not agree with the reason the club was formed in the first place be in charge.  If you disagree with the group, don’t join the group.  If you disagree with the group, don’t attempt to lead the group.  Gather some people you agree with and start your own group.

Taking away the tax exempt status of Catholic Charities of Boston is – even if you don’t agree – an argument worth having.  Telling them they cannot carry on with their mission without violating their religious principles is not.

Ms. Feldblum explains that she does feel empathy when the rights of religious people are subordinated to that of LGBT people*, but it must, and will, happen.  She intends to make it happen.

She writes:

It seemed to me the height of disingenuousness, absurdity and indeed disrespect, to tell someone it is permissible to “be” gay, but not permissible to engage in gay sex. What do they think being gay means?

I have the same reaction to those who blithely assume a religious person can easily disengage her religious belief and selfidentity from her religious practice and religious behavior. What do they think being religious means? Of course, at some basic level, religion is about a set of beliefs. But for many religious people across many religious denominations (Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim—to note just the ones I have some personal understanding of), the day-to-day practice of one’s religion is an essential way of bringing meaning to such beliefs.

It’s an interesting paper.  Though it weighs in at 55 pages, it’s a fast read, well written, and well worth your time because these are arguments worth having.  Rather than screech “H8ters!” she actually does understand and acknowledge the points the other side is making, and civilly disagrees.  She still intends to make us obey, of course, but she’s regretful about the whole thing and quite cordial.

On Rumsfeld v. FAIR – where law schools were required to permit military recruiters on campus in spite of their distaste for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” she writes

Religious employers who do not want to provide health benefits to same-sex couples and religious schools who do not want to provide funding for gay rights groups might view themselves as far removed from law schools that do not wish to assist military recruiters who discriminate against gay law students. But the parallels between the two groups are stark: In each case, an individual or an institution experiences the coerced conduct (the “equality mandate”) as burdening its beliefs. And in each case, the individual or institution runs the risk that the State and the courts will simply dismiss its experience of burden as not real.

On the other hand, schools could just choose not to take government funding, just as churches who desire that their pastors be permitted to endorse political candidates can choose not to apply for 501c3 status.

In example after example she advocates for the right of LGBT people to make religious people conduct business in a way that they feel violates their core principles.  It’s a touchy issue.  I was happy to build websites for gay clients when it was for restaurants, real estate, and other businesses that had nothing to do with sex – but when asked to submit a quote to build a gay dating site, I referred the caller to another developer who was glad to bid for the project.  Shall the law side with Ms. Feldblum’s dignity or with my religious freedom?

It may be cold comfort to those with strongly held beliefs regarding the immorality and sinfulness of homosexuality that I argue that the burden on their belief liberty should be acknowledged.

… Ensuring that LGBT people can live honestly and safely in all aspects of their social lives requires that society set a baseline of non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. If individual business owners, service providers and employers could easily exempt themselves from such laws by making credible claims that their belief liberty is burdened by the law, LGBT people would remain constantly vulnerable to surprise discrimination. If I am denied a job, an apartment, a room at a hotel, a table at a restaurant or a procedure by a doctor because I am a lesbian, that is a deep, intense and tangible hurt. That hurt is not alleviated because I might be able to go down the street and get a job, an apartment, a hotel room, a restaurant table or a medical procedure from someone else. The assault to my dignity and my sense of safety in the world occurs when the initial denial happens. That assault is not mitigated by the fact that others might not treat me in the same way.

Thus, for all my sympathy for the evangelical Christian couple who may wish to run a bed and breakfast from which they can exclude unmarried straight couples and all gay couples, this is a point where I believe the “zero sum” nature of the game inevitably comes into play. And, in making the decision in this zero sum game, I am convinced society should come down on the side of protecting the liberty of LGBT people.

So to sum up, the cure for her deep, intangible hurt is not to go freely associate with other people, but to force others to do what she wants.  Then she follows that up with two interesting exceptions.  As I said, read the paper.  But the bottom line here is that she’s already made her decision; this is how she will rule when appointed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

.

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*Yes, I’m well aware that many gay people do hold devout religious beliefs of all kinds.  I’m using the terminolgy Ms. Feldblum uses in her paper.

Crossposted.

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What if you can make a case against the promotion of homosexuality without using religion?

Connie on October 6, 2009 at 12:08 AM

I have read arguments that don’t mention faith at all. My personal feeling is that who other people sleep with is none of my business. But my feelings don’t enter into it. Feldblum’s version of liberty is to make me comply. Period.

Laura on October 6, 2009 at 12:44 AM

Congress shall make no law [dis]respecting [the] establishment of religion sexual liberty, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Godefroi on October 6, 2009 at 8:23 AM

But, of course, we’re not talking about “sexual liberty” here, as an analogue to religious liberty. We should’t even accept the debate on those terms.

No one needs to have the state order others to demonstratively accept his practices, in order to have “sexual liberty.” That’s not liberty, that’s obtaining a preferential endorsement from the state.

The question of actual US states prohibiting certain sexual practices is another matter altogether. The converse of Texas making sodomy a crime is not Texas recognizing gay marriage. The converse of Texas making sodomy a crime is Texas not making sodomy a crime. The latter can be accepted as a “sexual liberty” measure. Texas recognizing gay marriage, on the other hand, has nothing to do with “sexual liberty.” It has to do with positive endorsement from the state, and the enforcement of that on everyone under the government of that state.

Feldblum should at least not get away with whining that people’s “sexual liberty” is at stake. It’s people’s demand for positive endorsement of their practices that’s at stake. That makes government too big, and genuinely curtails liberty — of conscience in general, not just religious liberty — for others.

J.E. Dyer on October 6, 2009 at 10:38 AM

She’s so offensively stupid.

In the collective mind of the Left, if something already exists, then it is already wrong by default.

Thus the crazed attempts of Barry and his partners-in-crime to do so much at once: they want to change everything.

Great.

Track-A-'Crat on October 6, 2009 at 11:12 AM

There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that’s the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.”


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Chai could not be more wrong – at least based on the actual law.

18-1 on October 6, 2009 at 11:19 AM

18-1, Chai will be helping make the law, insofar as employers are concerned. I don’t see how this can end well.

It’s people’s demand for positive endorsement of their practices that’s at stake. That makes government too big, and genuinely curtails liberty — of conscience in general, not just religious liberty — for others.

Sure, but the underlying premise here is that homosexuality is analogous to race, and that religious liberty protection is akin to Jim Crow. With that in mind, Feldblum has decades of law at her disposal to move her agenda, and will be in the perfect job to do so. The joys of Orwellian postmodernism!

Laura on October 6, 2009 at 12:28 PM

Very interesting column, Laura. Although, in principle, I can imagine someone sincerely debating the perceived conflicts between what Feldblum calls sexual liberty and religious liberty, in her own quotes she gives the game away. Very much in the Obama style, she SAYS she respects and considers religious issues while casually stating that, in fact, religion will lose nearly every time, if not literally every single time. She appears to be both very radical and perceptive enough to pass herself off as being much more moderate than she really is — again, very much in the Obama mold. Very dangerous IMHO.

jwolf on October 6, 2009 at 1:41 PM

I’ve taken a class with Feldblum. Wasn’t aware of the stuff linked above. Though I’m a dirty atheist, I don’t agree with the stances she’s taken here.

That said, she’s a smart cookie and, honestly, Obama could’ve done worse.

Trent1289 on October 6, 2009 at 3:25 PM

Thanks, jwolf. You’re right, radical coming across as moderate is an Obama specialty, and it is dangerous.

Trent, I do agree she’s a smart cookie. And I appreciate that her tone is moderate, even though what she’s saying is completely radical. Plus, she’s a fellow Star Trek fan, so I like her for that. :-) I’m not sure how much worse it could be, honestly. Well, he could be trying to get her on SCOTUS. That would be worse.

Bottom line… The One, won – so he’s just enacting his radical agenda just like we all kept telling David “Pant Crease” Brooks and Buckley and Noonan the rest of the “temperament” jackasses he would.

Laura on October 6, 2009 at 3:52 PM

For me it comes down to a matter of degrees. If someone suggested that, in deference to the Muslim faith, women would have to cover their bodies up, we’d all agree that “sexual liberty” or “freedom of expression” should allow women to wear the shortest of shorts.
Going off that, it would stand to reason that Christin’s opposition to gay marriage shouldn’t prevent two consenting adults from tying the knot.
It’s just a matter of where you draw the line. I’m fine with that logical conclusion.
I do, however, see major problems with her logic regarding “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” And especially in her targeting of religious charities. There are a long line of cases that would protect their “bigotry” as a reasonable exclusion.
As to how it could be worse: again, she’s not come bomb thrower, I doubt that she’ll aim for controversy. You can expect her to pursue workplace homosexual discrimination cases – but that’s not a bad thing. Don’t expect her to make gay marriage legal from the EEOC. And I wouldn’t expect to see her targeting anti-gay-marriage non-profits either; or at the very least to succeed in doing so.
But my personal association could definitely be affecting my judgment. Who knows.

Trent1289 on October 6, 2009 at 4:35 PM

Eh, I don’t really care about gay marriage on the face of it, I’ve posted on that here before. With legal no-fault divorce, cohabitation and out of wedlock births happening in significant pluralities of American households, heteros have beaten the institution down so much it’s nearly meaningless. I don’t approve of gay marriage but I also think we’re the ones who opened the door to it so why scream now? And screaming without making any attempt to reform marriage (like at least trying to get rid of no-fault divorce) shows us – meaning conservative Christians as a body – up as hypocrites.

But the difference in your examples is one of degree, not kind.

- Proactively requiring women to cover up to avoid offending Muslims
- Allowing gay marriage when it naturally follows that allowing it will inevitably require things from people who oppose it, like providing benefits to employees, etc. In Arizona, a human rights commission fined a photographer for declining to photograph a same-sex ceremony, and that’s the sort of thing she’ll be able to work towards on a national scale. Feldblum is spot on when she says this is a zero sum game, and I appreciate that she said it so clearly. Sooner or later you reach a point where biblical Christianity and homosexuality do not, cannot reconcile. One or the other has to give, and she’ll be in charge of deciding on that.

Laura on October 6, 2009 at 5:15 PM

I meant, like providing benefits to employees‘s same sex partners

Laura on October 6, 2009 at 5:16 PM

I guess, I don’t see it as a zero sum game. Christians can still disapprove of gay-marriage and not discriminate.

Christians are anti-abortion and anti-adultery. But we don’t see benefits being denied for cheaters or services being withheld from those who are pro-choice or who’ve had abortions in the past.

I’m on your side with regard to the photographer. The personal and the business side of things are intrinsically tied together. But your law firm or software company shouldn’t make arbitrary judgment about who’s covered.

Trent1289 on October 6, 2009 at 6:06 PM

Depends on what you mean by “not discriminate” and that is precisely the sort of question Feldblum will decide. I thought most of the examples she used in her paper were pretty good. The Christian B&B owners, for example. Where do their property rights end and the rights of a homosexual guest at a facility that is open to the public begin?

As a small business owner, I did not check my client’s sexual preferences at the door, but when a particular project dealt – indirectly – with teh butt secks I had to say I could not take the job. I was very careful in how I did so because there’s no point in generating ill will and I didn’t feel any ill will. But there is no amount of money that could have enticed me to take the project on. And that may or may not have been defined as discrimination depending on where you live and the various other details.

My employees didn’t come back after Katrina and I used contractors after that – since then I’ve made the choice to go Galt to a large extent so it’s a non-issue. I would have had no qualms about hiring a gay person back when I was an employer. But I would have had qualms if I’d been asked to pay for health care benefits for that employee’s same sex partner – or for that matter, hetero unmarried partners, which some companies do provide benefits for. Arbitrary judgment? Or my religious freedom to not spend money on what the source book for my faith clearly calls sin? Again, my rights as an employer, the employee’s legal right to not have a hostile work environment + all applicable labor laws…. do you see how this must inevitably turn out?

Christians will either give in or be driven out of businesses that deal with the public or have employees, just like when the conscience clause is finally eradicated they will be driven out of some sectors of the medical field because of abortion. It IS a zero sum game when you get down to the fine details.

Laura on October 6, 2009 at 9:18 PM

18-1, Chai will be helping make the law, insofar as employers are concerned. I don’t see how this can end well.

If the law he makes is at odds with the Constitution it should be overturned. That would certainly make for an interesting court case – would the current court revoke the 1st Amendment to make way for the most fashionable of leftist causes?

18-1 on October 6, 2009 at 10:56 PM

It’s a long held and settled position that innkeepers, modes of transportation and energy providers (collectively called “common carriers”) can’t pick and choose. A wedding photographer has the right to say “no thanks” to your business because it’s a nonessential luxury service. The goods and services provided by the collective mentioned above are necessities. They might be the only game in town. Or they might be the only affordable option for the person at issue. Either way, it would be unjust for the provider to deny them service for arbitrary reasons.

Again, unless that christian Bed and Breakfast owner is turning away adulterers, liars and atheists, I don’t think he or she has a leg to stand on. If she is doing so, she’s probably just in more trouble.

With regard to heatlh insurance. If the employer does not want to cover unmarried partners (of either persuasion) that’s her prerogative. But should gay marriage become a reality in your state, not covering partners in those unions would be discrimination.

Again, I guess I don’t see why this particular sin is a deal breaker for you. Is it greater than the others? Just easier to identify? Why is it grounds for denial when other sins aren’t?

Ultimately, I do see where you’re going with the “zero sum” game assertion. But I’m inclined to agree that your right to religion is absolute and sacred. But it doesn’t extend beyond yourself. Once you try to impose those views on the public, we have a problem.

Likewise, your exercise of your religion is not being impeded. Your introduction of religion into the public sphere, however, is. Think of it this way, many Jews will not work on their sabbath – Saturday. Likewise, several decades ago it was common practice for Christians to rest on Sunday. Laws allowing individuals to work and sell liquor on Sunday do not affect faith or your exercise of it. You, the individual, are still free to practice your faith and rest. But you can’t stop other establishments from engaging in that activity.

Or a better example, after it became legal, you couldn’t deny service or healthcare because of miscegenation. Your personal religious beliefs might tell you that God didn’t want that to occur, but they’re subordinated when it affects others. I’m sure an orthodox Jew who took seriously god’s prohibition of marrying people of other nations might want to deny healthcare to a jewish and christian union. But the law doesn’t allow that either.

Trent1289 on October 7, 2009 at 8:32 AM

I’ve posted on my personal blog many times that I think Christians are wrong when we take the attitude that homosexuality is some kind of “ultimate” sin. Biblically, it is not more offensive to God than gossip and a whole list of other things. The difference is that society is not demanding we stop calling those things sin and even stop disapproving of them (thoughtcrime!). There is a growing movement in society and even in increasingly liberal churches to endorse it, in direct contravention of what the bible says. (Episcopal churches, gay bishops, etc.) So this is one thing people really get their panties in a knot over, and I don’t think that’s entirely unfair – it’s pushback against the societal pressure Christians are receiving from within and without.

your right to religion is absolute and sacred. But it doesn’t extend beyond yourself. Once you try to impose those views on the public, we have a problem.

Okay, but what you call imposing those views on the public is me wanting to not use my time and resources to aid or endorse something I think is sin; a critical part of walking out my faith on a daily basis. Again, I’ve gone Galt to a great extent so it no longer is an issue, but I refused to build a website promoting bingo (gambling), as well; the only projects I ever took on are ones compatible with or at least inoffensive to my faith. I didn’t even build websites for church denominations I think are seriously off track; I referred several local churches to other companies, along with some new agey “The Secret” twit. You might say I imposed my views on the public by refusing those projects. But being required to do something is a much different kind of imposition. It’s one thing to strike down the blue laws (and I’m old enough to remember them being enforced!) so that businesses may choose to stay open on Sundays and holidays, and quite another to demand that businesses open on those days.

It cost that wedding photographer about $6k to refuse to take those photographs. She lost the case; she legally did not have the right to refuse. Given that, there’s no reason to conclude that will be the last time it happens, and surely there is a chilling effect. Christian photographers are effectively being fined for their beliefs in New Mexico, unless they submit to something they feel violates their beliefs.

With regard to health insurance, that’s my point too… it would be discrimination. And Congress is working mightily to require employers to provide coverage. So Christian businesses will no longer have the option to say, it would violate my beliefs to spend my money on something I believe is immoral, so I won’t cover anybody, I’ll just give you more pay and you spend it on health insurance if you want. At that point, what can you do but fire everybody and not have employees at all, or else close up shop? Boston Catholic Charities was required to either stop providing adoption services or else to facilitate gay adoptions. Either my right to practice my religion as I understand it is being impeded or my livelihood is.

In practice, the right to religion is no longer absolute and sacred unless one withdraws from society, which is practically impossible. Whether that is for good or ill is a fair debate, but it’s undeniably going to happen. And I believe it makes society as a whole less free.

Laura on October 7, 2009 at 12:31 PM

I’d also like to point out the insanity of how various levels of government has gotten involved in regulating religion via employment – while Christian businesses have been proactively required to do things that violate their faith in order to stay in business, secular businesses have been required to make expensive changes to specifically accommodate Islamic employees prayer requirement (meat packing companies are the most famous example.) Then there’s the Christian pharmacist battle, another can of worms.

I would far prefer the government to butt out entirely. Do business with whom you please, allow employers to fire employees whose religious beliefs impede the business.

Laura on October 7, 2009 at 1:14 PM

You agree that homosexuality is no greater a sin than any other. But others don’t seem to bother/consume christians to the same degree. I don’t think we’d see such a fervent argument to deny atheists or adulterers healthcare. Society doesn’t seem to disapprove of these things either. You and your faith can do so and still cover individuals.

I don’t know what to tell you. It appears that, unless Christianity learns to ignore/deal with homosexuality or accept it like some denominations, you’re destined to go the way of the Amish. If you must have the ability to penalize sinners whenever you desire, outsides of regular society is probably the only option.

I would far prefer the government to butt out entirely. Do business with whom you please, allow employers to fire employees whose religious beliefs impede the business.

How does an employee’s private life “impede the business.” How is a gay spouse more of an impediment than a straight one? It seems to me that your reasons for terminating the employee have nothing to do with business at all.

And, I don’t think you’ve thought out the implications of a religious exemption to our laws. Even if we limit it only to discrimination law, it opens up a lot of doors. What happens when it becomes a central tenet of someone’s religion not to hire whites or blacks.

Trent1289 on October 7, 2009 at 2:22 PM

You agree that homosexuality is no greater a sin than any other. But others don’t seem to bother/consume christians to the same degree.

First – I didn’t say it was no greater a sin than any other. I don’t want to get into theology here, it’s not that relevant but I want to be clear that what I meant was there are other sins equally serious in God’s eyes but more culturally palatable. As I said, there is pushback because the demand on Christians is that we stop treating it as a sin. It hasn’t been an issue in decades past because it just never came up before. The gay rights movement triggered the Christian pushback.

B) We’re not talking about denying healthcare – don’t conflate employer subsidized insurance coverage with healthcare.

iii) You seem to be misconstruing the argument. It is not that a Christian employer would not want to pay for health care benefits for sinners. Everybody is a sinner. It is that a Christian employer might not want to subsidize marriage benefits in what we necessarily view as an invalid marriage; one created to celebrate what the bible specifically calls sin. The exact same argument for not having benefits for unmarried partners. I’m not asking you to agree, but do you understand the point? It’s a lot more specific than I think you’re getting, based on your “penalize” remark. It’s not about penalizing anyone, it’s about not wanting to subsidize something we think is wrong. Likewise abortion.

4) How an employee’s private life impedes the business – I didn’t say anything about a gay spouse there, I was specifically referencing Islamic prayer breaks and Christian pharmacists who refuse to dispense abortifacients. There are also Islamic cabbies who won’t carry dogs or alcohol, and Islamic store clerks who won’t handle pork. Rather than just get rid of these people and hire others who will do the job without being catered to, employers are required by law to make “reasonable” accommodations. But what’s reasonable is very much in the eye of the beholder.

When it becomes a central tenet of someone’s religion to not hire certain races, then people who oppose that – and it will be the vast majority – can use our free speech to shame, boycott and protest that business.

Laura on October 7, 2009 at 3:32 PM

Free speech and boycotts don’t work against racism/discrimination (see the 1960s and Glenn Beck), only laws do.

As I said, there is pushback because the demand on Christians is that we stop treating it as a sin. It hasn’t been an issue in decades past because it just never came up before. The gay rights movement triggered the Christian pushback.

The difference between what is legal and what is acceptable in your faith is vast. Some religions frown on drinking, gambling , dancing and adultery. These things can and are still viewed as sins by the faithful, but they are generally acknowledged to be permissible. I think you see where I’m going with this one.

With regard to your third point, I guess it just strikes me as childish. We subsidize conduct we disagree with a million times a day. Medicare, Social Security, foreign aid, abstinence only education, misconduct by corporations. It’s a part of life. What if someone has a China-esque religion that believes it’s immoral for individuals to have more than two children. Are you okay with an employer denying coverage on tott two and three?

Trent1289 on October 7, 2009 at 3:58 PM

The difference between what is legal and what is acceptable in your faith is vast. Some religions frown on drinking, gambling , dancing and adultery. These things can and are still viewed as sins by the faithful, but they are generally acknowledged to be permissible.

You’re killing me, brah. :-) In the post I referenced bible thumpers and at various times in the comments I’ve referenced the bible. Whatever amount of meaning you put onto those references, quadruple it. I’m not talking about “religions” I’m talking about a specific subset of self-identifying Christians who believe the bible is the word of God and base their faith entirely on it. We may also read other books about religion, but the bible is first, last, always – sola scriptura. If that wasn’t clear before, then I’m sorry and now you know. Episcopalians call themselves Christian yet a branch of their church is promoting leadership that specifically contradicts the bible about sin, for example. So I’m not even including all self-identifying Christians here. I mean people who base everything on the bible.

As to what is sin and what is permissible – no sin is ever permissible. It’s acknowledged that we are sinners but the constant push, if you are among “the faithful” is to knock that crap off; repent and stop doing whatever it was. At no point would you hear, “gossip is fine after all, go to it!” I’m not looking to debate Christianity here – just to say that a big part of the core problem is we object to people not in the faith trying to redefine the faith and tell us how we may practice it.

We subsidize conduct we disagree with a million times a day. Medicare, Social Security, foreign aid, abstinence only education, misconduct by corporations.

Disagree with, yes, but don’t necessarily classify as sin. That’s why the push to include federally funded abortion and any threat to the conscience clause is met with a lot more wailing and gnashing of teeth than my distaste for pissing away money on a big inflatable alligator for Cleburn, TX.

What I would really like to see isn’t going to happen because governments never reliquish power voluntarily is:

1. Disconnect employment and insurance. Let people be responsible for buying their own. For the people below poverty level, provide vouchers or tax credits.

2. Stop allowing employees to dictate how they shall practice their religion on the job (the Christian pharmacist who does not want to dispense abortifacients is free to go start his own pharmacy or else work for a Christian pharmacy. The Muslim cabbie can go get back in the line if the fare that comes up when it’s his turn is objectionable.

3. Stop telling businesses who they must serve. If the Christian photographer doesn’t want to photograph the same sex ceremony, go get another photographer who is grateful for the job. If the doctor doesn’t want to do abortions – or in vitro for lesbians – get another doctor.

4. Stop telling businesses who they must employ. If the hospital doesn’t want to hire the doctor because his religious objects may subject them to a lawsuit, then don’t hire him and he doesn’t get to sue for discrimination. Same for the meatpackers who want extra breaks and clerks who won’t handle pork, etc. Casinos in Vegas can fire women who no longer meet their appearance standards.

Freedom of religion, freedom of association. True, you’ve got people out there with “deep, intense and tangible hurts” but the Constitution does not provide for redress for hurt feelings or for the right to access goods and services that people do not voluntarily provide.

Laura on October 7, 2009 at 6:53 PM