Quotes of the day

A crowdfunding campaign for Memories Pizza started with the goal of raising $25,000. It ended up pulling in more than $842,000 in just two days

The O’Connors have not reopened Memories Pizza since the furor erupted, but they have gained support from conservatives who think the shop owners have been bullied for their religious views and didn’t realize what they were getting themselves into when they spoke on television about the religious-freedom legislation. Ironically, some of those same supporters have heaped scorn upon WBND-TV and threatened station employees for airing the story that started the drama…

Regarding the money raised, he said, “That’s so greatly appreciated, but even without the money — that’s a secondary thing — just the kind words is what really built me back up. You gotta have money to live, but it’s not important. We would have gotten by.”


The contrasting reactions to the [RFRA] proposals — Democrats united in opposition, Republicans torn by dissent — illustrates how the parties have effectively traded places

Tensions have long existed between both more libertarian-leaning and economic-oriented conservatives and those drawn to Republican politics because of their faith. But those tensions were more easily papered over in an era where the cultural consensus was further to the right. Now, with that consensus changing, bottom line-focused businesses like Walmart have made common cause with Democrats, prompting Republican governors such as Mike Pence of Indiana and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas to re-evaluate their support for what proponents refer to as religious freedom measures…

“What was driving this train wreck over the last week is a corporatist domination of some sectors of the Republican Party,” said Russell Moore, a senior official with the Southern Baptist Convention, decrying what he called “an Ayn Rand-ian vision of the public good.”…

This week, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, took aim at Walmart, long a target of the left. “You want to rollback religious freedom?” Mr. Perkins wrote on Twitter, questioning the country’s largest employer and a historically conservative institution. “Goodbye Walmart, Hello neighborhood grocery.”


If corporations and their executives care about civil rights, they should make clear that they will not donate to or support the campaigns of politicians who back such regressive legislation. They certainly shouldn’t back lawmakers like Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, who is running for president and who has been a vocal supporter of the initial versions of the Indiana and Arkansas laws, and Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, who suggested on Wednesday that gays have it pretty good in the United States because they are not executed here as they are in Iran.

Another thing businesses can do is to make clear that they want lawmakers in all states to pass anti-discrimination protections for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people. More than three dozen chief executives of technology companies did just that in a statement released on Wednesday.

Corporations have big and influential voices on the political stage, voices that been made bigger by Supreme Court decisions that allow businesses and executives to spend vast sums supporting political campaigns and through direct donations to candidates and political parties. If they are embarrassed by religious freedom laws, they should think carefully about the people they are helping to put into office.


[H]omosexuality and Christianity don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere…

But in the end, the continued [religious] view of gays, lesbians and bisexuals as sinners is a decision. It’s a choice. It prioritizes scattered passages of ancient texts over all that has been learned since — as if time had stood still, as if the advances of science and knowledge meant nothing…

For a very long time, he noted, “Many Christians thought slavery wasn’t sinful, until we finally concluded that it was. People thought contraception was sinful when it began to be developed, and now very few Protestants and not that many Catholics would say that.” They hold an evolved sense of right and wrong, even though, he added, “You could find scriptural support for the idea that all sex should be procreative.”…

And it’s a vital message because of something that Indiana demonstrated anew: Religion is going to be the final holdout and most stubborn refuge for homophobia. It will give license to discrimination. It will cause gay and lesbian teenagers in fundamentalist households to agonize needlessly: Am I broken? Am I damned?…

Gold told me that church leaders must be made “to take homosexuality off the sin list.”


Not “must be persuaded,” but “must be made.” Compelled. Forced. And not forced to change our behavior, but forced to change what we believe. Because You Must Approve.

And just how do Bruni and his militant Social Justice Warriors plan to force us to repudiate our beliefs? We are going to find out. Indiana and Arkansas showed that most Americans don’t much care about religious liberty — and in fact, people like Bruni and the newspaper he works for have contempt for it, at least when it is practiced by “conservative Christians.”

And not just The New York Times, but newspapers like The Forum, in, get this, Fargo, North Dakota, published a front page running the photographs of every member of the state legislature who voted against an LGBT equality bill. Of course I have no problem with a newspaper, or anybody, criticizing, and criticizing strongly, those who vote the way they don’t like. But the imagery and the format here is that of a witch hunt designed to hold Enemies Of The People up to public contempt.


Last year, the Public Religion Research Institute asked Americans if they felt religious liberty was being threatened in America today, and a majority (54 percent) said they felt it was. Nonetheless, 80 percent of their respondents said that a business owner should not be able “be able to refuse services on religious grounds to individuals who happen to be gay or lesbian.”

Pew Research Center found something that, at first glance, seems very different. Asking instead if a wedding services business should be “allowed to refuse” or “required to provide” services at a same-sex marriage, voters are far more split, with only 49 percent saying the business should be “required to provide.”…

When the question moves further from generally providing service to all and into the more narrow questions about marriage ceremonies, requirements, and punishments, public opinion swings even further into Memories Pizza’s court. Take another poll, conducted by Marist just a few weeks ago, which showed 65 percent of respondents opposing fines for wedding vendors who decline to provide services. This may seem like splitting hairs to some, but is actually illustrative of the way that many Americans look at the issue.


On culture-war matters, Republicans need a spinal transplant. If the mainstream media and the social-justice warriors (but I’m being redundant) kick a bit of sand in their faces, they retreat — even from popular positions. As Ramesh has noted, large majorities of Americans don’t want to see citizens penalized or fined for refusing to participate in gay weddings, yet Republicans caved anyway — from laws that wouldn’t even clearly or necessarily protect the rare objecting baker, florist, or photographer. The laws would simply give those vendors a fighting chance. And of course the retreats are hardly confined to same-sex marriage. Don’t forget the House Republicans’ dreadful display the very day of the March for Life, when they withdrew a popular pro-life bill in the face of inconsequential political opposition. 

Yet when big business says, “jump,” Republicans jump. I note with interest that just as elected Republicans retreat with extreme speed on life and religious liberty, they stand like Leonidas at Thermopylae to block politically popular increases in the federal minimum wage. What’s the common factor in the religious liberty rout and the minimum-wage stand? The corporate will. I’m not yet ready to declare – as Rod Dreher does – that the battle between Democrats and Republicans is the battle of the “party of lust” versus the “party of greed,” but that’s what this week certainly looked like.


God forbid that the concept of freedom should allow you, as an individual, to resist social changes you don’t like. Clearly, the best way to protect religious liberty is to never invoke it in defense of anything that is really, really unpopular. Or at least, anything that is really unpopular among New York and DC elites…

To be sure, the concept of freedom was damaged long ago. The whole reason the new religious freedom laws are necessary is because the ever-expanding power of the state has built up so many controls that already interfere with every little aspect of life. (The original, federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed in response to a court case involving drug laws.) So the laws inevitably clash with citizens’ private judgment and personal convictions in myriad ways. And these new laws are not even an absolute protection against that interference. They simply specify that the state has to have what a judge thinks is a really, really good reason to push private citizens around, and it has to avoid pushing them around any more than the judge feels it really needs to. This is still just trying to carve out a wider range of approved dissent within the context of total state control of human life.

Quoting Justice Scalia somewhat out of context (though not entirely out of context, since it was a wrong argument in the first place), Tomasky hyperventilates that if we allow people to act on “the professed doctrines of religious belief,” this will “permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.” Well, isn’t every individual a law unto himself, in a very real sense, when it comes to how he disposes of his own person, his own property, and his own mind? Has the law of the state expanded so much that it leaves the individual no space in which he may determine his own private principles of action?


Madison’s case against an established church, perhaps most notably in his 1785 “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments,” was rooted in a core principle of religious liberty that is particularly important to remember in the kinds of debates we have seen in the last few years: That religious freedom is not a freedom to do what you want, but a freedom to do what you must…

This distinction between individual and institutional religious freedom has actually been at the core of a lot of the religious freedom battles we’ve had in the Obama years. It has been more prominent in the HHS-mandate debates, but it’s very much a part of this argument about whether a florist shop or a pizza parlor can be Christian. In a country with a non-Christian state religion that it takes seriously, the answer is basically no. The florist can be Christian as an individual, but his store can’t be, because institutions, unlike individuals, are creatures of the law and our law already has a religion: progressive liberalism.

We who are appalled by the perverse reaction to the Indiana law are not exactly defending the free exercise right; we are in a sense opposing a violation of the prohibition on religious establishment. The point is not that running a flower shop is a way of practicing one’s religion. The point is that, if reasonably possible, people should not be compelled as the price of entry to the public square to honor as true what their understanding of their religious obligations compels them to judge false.


“[Elites] think religion is all about being happy-clappy and nice, or should be, so they don’t see any legitimate grounds for the clash,” he said. “They make so many errors, but they don’t want to listen.”

To elites in his circles, Kingsfield continued, “at best religion is something consenting adult should do behind closed doors. They don’t really understand that there’s a link between Sister Helen Prejean’s faith and the workd she does on the death penalty. There’s a lot of looking down on flyover country, one middle America.

“The sad thing,” he said, “is that the old ways of aspiring to truth, seeing all knowledge as part of learning about the nature of reality, they don’t hold. It’s all about power. They’ve got cultural power, and think they should use it for good, but their idea of good is not anchored in anything. They’ve got a lot of power in courts and in politics and in education. Their job is to challenge people to think critically, but thinking critically means thinking like them. They really do think that they know so much more than anybody did before, and there is no point in listening to anybody else, because they have all the answers, and believe that they are good.”…

“Autonomous self-definition is at the root of all this,” Prof. Kingsfield said. We are now at the point, he said, at which it is legitimate to ask if sexual autonomy is more important than the First Amendment.


Those who believe in religious liberty may be feeling discouraged at what they’re seeing in the current clash, and the battle, as Kevin Williamson frames it, against the private mind. But I am not so sure that the ground will not shift in their favor. Already you have some longtime gay marriage supporters, who have dismissed concerns that religious citizens would be brought to heel by government, questioning their positions. As Michael Barone – who has supported gay marriage for far longer than Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton – notes, this is in conflict with what has been an essential American belief for generations: “The traditional American formula for handling such issues is friendly accommodation of the conscientious beliefs of others. Indiana’s RFRA is in line with this. Forcing people to violate their religious beliefs absent a compelling government interest is not.” And has never been.

It would be one thing if this came after a decision in the other direction on Hobby Lobby – but it doesn’t. The case for gay marriage has succeeded in the public mind because it is based on love of two people for each other, not hate aimed at those with different beliefs than you. The case for using the force of government and an aggressive antagonistic mob to attack believers in all walks of life is far less sympathetic, and the potential for overreach on the part of the left is far greater. As vocal as the secular left is, there is still a hesitation among the broader swathe of Americans as to forcing people to do things they don’t want to do, for any reason. The dismissal of religious bigotry as an unjustifiable reason for such claims is possible to sustain against, say, a random pizza place. But the logic of secular leftists like Tomasky in this regard does not stop at Memories Pizza. It demands enforcement all the way to altars across the country, and it will allow for no dissent.


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