Conservative activists said Thursday that they will continue to press for additional legal protections for private businesses that deny service to gay men and lesbians, saying that a defeat in Arizona this week is only a minor setback and that religious-liberty legislation is the best way to stave off a rapid shift in favor of gay rights…
“The fight has to be over what the First Amendment is,” said John C. Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, adding that his side needs to convince the public that conservatives are not trying to deny the rights of other Americans. “This is not somebody adhering to old Jim Crow lunch-counter discrimination. This is a fundamental dispute about what marriage means, and why it’s important for society.”…
Douglas Laycock, a University of Virginia law professor who specializes in issues of religious freedom, said controversy over a handful of cases involving social issues is “creating a public that is hostile to the very idea of religious liberty.”
“The debate has been captured by utterly intolerant people on both sides,” he said. “Everybody wants religious liberty for me, and my opponent ground into the dust.”
The decision by members of the Republican establishment to join gay activists in opposing the bill reflected the alarm the Arizona battle stirred among party leaders, who worried about identifying their party with polarizing social issues at a time when Republicans see the prospect of big gains in Congressional elections on economic issues…
Nelson Warfield, a conservative consultant who advises Mr. Scott, said that many conservatives applauded the intent of the law, to permit business owners to follow their religious conscience. But the battle over the law was lost, he said, as soon as it moved from being a fight over religious freedom to one of “personal dignity.” He said laws like the one vetoed in Arizona would certainly be embraced by some Republican presidential candidates in 2016 during the primaries, but would be toxic for a Republican candidate in a general election.
“You can bet your last dollar somebody will run on it for the nomination next time,” he said, referring to the Republican presidential battle of 2016. “But the issue was framed in the worst possible way for those people who are supporters of the bill,” he said. “It became about human rights and human dignity and not religious conscience. As soon as it shifted from a debate about religious conscience to a respect for human dignity, it was a loser.”
The political strategy employed by Republicans in this controversy—to accept passively and incuriously the messaging of their political opponents—would in any other instance be considered political malpractice. Three Republican state senators admitted to this passivity, writing to Gov. Brewer in opposition to the bill for which they had voted: “the bill has…been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance. These allegations are causing our state immeasurable harm.” It’s not the bill causing harm, but its mendacious opponents—and yet they hasten to hoist the white flag…
One can imagine how this strategy would have played out in, for instance, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s crusade against that state’s public sector unions. The GOP would have been cowed by the unions’ show of force, issued statements indicating no offense was meant, apologized for embarrassing the state of Wisconsin, and forced Gov. Walker to perform ritual self-immolation in the State Capitol.
But in Arizona, this passivity was hailed by the media and the political establishment as the pinnacle of prudence. In Arizona, we’ve been reminded exactly whom the GOP is willing, even eager, to sell out…
Religious liberty is worth fighting for. But will anyone stand up to fight?
Do those who want every baker to make gay-wedding cakes really want to see objectors thrown behind bars?
If they do not want to perform services for these potential clients, the alternative is for these businesses to fire their employees, close their doors, and increase commercial vacancies.
Some, of course, will obey such laws while gritting their teeth and saying behind their backs: “The gays are taking over. Damn them!” How is this healthy?
The real question here is, when will the ever-expanding state focus on performing its limited duties admirably and stop putting guns to people’s heads and making them do things they would prefer to avoid?
A religious freedom statute doesn’t give anyone carte blanche to do whatever he wants in the name of religion. It simply allows him to make his case in court that a law or a lawsuit substantially burdens his religion and that there is no compelling governmental interest to justify the burden.
For critics of the Arizona bill, the substance was almost an afterthought. They recoiled at the very idea that someone might have moral objections to homosexuality or gay marriage…
The question isn’t whether businesses run by people opposed to gay marriage on religious grounds should provide their services for gay weddings; it is whether they should be compelled to by government. The critics of the much-maligned Arizona bill pride themselves on their live-and-let-live open-mindedness, but they are highly moralistic in their support of gay marriage, judgmental of those who oppose it and tolerant of only one point of view on the issue — their own.
For them, someone else’s conscience is only a speed bump on the road to progress.
If you believe markets work, if you believe people work, then you should have faith that legitimate bigotry will be punished by the marketplace. So Hobby Lobby and Chick Fil A and all the cakemakers who only make heteronormative cake will see their business drop because they were anti-women or anti-gay or what have you. Giving the government the power to punish them – which really amounts to giving elite trial lawyers that power – is madness if you believe in people and markets. Decisions made by free people within markets will sort themselves out better than giving courts and government and bureaucrats the power to do the sorting. No one will shop at the Nazi store without being judged for shopping at the Nazi store, so we don’t need government to ban the Nazi store.
One last word regarding the language of opponents of this law, who have been so quick to run to straw man arguments of bigotry and hate: most religions are inherently discriminatory. They discriminate between what is a sin and what is not, between who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, and they guide believers to never participate in furthering a sinful act. It is rather laughable to see the unchurched roll out the line of attack that defense of religious liberty – of preventing government from compelling the religious to participate in something they view as sinful – places proponents on the “wrong side of history.” How droll. If you believe that our reality began with “let there be light!” and will end with “behold, I make all things new”, being on the wrong side of human history is a given.
The whole point of religious freedom is that it’s extended to the people who are — from at least someone’s perspective — completely wrong. If everyone in society agreed on religion, there would be no need to protect it. So even if somehow all the big minds in a media outlet were pretty darn sure they’d figured out definitively that someone else’s systematic theology was wrong — it wouldn’t matter one whit…
Religious liberty is a deeply radical concept. It was at this country’s founding and it hasn’t become less so. Preserving it has always been a full-time battle. But it’s important, because religion is at the core of people’s identity. A government that tramples religious liberty is not a government that protects economic freedom. It’s certainly not a government that protects conscience rights. A government that tramples religious liberty does not have expansive press freedoms. Can you think of one country with a narrow view of religious liberty but an expansive view of economic freedom, freedom of association, press freedoms or free speech rights? One?
A media less hostile to religious liberty would think less about scoring cheap political points, creating uncivil political climates and disparaging institutions that help humans flourish. A media with a higher regard for truth would, it turns out, have a higher regard for religious liberty.
The ridiculous invocations of Jim Crow are utterly ahistorical, by the way. Jim Crow was state-enforced, and businesses that wanted to serve blacks could be prosecuted. Let the market work and the same social forces that have made homosexuality mainstream will make refusing service to gays a horrible business decision — particularly in the wedding industry!
When August “Gussie” Busch, the CEO of Budweiser, bought the St. Louis Cardinals in 1953, he was vexed by the Brooklyn Dodgers’ success, which was due in large part to Jackie Robinson. He asked Cardinals executives how many blacks they were cultivating, and when they said “None,” he was appalled. “How can it be the great American game if blacks can’t play? Hell, we sell beer to everyone!” he exclaimed. The next year the Cardinals had a black first baseman, Tom Alston.
In 2000, Jonathan Rauch, a (gay) brilliant intellectual and champion of gay marriage, wrote a wonderful essay on “hidden law,” which he defined as “the norms, conventions, implicit bargains, and folk wisdoms that organize social expectations, regulate everyday behavior, and manage interpersonal conflicts.” Basically, hidden law is the unwritten legal and ethical code of civil society. Abortion, assisted suicide, and numerous other hot-button issues were once settled by people doing right as they saw it without seeking permission from the government…
Gay activists won the battle for hidden law a long time ago. If they recognized that, the sane response would be, “You don’t want my business because I’m gay? Go to hell,” followed by a vicious review on Yelp.
The political-media complex is bravely coming down on florists with unfashionable views. On Twitter Thursday the freedom-fighter who tweets as @FriedrichHayek asked: “Can the government compel a Jewish baker to deliver a wedding cake on a Saturday? If not why not.” Why not indeed. Because the truly tolerant give each other a little space? On an optimistic note, the Little Sisters of the Poor haven’t been put out of business and patiently await their day in court…
Conservatives sometimes feel exhausted from trying to fight back on a million fronts. A leftist might say: “Yes, that’s the plan.”
But the left too is damaged. They look hollowed out and incoherent. Their victories, removed of meaning, are only the triumphs of small aggressions. They win the day but not the era. The result is not progress but more national division, more of a grinding sense of dislike. At first it will be aimed at the progressive left, but in time it will likely be aimed at America itself, or rather America as It Is Now. When the progressive left wins, they will win, year by year, less of a country.