To Bigotry No Sanction

In August 1790, Warden Moses Seixas of the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, wrote an address to the recently elected President George Washington. Jewish congregations were still an unusual phenomenon in America at the time, and Newport’s was the new nation’s largest. Seixas’ letter expressed his congregation’s gratitude to President Washington, and to America in general, for their willingness to uphold the separation of church and state and offer shelter and toleration to a minority that had historically been the victim of savage persecution.

Washington’s reply contains a passage that would become famous in the annals of American secularism:

The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

Throughout America’s history, whenever we have erred or lost our way, we have always had examples like this to guide us back to the better path. Last week’s elections were one such moment, a point when America was put to the test and made the right choice. I remain optimistic that the victory of President-elect Barack Obama is a hopeful sign, a milestone on our nation’s continuing journey to a more enlightened and tolerant future. But there’s one piece of contrary evidence that can’t be ignored, one dissonant note in the symphony. That note is the success of anti-gay marriage referenda in Arizona, Florida, and shockingly, progressive, blue California. The passage of these initiatives raises to thirty the number of American states that now have this hateful bigotry written into their constitutions.

Before the election, if I had been able to choose any state to be the battleground for marriage equality, I would have chosen California. I’m amazed that the anti-equality Proposition 8 passed there, and I still don’t know how it happened. There are useful theories, but the full picture has yet to emerge. However, I suspect when the final explanation is written, a major factor will be progressive complacency. Frankly, I fell into that trap myself when I predicted that a tide of Democratic Obama voters would seal Prop 8′s defeat. That did not happen, and although many people worked hard and donated generously to the anti-8 campaign, as a whole we were outworked, outspent, and outlobbied. Special credit goes to the Mormon church, which poured enormous amounts of money and volunteer effort from out of state into the effort to enshrine discrimination in California’s constitution.

But though this is a major setback, the fight is far from over. If there’s any silver lining to this dark cloud, it may be that the passage of Prop 8 will serve as a catalyzing moment for the marriage-equality movement. There can no longer be any doubt about what is at stake: for gay people across California, as well as for those who love them, the consequences of homophobic bigotry have just been made painfully clear. The outrageous and deeply personal injustice visited upon gay couples has stirred great anger, the repercussions of which have just begun to be felt. The backlash is coming, and it may be far larger than advocates of Prop 8 were expecting.

The days since the passage of Prop 8 have seen street protests erupt across the nation, including a protest of 3,000 in front of the Salt Lake City Temple itself, the heart of Mormonism. This is an excellent first step: it’s a bold show of strength on the enemy’s own ground, one that takes the fight to them and shows that advocates of equality are neither defeated nor cowed. This anger, this passion, is what we were missing before. For the marriage-equality movement, the next step is clear: we need to channel it into activism.

To win marriage equality, we have to spend our effort where it will be most effective. This may not make me popular, but I don’t think that picketing churches, or even boycotting Mormon-run businesses, is the answer. These proposals are born out of the drive for vengeance, the desire to hurt people who’ve hurt us. Since many gays and lesbians have been deeply and personally hurt by Prop 8, this is understandable. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t do those things – certainly, there’s a good argument to be made that Mormons and other religious groups will be less likely to throw their weight behind anti-gay bigotry in the future if they know they’ll pay a price for it. But if we make these things the whole of our effort – if we let ourselves be lulled into doing this and nothing more – then we will lose again. Punishing opponents of marriage equality is a psychologically satisfying pursuit, but it’s not how elections are won.

If we’re going to change public opinion and repeal Prop 8, that will only be achieved the same way all elections are won: through grassroots effort and campaigning. We need to blanket the airwaves and newspapers with ads making a strong case for equality. We need to make phone calls, to knock on doors, and to talk to people we know who live in affected neighborhoods. The closeness of the election is strong evidence that this fight is winnable – if we wage an effective ground-level campaign, backed by an ad campaign that crafts a compelling narrative arguing for equality, and most importantly, if we do not let ourselves be out-organized or outspent again. As all the demographic data indicates, young voters are far more sympathetic to the cause of equality, which means our eventual victory is practically inevitable. The only question is how soon it arrives, and if we – gays and straight allies, nonbelievers and progressive people of faith – are willing to work for it, it can come sooner rather than later. California will be the next battleground, but it will not be the last.

George Washington’s promise to give bigotry no sanction has always been more of an aspiration than a guarantee with the force of law. To our shame, America has backed bigotry against different groups of people through our history. But even the mere aspiration is valuable – it gives us an ideal to strive for. It shouldn’t be forgotten that every major civil-rights movement that has arisen in America has been victorious. Now the torch has been passed to our generation, and it’s up to us to claim new ground in the ongoing fight for equality. We have a long and proud legacy to uphold, one that dates back to our nation’s founding and our first president. The battle will be hard-fought, but the victory is worth the effort. What will you do to join in and answer the call?

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://6thfloorblog.blogspot.com Ceetar

    It seems that a large portion of those motivated to vote for Obama weren’t necessarily anti-8. I don’t know what the buzz was in California, but I’m sure there were plenty of people that weren’t as motivated to vote, given that California being for Obama was almost a forgone conclusion. Couple that with, despite it being the right thing, it really doesn’t affect ‘many’ people. 99%+ of people aren’t activists: They want the right thing to happen, but have other focuses, and this keeps people from being very gung-ho supportive politically.

    But you’re right. protests and picketing probably aren’t going to help. Initially, it gets the displeasure of the results out, but it’s really preaching to the anti-choir. Grassroots campaigns..I guess are the only way to go. They frustrate me personally, and I think it’s a stupid way for things to be decided. It really _shouldn’t_ be about who can get more people out to vote. The other thing is…what are we rallying them for? There is no upcoming election now. Most people, even if they initially say they’re supportive, aren’t going to want to sign on to a prolonged debate or campaign. It needs a date, a vote, something..

    Personally, I think this should be a US Amendment and be done with it. Or at least a Supreme Court decision of some sort.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    I think you are underestimating the conservatism and religiosity of Obama’s constuency. Certainly the black vote is not thatsocially liberal. It may be that Obama’s welcome victory comes at the expense of the defeat of prop8

  • konrad_arflane

    To win marriage equality, we have to spend our effort where it will be most effective. This may not make me popular, but I don’t think that picketing churches, or even boycotting Mormon-run businesses, is the answer. These proposals are born out of the drive for vengeance, the desire to hurt people who’ve hurt us. Since many gays and lesbians have been deeply and personally hurt by Prop 8, this is understandable. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t do those things – certainly, there’s a good argument to be made that Mormons and other religious groups will be less likely to throw their weight behind anti-gay bigotry in the future if they know they’ll pay a price for it.

    I don’t see how a boycott of Mormon-run businesses would help anything. In fact, I’d fear a backlash if a truly effective boycott could be organized, which I doubt. First, because although the Mormon church was active in support of Prop 8, it doesn’t follow that all Mormons, or even just all Mormon businessmen, agree with their church on this issue. Second, because if a boycott actually is actually effective, the first victims will be low-level employees losing their jobs – and there’s no guarantee they will even be Mormons. And third, what about the competition? Chances are that whoever you buy from instead will be run by some variety of Christian (if you’re doing a comprehensive boycott of Mormons, that’ll probably be hard to avoid), whose church is very likely *also* opposed to gay marriage, even if it hasn’t been as active about it as the Mormon one.

    The whole thing reminds me of the anti-gay activists who call for boycotts of one company or another because said company has an official anti-discrimination policy – without mentioning (or possibly even knowing or caring) that just about every major company has such a policy.

    (and yes, I realize that Ebon didn’t suggest such a boycott, but I think it’s a sufficiently bad idea that anybody who supports gay rights should be against it, not just non-committal.)

  • http://superstitionfree.blogspot.com Robert Madewell

    I agree, picketing churches and boycotting mormon run bussinesses would be a bad idea. It would drive the “persecution complex” that many christians have.

  • Brad

    One thing I want to emphasize here:

    We need to blanket the airwaves and newspapers with ads making a strong case for equality.

    I’ve noticed that bigots (of all kinds) never perceive themselves as such – so then when they are called “bigots” they are shaken and come to the conclusion that those people who disagree with them have a distorted sense of reality. I think that should be appropriately addressed in some form.

  • http://www.wayofthemind.org/ Pedro Timóteo

    I agree, picketing churches and boycotting mormon run bussinesses would be a bad idea. It would drive the “persecution complex” that many christians have.

    So, because they have a persecution complex, it means that they can never be punished for their actions? I have to disagree. I do agree with Ebon that picketings and boycotts aren’t going to change much and are far from enough, but I also think that those actions are more than just, and that those bigots who go out of their way to take away other people’s rights should suffer some consequences for their actions. They have been hitting innocent people for decades; it’s time that they are hit back. If not, they “get away with it”, and it only empowers them in the future.

  • Polly

    In the end I think it was the Pro-8 ads that really won the day:

    1)The one series about kids coming home with “King and King” books in their hands saying they can grow up to marry someone of the same sex, probably freaked out a lot of parents who still believe you can “catch the gay.” Also, perhaps the fear that kids might start learning too much too soon about sexuality, for some reason.

    2)The other ad, that I personally feel was probably really effective was the one with Gavin Newsome. I was anti-8 all the way and I voted that way. But, I gotta tell you that guy was annoying as hell. If I had any doubts about which way to go on prop 8, that arrogant guy with his big smirk saying “whether you like it or not” would’ve made me feel like I was getting railroaded.
    Just yesterday at work, I heard a group of employees using that same Pro-8 catchline quote from Newsome, “Whether you like it or not.” I couldn’t really tell what the context was (different language). But, it definitely wasn’t positive.

    Brilliant on the part of the bigots. They ran a Hell of a psychologically effective campaign.

    I barely saw the anti-8 ads. The one with the old couple was good because it appealed to the more hardened demographic. I especially like the one with the bride who couldn’t get to the wedding. But, these ads didn’t run nearly as often as Mr.-whether-you-like-it-or-not.

    So, I agree 100%, Ebon. You have to get MORE ads running MORE often.

    I don’t think this is even something that should be voted on since it involves basic rights and equality. But, such is society.

  • Brad

    I believe Polly was referring to “It’s Already Happened” and this.

  • Stacey Melissa

    I think I may have to write up a “food for thought” poster that I can tack up on the employee bulletin board at work. I realize a Kansas constitutional amendment vote to reverse the bigoted amendment from three years ago probably won’t come up for another two or three decades. But in the meantime, people can have something to make them think a little bit.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Actually, there’s another phrase in that letter that is also interesting:

    All possess alike liberty of conscience. . .

    See that? Not ‘freedom of religion’. ‘Liberty of conscience,’ the freedom to look at the world and decide for yourself, whether that decision is a religious one or an a-religious one :-)

    I wish the idea of ‘freedom of conscience’ in religious matters got more play, I really do.

  • Nurse Ingrid

    Thank you for this post, Ebon, and for the passage from Washington. I especially like this line:

    “It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.”

    Remember Sarah Palin in the V.P. debate, talking about how much she “tolerates” gay people, then in the same sentence says she doesn’t think we deserve civil rights? My favorite line from the Tina Fey satire was,

    “I tolerate gay people! I just tolerate ‘em so much!”

    You know, like we’re a toothache or something.

  • Brad

    Pedro, I think Robert’s idea is not so much punishment but effectiveness. In fact, Robert’s idea, as I see it, was that feeding a “persecution complex” is the true source of “empowering” them, not the alternative.

    “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make [them] a friend” ~ Abraham Lincoln

  • http://www.wayofthemind.org/ Pedro Timóteo

    Brad: yes, but the implication remains: since anything done against them fuels their persecution complex, nothing can ever be done against them. They have, perhaps unintentionally (though it’s quite likely that the “you’ll be persecuted” claims in the Bible were written exactly for that purpose), the perfect “shield” against any action taken against them — including mere cricticism. “See, we’re being persecuted, just as the Bible predicted we would!”

    And my point is that we shouldn’t accept that as a valid defense, or as a reason not to do something we otherwise would — whether it’s criticism of their beliefs, or of their actions, or actually “fighting back”. Yes, they’ll claim “persecution”. Cry us a river. :)

  • John D.

    It’s strange for me, in a way, to read an impassioned appeal for gay marriage – in the way that it is always strange to encounter people who passionately believe the opposite of what you do.
    I am prepared to accept that you truly believe, for what you think are good and well thought-out reasons, in the cause you are trying to promote; but I wonder, are you prepared to reciprocate on that? ie, are any of you willing to allow that I might not be a bigot, even though I take a different view from yours? Or that my opposition to gay marriage might be based on what I take to be reasonable and sound arguments, not visceral repulsion or blind prejudice?

  • konrad_arflane

    Brad: yes, but the implication remains: since anything done against them fuels their persecution complex, nothing can ever be done against them. They have, perhaps unintentionally (though it’s quite likely that the “you’ll be persecuted” claims in the Bible were written exactly for that purpose), the perfect “shield” against any action taken against them — including mere cricticism. “See, we’re being persecuted, just as the Bible predicted we would!”

    And my point is that we shouldn’t accept that as a valid defense, or as a reason not to do something we otherwise would — whether it’s criticism of their beliefs, or of their actions, or actually “fighting back”. Yes, they’ll claim “persecution”. Cry us a river. :)

    Well, there’s fighting back and fighting back. There’s stuff we can do that may conceivably have an effect along the lines we want – picketing churches *may* fall into this camp (if we assume that some Mormons are both unaware of the role their church played in getting Prop 8 passed and would disapprove if they knew), so it’s unfortunate that it got lumped in with the boycotts in Robert Madewell’s post. And there’s stuff that will do no earthly good except perhaps sate the need to “get the bad guys”, while doing nothing to convince anyone that we’re actually in the right, or indeed even good people who are just misguided. Boycotts fall into this because they don’t hit the real bad guys – it’s a pretty far stretch to assume that a boycott so widespread it will affect the Mormon Church indirectly to any measurable degree could even organized, much less carried out; and meanwhile individual Mormons who have no beef with gay marriage (and yes, they exist. I hear former 49er Steve Young is one of them) will be struck by sanctions they’ve done nothing to deserve, as will non-Mormon employees of Mormons. I honestly don’t see how that would convince anyone to support equality.

  • Christine

    For those who are wondering what to do, there’s always this: http://jointheimpact.wetpaint.com/?t=anon

    Protests all over the place. The sporadic ones in New York and California have already gotten media attention. How awesome would it be to have hundreds of thousands turn out across the country for gay rights and equality?

    What I’m finding really, really fascinating about this whole protest movement is how it’s evolving. The initial reaction was for the gays to lash out at the black community, but it seems that that has died down considerably, and the protests are being aimed at where they really should be: religion. But what’s really intriguing to me is how the right/Christianists (read: Fox News) is continuing to harp upon the gays vs. blacks thing. Generally, whenever gay activists mention protesting at churches, the default response from the right is “Why not protest the blacks? It’s their fault, right?” Very interesting divide-and-conquer strategy that I’m rather relieved to see doesn’t appear to be working.

  • Brad

    anything done against them fuels their persecution complex

    I’m not sure that’s true.

  • Mathew Wilder

    Just think about the outcry from conservatives, if the opposite of the Mormon’s pouring money into California had taken place. How they would whine about outside influences, and the Big, Scary Gay/Liberal Agenda(tm) thwarting the will of the people! They would be up in arms about the fact of “outsiders” meddling with another state’s politics, I’m sure of it.

    IPU, I can’t stand anit-gay bigots! I can’t even think of a word vile enough to describe them. They piss me off so much.

    BTW, did y’all catch Olbermann’s anti-Prop 8 editorial the other night? Pure gold. That guy is awesome.

  • Mathew Wilder

    Ugh. I just watched the ads linked to above, and they have me steaming. Prof. Peterson from Pepperdine. Yeah, what a great guy, and from such a prestigious university. What he says must be true then!

    Oh, and four judges ignored 4 million voters. How many voters are there in California? Four million seems like it would be an awfully small amount. What about the likely millions more who liked the law the judges passed? Guess they just don’t count. I like how they sneak in that “it’s no longer about tolerance, acceptance of gay marriage is mandatory.” WTF? First of all, since when has it even been tolerated? Seconably, how is it mandatory to “accept” it? What does “accept” even mean? That you or your family has to have one? Or that you simply have to ignore the fact that other people choose to have such a marriage?

    I guess by that reasoning, citizens are forced to accept religions they don’t believe in too! Now that I mention it, that does seem to be what fundies seems to think freedom of religion means, doesn’t it?

  • Polly

    They would be up in arms about the fact of “outsiders” meddling with another state’s politics, I’m sure of it.

    Funny you should mention that. That is exactly how I felt. Out of Utah, LDS infected our constitution with its own regressiveness.

    But, sadly, it’s the people HERE who decided to buy into their bullshit.
    No excuses.

  • Alex Weaver

    What will you do to join in and answer the call?

    Donate money and watch the kid while my considerably more charismatic and socially adept wife volunteers.

  • Siamang

    You know, I don’t actually think that boycotts are necessarily wrong.

    Look at the incident where the owner of a restaurant who gave 1000 bucks to the yes on 8 campaign at the behest of her church. The restaurant was a major hangout in a gay neighborhood in LA.

    It’s a volatile situation, and the emotions and tempers are high. But look at it this way, I myself would be unappetized going to eat at that establishment. Sorry, but I’m just not going to eat there. There are plenty of crappy mexican food restaurants in LA, and even some good ones. I’m not eating there.

    I don’t think it’s wrong to let the community know this. If giving money is called speech in today’s political world, then a boycott is also speech. I’m not telling her to shut up, I’m just answering her speech with my speech. It’s a conversation. She takes my rights away, I don’t eat her shitty food…

    It’s a crummy conversation, but there you go.

    Let’s for an instant imagine that this is a kosher deli owned by an anti-semite who now wonders why her tables are empty. Are folks really EXPECTED to go and eat there now that they know that?

    Imagine a soul food restaurant run by a skinhead. Do you really expect black people to say “oh, gee, you can’t change his mind by boycotting… I guess we have to just suck it up and eat there!”

    Why aren’t gay people allowed just as much self-respect as we’d expect for everyone else? At some level, it’s not about changing minds. Fuck them. Fuck those whose minds can’t be changed. Forget about them: Let’s talk about self-respect for a moment. If there’s one thing that gay people need coming out of this horrendous, horrendous week is some god-damn moment where they can stand up with a little bit of looking out for themselves and not taking the kicks like a lying down cowering dog. This dog has some fucking teeth.

    I also think that this vote was so horrible, so wounding, and so beyond the pale of what human beings should be allowed to do to each other in a modern society, that yes, nonviolent direct action IS an appropriate response. Keep faith, brother Martin, we march along behind you.

    Now there is a question as to whether it’s an effective response. I think it also might be. I think there is a value to taking action… it shows that marriage is an important thing to us. We don’t treat it casually, or as a “something we’d like if it’s not too much trouble.” We demand equality. We don’t ask it. And yes, some of us might very well sit in a jail in Birmingham for it.

    I quote Martin Luther King Jr here:

  • Siamang

    “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. “

  • Seethin’ Heathen

    This may not make me popular, but I don’t think that picketing churches, or even boycotting Mormon-run businesses, is the answer.

    Nonsense! I say that we start doing so immediately. Let’s see, Mormon-controlled organizations, hmm. Let’s start with…the Boy Scouts?!

    Yeah, maybe you’re right. That won’t make us look so good.

  • Siamang

    I wouldn’t boycott a business merely because it was owned by a mormon.

    But I would boycott a business whose owner supported prop 8 financially.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    I should have made it more clear that what’s being proposed is not boycotting any business owned by a Mormon, but boycotting businesses whose owners gave money in support of Prop 8. Here’s a list of donors compiled from campaign finance reports filed with the California Secretary of State.

    Siamang: I’m not saying don’t boycott businesses that opposed marriage equality. I’m warning against the belief that this alone is a politically effective action. What I’m concerned about is that people will picket a church or boycott a restaurant and then feel that they’ve done their part. It’s satisfying, no doubt, and arguably even just, but I doubt whether it accomplishes much. In the long run, political progress is made by the more difficult and less glamorous, but far more important work of political organizing, volunteering, and campaigning. In the final accounting, what matters is the votes, and that’s the only way to get them.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Just think about the outcry from conservatives, if the opposite of the Mormon’s pouring money into California had taken place. How they would whine about outside influences, and the Big, Scary Gay/Liberal Agenda(tm) thwarting the will of the people! They would be up in arms about the fact of “outsiders” meddling with another state’s politics, I’m sure of it.

    We don’t need to speculate – that actually happened this election cycle, with the defeat of anti-abortion ballot measures in Colorado and South Dakota. Guess what the conservatives are complaining about:

    “We were outspent three to one,” said Leslee Unruh, executive director of Vote Yes for Life, whose proposal to ban most abortions in South Dakota was voted down on Nov. 4. “We were surprised they put so much outside resources in here and that voters didn’t wake up to see it.”

  • Tommy

    So, any good ideas for an Atheist’s sign for a no on 8 rally? Im gay, atheist, i love this blog and I’d like some input if anyone has some ideas.

    On Topic: Boycotting is very effective, so are nonviolent demonstrations. I’m probably going to yell myself hoarse tomorrow in Pasadena. I can’t wait. This passage really is beyond the pale, as another poster said.

  • Christopher

    Personally, I don’t really care about the issue of homosexuals getting married or not – then again, I don’t care about the institution of marraige in general (I see it as an outdated relic of the long-dead patriarchy, preferring promiscuous relationships instead). That said, if various members of the homosexual community are so desperate to get married, why not just go out and do it? That’s right: tell the voters that passed prop. #8 to go fuck themselves and just do it – break the “law!”

    They should go forth and have their own ceremony, write up thier own wedding licenses and tell any “law” that says otherwise to go cram it up their asses – who cares if the “law” says that their marraige is invalid so long as they just keep acting like it’s valid anyway? In my experience, I find that there’s nothing like a healthy dose of disobedience to the powers that be to keep them in their place.

  • StaceyJW

    Hello,
    I want to know why we aren’t fighting Prop 8 and related rulings as a direct violation of our right of Religious Freedom? This is EXACTLY what it is: The belief that gays should not marry is based SOLELY on religious tradition, which has its roots in biblical writings that refer to gay relationships as “an abomination” and “against god”, and on and on.

    There is nothing at all secular about the fight against gay marriage; because of this, creating a rule that enforces a religious tradition is an endorsement of that religion. Any state endorsement of one faith automatically violates the rights of ALL other believers and non-believers. This law forces all people to follow a religious belief they do not share.

    This is just like Muslim nations demanding that non-muslim nations punish their own citizens for speaking against Islam. Christian Americans wouldn’t allow a law that could punish them for blasphemy against allah, since they are not Muslim themselves. These same people think that it’s their god given duty to “protect” marriage by banning gays from it. Both rules are 100% religious in nature, and have no business as laws enforced by secular nations.
    I don’t know if Christians forget that there are other religions/non-believers in this nation, or just don’t care?
    ****************

    As far as boycotts and church protests, I think that the more the merrier. Anything that hurts them economically will reduce the amount of money that churches can use to push their beliefs on others. For this reason, boycotts are effective. AND all churches that take their dogma out of the pews and into our legal system become FAIR GAME for protests.

    I also think that doing these things can make Xtians more strident, and let them feel like victims. This is no reason not to do it though!!!!!

    StaceyJW

  • bestonnet

    konrad_arflane:

    Second, because if a boycott actually is actually effective, the first victims will be low-level employees losing their jobs – and there’s no guarantee they will even be Mormons.

    They’ll get new jobs (although a safety net does need to be provided to tide them over).

    konrad_arflane:

    And third, what about the competition? Chances are that whoever you buy from instead will be run by some variety of Christian (if you’re doing a comprehensive boycott of Mormons, that’ll probably be hard to avoid), whose church is very likely *also* opposed to gay marriage, even if it hasn’t been as active about it as the Mormon one.

    Which would still be an improvement.

    Lynet:

    See that? Not ‘freedom of religion’. ‘Liberty of conscience,’ the freedom to look at the world and decide for yourself, whether that decision is a religious one or an a-religious one :-)

    I wish the idea of ‘freedom of conscience’ in religious matters got more play, I really do.

    It would probably be better to get rid of freedom of religion and just have freedom of belief (along with speech and association). I suspect it’ll eventually happen (once religion has lost it’s ill-gained prestige) although might not be something to try for now.

    Christine:

    What I’m finding really, really fascinating about this whole protest movement is how it’s evolving. The initial reaction was for the gays to lash out at the black community, but it seems that that has died down considerably, and the protests are being aimed at where they really should be: religion. But what’s really intriguing to me is how the right/Christianists (read: Fox News) is continuing to harp upon the gays vs. blacks thing. Generally, whenever gay activists mention protesting at churches, the default response from the right is “Why not protest the blacks? It’s their fault, right?” Very interesting divide-and-conquer strategy that I’m rather relieved to see doesn’t appear to be working.

    The reason that blacks would have overwhelmingly voted for it would probably be because they are more religious than average (due to lower average education level and socio-economic status, things which correlate with religiosity) so even that reduces to religious bigotry.

  • Alex Weaver

    My wife and I are also going to be making an effort to avoid businesses that contributed to Prop 8. We have already identified one exception, however: Leatherby’s Family Creamery, which has possibly the best ice cream commercially available, and unfortunately is owned by a family of somewhat aggressive Catholics who gave about $20,000 to Prop 8 combined. I would be willing to give up eating there, though I wouldn’t be happy about it; my wife would be less so, but our four-year-old daughter, who is too young to understand what they’ve done and why, should not have to suffer for their crimes. Nevertheless, we’ll try to cut back, and steer her towards some of the other restaurants we like.

    I will, however, be making a point of telling them, next time we’re there, that we found out that they donated about $20,000 to Prop 8, and that if our four-year-old daughter didn’t love their ice cream so much, we probably wouldn’t be eating there any more – but that WE, at least, understand that it’s wrong to make innocent people suffer by depriving them of things that are important to them, make them happy, and which they’d already had for a while, just so we can feel smug about upholding our convictions.

  • 2-D Man

    Alex,
    I had written up most of a comment saying that what you would tell Leatherby’s Family Creamery would be ineffective, but I realized that, while I may have been correct, I probably wasn’t worth listening to.
    Due to reasons that I won’t mention here, I think it is far better to tell people how you feel, even they are a low-level cashier at a grocery store, than it is to boycott a business.
    If the business gets boycotted, the low-level cashiers get laid off and they end up hating the boycotters, as has been mentioned. What I haven’t seen mentioned in this thread, is that the employees might even be willing to agree with you; so while you might not change the attitude of the business, you might change the attitude of a person, which in my mind, is far more valuable.

  • http://www.atheistrev.com vjack

    My interest in boycotting these churches has nothing to do with vengeance or hurting anyone. I view it as a strategic move to increase the costs of bigotry. If churches discover that they will receive bad publicity and be protested for their promotion of bigotry, they might be less likely to do so in the future.

  • Leum

    But what about churches that like to feel persecuted? American Christianity has a persecution complex several miles wide, and nothing makes congregants of more extreme churches happier than the knowledge that they are hated. Sure, it’ll discourage liberals (and moderates, and non-reactionary conservatives) from joining them, but they don’t want us anyway.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    I was at a protest in favour of gay marriage earlier today. It was amazing. I was especially pleased by the way the speakers emphasised that we had to reach out to those who disagreed with us to stop them from fearing homosexuals. “I see lots of people out there with signs saying ‘love not hate’,” said one of the speakers, “but in fact the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s fear. We have to reach out to them and stop them from fearing us, because this is about love.” Similarly, there was a general call not to allow minorities who each fight for equal rights to be divided from each other — an obvious reference to the idea that it’s silly to blame blacks, etc. It helped that one of the most passionate speakers was a black pastor who spoke about her experiences in the black civil rights movement and as a pastor marrying gay couples.

    Oh, and it looks as though a major part of the driving force for the protest came from two local liberal churches, which was great to see in some ways. That said, I did also just email the organiser saying this:

    Speaking as an atheist, my position on Sam Harris’ contention that liberal churches merely enable the conservative ones has officially changed from “I’m not sure that’s fair” to “Okay, that’s definitely not true.” However, when you gave a shout out to churchgoers who support gay marriage, and then to those who don’t go to church but who still believe in God and support gay marriage, I did wish you could also have given a shout out to people who don’t believe in God, but who do believe in love and equal rights. Because we’re with you, too.

    Thanks again for organizing the protest. I was proud to be there.

  • LindaJoy

    Someone above mentioned it, but I think it is worth repeating. Keith Olbermann gives an incredibly powerful opinion talk on Prop 8 and the whole issue of marriage. I just watched it on YouTube, and plan to forward it to everyone.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    ie, are any of you willing to allow that I might not be a bigot, even though I take a different view from yours? Or that my opposition to gay marriage might be based on what I take to be reasonable and sound arguments, not visceral repulsion or blind prejudice?

    Sorry, but no. Withholding equal rights from others can not be defended. Your “reasonable and sound arguments” are probably nothing more than your own rationales to defend what you simply don’t want others to be able to do that you yourself have the ability to do. That is simply not right.

  • Brad

    The belief that gays should not marry is based SOLELY on religious tradition

    I don’t think that’s wholly true. It seems that people, whether religious or not so much, tend to hold to comfortable, traditional social values instead of embark on newer social territory. I think the secular tendencies against gay marriage rights somewhat lend apparent credence or legitimacy to religious tradition.

  • Alex Weaver

    ie, are any of you willing to allow that I might not be a bigot, even though I take a different view from yours? Or that my opposition to gay marriage might be based on what I take to be reasonable and sound arguments, not visceral repulsion or blind prejudice?

    I’m going to have to second OMGF’s “no.” I’ve never heard an argument against gay marriage or gay relationships that was not based on visceral repulsion or blind prejudice, I can’t imagine what such an argument would be, and I’ve heard enough arguments that claimed not to be but obviously were to be highly skeptical of that pattern being ever being broken. As far as I can see, there are only two motives for forbidding state recognition of same-sex civil marriages (the attempts to muddy the issue by pretending this is about any given church’s internal marriage policies notwithstanding), are first, bigotry against gays and a desire to keep them in a second-class citizen status, and second, the (true) belief that allowing same-sex marriages necessarily affirms that marriage consists of a legal contract and personal commitment between consenting equal adults, rather than of a man taking possession of a woman (coupled to the false belief that this is a bad thing). I have no reason to anticipate any other motive ever being produced.

  • StaceyJW

    I disagree with you Brad.

    Traditional social values were born from, and wholly based on, religious ideals. Even in the recent past, these values were directly attributed to the biblical worldview, and anything outside of bible sanctioned behavior was considered an evil that would destroy society and make people immoral. Many still believe in the supremacy of the traditional way because of it’s biblical roots, and will proudly say that changing these is an affront to god, and will bring the destruction of society.

    But what about Secular Americans? The ones that don’t hold religious beliefs dear?

    Secular people that fear gay marriage will cause negative social change may not even realize that the beliefs that created (and still support) the traditional familial/societal structures have biblical foundations. All they know is that gay marriage seems wrong, they are uncomfortable with it, or they feel it is unnatural. Where do you think these feelings come from?

    Rational, secular thought, not influenced by religious belief/tradition, does not support the position of gay people as second hand citizens, undeserving of legal protection and equality. Do you really think that gays would be denied human rights without hundreds of years of religious teaching describing gays as an “abomination against god” (etc.)? The very reason gay marriage is objectionable, even now, has everything to do with religion, whether the person objecting realizes it or not.

    In many ways, Secular society has evolved, and freed itself from the direct influence of religious belief. Many values and structures still remain from the days biblical law ruled society, and even when they are no longer directly linked to their religious base, they influence our thought and behavior. Removing a long standing belief can take several generations, or more, and we have only just started to see the world in a rational way (some people anyway).

    Rational thinking, without religious belief, will change traditional values, and the structures that have been the building blocks of society for centuries. The most visible of these changes is the equal status of women in the Western world; their submission and low position was also a deeply held religious belief that was part of our society for many years. The fight against women’s liberation was fought by both religious followers, and those influenced by a society built on religion. Consider the countries that continue to view women as evil temptresses, that need to be subjugated to men They still follow biblical (and other books)law/tradition, and are also virulently anti-gay. Places where rational thought and secular philosophy have the strongest influence, these traditions are no longer upheld.

    America’s Christian fundamentalism is the roadblock to rational belief, and the evolution and right that come with it.

    StaceyJW

  • StaceyJW

    You are right that those tendencies lead credence to the religious objections.
    SJW

  • Alex Weaver

    Err, only three motives.

    I left out “pathological, paranoid aversion to change of any sort.”

  • Brad

    John,

    I am willing to allow you aren’t a bigot if you present good argument, but I think you have already shown a repulsion of homosexuality within your writings. Witness this all from a single comment of yours:

    homosexual lifestyle is abnormal by definition

    wrong in their genetic make-up

    the way some homo males talk

    allow them to officially marry and adopt kids – NO WAY!!!!

    disgusting to most straights

    images conjured-up in my mind are revolting

    car is backed in, the guy is looking for oral, if the car is parked the other way, he is looking for anal. Nice place to bring your kids. And you want to make marriage OK among this group?

    bestiality, another disgusting behaviour. Will we have bestiality pride marches someday?

    It was your plainly obvious attempt to make “this group” out to be foreign, disgusting, and revolting. So bring out those “reasonable and sound arguments.”

  • bestonnet

    That second last one really looks like an urban legend to me.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Brad,
    I don’t think “John” ever asked us to consider him not to be a bigot. “John D” did, however.

  • Brad

    Ah – I wrote in blind haste.

    Forgive me, there are two “Johns” talking about homosexuality from a similar perspective, so that “D” didn’t register with me.

    Okay, John D, I’m up for allowing an objective case against gay marriage.

  • Alex Weaver

    car is backed in, the guy is looking for oral, if the car is parked the other way, he is looking for anal. Nice place to bring your kids. And you want to make marriage OK among this group?

    Did “John” ever answer as to why he knows this?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    His good friend Ted Haggard told him?

  • Brad

    One possible answer is that the conservative sphere diffuses such scare-stories around and John got wind of it. (Perhaps that’s presumptuous, though.)

  • Katie M

    Prop 8 has just been ruled unconstitutional!

  • Rollingforest

    Yeah, but the bigots are going to appeal. This could go to the Supreme Court and then who knows what will happen.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    The current USSC makeup is worrisome. But at worst, this may well be the gay-rights movement’s Dred Scott.

    It seems to boil down to Kennedy and his views on the matter. (eta: a quick Wiki search gives some reason to hope that Kennedy may be a the swing vote to uphold this).

  • Rollingforest

    Yeah, on the plus side, I don’t think that any ruling would force other states to ban gay marriage. The worst they could do is allow states to ban it if they have the votes. This would slow down gay rights, but we will still eventually win as more tolerant youth get to voting age.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Yep. I can only imagine the frustration that comes with being on the wrong side of history.