Why Social Progressives are Pro-Segregationalists When It Comes to Religion

Over at the Witherspoon Institute is a scintillating article by Steven Smith on Who’s on Which Side of the Lunch Counter? Civil Rights, Religious Accommodation, and the Challenges of Diversity. Here is the guts of his argument:

In itself, the modern campaign for gay rights has been primarily inclusive in its aims. The goal has been to allow people who identify as LGBT to participate in education and employment without having to deny or conceal their sexual or gender orientation. In that respect, the movement can plausibly claim to be continuous with earlier civil rights efforts. When LGBT activists insist on forcing a Christian florist or photographer to join in celebrating a same-sex wedding, however, they abandon the inclusionist project in favor of a strategy that is more accurately described as either suppressionist or segregationist.

Perhaps progressives hope and expect that, under the heavy weight of the law, traditionalists will abandon their religious conviction that sexual relations should be confined to marriage between a man and a woman. If that is the expectation, then the project would appear to be one in suppression or elimination: disagreements about marriage and sexuality should be eliminated by using law to make one side disappear.

More commonly, though, what we hear from the progressive side is that the Christian florist and photographer and marriage counselor are still free to retain their private religious convictions about marriage. They simply cannot act on those convictions while carrying on the business of florist or photographer or counselor. Such religious commitments should be left behind when the believer enters the public square. If a believer is unwilling or unable to make that sacrifice, then she should stay at home or find some other line of work.

This position is overtly segregationist in its strategy for dealing with religious diversity. Those who take this view are analogous to the 1960s segregationist who said, “Of course there’s a place for you: it just isn’t here (in this school, or this section of the bus, or this end of the lunch counter).” In that respect, it is the contemporary progressive, not the Christian florist or photographer, who is the faithful heir of Jim Crow.

Whoa, ho, ho!

Thoughts anyone?

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