A New Cause for Secularists: Protecting Religious Liberty

Though the logic of same-sex marriage today seems obvious, this was not necessarily the case ten (or even five) years ago. To almost everyone back then, that same-sex marriage could possibly be so widely embraced across the United States (as it is in 2012) was a far-fetched, almost frivolous idea.

Yet, on November 6th, same-sex marriage was ratified in one form or another by popular referenda in four states. The Supreme Court is expected to rule in favor of the legality of same-sex marriage in the coming year or two. All this and more constitutes a momentous political/cultural shift.

Those who toiled in the trenches of LGBT rights activism when it was not such a popular proposition hardly know what to do with themselves now. The public opinion transformation they worked so tirelessly to foster has occurred — with historically-blindsiding speed. Personally, I welcome this trend.

But those who cheer the onset of legal same-sex marriage in America must also remain cognizant of the alienation and fear felt by many others throughout the country. Riled up by fevered pastors and Republican Party doomsayers, a large number of professing Christians hold the sincere belief that their religious liberties will be trampled on if same-sex marriage becomes legal where they live. We know this worry to be wrongheaded. There need not be any discordance between legal same-sex marriage and the protection of religious liberties, as the non-cataclysmic arrangements in states ranging from New York to Iowa to New Hampshire have proven.

Where some Christians (especially Evangelicals) overreach is when they demand arbitrary exemptions from secular law — e.g., they wish to lawfully discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in matters of public accommodation. Evangelicals often insist that because they are merely acting out their religious beliefs, they ought to have this legal right.

Well, their reasoning falls short. We can imagine a member of some minority religious group claiming that he killed toddlers because his religious beliefs mandated doing so. And that may well be true, but the religious mandate wouldn’t exempt him from suffering legal consequences for his actions. This is obviously a much more extreme example than the Evangelical who demands the legal right to discriminate in matters of public accommodation, but the principle nonetheless holds.

That’s not to say that all complaints of infringement on religious liberty are without merit. Last summer, some liberals in elected office sullied themselves when they threatened to deploy state power against private citizens on account of the personal religious beliefs espoused by those citizens. The president of Chick-fil-A was asked a question about same-sex marriage and responded by outlining his “traditional,” Bible-based view, prompting a ridiculous meltdown. After pressure from both “left” and “right” media, the government officials in question relented, while Chick-fil-A received an avalanche of profitable PR.

Throughout history, there has been an unfortunate tendency for those in the majority to discriminate against those in the minority, or at least fail to protect their rights. Those who affirm the moral primacy of “traditional” marriage will soon become the minority. Thus, they deserve all the legal protections that would be afforded to any other religious minority. The ACLU has a long history of defending such rights, despite the caricatures routinely conjured up by right-wing demagogues.

But while Christians should expect their liberties to be vigorously protected, they should not expect extra privileges.

Same-sex marriage is no longer an abstract future prospect to be speculated about. It is now reality in huge swaths of the country, and the pace of its acceptance is only going to keep growing. Christians ought to realize, if only for their own sake, that of course they will be allowed to express their beliefs as usual, even if the neighborhood town clerk’s office issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Rather than “religious liberty” per se, the real issue for many Christians appears to be the cultural degradation they take to be signaled by same-sex marriage’s rise; society has sanctioned homosexual relationships, so their thinking goes, and therefore it has also approved of homosexual sex, homosexuals child-rearing — the whole kit and caboodle.

Secularists can empathize with how this rapid evolution in mores might upset and frighten those Christians who sincerely believe that marriage — a pillar institution of any thriving community — is on the verge of being destroyed for all eternity.

About michaeltracey

Journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. Follow me on Twitter at @mtracey.

  • Ian Reide

    Yes, but somehow I can’t get too excited by xians getting a very little of their own back. I have had way too many problems from xians in my life, bigotry, discrimination, and a general level of stupidity. 
    As for marriage, I am a bit of a libertarian in that regard. I don’t believe that the government should legislate in that area. If you want to marry a dozen people, then go ahead, just don’t bother me. But that is just me.

    • Stev84

      Just don’t expect any rights or benefits from getting married either

    • Revyloution

      Ian,  your reply terrifies me.  Please reconsider,  giving a ‘little back’ of bigotry and discrimination is a horrible thought.

      I will stand to defend the rights of all people,  not just people I agree with.   Revenge will never right any wrong.

    • ortcutt

      Marriage is a legal category.  How do you propose to have a legal category that isn’t legislated of defined by the law in some other way?  It would be more honest if you said “Let’s abolish marriage”.  Married people like myself tend to be quite attached to our marriages though, and don’t want scumbag libertarians taking them away.

  • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

    The evangelical churches are going to find that many young evangelicals support same sex marriage.  The churches will adapt to this change, though perhaps reluctantly at first.

    • Godlesspanther

       The fundies will be very reluctant at first. Then at the point in history when the acceptance of same-sex marriage is considered a great step forward in the advance of civil rights they will try to make it appear like it was all their idea in the first place. Just as they are doing now with the civil rights movement of the 60s.

      They are masters at rewriting history.

    • http://twitter.com/blamer ɹǝɯɐןq

      You hope?? Religio-political lobbiests today push the official doctrine of those men who occupy pulpits — not the theologically inferior view trending in the pews… agree?

      For example, we know the pope’s decrees about sex are out of step with local catholics. That anglican’s won’t elect female bishops. Monotheism remains conservative even in progressive liberal democracies. Etc.

      What could disrupt the historical trend, the socially “retarding” of christendom? Anything short of a 2nd coming…? This web 2.0 tool of satan!?

      • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

        They cannot forever ignore what is happening in the pews, else they will be without a congregation.

        • http://twitter.com/blamer ɹǝɯɐןq

          Seems naive to me. Today’s catholics in pews are overwhelmingly permissive of contraception, yet clergymen remain theologically no closer to an updated papal decree to permit catholics having safe sex for the fun of it.

          Clergymen will keep preaching the goodness of the god of Genesis 1:1-3 long after the pews have accepted modern cosmology (and re-imagine what clergy preach about Moses’ morality as metaphorical).

      • Miss_Beara

        The fact that the pope has decrees about sex is horrifying.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    Chick-fil-A was boycotted by many for the large amount of money that they have donated to anti-gay groups that often demonize LGBT people. 

    • http://twitter.com/mtracey Michael Tracey

      Chick-fil-A was the target of protest activity after comments made by its founder about same-sex marriage were widley reported. The donations you mention had been ongoing for some time; what prompted the protests last summer was the founder’s comments. Some restaurants were subject to “counter-protests,” so the protest activity went beyond “boycotts.”

      • http://twitter.com/Three_Star_Dave Dave Hill

        The issue was not the boycott and protest by private citizens against CfA’s execrable social policies, but the statements by government officials that they would be discriminated against because of that.

        Boycott a CfA because the owning family is a bunch of homophobic jerks?  Perfectly legit.  Refuse a building permit because of that?  It’s government discrimination, no different in substance (if not purpose) than refusing a building permit to an atheist-owned company.

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

          Except that there is no right to a building permit, and it was refused in the interests of promoting equality, NOT because Chik-Fil-A is owned by an evangelical asshat with repulsive and disgusting opinions.

          Again, there is no right to a building permit, thus, no discrimination took place.

          • amycas

             Until and/or unless it can be shown that a business will discriminate against employees and/or customers, it can’t be denied a business permit based on the founders’ views or based on where they donate profits. Thems the laws. If it can be shown that the business discriminates against employees and/or customers based on a protected class, then yes, it can be denied building permits or be compelled to end the discriminatory practices.

            That being said: I don’t eat at Chik-Fil-A. I stopped eating there about two years ago when I first found out about their donating practices.

            • ortcutt

              Sure, but the point is one about local authority, not one of religious liberty.  There is no religious liberty issue here AT ALL.

              • The Captain

                I bet that if a Texas city denied a building permit to a business owned by an atheist because the owner gave money to American Atheist you’d be screaming a different tune.

                • amycas

                   ^^My point.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Considering that American Atheists isn’t a fucking HATE GROUP…

                • Robert Freid

                  I hope so…

          • The Captain

            The building permit was threatened to be refused because of the owners religious beliefs. Not because of any practice of the actual business. So yea, religious discrimination was threatened to take place.

            Your as big f an asshat as Chik-Fil-A’s owner, just the asshat in the opposite direction.

            • Stev84

              Funding discrimination isn’t a religious belief. Denying the permit was wrong, but saying that this was about religious beliefs is pure BS

              • The Captain

                Fortunately, you, I, nor anyone else gets to decide what is or is not a legitimate religious belief.

                The simple fact is discrimination or not, it IS a political issue, and one that some people decide based on their religious belief. Denying anyone a legal permit based on where they fall on an issue that is civil in nature (as you seem to advocate) is not only religious discrimination (as is this case) but political discrimination as well. 

                • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705066677 Desiree Bell-Fowlks

                  Except you completely got the issue wrong Captain.  The city was wrong for denying the permit to Chik Fil A.  The protest against Chik Fil A was not about their beliefs, but about their funding of hate groups that were using the money to push laws in Uganda to send gays to jail or put them to death.  To say it was discrimination against christianity is pure bullshit and a cover up for the funding of a hate group.

                • The Captain

                  I was only referring to the denial of the permits. The protest and boycott is fine.

                • Stev84

                  No, it’s not religious discrimination in any way whatsoever. Nobody has to decide whether something is a legitimate religious belief, because it’s nowhere near a religious belief in the first place. Politics yes, but it had nothing to do with religion.

                • The Captain

                  “it’s nowhere near a religious belief in the first place. ” Funny, many of the people fighting against gay marriage would disagree with you. But you’re not deciding what their religious beliefs are though are you?

        • ortcutt

          So what?  There’s an issue of whether that’s within the mayoral authority, but there’s no religious liberty claim.  Religious liberty doesn’t mean that everything I do that is motivated by religious belief has no consequences.  I can’t start a Murder is Great religion and then claim that they can’t send me to prison because of religious liberty.  Don’t believe their nonsense.

          • Guesty Guest

            Er, murder is illegal. Having a business license and expressing a noxious opinion at the same time is not. If the business were actually discriminating, you’d have a point, since discrimination is likewise illegal.

      • Stev84

        The comments were the last straw that triggered it, but if you think it was truly about that you’ve fallen for their lies. The issue was that he donated millions to anti-gay groups in the name of the company. If he had used his private money, the reaction wouldn’t have been that strong either.

  • JWH

    Any thoughts on Elane PHotography?

    • Revyloution

      One of my fears for the glorious New Secular America is that we will see more of these types of cases.  Too many buthurt atheists are going to want to take their frustration out on others.    It was wrong to try to coerce the photographer to work that wedding.  The right to refuse service should be just as sacrosanct as the right to free speech. 

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Ugh. I disagree. If you advertise a service, you must be willing to take any and all paying customers. To refuse customers based on immutable characteristics, such as race, disability, or sexual orientation, is absolutely discriminatory.

        If, as a result of their bigotry, the photographer was sued, ridiculed, and suffered a loss of business, well, that’s their own damn fault for being bigoted asshats!

        As with the pharmacists who refuse to dispense contraceptives or Plan B, if they are unable or unwilling to perform the duties required of their job, they should get another job. Otherwise, do your damn job.

        • Rwlawoffice

          What part of a pharmacists job requires him or her to stock and dispense every drug to fill every prescription that is placed before him? There is no immutable characteristic associated with that. A person has the right to run his business in accordance with his religious beliefs. If he chooses to lose money by not supplying those drugs, he can do that. Are you going to make him stay open on Sunday as well?

          • Guesty Guest

            What part of a pharmacists job requires him or her to stock and dispense
            every drug to fill every prescription that is placed before him?

            Professional standards that all pharmacists agree to in order to be pharmacists. Besides that, nothing.

            • Rwlawoffice

               Cite me a professional standard for pharmacists that says they must stock all drugs in their pharmacy that exist?

              Actually this has already been decided in favor of the pharmacists in various federal courts across the country- Washington and  Illinois for example

              In this same vein, would you be able to force a kosher butcher to sell non kosher meat?

              Would you be able to force a Catholic attorney to provide legal services to a client wanting a divorce?

              Of course not.  It is within their religious rights to exercise their religion not to have to perform services that would go against their religion and you can’t take away that right in a backward way by regulating their business through standards or other regulations.

              • The Captain

                Individual states set the guide ins about when pharmacists may refuse to dispense and I’m not going to look through them all, but they mostly limit the reasons for such a refusal to professional or medical considerations, such as harmful contraindication, interactions with other drugs, improper dosage, or suspected drug abuse as opposed to personal judgments for any reason, religious or not.
                For someone with “Lawoffice” in their name you are woefully ignorant of the law.

                • Rwlawoffice

                   I am very familiar with the law, but I think it is interesting that when someone asks for proof of your claim you call them ignorant.

          • ortcutt

            “A person has the right to run his business in accordance with his religious beliefs.”

            Baloney.  You act like pharmacists aren’t subject to any legislation or regulation.  If a pharmacists religion teaches that FDA regulations are the mark of the beast, they have no right to ignore those regulations.

            • Rwlawoffice

               Federal regulations cannot override constitutional rights to religious freedom and expression.

              • Raising_Rlyeh

                Yes, it can, and has. Freedom of religion does not give you the right to do whatever the hell you want to. 

                • Rwlawoffice

                   My post was too short.  The govt. must show a compelling state reason to have a regulation that imposes a burden on religious liberties. The point being, religious liberties are being protected from the regulation because they are a constitutional right.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Rastafarians can’t practice their religion, or enjoy their religious liberties because of… Federal laws.

                • Rwlawoffice

                  When it comes to criminal laws, the state’s interest is generally applied to all people as explained in the peyote cases previously discussed. I am not familiar if a Rastafarian case has been brought since the new legislation freedom religion restoration act was passed.

      • Stev84

        And restaurants also had the right to refuse blacks. Yes, that’s how it works.

        Freedom of religion means the freedom of belief. Not necessarily the freedom of action. If you live in a society with other people, rights have to be balanced against each other. Christians want their rights to always triumph and oppress others. That’s not going to work.

        • Rwlawoffice

          Freedom of religion means more than freedom of belief. Just as it means more than freedom of worship. Religious people have the right to practice their religion. Society particularly in light of the first amendment protection of religion cannot demand that the free exercise of religion be limited.

          The Supreme Court has been careful to strike a balance always keeping as a goal not to unduly burden the free exercise of religion. A recent example of this is the Tabor Hosana case .

          • Guesty Guest

            What nonsense is this! Many religions argue that it is morally proper to kill the infidel or convert them by force. Society rightly restricts the free exercise of those provisions. Religions and religious texts advocate for all kinds of manifest anti-social stupidity, and our society roundly rejects their application too.

            Free exercise means you can go to your place of worship unmolested, and when you get there you can participate in the ceremonies and traditions of your chosen faith (so long as they don’t grossly violate the social compact), and your chosen religious leader can talk about whatever values and religious lessons they wanna talk about, and nobody will lock you up for your publicly chosen religious affiliation, and you can try to raise your kids to believe whatever silly thing that you believe.

            • Rwlawoffice

               Freedom of religion does not mean simply freedom of worship as much as atheists, liberals and the Obama administration would like to mean. It allows you with some limitations to freely exercise your religion in your life and how you live it, including your profession.

              • Guesty Guest

                Ah, so when called on your nonsense, you suddenly admit “with some limitations”. Well, it’s nice to know you can be provoked into being more honest about the actual contours of your position.

                What you are omitting from your bloviation on professional ethics is that in cases where a medical professional seeks to exercise a conscience exception, they are also duty-bound to refer the patient to someone who is not so bound. If no such referral exists, they cannot, within the bounds of professional ethics, refuse to give service.

                • Rwlawoffice

                  Your previous post:

                  Professional standards that all pharmacists agree to in order to be pharmacists. Besides that, nothing.

                  Glad to see you are changing it now to be more accurate.

                   

                • Guesty Guest

                  That’s right. They are required to *render service* by the standards of their profession.  If they themselves will not fill the prescription, they are duty-bound to find another member of their profession who will.

                  Except your whiny co-religionists want to weasel out of this simple duty to their patients, and a couple of courts have bought the bull. I dearly hope you aren’t relying on courts to be the final word of what is and is not correct, else I’ll expect a robust defense by you of Roe v. Wade. Will that be forthcoming?

                • Rwlawoffice

                   Now you are just trying to change your original post. You clearly meant to convey that they had to fill the prescriptions, not  refer people to other pharmacists.  If there is such a duty, please cite it.

                  By the terms of  the constitution we  need to rely upon the Supreme Court to be the final determiner of what is constitutional or not. That does not mean we need to agree with all of their opinions even if they are the law of the land. So I will say that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, but I would love to see that opinion be reversed. 

                • WoodyTanaka

                  Got it.  It’s somehow wrong to force someone to take payment to give them a morning-after pill, but it’s a-ok to force another person to be pregnant and give birth.  What twisted so-called morality you religion people have.

                • Rwlawoffice

                  If I am being forced to give someone a morning after pill, I am participating unwilling in what I would consider the end of  a life. If I am trying to overturn Roe v. Wade I am trying to save that same life.  Nothing twisted about that morality.

                  You on the other hand not only want the right to take a life because of whatever reason you choose, but you want others to be forced to assist you in that goal.  Now that is twisted.

                • Stev84

                  Don’t think this is his usual behavior. Generally he just ignores all arguments and posts the same nonsense ad infinitum. We should really just ignore him as debating anything with him is completely pointless.

          • ortcutt

            If you look at Employment Division v. Smith, you’ll see that the Court has not followed your ridiculously expansive interpretation of the Free Exercise Clause.  Hosanna-Tabor concerned the fairly narrow exception in the case of ministers.  It has nothing to do with pharmacists and other non-clerical employees.

            • Rwlawoffice

               I am familiar with that case. It held that the law regarding peyote had nothing to do with religion and thus did not infringe upon the religious exercise. It was a general, neutral law that did not take into consideration why someone would want to use the drug and thus was not an undue burden on religious liberty.

              The cases involving pharmacists have actually gone in the opposite direction upholding their religious liberty rights not to dispense drugs that would go against their religion. 

            • Rwlawoffice

               You should also know that Congress has abrogated this holding through the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (part of which was declared unconstitutional in the Boerne case) and other legislation requiring the government to show a compelling state interest if there is a regulation that infringes upon religious liberty.  This act was used to allow a church import tea from Brazil that contained a banned substance because the tea was used in religious ceremonies.

              Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita
              Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal

      • Isilzha

        So, if you’re from a minority group that frequently faces discrimination, but most businesses are owned by people in the majority group who have the power to deny services, so what?  If you’re from that minority group, well, too bad for you!  You don’t deserve to shop for groceries at the local supermarket, get your hair done at the neighborhood salon, rent a space for your wedding in the town you’re from, or get your car fixed without having it towed 50 miles from your house.  So what if you have to travel 100 miles to buy gas for your car…it’s ALL about the businesses’ “rights” to refuse you service!  So fraking WHAT if that kind of discrimination actively hurts other people!

      • ortcutt

        Umm, no.  There is absolutely no sacrosanct “right to refuse service”.  If you’re a public accommodation, then you are subject to the anti-discrimination laws.  Period.  Someone’s racist beliefs or religion doesn’t give them a right to refuse to serve blacks at their restaurant, and someone’s religion doesn’t give them a right to refuse to photograph a lesbian couple in states that have sexual orientation as a protection category in public accomodations.  This has absolutely nothing to do with “butthurt atheists”.

  • http://twitter.com/blamer ɹǝɯɐןq

    BUT who are christians going to believe? bleeding heart lefties? or christian leaders?

    Where some Christians (especially Evangelicals) overreach is when they demand arbitrary exemptions from secular law
    Do we see liberal christian groups helping us block those very motivated jesus fans?”Christians… should not expect extra privileges

    But they do. Christian leaders have convinced them monotheism is good for society, that jesus saves …because his fans are special. And ought be treated as such by all.

    • http://twitter.com/Three_Star_Dave Dave Hill

      You see both liberal Christian groups and liberals arguing against just those “very motivated Jesus fans”, yes.

      • The Captain

        The problem is liberal christian groups are still arguing for the most part from a position of forcing their religion on to others. It’s just that their religion is somewhat more palatable. 

        • http://twitter.com/blamer ɹǝɯɐןq

          Correct. So the liberal “compromise” (that famously leftwing behaviour) is to meet in the middle: so in our secular democracy –for example– we started allowing a mere 30mins within our aussie government run schools for church volunteers to give aussie kids teachings from their bible BUT they’re forbidden to “force their religion on to others”. And a parent can elect for their kid to sit in the hall unsupervised BUT the schools is forbidden to teach them during that time! What do liberal christian families have to complain about?

      • http://twitter.com/blamer ɹǝɯɐןq

        Activist groups pushing for secularism contain liberal churches as members… ?? I know a local group FIRIS (Fairness In Religions In School) have a clergyman as a spokesman, and for a secularist group this is most definitely the exception, not the rule.

        Imo, secularism is weak without christian leaders to influence [pun intended] the masses.

  • Secularist

    “Secularists can empathize with how this rapid evolution in mores might
    upset and frighten those Christians who sincerely believe that marriage —
    a pillar institution of any thriving community — is on the verge of
    being destroyed for all eternity.”

    Nope, sorry. Can’t empathize with that!

    • Guesty Guest

      The blog post seems to confuse empathy with sympathy. I think it’s easy to sympathize with someone who feels that their world is being turned upside-down before their very eyes. Most people have had that experience at least once, and it sucks while it’s happening. But empathizing with what is essentially an emotionally imbecilic way of approaching the world, not only is that extremely difficult, I don’t think it’s a very healthy thing to do.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    correction: the ‘victory’ in MN was not putting the ban in the state’s constitution, it is still not legal to marry if you’re a same sex couple there. it’s one of the more telling actions God’s Loving People can do, advocating to make an already extant law even more iron clad by putting it in the constitution. that’s some Christian Love for you. 

    • http://twitter.com/mtracey Michael Tracey

      There’s nothing to correct. I used the word “ratified,” I didn’t claim that same-sex marriage was made legal in all four states.

      • Guesty Guest

        “Ratify” means “to give official or formal approval”. Minnesotans didn’t, in any reasonable sense, give official or formal approval to gay marriage, they merely refrained from ratifying its inverse, namely a formal disapproval of gay marriage.

  • Isilzha

    What are we suppose to do?  Are we required to hold their hands while
    crooning “there, there, the gays aren’t going to come and get you, wave
    their rainbow wands over your genitals and make you lust after hot,
    sweaty, delicious same sex action?”

    Sorry, no, I have very little empathy for them having to adjust to less bigotry, hatred and discrimination in the world.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Kokch/100000074576649 Sandy Kokch

    ” The Supreme Court is expected to rule in favor of the legality of same-sex marriage in the coming year or two.”

    Id suggest that is a pretty optimistic opinion there given the right wing craziness coming from the US political whorehouse called the SCOTUS.

    I’m just curious, and would appreciate an American chum explaining this:

    When, as the SCOTUS has several times in the age of Scalia, the court decides a matter (such as Citizens United) that is very obviously against the public good, is there ANY mechanism to impeach the court and replace the justices? Politicians are hardly likely to do that….so is there a citizen mechanism to sack the sods and start from scratch with a new bench?

    I keep a weather eye on the SCOTUS decisions, and it seems to me that most of not all the current judges are unfit to hold the office for either legal stupdity or downright corruption and conflict of interest.

    Of course….far be it for me to point this out…..but you can see the stupidity of allowing senior judges to be involved with or declared supporters of ANY political party cant you? That this turns the law into just another wing of the two way mud slinging contest called US politics?

    If there is a mechanism for citizens to impeach the court, may I suggest you get to work with a hosepipe and broom asap.

    • Stev84

      It’s a bit of a misconception maybe. They’ll certainly take a DOMA case and rule on it within the next 6 months. But while that’s about same-sex marriage, it’s only about the federal government recognizing existing marriages. It’s kinda expected that they will refuse to hear the Prop 8 case – and even that isn’t really about a fundamental right to marriage any more.

      Supreme Court justices can be impeached in theory. But apparently they’d have to fuck something up extremely badly for that to happen. Being corrupt (Thomas) or an idiot (Scalia) doesn’t seem to count.

      Btw, American judges are frequently elected. Either to instate them in the first place or to confirm them in retention votes. And not just to lower courts. Alabama just re-elected a theocrat, criminal and insane person to the fucking state supreme court. It’s pure insanity and hardly any country does that.
      To make matters worse, America also elects law enforcement leaders and prosecutors. So all three branches of the justice system have a vested interest to appear extremely tough on crime. And people wonder why so many Americans are in prison.

      • Guesty Guest

        It doesn’t follow that just because Scalia is often wrong that he is an idiot. Any significant stint with any of his writings would cure anyone of the notion that he’s an idiot. It is the height of laziness to dismiss the opinions of adversaries as the product of a mental deficit.

        • Raising_Rlyeh

          He is intellectually dishonest at best. Originalism is a political philosophy that basically lets the person decide that the person knows exactly what people who lived 200 years ago meant. He also has no problem with states having anti-sodomy laws and he wants to force his catholic views into law. 

          • Guesty Guest

            Quite so. All, pointedly, easily distinguishable from idiocy. Very intelligent people too can be mendacious, meretricious, and even evil! That doesn’t suddenly make them less intelligent.

            • WoodyTanaka

              “Very intelligent people too can be mendacious, meretricious, and even evil! That doesn’t suddenly make them less intelligent. ”

              I would argue that the fact that they are “mendacious, meretricious, and even evil”
               and are either unable to identify those things in themselves or unwilling to change them may, but need not, indicate that the person is an idiot.

      • David Starner

         I think the last two paragraphs are leaps. A lot of bad judges have gotten in office everywhere, and not electing them often just makes it that much easier for the guy pulling the strings to put family members or the person who pays the highest bribe, or the person willing to expose the views of the man who got him the job at the expense of the law.

        Likewise, electing people does not mean they have a vested interest to appear extremely tough on crime, and in any democracy, if the people want a government that’s extremely tough on crime, that’s the government they should get. The question is, why do Americans seem to want law enforcement that’s extremely tough on crime?

        • Stev84

          Ask yourself why the US and Japan are the only two countries that elect judges (as far as I can tell). If it were such a brilliant idea, more countries would do it. A judiciary is supposed to be independent. You can’t have that when a standard item in a judge’s biography is which party appointed them.

          I will admit that we may exclude judges from this racket, as despite their politicization the majority of them still try to be impartial. But prosecutors certainly aren’t. They owe allegiance to political parties, so they often use measures and decide on cases in a way that serves politicians rather than society.
          And democracy doesn’t mean that politicians should do everything the mob demands, no matter how stupid it is. Sometimes it’s their job to convince the people of a certain course. Locking everyone away for decades or for life isn’t necessarily the best thing. Especially not when it’s for non-capital crimes. It’s also not in the best interest of society to wage a futile and counterproductive “war on drugs”.

        • The Captain

          The main problem with the election of judges is that well, the law is complicated and most people have no understanding of it yet these are then the exact people who we expect to judge those that practice it?

          What happens is that the outcome of the law becomes more important that the adherence to it. So to the electorate wether a judges decisions match what they think becomes the most important, only what they think is probably wrong (unless suddenly everyone has a law degree).

          “if the people want a government that’s extremely tough on crime, that’s the government they should get” the problem is how is “tough on crime” defined? Is it people in jail? Is it number of years of a sentence? Those are usually the layman’s definitions, and thats’ the problem. Who says those that are getting sentenced are guilty in the first place? A judge that is thought of to be “tough on crime may be doing so by providing unfair trials, or allowing biased testimony. “tough on crime” in Alabama may mean black people get sentenced harder than whites. If the mob is going to force it’s will on judicial cases why not just throw the whole legal system out the door and go back to putting the accused in the town square and asking for a vote from the crowd on what to do with them.

          • David Starner

            I don’t see where your problem with electing judges doesn’t equally apply to legislators. And once you’ve tossed those out, you don’t have mob rule, but you don’t have democracy either.  Mob rule and democracy are deeply connected.

            The problem is not how is “tough on crime” defined. The problem is you disagree with the people on what they want. Yes, “tough on crime” in Alabama may mean black people get sentenced harder then whites. I fail to see why having Jefferson Davis appoint judges is going to make it any better. When racism is inherent in the system, blaming the people and blindly trusting the government is a stupid move.

            If you see the people as a mob, drop the pretense of liking democracy. Our judicial system works because of the people who support it, not in spite of them.  It doesn’t work perfectly; no system ever does.

            • The Captain

              We do not have mob rule, we have a constitutional democracy that prevents mob rule. 

              My problem is the judicial system itself is not (and should not) be a democracy. 

              Having legislators appoint judges is not a perfect solution either, but one that works well enough and provides a decent compromise between mob justice and democratic oversight of the judicial system. Most judges while appointed by a governor must go through a confirmation process and thus the political minority does get to have a say. 

              In a constitutional democracy judges many times must make a ruling that goes against the democratic wishes of the electorate. For instance if the constitution of a state (or specific laws) states that discrimination by race is illegal, but within the last decade or so the population of the state has become extremely fascist towards arabs, a judge would have to rule that a arab girl is still allowed to go to school over the wishes of the electorate (until they changes the laws or constitution). Now if there is an election next year, and the people vote in a judge that just says he will rule in favor of keeping the girl out of school and he wins (since that is what most people want) then what is the point of the constitution in the first place? 

              I use the example above since one of the great things about a constitutional democracy is that there can be built in protections for minorities, and by minority I mean anyone who is not within the majority group on an issue. When you change judges from being arbiters of the law, to conduits of the publics desire the protection for the minority from the majority disagrees.

              As I said, why not just haul the accused into the center of town and have a democratic vote on what the town thinks should be done with them since you seem to love throwing the word “democracy” around so much? Why go through a trial, have rights, or anything?

              “Our judicial system works because of the people who support it, not in spite of them.” You never lived in the south have you????

              • David Starner

                So what you’re saying is that in a democracy you don’t have a trial, rights or anything? It looks like a very ahistorical viewpoint.

                You’re telling me that the judicial system in the south works despite juries voting to let guilty people go, despite false alibies and eye-witnesses? That’s, um, magical.

  • zach

    I know someone else mentioned this in a comment, but this has really been bugging me. Minnesota did not ratify same-sex marriage. We prevented a ban from being put into the constitution. The opposite was said on this site the day before Election Day, and that rumor has been spread by people who wanted the amendment to pass. 

    There were many in MN who said they didn’t want marriage in the amendment, but still don’t want gay marriage. Um, it’s totally absurd to me, and I don’t get it, but just because gay marriage “won” in MN doesn’t mean the majority supports flat out gay marriage. 

    • http://twitter.com/mtracey Michael Tracey

      “Ratification” is not the same thing as “made legal.”

      • Guesty Guest

        They refrained from ratifying disapproval. This is *not* by any stretch of the imagination the same as ratifying approval.

  • ortcutt

    Sorry, but no.  I’m not going to bend over backwards to soothe the injured pride of Christians that don’t understand that marriage is a civil institution established by law.  

    Also, I certainly support LEGITIMATE religious liberty claims under the Free Exercise Clause, but the only people who really suffer actual deprivation of religious liberty in this country today are Muslims, and the people infringing on those liberties are not atheists or secularists, but Christian and Jewish fanatics.  Look at Murfreesboro.  Where were the people who scream everyday about religious liberty when Muslims were denied the ability to open a mosque for no other reason than that they were Muslims.

  • WoodyTanaka

    “with historically-blindsiding speed.”

    I don’t think it was notably fast.  The first challenge in Hawaii began in 1990.  The Defense of Marriage Act was passed in, I believe, 1996.  These 4 votes happened in 2012.  That’s 22 years.

    Consider, for comparison’s sake, the difference in the US re: civil rights for African Americans circa 1950 (pre-Brown v. Bd of Ed) vs. circa 1972.

  • WoodyTanaka

    Yes, religious liberty should be protected, concerning what people privately believe, what churches preach and in their internal operations, etc.  But when it comes to businesses open to the public or “church-affiliated” things like hospitals and adoption agencies, etc., then I see no reason why there should be any exemption on religious grounds. 

    A business run by a christian should be required to provide everything any other similarly situated business run by a non-religious person must provide and abide by all the same laws, such as non-discrimination laws.  If it offends the owner’s religion, he has the option of selling his buisness to someone without such religious problems.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    You know what? I don’t give a fuck whether they are upset by all the moral/societal changes in America. The same groups have gone into countries, like Uganda, and have pushed for legislation that will lead to the death of thousands of people. Tony Perkins thinks that god is making Uganda prosperous because the President just recently begged for forgiveness for his country. I have no sympathy or empathy for such ass-hats. 


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