The USDA inspects for ideological purity

ReligiousFreedomStampThe Christian owner of a meatpacking business had some pamphlets lying around in the breakroom that opposed gay marriage.

When some inspectors from the United States Department of Agriculture saw them, they demanded that they be removed.  Otherwise, they said, they would not inspect the plant, which would then not be allowed to operate.

The inspectors cited a regulation that allowed any government official “to take immediate and appropriate corrective action” if they detect any cases of  “harassment.”

The inspectors considered the pamphlets to be harassment, even though no employees complained.  The USDA inspectors threatened to shut down the operation, even though the pamphlets had nothing to do with their purpose; namely, to insure the purity of the meat being sold.

The owner did as he was told and got rid of the pamphlets.  But the issue still hangs over his head. [Read more…]

Chicken sacrifices and overturning the travel ban

512px-Santeria_sacrificeWe now have an answer questions about the appeals court’s legal reasoning in throwing out President Trump’s  seven-nation travel and immigration ban.  The judges did so, in part, by invoking his campaign speeches that he would ban entry to America for all Muslims.  This shows, they said, that the intent of the ban was to discriminate against Islam.  Even though nearly all of the world’s Muslims were unaffected by the ban and can still enter the country.  Just not citizens of seven countries with a history of terrorism.

Politicians say things all the time without their being relevant to interpreting actual laws.  Are we to interpret JFK’s “ask not what your country can do for you” in such a way that it limits welfare applications?

But the courts were following a Supreme Court precedent.  In 1993, a Florida city passed an ordinance forbidding the slaughter of animals.  Lawmakers at the time themselves said that this would be a way to get rid of the Santeria religion, which practices the sacrifice of chickens and goats.  The court ruled that the ordinance forbidding the public killing of animals was a violation of the Santeria followers’ freedom of religion.  So this, in the minds of appeals court justices, justifies rejecting the seven-nation ban, because of what Trump said about all Muslims.

But these cases are not remotely similar, are they?  Not being allowed to sacrifice chickens to prevent all Santerias in the community from practicing their religion.  Not allowing citizens of seven nations into the USA does not affect all Muslims, as Trump was originally saying.  Trump clearly changed his earlier focus from religion to national origin.  If he had listed all Muslim nations, religion being the basis for categorizing them, yes, that would be religious discrimination.  But here nations associated with terrorism is the criterion.

Whether you are pro-immigration or anti-immigration, for Trump or against him, can’t we agree that this legal reasoning is specious?

Photo:  Santeria sacrifices by James Emery from Douglasville, United States (Santeria Sacrifice) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

[Read more…]

Don’t expect a religious freedom order

Celebrating_a_new_America_-lovewins_58242_(18588276403)A draft copy of an Executive Order on religious freedom was leaked, creating indignation among liberals and joy among social conservatives.  It would allow for an exemption for those whose religious beliefs do not allow for accommodation on LGBT issues.

But Trump has been given a whole raft of Executive Order drafts, whose supporters hope for his signature.  Now it’s being reported that this one is not going to be signed.  It would appear to violate his previous commitment to non-discrimination for LGBT folks.

 

Photo by tedeytan (https://www.flickr.com/photos/taedc/18588276403/) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Trump’s Supreme Court nominee

Neil_Gorsuch_10th_CircuitPresident Donald Trump has nominated Colorado appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the late Antonin Scalia.  Reportedly, Judge Gorsuch is from that same mold:  eloquent, learned, articulate, and an “originalist” when it comes to interpreting the Constitution.

He is the author of a book against euthanasia and supported Hobby Lobby in its suit against the Obamacare birth control mandate.  An Anglican, he would be the only Protestant on the bench, joining the 5 Catholics and 3 Jews currently serving.  He is only 49, which means he would be on the court for a good long time.

Democrats began planning their opposition tactics before they even knew who was the nominee.  Some are urging that that Senate Democrats filibuster the nomination.  Republicans are saying that if that happens, they would take the “nuclear option” of voting to change the rules to limit filibusters, changing the Senate’s time-honored tradition of unlimited debate. [Read more…]

Democrats lost because they raised religious liberty fears

2519766036_d988be0058_zThe reason the Democrats lost, argues David Bernstein in the Washington Post, is that their words, actions, and policies made large numbers of Christians afraid that their religious liberty is in jeopardy.  So even though they had major qualms about Donald Trump, they voted for him in large enough numbers to give him the victory.

Bernstein’s point, I believe, is that Democrats wouldn’t have to threaten religious liberty to meet their major policy goals.  The country could have gay marriage without punishing those who don’t believe in it.  The country could have legalized and insurance-subsidized abortion without making religious people pay for it.  LGBT folks could have legal rights and find acceptance–probably more acceptance– even if they made some accommodation to religious sensitivities.  And yet, Democrats threatened and demonized Christians, oblivious to the fact that this meant that a very  large percentage of the American public would not be voting for them.

Read Bernstein’s analysis after the jump.  Is he describing you? [Read more…]

In trouble for belonging to an “anti-gay” church

Jean-Léon_Gérôme_-_The_Christian_Martyrs'_Last_Prayer_-_Walters_37113Chip and Joanna Gaines are the hosts of “Fixer-Upper,” a popular home remodeling show on HGTV.  They are openly devout Christians. And they are now under fire.  A BuzzFeed article is accusing them of being anti-gay.  This is because they belong to an evangelical congregation that does not conduct gay weddings and that holds to traditional teachings about sexual morality.  That means, according to the Buzzfeed author, that the church is anti-gay.  And because the Gaineses belong to this church, that means they must be anti-gay also.

As far as anyone knows, the Gaineses have never discriminated against a gay person (the charge against some Christian bakers and photographers who have turned down gay customers).  Nor has anyone found them saying anything negative about homosexuality (as in some charges of pastors “preaching hate.”)  No, their transgression is simply belonging to a church with traditional teachings.  For this, their jobs are threatened.

Now comedian and talk show host Stephen Colbert is a Catholic.  He appears to hold conventionally liberal ideas and supports LGBT issues. But he belongs to a church that, by these standards, is anti-gay!  There are, in fact, lots of Catholics in the TV and entertainment industries.  Are they all to be disqualified like the Gaineses?  Or, to take another example, does BuzzFeed believe that Muslims, who surely have harsher views about homosexuality than even conservative Christians, should be thrown out of Hollywood?

So here we are.  Simply being a member of a conservative church may be enough to get you into serious trouble.

After the jump, an excellent article by a gay writer castigating his fellow LGBT supporters for their tactic of dealing with their opponents by shaming and silencing them, specifically criticizing how they are treating the Gainses. [Read more…]