Gay rights and religious freedom

hirschEvery year I steel myself for the onslaught of Holy Week stories the mainstream media love. You know the ones — media pieces attempting to undermine miraculous stories about Jesus and his life. Some of them have been very bad. But this year those attacks have not been limited to Holy Week. Hurrah.

What’s more, here’s a story I’ve been wanting to see more mainstream media coverage of since last June, when NPR first explored the issue. It deals with the clash between gay rights and religious freedom. The latest entry comes from Jacqueline Salmon, religion writer at the Washington Post:

Faith organizations and individuals who view homosexuality as sinful and refuse to provide services to gay people are losing a growing number of legal battles that they say are costing them their religious freedom.

The lawsuits have resulted from states and communities that have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. Those laws have created a clash between the right to be free from discrimination and the right to freedom of religion, religious groups said, with faith losing.

The article quickly names the prominent cases — the Christian photographer forced by the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission to pay $6,637 in attorney’s costs after she refused to photograph a homosexual commitment ceremony, a psychologist in Georgia fired after declining to counsel a lesbian about her relationship for religious reasons, Christian fertility doctors in California being successfully sued after they refused to artificially inseminate a lesbian patient because of religious reasons, a Christian student group not being recognized at a University of California law school because it denies membership to anyone practicing sex outside of traditional marriage:

“It really is all about religious liberty for us,” said Scott Hoffman, chief administrative officer of a New Jersey Methodist group, the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, which lost a property tax exemption after it declined to allow its beachside pavilion to be used for a same-sex union ceremony. “The protection to not be forced to do something that is against deeply held religious principles.”

But gay groups and liberal legal scholars say they are prevailing because an individual’s religious views about homosexuality cannot be used to violate gays’ right to equal treatment under the law.

“We are not required to pay the price for other people’s religious views about us,” said Jennifer Pizer, director of the Marriage Project for Lambda Legal, a gay rights legal advocacy group.

What I love about the story is how completely neutral it is in the presentation of the information. As same-sex marriage, same-sex partner recognition and prohibitions barring discrimination against gays are legalized, it’s understandable that there would be a clash of legal rights with those who oppose homosexuality for religious reasons. For too long the media line has been “what possible harm can there be if gay marriage is legalized?” It’s asked as if it’s a rhetorical question rather than a really good question with some difficult answers. This story shows that there is a clash and that there are different views about whether that clash is problematic. It doesn’t pick winners or losers, it just lays out the situation.

religious-freedomSomething else that I really appreciated about the article was how it showed how religious freedom — in these legal cases — hasn’t been extended to Christians’ professional lives. It also showed how difficult it is to fight discrimination lawsuits. Online dating site eHarmony, begun by an evangelical psychologist, agreed to launch a new web site for gay matchmaking rather than fight:

Company attorneys said that it settled because of the unpredictable nature of litigation and that New Jersey’s attorney general did not find that eHarmony had violated the state’s anti-discrimination law.

“People seem to say that if you enter the world of commerce, you lose all your First Amendment rights” to free exercise of religion, said Jordan Lorence, senior counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal organization that has represented several businesses. “They . . . have become nothing more than vending machines, and the government can dictate the conditions under which they dispense their goods and services.”

Salmon looks at many different angles, all of them illuminating. She even notes that famous case at Bob Jones University where it lost its tax-exempt status because of its views on miscegenation:

Some legal analysts suggest that religious groups that do not support gay rights might lose their tax exemptions because of their politically unpopular views.

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University who supports same-sex marriage, said the Bob Jones ruling “puts us on a slippery slope that inevitably takes us to the point where we punish religious groups because of their religious views.”

It’s a great and really interesting article that manages to tell the legal stories without making one side or the other seem cruel, immoral or undeserving of decent treatment.

The article already covered a lot of ground, but I’d like to learn a bit more about why one side is prevailing and one side is not. I hope that other reporters continue to look at this issue and shed some more light.

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  • Chris Jones

    I am sure that this will not be a new observation, but the loss of a tax exemption is not, strictly speaking, a restriction on the free exercise of religion. The tax exemption is a privilege, one which is not easy to square with the establishment clause.

    I am more troubled by the commerce restrictions than I am by the tax-exemption issues.

  • Jack Perry

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention what strikes me as the biggest example: how Catholic Charities in Massachusetts quit the adoption business after the state tried to compell them allow homosexual couples to adopt.

    I’ve wondered if that case was a matter of public funding: that is, would an organization without public funding have been able to refuse homosexual couples?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    The Catholic Charities example related to same-sex marriage rather than discrimination laws that included homosexuals as a class deserving special protection. I’m sure that’s why the Post didn’t include that example.

  • Martha

    It’s a tough line to draw, isn’t it? On the one hand, discrimination based on prejudice is wrong. On the other hand, some form of discretion has to be allowed. Can anyone enlighten me as to whether businesses have the right to refuse service e.g. in a bar, because the bartender judges you’re drunk and more alcohol will lead to you either getting violent or throwing up all over the place? restaurants with dress codes? Is that all gone? Was it ever there in the first place?

  • FW Ken

    Faith organizations and individuals who view homosexuality as sinful

    A tiresome construction.

    Would that be “homosexuality” as sexual preference?
    Would it be “homosexuality” as sexual practice?|
    Would it be “homosexuality” as a lifestyle – sets of relationships and social activities?
    Perhaps it’s “homosexuality” as political agenda?

    The point is, “homosexuality” is a weasel word that lends itself to bait-and-switch argumentation.

    No, Martha, bartenders continue to deny service to intoxicated patrons and face legal sanctions if they don’t.

  • Jerry

    I’d like to learn a bit more about why one side is prevailing and one side is not.

    http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/04/what-do-americans-think-about-gay.html had what I think is at least part of the answer: framing. The issue was not discussed in religious terms, but I think a big part of the answer to your question is apparent from thinking about this comment:

    In surveys, 72% of Americans support laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation…

    But people do not uniformly support gay rights. When asked whether gays should be allowed to work as elementary school teachers, 48% of Americans say no. We could easily understand a consistent pro-gay or anti-gay position. But what explains this seeming contradiction within public opinion so that gays should be legally protected against discrimination but at the same time not be allowed to be teachers?

    We understand the contradictory attitude on gay rights in terms of framing.

    Our hypothesis goes as follows: when survey respondents are asked about antidiscrimination laws, they consider the widely-held American view that discrimination is a bad thing, so there should be a law against it. They are unlikely to put themselves in the position of an employer who might want to discriminate, and so are not likely to oppose an anti-discrimination law. But when asked about gay teachers, they identify with parents and students, and might feel that having a gay teacher is a risk they’d rather not take.

    Thus, we hypothesize that survey respondents answering this question, in contrast to the antidiscrimination question, think in terms of values and outcomes rather than rights…

    No matter where anyone stands on what is right and wrong here, I think we all should agree about the power of the media when it comes to framing the debate because that very framing significantly determines the outcome.

  • Martha

    FW Ken, it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better, I’m thinking.

    Regarding the wedding photographer, I can see why the case was decided the way it was, on its merits, but I’d hate to be a judge in these cases – trying to steer a course between two clashing sets of rights.

    In certain instances, I can see why people would feel hurt and insulted to be refused, but in others, it looks more like ‘dog in the manger’ to me. What’s the use of forcing a court-ordered decision on a counsellor that you probably won’t go to after all because you don’t like her advice?

    Wedding/committment/dancing naked on Beltane Eve photos are one thing (er, actually, that last probably would get the wrong kind of law attention) but something like personal counselling – surely having an honest answer where the person tells you “I don’t think I can help, here’s a referral to someone better suited” is better than encouraging lies and dishonesty along the lines of “sorry, booked solid, can’t take you” or “as long as they can pay, I don’t care if they’re marrying a guy, a gal, or a dolphin”?

  • Derek

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article6074235.ece

    Looks like the Religious Liberty test is up in the UK and a big Fail is awarded to the legal system there.

    It’s not about tolerance, its about ACCEPTANCE. You. Will. Submit.

    No one can dissent on this fundamental core of the new left.

    Coming to a country near you

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    It is clear that, in spite of the very first (and thus you can argue most important) amendment, legislatures and courts are creating a legal system which treats religion very much like the former Soviet Union treated religion. Namely, no practice of one’s religion beyond the walls of a religious building allowed unless government approved.And this becomes a greater and greater problem as the power of big government grows by leaps and bounds and its tentacles rip into area after area formerly off limits to Big Brother. Yet the clear similarity between Soviet legal restrictions on religion and what is aborning here has not produced any coverage comparing the two in the MSM that I have seen or heard so far. Maybe it is because so many reporters or editors approve of the former Soviet restrictions on religion or, more likely, they are historically illiterate as so many Americans sadly are today.

  • http://rub-a-dub.blogspot.com MattK

    That was a pretty well written story. Nobody came off as the bad guy. I especially liked the historical perspective from the Bob Jones University case.

  • dalea

    It would be interesting to see how these articles would read if written by a business reporter, ie someone familiar with standard business practice. The term used here should be ‘public accomodation’, which concept is totally lacking. This is a major failing in the press coverage which treats the issues discussed as something totally new and startling. Public accomodation is a long settled feature of commercial practice.

    To be in business is to be a public accomodation. That is a requirement of commercial leases. Of business bank loans. Of business checking accounts. Of local business licenses. Of merchant associations. Usually it comes with your sales tax license. And all it means is the business is open to customers as defined by state law. If that law includes Gay and Lesbian people, you must take their money and provide your service.

    The linked articles show a total cluelessness about how business is actually conducted.

  • dalea

    The lack of a business perspective carries over into the discussion concerning religious liberty. There are numerous way to limit your customer pool. The most usual one is to announce a speciality, something like: specializing in the photography of Jewish life milestone events. There are photographers who only do Jewish events. Their argument is that they are familiar with the requirements of Jewish ritual and know when a picture is appropriate and when it is not. That they know the ins and outs of Jewish life so well that their work is strictly resticted.

    Had the NM photography people had a long standing practice of limiting their work to Conservative Christian events, they would be off the hook. Offering a generic service strongly undercuts any religious freedom concerns. Businesses are allowed, indeed encouraged, to specialize. But they must do so from the beginning.

  • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

    Bartenders still refuse to serve intoxicated customers, as indicated. They, and the establishment for which they work, face civil liability issues if they do serve someone who has had too much to drink (and perhaps, in some jurisdictions, criminal liability as well). This is especially clear when it comes to someone drinking too much at a bar, then driving drunk and killing someone. Restaurant dress codes are still in place. Drunks and shabby dressers, you see, are not protected classes.

    Regarding the UK: rights Americans take for granted, such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, are not constitutionally guaranteed in the UK (or in Canada) the same way they are in the United States.

  • Elizabeth

    So what’s the author’s view of this issue? Should religious people providing public services be allowed to deny those services to gay people? Or only to those gay people who marry (or otherwise try to mimic marriage through commitment ceremonies)? Why should only religious people have the right to ignore anti-discrimination laws–why not just your average bigot? Should people (religious or otherwise) be allowed to discriminate against other groups protected under anti-discrimination laws? For example, should a Catholic who believes it is a woman’s role to be subservient to men, be allowed to refuse to do business with a woman? How about those handful of racist churches that still maintain that blacks are inferior–should they be allowed to discriminate against blacks? And how about me, a gay person, who finds conservative religious belief about homosexuality to be wrong and immoral? Should I be forced to do business with them?

    This debate centers around the role of anti-discrimination laws specifically, not the general push for gay rights, as in the form of marriage, and other forms of government-imposed discrimination.

  • Mary

    Catholic charities adoption services did not receive state funding. I still can not fathom how the state had any standing to force them to violate their beliefs, yet in Massachusetts, the state has violated the rights of parents regarding the opt out laws on the books when it came to public schools. The general attitude of the state has been that parents have no rights, no say in respect to their children.

    The Catholic Charities adoption services had a stellar record when it came to adoption, and not only of babies, but of foster children. They were specifically targeted by the gay rights groups, as a means to attack Catholic religious beliefs. I used to believe that it was ridiculous to believe that gay marriage impacted anything other than gays. There is a totalitarian and borderline fascistic extreme in the far left, and that includes the gay rights movement. They can do without my support until they purge themselves of such extremism.

  • dalea

    Mary says:

    Catholic charities adoption services did not receive state funding.

    Untrue. As a charity, it is tax exempt, which amounts to state funding. The government could either send it money directly or fund it by exempting it from common obligations. Either way, the state funds it.

    Any involvement with the foster care programs necessarily involves state funding.

    Due to an ongoing series of scandals and child endangerment, adoption agencies came under strict regulation a long time ago. And that applies to all agencies, both religious and secular.

    The coverage would be better if it investigated the role in government monies in funding these agencies.

  • dalea

    Elizabeth says:

    This debate centers around the role of anti-discrimination laws specifically, not the general push for gay rights, as in the form of marriage, and other forms of government-imposed discrimination.

    Exactly the point the press coverage misses. For decades religion and anti-discrimination laws have been in conflict. Much of the pro-segregation effort was from religious people. I can personally remember ministers coming on teevee and in the papers arguing that separation of the races was a clear commandment in scripture.

    Why the reporters do not make this connection in their reporting is a mystery. Instead they treat the conflict as something totally new and amazing. The press ignores the clear intellectual line from Orval Faubus, Bull Conner and the White Citizens Councils to Maggie Galagher, Rick Warren and the National Organization for Marriage. Sadly, the press coverage is historically illiterate.

  • FW Ken

    Much of the pro-segregation effort was from religious people.

    So was much of the pro-integration effort.

    As to that “clear intellectual line”, it’s ludicrous to say the press ignores it. They slavishly repeat the claim that black and gay are in the same category, or at least fail to challenge it, despite the lack of proof that such a line is clear or intellectually sound.

    You made Mary’s point, dalea.

  • Dave

    The MSM framing that I strongly object to in this matter is “religious vs secular” — on the one side religious views critical of homosexuality and on the other side secular laws against discrimination. This religious view is of the religious right, broadly defined.

    There is in fact a religious left in this country that approaches this issue from an expansive view of the commandment to love one another. It uses terms like “welcoming” or “open and welcoming,” redolant of the Parables, to describe its congregations and the struggles they have gone through and are still going through to live up to this expansive standard. One of its favorite phrases regarding marriage equity, “standing on the side of love,” was used in the Benediction at Obama’s Inaugural.

    “Religous vs secular” is a dangerous frame for the religious because it’s so easy for seculars to turn that into “dogma vs justice.” The correct frame includes the relgious left and shows secular laws as reflecting the values of the religous left, not of some neo-soviet anti-religious state.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    As I understand it-even if state funds were not involved-the state still holds the power of license over adoption agencies and in Ma. it was made very clear that the First Amendment was going to be considered so much rubbish and licenses would be withheld. Also, as I recall, at the time in radical Ma., the Church was told that a way would be found to severely punish the Church financially or otherwise if she caused any trouble (like bring lawsuits) over the adoption issue.
    Consequently reading the newspapers here at the time was like reading accounts of how the Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union was being harrassed and bullied by the all-powerful state.
    It isn’t as if there weren’t easily plenty of agencies or businesses who would deal with gays in any way they wished. This is all an assault–using state power– on the churches who believe in traditional and biblical morality to make them bend the knee to what they consider immoral ways of living. It has nothing to do with any felt need being unavailable to gays.
    But try to find an MSM piece bringing in the big issue–actually the elephant in the china shop issue–of growing, mestasizing like cancer,
    state power being used to micromanage all our lives even in areas that should be under the full protection of the First Amendment.

  • John D

    Just a clarification on Catholic Charities:

    Catholic Charities facilitated adoptions under a contract from the state. Instead of Massachusetts running their own state adoption agency, they contracted it out. Under the contract, they had to provide services in a non-discriminatory fashion.

    In the time before Goodridge v Public Health, CCB was adopting to same-sex couples, as Massachusetts law required for an adoption agency working under state contract.

    Once couples started marrying, the Catholic Church demanded that CCB stop this practice. Several board members quit in protest.

    CCB asked Massachusetts for an exemption, which the Commonwealth declined to provide. CCB got out of the adoption business.

    This account (which I’ve drawn from Boston Globe pieces (happy to follow up with links if requested), does not involve gay activists. If it had, the activists, CCB, and the state would have all been on the same side.

    Dalea is wrong in just how the agency received state funding. Not by being tax-exempt: they got real cash, because they were providing a service for the state.

    There’s also an LDS adoption agency in Massachusetts. They adopt out only to LDS families. They are allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion because they are a private religious adoption agency. CCB could have taken this route and adopted only to Catholic families.

  • Stoo

    You made Mary’s point, dalea

    Which one, the bit about borderline fascists? (i for one live in fear of the (fabulous) gay jackboot)

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    According to an opinion piece in the Boston Globe which the Globe headlined: “State Putting Church Out Of Adoption Business” John Garvey, dean of Boston College Law School, wrote: “Even if Catholic Charities ceased receiving tax support and gave up its role as a state contractor it still could not refuse to place children with same-sex couples.” This assessment was seconded by Ron Madnick president of the Mass. Chapter of Americans United For Separation of Church and state.

  • Dave G.

    dalea,

    Ken is correct. All too often a line is drawn that suggests all the really good stuff came from those non-religion types, and all the really bad stuff came from those religion types. Many religious leaders were behind the push for desegregation and racial equality.

  • dalea

    The lack of commercial perspective is what bothers me in the coverage. A good question to ask would be: how does a person run a business in a way that is consistent with personal religious practice? Looking at the cases here, I mainly see poorly thought out business practices. John D explains how an adoption agency can be run according to religious beliefs. I pointed out how photographers can do so. It really would be helpful for the press to look into this angle.

  • Dave

    dalea, these outfits didn’t give any thought to how to mix their religious convictions into their business model because they didn’t think they had to give it any thought. It takes someone in the minority like a Pagan or a Jehovah’s Witness to know that First Amendment protection of religious exercise is not automatic but must be fought for. And I doubt the press gave it any thought because they’re already into the “dogma vs justice” frame I mentioned earlier.

  • Peggy

    It seems to me that, one line of argument, which I don’t know has been pursued, regarding religious-minded individuals and their businesses is an economic argument about whether a market is competitive and alternatives exist. We regulate monopoly utilities b/c it is technologically/economically impossible for competitors to enter and offer to serve customers. So, the utility has an obligation to serve all comers. [Yes, some competition has entered, only limited however and utilities retain obligation to serve.] Photographers and counselors, for example, should not have an obligation to serve all comers b/c they are not monopolies. They should have economic as well as religious freedom to pursue a line of business they choose, based on their areas of expertise and interest, as well as morals, etc. All factors should be on the table, not just religious freedom. That is what was so wrong about the eHarmony lawsuit.

  • Dave

    Peggy, the history of anti-discrimination law is rooted in racial segregation with state sanction, which existed into the 1960s. At that time there was often the appearance of competition but in fact all “competitors” were bowing to the same social pressure against serving all customers equally. For this reason, anti-discrimination law does not take any market theory into account; it was born of the fact of market failure, if one insists on looking at it that way.

  • dalea

    Peggy, part of the problem is that we are not necessarily talking about free lancers but someone who is part of a larger enterprise. If a counselor hangs out a shingle and works alone, of course they can pick and choose. But the case in question concerned an employee with an assignment.

    One does not always have a choice of photographers. Banquest halls and churches frequently have a limited number of approved ones. Sometimes wedding planners offer a package deal with only one photographer. It is a nice idea to leave it to market forces, but sometimes this is not possible. Photographers are not necessarily fungible.

  • Dave G.

    What do you mean, not talking about freelancers? Also, what is meant by churches and banquet halls having a limited number of approved ones? You mean photographers? I can’t account for the wedding planners, which I guess there would be more than one available, but maybe not, but I’m a little confused about the others. Could you elaborate on those?

  • rw

    dalea – That’s not even a remote the description of the NM case.

    Why misrepresent and bring up hypotheticals? Are you insecure about your position? Or is it just “total cluelessness” (to use your terminology)?

  • http://www.soilcatholics.blogspot.com Peggy

    In response to dalea. First, good points Dave G and rw. If the churches and banquet halls can limit the photographers or caterers that they do business with, that raises a whole new set of questions. That’s generally considered lawful activity in any case. As rw points out the NM case was a small independent photographer, which most are, frankly. Perhaps the the lesbian couple should have sought a photographer that normally works with whatever clergy or banquet hall they were planning on using. I suspect, however, that the defendants were targeted and cherry-picked to make the case–I can’t prove that at this time, frankly. Yet, with so many photographers out there, why push the issue with a provider who can’t meet your needs, except to harass them. I think that businesses–unaffiliated with religious entities–which cannot serve homosexuals for moral reasons, should explain that they don’t have the expertise or knowledge to meet that customer’s needs. As economic consultants, my former firm was free to turn down clients whose position we could not ethically or sensibly support or we didn’t have the manpower or expertise in a particular area. Why can’t other businesses take the same stand wrt homosexual matters? Why couldn’t the counselor say that (s)he didn’t have the expertise or knowledge to help that lesbian client? Why couldn’t the photographer say that she is not familiar with that type of ceremony and would feel it beyond her abilities to provide service for? I certainly think that eHarmony should have made it clear they have no expertise or knowledge to model homosexual coupling as they do heterosexual couples for marriage. It is not a service they are capable of providing. Is the government going to force them to get that capability–apparently so, it appears. Using professional skill limitations not be lies at all and could protect these businesses from claims of prejudice. Surely some photographers say they do only eg, Catholic, Jewish or Methodist weddings? They aren’t violating the law, are they?

  • dalea

    Peggy is talking about the neo-classical market description in which each actor is an independent entity. My response is that this is not always the case. There are venues that have approved lists of vendors. And photographers are frequently on that list. My childhood church had only one photographer who could be hired for weddings etc. He was also a member, but if you wanted photos in that church, he was the one to do so. The church also had a list of approved caterers; the two or three were the only ones allowed to use the kitchen facilities.

    There are also wedding planners whose business involves the whole process of marriage. The WP hires and organizes the events. And frequently they have a photographer who does all their wedding.

    So, Peggy’s solution of just finding another photographer is not really a general solution. It applies in some cases but not in others.

    This goes back to my comment on the press: the people reporting on the subject do not seem to have a very clear idea of commercial practice.

    I was not describing the NM case; I was responding to a specific concept described by Peggy. And showing why it was not workable. The counselor was an employee, as such her rights are limited. She could refuse to do something illegal on religious grounds. But she can’t refuse to do something legal on religious grounds. The photographer also can not turn down an offer of employment on religious grounds in most instances. Above, I pointed out how to do so based on my experience in the business world.

    Are ad hominum attacks permitted here?

  • http://www.soilcatholics.blogspot.com Peggy

    Oh, please dalea. I’ve gotten married. I had my choice among many photographers and florists. The only tying relationship that most couples run into are the banquet hall and caterer, which is often owned or operated by the hall. My parish could have rejected the photographer if they thought the photographer would not respect the church, but it did not. Our parish did not have a list of approved photographers or florists. etc. That could have been considered discriminatory or funneling business inappropriately.

    Even your wedding planner scenario doesn’t make sense. A WP would not try to force a Christian photographer to work a lesbian ceremony. She’d have a big rolodex of businesses that would specialize in various types of ceremonies, various budgets and so forth. She’ not be so stupid to have just one or two options. She’d get some one who would meet the client’s needs. Now, what if a WP doesn’t do homosexual ceremonies? There is quite a gay friendly economy developing. I am sure there are various service providers who explicitly market to homosexual ceremonies and receptions, and many businesses who are not concerned either way and could provide the desired services.

    The counselor should have been able to tell her employer that (s)he was not equipped to help the homosexual client and that perhaps another employee would do a better job. If the firm says that all of its employees must be equipped to meet needs of homosexuals then a person who can’t meet those needs should not work for them, I suppose. It’s too bad the counseling firm could not maintain a staff of diversified skills and expertise available to the widest possible client base. That is, not every employee would be expected to serve all client needs. People do specialize, after all.

    While I did not agree, I was surprised that Milton Friedman thought that businesses should not be forced to hire on the basis of race. But, I started to think, in this context, suppose that a black woman went to a white hairdresser who had no knowledge of how to treat some of the unique situations that some black women have with their hair, or simply didn’t know how to do a particular style more common among black women. Can the black woman sue the white hairdresser for not being able to meet her needs? Did the white hairdresser discriminate against the black customer? Should all businesses have the capability of serving all potential types of customers? Many types of (larger) businesses can do this, but not mom and pops in particular.

  • Dave

    Peggy, your final scenario is not fictitious. I well remember white barbars claiming they didn’t know how to deal with “Negro hair.”

    Your suggestion that the photographer was targeted and cherry-picked to make the case, if you can’t prove it when you say it, is throwing kerosene on a fire. Shame on you.

  • dalea

    Here in SoCal, there are wedding planners who are trying to become Brand Names. They have distinctive styles and vendors. Every so often there will be some teevee news about them, which is where I got my ideas on the subject. What I went over is common practice in Los Angeles, though perhaps not everywhere. That is the way the subject has been presented in the press here.

    The press keeps covering the drive through wedding chapels in Las Vegas. It works like any fast food drive through. You buy the wedding license at one window and choose type of service, then drive to the next window. There your choice of officiant climbs on the hood of your car and does the wedding ceremony. Currently, Elvis impersonators are popular but topless Dolly Parton types are coming up in the ratings. The couple remain in the car for the ceremony. Nevada does not require a sobriety test for marriage.

  • Peggy

    While I’m no youngster the real discrimination against black customers predates me.

    In any case, one of the lesbian plaintiffs in NM was an EEOC compliance and diversity officer for the state. This write up has some background. I’ve read this elsewhere as well. She was waiting for some one to turn her down.

    http://www.scottfillmer.com/2008/07/06/christian-photographer-refused-gay-wedding/

    So, I think there’s some evidence suggesting that a Christian photographer was sought out in order to test these rights.

  • Dave

    The fact that scottfillmer has an ugly opinion is not evidence for the validity of the opinion. That one plaintiff was an EEOC officer proves she knew what she was doing. Tsk-tsk…

  • http://www.scottfillmer.com Scott Fillmer

    I think my original post on the topic has been taken out of context over time, and mostly misunderstood.

    I am all for freedom. Freedom for people to choose their own clients and make their own business decisions. People started jumping on the marriage issue in the comments and I never once addressed that because it wasn’t the point of the post.

    Interesting read though.

  • Peggy

    Sorry for dragging you into this Mr. Fillmer. I did not cite him for his opinion but for his mention of the plaintiff’s questionable role and agenda, which I had concerns of previously. It was the first post I found on the role of one of the plaintiffs in the NM case.

    In this article, Elane Photographer’s attorney said he looked into whether it was set-up, but could not find evidence of it. I imagine it’s hard to prove, but it smells nonetheless. This information is not in mainstream press articles, but on conservative sites, like this one’s:

    http://www.chalcedon.edu/articles/article.php?ArticleID=2864

    The mainstream press does not appear to have considered the question at all, however. If something looked “suspicious” from a conservative viewpoint, the press would be all over it and make the person quite guilty just based on appearances.

  • MJBubba

    As I recall the story from Christian talk radio, Elaine’s Photography advertised in local Christian publications and featured Christian giveaway publications prominently on a rack in the shop. There may not be any direct evidence that they were targeted, but the circumstances are indicative.

  • Dave

    “Indicative,” my left earlobe. We are seeing before us how a nasty conspiracy theory is spun out of thin air.

  • dalea

    Peggy, are you aware that the link you posted goes to a site associated with the late R. J. Rushdoony? He is one of the founders of Dominist theology, which openly advocates murder of Gay and Lesbian people.

    He did not want his organization to be seen as involved in any way with the Chalcedon Foundation because Chalcedon’s position is theological, based on a conviction that God’s law is the law. He found particularly off-putting our reminder that the Bible describes homosexual behavior as “worthy of death” (Rom. 1:32).

    found at:

    http://www.chalcedon.edu/articles/article.php?ArticleID=2906

    Is advocating murdering Gay people considered, at GetRelgion, just another Conservative Christian option? Seriously want to know.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Could everybody return to press coverage of the issue?

    And I think that everyone should feel welcome to go over to the GetReligion Bar/Cafe to discuss these underlying issues more.

    I’ll post the link when I find it!

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Here it is:

    http://groups.google.com/group/getreligion-coffeehouse

    And, apparently, it’s not a bar or a cafe, per se. It’s a coffee house.

  • rw

    Mollie,

    Can we set up a juice bar for the Mormons?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Based on my Mormon friends and family, I think it should be a soda fountain.


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