What Religious Exemptions Look Like in Practice

With the recent legalizing of same-sex marriages in the state of New York there also came a lot of talk about religious exemptions. These additions to the bill’s language were seen as critical to passage, and they exempt clergy and all religious institutions from having to accommodate same-sex couples looking to get married. During this process of negotiation some wanted even greater exemptions, which would include private businesses owned by individuals who had a religious objection to same-sex marriage. Thankfully, those expanded exemptions did not make it into the final language, and the legal status quo remained in place.

Jennifer Pizer, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles and an expert on sexual orientation and discrimination, says that’s par for the course in America: You can’t let religious beliefs affect commercial decisions. “People are free to hold these views – they’re not just free to hold those views, they’re protected.” But, she said, “the current legal system does not permit people engaged in business to discriminate based on the proprietors’ own religious views.” Pizer said the New York debate over exemptions hearkens back to a time when religious views were used to justify racial segregation and opposition to equal-pay-for-equal-work legislation.

Expanding religious exemptions to private businesses isn’t simply about same-sex unions. Once you open that Pandora’s box, it would quickly create areas in the United States where certain groups are “relegated to a special untouchable status,” leading to the ostracism of a variety of communities and increasing “balkanization.” If you want to see what that would look like, you only have to watch this video from Anastasia, Priestess of The Temple of the Greek Gods, a Neo-Hellenic group currently based in North Carolina.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldtcDvtN_8I

In short, Anastasia, along with Christopher, Priest of the Temple of the Greek Gods, were getting married on the weekend of July 4th. Anastasia’s regular hair stylist was closed, and so she searched for a someone else to do her hair and makeup for the ceremony, going through a string of recommendations until she found one willing to do the job. However, that stylist discovered that they were Pagan, cancelled, and then were called again by the salon proprietor’s husband to tell them that Jesus loves them. In addition, the stylist that gave the recommendation, when told of this incident after the fact, said that she “stands with Christ too” and encouraged Christopher to leave the establishment. They also lost their booked DJ, who “dropped off the face of the earth,” seemingly after learning what religion they adhered to.

Now, if any of these incidents can be proven, they are against federal law. Specifically the Civil Rights Act. Which bans “discrimination in hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters, and all other public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce” on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” The only “outs” the salon in question might have is if they were operating the business illegally under-the-table (which means they’ll have a whole different set of problems) or if they were running a private salon “club” where one had to pay a membership due to participate. At least, that’s my understanding of the law. My legal expert readers can clarify/correct me if I’ve missed anything. There may also be local state laws that reinforce federal law on this subject, though I can’t find anything the specifically addresses religious discrimination by businesses.

I would advise (with the understanding that I’m not a lawyer) documenting everything that happened, save all voice mail messages, and create a timeline that you can refer to. If there are any witnesses, get them to do the same. I would then contact a Pagan civil rights organization like the Lady Liberty League, a secular organization like the ACLU of North Carolina, or a lawyer who handles civil rights cases.

The current push in several states to create conscience exemptions for individuals running private businesses, usually in a reaction to same-sex marriage, can have far-reaching consequences for any group that might run afoul of religious sensibilities. The minute we enshrine religious exemptions for businesses in defiance of civil rights laws is the minute we create whole communities where Pagan money isn’t welcome, and by extension, Pagans aren’t welcome. In the case of Anastasia and Christopher the result was inconvenience and emotional harm, but if allowed to stand it could lead to tacitly enforced “no-go” areas for non-Christians.

My thanks to C.L. Vermeers for bringing this to my attention.

About Jason Pitzl-Waters
  • Anonymous

    I would like to think that our country is better than this- but sadly, I’ve had run ins with True Believers, myself. I made the mistake of going into a health-food store that was run by a very devout lady, who decided that my tiny Ankh pendant meant that I was ‘untouchable’. She refused to wait on me- or even speak to me.

    Remember- these people are more fear-based than faith-based. If they were truly faithful, no Pagan, Muslim, or Atheist would frighten them into acting so horribly. Knowing this might help us to understand their motivation a bit better, but probably won’t dampen their overt actions or reactions to us. It is very difficult to cut through the noise of fear and hate. They have to figure this out for themselves.

    Stay strong.

    • Oberon Osiris

      I would also remind folks that a couple of years ago there was one or two cases of people who threw liquid – possibly dangerous – into some Witch or other Pagan’s face, after some commenting to the same. One of these may have gone to a court or police situation. I can’t remember the details, but whereas some people would just resort to denial of services…. other (fear-based… I like that, sadly) persons may decide to act out more physically. This has always happened, but we may be moving towards more….

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    The important thing is for religious exemptions to be tied ultimately to exempting a religious INSTITUTION from having to violate its principles, as distinct from allowing a devout INDIVIDUAL to flaut anti-discrimination laws. It sounds like a thin line but, if we want to retain both religious liberty and freedom from discrimination, we must accept the former and block the latter.

    • Anna Helvie

      Yes, exactly. A fundamentalist minister should not be forced to officiate a same-sex wedding, but a fundamentalist barber shop should not be allowed to deny service to a gay or lesbian person.

      This would be much simpler if we abolished civil marriage as we know it for everyone in favor of a “domestic corporation.” If two or more people or whatever sexes or genders want to cohabitate, the state should only get involved insofar as establishing property and other rights, and legitimizing offspring. Then, if you and your partner(s) are religious people, your spiritual institutions can bless it (or not) in whatever ways their books or liturgies claim to be best. But the churches would not be in the business of establishing the legal institution.

      • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

        Except that the idea of marriage as a “purely religious” thing is relatively new, considering the history of marriage itself. To abolish civil marriage is to completely destroy what marriage has always stood for — a legal contract between two people to share assets and inheritance. That, not religious rite, is the entire basis of marriage in Western society, dating back to Ancient Hellas, likely even pre-dateing.

        Molly-coddling the Christian Right in their bizarro idea that “marriage is religious” by positing ideas such as yours is to completely divorce oneself from reality and concrete historical fact.

        • Nick Ritter

          But hasn’t the idea of “contract” almost always been religious? I think that the new thing isn’t the idea of marriage as a religious rite, but rather the separation of “religious” and “secular” into discrete categories.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bryon-Morrigan/100000104778250 Bryon Morrigan

            Regardless, there are many religious groups that have no proscriptions against same-sex marriage, and to make laws based solely on Christian or Islamic religious law is absolutely contrary to Freedom of Religion.

          • Nick Ritter

            I’m not arguing that. What I’m saying is that the separation of human activity into a “religious” sphere and a “secular” sphere is a recent phenomenon.

          • http://www.facebook.com/haber.ryan Ryan Haber

            “There are many religious groups that have no proscriptions against same-sex marriage…”

            Oh? Name two. Religions made up or magically recovered/reinvented in the last 50 years don’t count, since we are talking about the origins of Western legal principles, and not more recent divergences.

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            Religions made up or magically recovered/reinvented in the last 50 years don’t count, since we are talking about the origins of Western legal principles, and not more recent divergences.

            And in countries that guarantee Freedom of Religion, this is relevant…. how?

          • Anonymous

            I just noticed “Ryan Haber’s” response, and he will probably never notice this late point…but off the top of my head, neither Hinduism nor the Religio Romana have any proscriptions against same-sex marriage. In Hinduism, it’s completely up to the wishes of the priests at the temple, as there are no proscriptions on it anywhere in Hindu scripture. And in terms of Roman Polytheism, when the Empire became officially Christian…they made laws outlawing same-sex marriage. IOW, there were no such laws before…though they were likely not very common. I could go on, but the idea that it’s only modern, “made up or magically recovered/reinvented in the last 50 years,” religions that aren’t filled with hatred against homosexuals or same-sex relationships is complete hogwash, and you should really pick up a history book some time.

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            But hasn’t the idea of “contract” almost always been religious?

            What?

            Source on that?

            This is seriously one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen anybody on here claim, and as best as I can tell, has ABSOLUTLY NO basis in reality.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            An oath taken on a sacred object or in the name of a sacred persona would be intrinsically religious.

          • Nick Ritter

            You ought to calm down if you want to discuss things.

            Contract is a part of law. Law, in most cultures, has connections to religion. I might mention various gods of law in different religions, as well as, for instance the god Mitra, whose name means “contract” (or is at least closely related to a word meaning “contract”).

            The idea of a “secular” culture, wherein religion does not enter into the public sphere, including law, is a recent invention.

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            An oath taken on a sacred object or in the name of a sacred persona would be intrinsically religious.

            Except that different words mean different things for a reason. Oath ≠ contract; the two ideas may be similar, even related, but if you’re going to take some-one to court for failure to keep to their contract, you better have something more tangible than an oath as evidence.

            The idea of a “secular” culture, wherein religion does not enter into the public sphere, including law, is a recent invention.

            This, I can agree with — but even still, it’s easy enough to pick out that which is overtly religious in most cultures from that which is not. An oath or “covenant” (the English word the Sanskrit “Mitra” translates to), being intangible and, in the case of the latter, spiritual in nature, is far more easily argued religious than a contract, which is, be definition, written out and given (mortal) witness.

          • Nick Ritter

            “An oath or “covenant” (the English word the Sanskrit “Mitra” translates to), being intangible and, in the case of the latter, spiritual in nature, is far more easily argued religious than a contract, which is, be definition, written out and given (mortal) witness.”

            This distinction is meaningless in a non-literate culture, which most people have belonged to for most of the history (or perhaps rather “prehistory”) of humanity.

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            This distinction is meaningless in a non-literate culture, which most people have belonged to for most of the history (or perhaps rather “prehistory”) of humanity.

            If the distinction you’re clinging to is “written out” as opposed to “mortal witness”, then yes, I suppose you might be correct. The distinction I cling to is that contracts are between mortals, an oath or covenant is between a mortal (or several mortals) and a deity.

          • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

            “The distinction I cling to is that contracts are between mortals, an oath or covenant is between a mortal (or several mortals) and a deity. ”

            In purely historical/ linguistic terms, I don’t think that such a distinction would stand. Among ancient peoples the language and rituals for agreements (contracts/ oaths/ covenants) were often similar if not the same whether among people or deities. Compare, for example, the language and rituals described in the Hebrew Bible regarding covenants between YHWH and the Israelites with surviving contractual/ covenant textual evidence from the ancient Near East between, say, kings or a king and his subjects.

          • http://www.facebook.com/haber.ryan Ryan Haber

            No, it’s not bizarre. A contract is the giving of one’s name as a pledge of honor or trust. Those are all concepts deeply enveloped in religion throughout time and place.

            Even freedom of religion is deeply embedded in Christian principles – which is why it is absent in non-Christian lands except where imported by Christian colonists or education. It is based on the Christian principle that a person’s conscience is his private point of contact with his Creator. The principle might be back-introduced into other religions, but it has grown organically, in point of fact, in only one religion.

          • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

            I have to reply here to Ryan Haber’s statement since there is no reply there.

            “Even freedom of religion is deeply embedded in Christian principles – which is why it is absent in non-Christian lands except where imported by Christian colonists or education. It is based on the Christian principle that a person’s conscience is his private point of contact with his Creator. The principle might be back-introduced into other religions, but it has grown organically, in point of fact, in only one religion.”

            That has got to be the funniest and most ridiculous claim I have heard in a long time. The idea that the concept of ‘freedom of religion’ is derived only from Christianity and has existed no where outside of Christian controlled lands is laughable and cannot be defended by any understanding of history. So, please spare us your sad attempts at Christian apologetics.

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            Even freedom of religion is deeply embedded in Christian principles – which is why it is absent in non-Christian lands except where imported by Christian colonists or education. It is based on the Christian principle that a person’s conscience is his private point of contact with his Creator. The principle might be back-introduced into other religions, but it has grown organically, in point of fact, in only one religion.

            I believe that if you’d stop buying into the Christian apologetics and propaganda you learned in a state school, you’d find that freedom of religiopn, too, has its roots in the pre-Christian Graeco-Roman world. Christianity has suppressed far more religions than it has given freedom to, and polytheistic Rome gave immense freedoms to Christians. The point of contingency that Christian apologists like to cling to is that Christians in the Roman empire were still expected to give sacrifice to the cult of the emperor, a form of tax; even their own Christ said that they should: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21).

            …but nope! I guess only martyring oneself to a death cult is true “freedom of religion”, in your fantasy world, Nicky.

        • http://www.facebook.com/haber.ryan Ryan Haber

          Lol. Yes, and in all those ancient understandings of marriage, the conception and rearing of children was intrinsic. Marriage has always be understood as between a man and a woman, in all times and places, even those that were very accommodating of homosexuality. I’m glad you brought that up.

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            Your claim is 100% false.

            There are records from ancient Rome and certain parts of Greece describing certain same-sex unions as “marriage”. Male couple would often travel to Thebes (in Greece) to the tomb of Iolaus (Herakles’ lover) and pledge themselves to each-other. And mythologically, Apollon’s beloveds include Hymenaios, the God of Weddings. Roman emperors Nero and Elagabalus were described as having been married to men, and both marriages were given elaborate public ceremonies, Nero even had his wedding twice, once in Greece and again in Rome. Cicero also very casually mentions the marriage of son Curio the Elder to another man — *very* casually, suggesting the practise is very common. The Roman practise of SSM did not become outlawed until 342CE, when the Christian emperor Constantine criminalised it.

            The practise of same-sex unions and marriages is also in the recorded history of India and China.

            It would do you good to actually understand the history you profess to speak of. Same-sex marriage is an ANCIENT practise.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Ruadhan:

            When heteropeople have sex, they have babies. Societies that did not care for the babies died out, so we are left with a Darwinian selection, in the roots of any society, for care for babies. This makes it seem reasonable to declare that babies are all that marriage is about. What’s important in rebuttal is not just the antiquity of the contrary practice but the breadth of subjects, many having nothing to do with babies, involved in ordinary, vanilla, white-bread contemporary marriage. Which we extend to heterocouples with no chance of offspring. Marriage equity expands the scope of marriage, not the definition.

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            Baruch, honey, read the exchange again.

            You clearly have no understanding of anything that’s been said.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            What’s been said is two extreme positions. I’m showing where they both came from and what’s wrong with Ryan’s without the extreme language of yours.

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            Oh, yay! A tone argument! I was wondering when you’d pull up one of those!

            You’ll fill my bingo card yet, sweetie!

        • Kelley

          Marriage is a contract.

          No government needs to be in the business of approving or denying the participants or terms of any contract, be it religious or secular, oral or written.

          In this country, in fact, marriage license and registration requirements are a new thing and did not begin in the US at large until the 20th century.

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            While I generally agree that the government shouldn’t be denying any legally-consenting adults from entering into contracts such as marriage, the practise of marriage lisences is ancient and goes back to Rome.

          • Kelley

            The key phrase is “in _this_ country”. The ancientness of licensing for marriage contracts by both religious and government agents (sometimes just one and sometimes both) I do not dispute, although I would hesitate to hold ancient Rome up as an example of proper governance.

            Marriage licensing is not only unnecessary, as the example of pre-20th century U.S. shows, but downright problematic considering the repeated use of it to deny with force of law the use of the term marriage to consenting adults.

    • Anonymous

      I agree with an added clarification. The distinction should be between a religious institution and a commercial institution.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Agreed, commercial institutions should be in the same class as individuals. Church-owned commercial institutions would be a headache but we are not talking ideal forms here but political compromise. My core preference is for no exemptions to anti-discrimination law, but my political bump is warmed by a well-crafted deal that lets something like the NY state marriage law get enacted.

  • Francescamw

    I don’t think it is illegal for a stylist to cancel an appointment. If they had a contract with the dj then he could be in trouble for breach of contract. But I think it may be different for people who provide a service than for business establishments. I don’t think a service person like a stylist or a dj need to take on a client or a gig they don’t wish to take on.

    But hopefully someone with better legal knowledge will weigh in.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Frances, I direct you to Hecate’s comment. The only “better legal knowledge” I can claim is to have lived as a young adult through the Civil Rights Movement and passionately supported the Civil Rights Act. No one engaged in commerce may discriminate for suspect reasons, and religion and race are automatically suspect. This stylist made the blunder of giving a religious reason for her discrimination to her victim; legally she hung a “kick me” sign on herself.

      There are exeptions to the prohibition, specifically rooming houses where it’s other people in the house one lives in, limited by number. Not applicable to a stylist.

      The stretch in the Act was for Congress to pull it though the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution, though FDR had already distended it massively for the New Deal. But that was before my time.

    • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

      I don’t think it is illegal for a stylist to cancel an appointment.

      Except that, in the situation described in the post, IT IS ILLEGAL.

      There are perfectly legal reasons for some-one performing a service to cancel, and perfectly legal ways of cancelling. If a client is requesting something that you simply don’t have the skills to do, that’s a perfectly legal reason, and is typically accompanied with a referral to some-one who might be able to help perform that service (though this is usually just a courtesy to remain in the public’s good graces). Saying “I stand with Jesus, I’m not doing your hair and get out of my shop” is 100% in violation of federal law, and the laws of any U$ State.

      Signage about “right to refuse service to anyone” dates back to JIM CROW and WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE, as a means to deny services to non-Whites and to any woman deemed too subversive — especially any-one uppity enough to think such people deserved civil rights. The reason business owners still point to them is because many people are completely ignorant that they have a right to use any public business they choose to, and so business owners simply are allowed to get away with breaking federal laws.

    • Elnigma

      Personally, if someone doesn’t want to do my hair, I’d rather not have them touching it. And I’d like to know before they are holding those scissors.
      A few years ago I got a horrible haircut from someone who let me know (sadly, mostly after she’d started cutting) that she “didn’t like curls”. I stopped her after she said that, and saw what she’d been doing…She’d been trying to remove them off my head!!

      The DJ disappearing could have been coincidence, too. They aren’t all reliable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002162704205 Lori Dake

    “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason”. I see these signs at LOTS of bars, restaurants and boutiques. I’ve always wondered if that was legal and how strictly that policy is enforced.

    • Anonymous

      Jason, your advice about documentation is spot on.

      Lori, those signs date back (take it from an old Southern broad) to the bad old days of racial segregation. A bar can’t legally refuse to serve, for example, a sober person who is of age and is not causing any problems. But most people don’t know their rights, and when a proprietor points to the sign, that someone makes it seem legal.

      • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

        There’s also the natural inclination of people to be very uncomfortable anywhere they are not wanted. I see the point about doing this, and respect the courage of, say, black folks who first ate at white lunchcounters, but the very thought of such an uncomfortable situation makes me want to shrivel up and never leave my room again.

  • Lcaneer

    I once had a local repair place refuse to do my brakes. I cant prove it was because of my pagan bumper stickers, but, it being a local place and knowing the owner/manager is a big Church of God memeber in town; I was pretty sure that was the reason. I just took my car and did my own brakes, I figured it wasnt worth fighting about, and I really didnt want someone who didnt like me working with me. I got mad that he lied and made up a story instead of telling me outright more than anything.

    I figure if a store doesnt want to service me, it’s thier loss of revenue. Now, if they were hateful and derrogtory, it might be different

    • Anonymous

      I really didnt want someone who didnt like me working with me.

      I find myself dealing with this all the time. I close the door to my ritual room before the plumbers come over. I don’t want some evangelical deciding that they cannnot “suffer a [W]itch to live.” I do the same when I check into hospital. I don’t want a nurse giving me a too large dose. too bad we live like this, but it’s the way it is.

  • deb

    This is why I believe we need to do as many countries in Europe do, make civil marriage a function of the legal state government, as it is a business contract. If we do not allow churches to officiate at legal marriages, they will no longer have any say inb the matter. Then any religious minded couple may then have a spiritual marriage at the institution of their choice. Prince Albert and Princess Charlene just did this. They had a civil marriage on one day and a religious one the next. This is true separation of church and state.

    • Philip Posehn

      This is the crux of the matter. If we did not give the civil union the same name as the religious sacrament same sex unions would have been accepted in most states years ago

      • http://www.myspace.com/kadynastar Khryseis_Astra

        That said, however, those who see marriage as one of their religious sacraments don’t have a trademark on the word or who can use it, much as they’d like to think so.

        My husband & I did just as Deb was describing… we had the legal ceremony with a justice of the peace, and then the personal religious ceremony with friends and family. But I and my atheist husband still have a marriage, regardless of my religious beliefs or his lack thereof.

        This meme of “I don’t care if they get the same rights as a marriage as long as they don’t call it a marriage, because that term belongs to my religion” needs to be called out for what it is: a baseless claim to ownership over a term they did not invent, and that they do not have any right to control for any but themselves.

      • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

        Well, technically, marriage was a civil thing that was just closely entwined with religion long before it was regarded as predominantly a religious sacrament. Amongst the majority of free classmen in ancient Hellas, for example, marriage was often a means of social climbing (for the family of the bride) and political strategy (for the family of the bridegroom) in far greater proportion than it was religious sacrament — the religious rite that coincided with these often-arranged marriages was simply in place to legitimise the marriage by asking it be blessed by the gods. At its heart, though, it was still a socio-political rite more than a religious one; those of the slave classes could not legally marry, and this practice continued even into the slave classes of early U$ history.

        The idea of marriage being “purely religious” is relatively new, considering the history of the practise.

        • http://newenglandfolklore.blogspot.com/ Peter M

          That’s been true even in some parts of this country. For example, the Puritans who settled in New England did NOT celebrate marriages as religious ceremonies. They were strictly legal and familial arrangements. Marriage and religion don’t have to be linked.

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            Gotta love the Puritans — they also invented The War on Christmas.

  • Dervaloch Maqqnuduns

    How did the salon violate the law? If they aren’t engaging in interstate commerce, they didn’t. “Interstate commerce” is commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the federal government according to powers spelled out in Article I of the Constitution. In other words, if they were part of a chain that could be found in other states, or if they somehow performed activities or services that made them fall into the definition, then they would have to service the lady in question. But a local, stand-alone salon would not have to. So, Ruadhan, and everyone else here who thinks it’s totally illegal, need to grab a dictionary and look up “interstate commerce”. Of course, it’s reprehensible on the moral level, but then, you have the right to be reprehensible here if you want. And a private, stand-alone business doesn’t have to service anyone they don’t want to. But when you cross state lines, you enter into the realm of the Feds, and then you have to abide by the constitution.

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      Interstate commerce has been defined rather broadly by the courts:
      http://topics.law.cornell.edu/wex/Commerce_Clause

      Quote:
      “It also ruled that the federal civil rights legislation could be used to
      regulate a restaurant, Ollie’s Barbeque, a family-owned restaurant in
      Birmingham, Alabama because, although most of Ollie’s customers were local,
      the restaurant served food which had previously crossed state lines. Katzenbach
      v. McClung,
      379 U.S. 274 (1964).”

      So, does this salon sell products that come from out of state? Do they serve
      folks from outside North Carolina? Then they very well may be subject to
      federal legislation.

      • Dervaloch Maqqnuduns

        To go after this salon, I would look first to the state constitution for the state’s definition of non-discriminatory trade practices. You might get them there, but you never know- some states are pretty weak on this. The ICC (Interstate Commerce Commission) has the last say on who is engaging in interstate commerce, at any rate. Jerks.

        • http://PaganCenteredPodcast.com Dave of Pagan Centered Podcast

          I know I’m being slightly redundant here, but some states have stricter regulations than the feds. Remember, at the federal level it is perfectly legal under title 7 to discriminate on the basis of sexual preference, but in some states this is illegal.

      • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

        Jason, you and a small handful of others are the reason I keep reading your posts’ comments sections. Otherwise, without this sort of level-headed knowledge, it would have long gone the way of most other news blog comment sections. SERIOUSLY.

        • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

          Thank you!

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            My forehead thanks you! Otherwise, it would have a major dent in it!

  • http://newenglandfolklore.blogspot.com/ Peter M

    Adding the religious exemptions to the same sex marriage bill was done only to mollify the right-wingers. It was totally unnecessary. NO religious practitioner in the US can be forced to marry someone who doesn’t meet their religion’s standards. It’s illegal. For example, a rabbi can’t be forced to marry two Catholics; a Wiccan priestess can’t be forced to marry two Baptists. A minister or priest from a church opposed to gay marriage can’t be forced to marry two people of the same sex. The same sex marriage issue really gets the Christian right wing riled up…

    • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

      And, as you so eloquently put — it riles them up for absolutely no reason.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Not true, either comment.

        There is already case law history of service refusals to BGLTs on religious grounds leading to successful prosecution for discrimination. One involved a church-owned pavilion often used for wedding parties, refused to a lesbian couple. Another involved a wedding photographer who refused to service a gay couple on grounds of religious scruples.

        The NY State exemptions would have shielded the first but not the second.

        The benchmark article on this issue was by Maggie Gallagher and appeared in The Weekly Standard four or five years ago.

        Kudos to the NY legislators who could draw the line between protecting religious liberty and enabling discrimination. Would that legislators in other states were as smart. (Though no great fan of exemptions to discrimination law, I like to see a successful political compromise that brings about a good result such as marriage equity in NY State.)

        • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

          One involved a church-owned pavilion often used for wedding parties, refused to a lesbian couple.
          That’s because it was a park pavilion, and not the church itself. Because it was not the church itself, and is a property that was freely rented out to other people who are also non-members of their church, then the pavilion is a commercial endeavour that has a completely different set of rules from the religious institution that owns it.

          Another involved a wedding photographer who refused to service a gay couple on grounds of religious scruples.
          Last I checked, a PHOTOGRAPHER is a COMMERCIAL SERVICE, not a RELIGIOUS INSTITUTION. A photographer is free to have whatever religion he wants, but the moment he offers his services commercially, he’s thus obligated to certain non-discrimination statutes.

          This is very basic business law — pre-101 calibre stuff. You don’t even need a business degree to understand the distinctions made here.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            The fact is that they both lost.

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            Who lost? ELane Photography of Albuquerque had to pay out legal fees to the couple they discriminated against and the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (OGCMA) lost their tax-exemption and were expected to pay out legal fees to the couple they den ied a commercial interaction with.

            In neither one of these cases, though, was a Christian officiant forced by any court to perform SSM against their religious beliefs. In neither case was one even being asked to do so against their desires by the couple intending to wed — Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster were bringing *their own* officiant for a *civil union* (not legally the same thing as SSM), and simply wished to rent the Pavilion from OGCMA — in fact, calling OGCMA a “church group” is a bit of a misnomer: they are neither a “church” nor are they officially affiliated with any Methodist church — OGCMA is an independent group of Methodists that does not meet the qualifications for a separate religious institution (and therefore, had tax-exemption illegally, and would have lost it anyway, eventually, likely through an audit several years later). So, yes, even with the complete redundancy of New York’s addendum to the statute, OGCMA WOULD STILL HAVE BEEN BREAKING THE LAW. Why? Not a church! Therefore? No grounds for religious exemption!

            Please, honey, if you’re going to argue with me, make sure you understand what you’re talking about.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            “Please, honey, if you’re going to argue with me, make sure you understand what you’re talking about.”

            We’re not arguing. I’m making succinct statements about case law, covering only the essentials. You are trying to bury my statements with a mass of detail, delivered in a hostile tone, that actually supports what I said.

            That’s not an argument; it’s a valley with a complicated echo.

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            If by “covering only the essentials” you mean “using misleading language to make false claims and present them as fact, no matter how much it’s pointed out that it’s not a fact”, then yes, dear, you’re doing exactly that.

            A group that is *not a church*, such as OGCMA (the group *you* initially brought up) cannot legally claim the rights and exemptions of a church. To call a group that is *not a church* a “church” is a falsifying statement designed to mislead one’s audience into believing something that is in no way true. The only conceivable reason to continue to call OGCMA a “church” is to pander to the paranoid delusions of the Wacko Right that Christianity is being persecuted by SSM — when that is simply not the case.

            And no, I’m not agreeing with you. Everything I’ve stated in no way supports what you’ve said or merely implied. Try mastering reading comprehension before your next reply.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            If there’s a reading comprehension problem her it’s not mine.

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            Yeah, see, your claim against my comprehension abilities would be legit if not for the fact that I understand, unlike you that “not a church ≠ church” and that “not a church” has absolutely no claim to the rights and exemptions of a church.

            Also, Maggie Gallagher has only made “benchmarks” in proving her own bias against SSM — citing her as a “source” on SSM controversies (as you have — and then, only vaguely so) is like citing Jack Chick as a “source” on Islam or Wicca.

          • Auntie Mame

            “That’s not an argument; it’s a valley with a complicated echo.”

            So hilarious, so true, and I am so stealing that line for future use!

          • Auntie Mame

            “That’s not an argument; it’s a valley with a complicated echo.”

            So hilarious, so true, and I am so stealing that line for future use!

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            “I am so stealing that line for future use!”

            With my blessing.

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            You know, Justin Beiber lyrics are regarded as “deep” and “so true” by his fangirls.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Oh, not, not the dreaded Justin Bieber comparison. Arrrrrrghhhh…

            A new logical fallacy, the Argumentum Ad Bieberum.

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            Except that I’m not arguing your position — I’m insulting you and your fan-girl for the hell of it.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            As long as you opened your motives up for discussion:

            No, you’re not insulting us for the hell of it, you’re insulting us because you came on this board all pumped up with words and aggression, and we openly declined to be impressed, and you’re peeved.

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            As long as you opened your motives up for discussion:

            No, you’re not insulting us for the hell of it, you’re insulting us because you came on this board all pumped up with words and aggression, and we openly declined to be impressed, and you’re peeved.

            Translation: “Herrr derrr… I’m trying to sound smart!”

          • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

            OK, everyone back to neutral corners. I think that when we get into name-calling the civilized portion of the discourse is official over.

  • Lori F – MN

    One person canceling, I could accept, but the DJ and salon? It’s a shame that happened to them on such a special day. I hope things worked out for them.

  • http://PaganCenteredPodcast.com Dave of Pagan Centered Podcast

    A decent video camera costs $150. Get one and keep it in your car, topped up with a car charger (or power inverter + wall plug) – documentation of such things can be invaluable both in the realm of public opinion and in pursuing legal action.

    On a less paranoid level, lots of cool stuff happens in life and you’ll be glad you have a camera handy to document it – just don’t live your life through the camera.

  • Masery

    It disheartens me that Anastasia and Christopher were faces with religious intolerance on their special day. As Jason pointed out, “No-go” areas with legal backing would be very difficult for Pagans to live in. It isn’t easy to just move either once you find the Pagan path. Moving is expensive. Many “no-go” areas already exist as local culture. Pagans with disabilities or who are elderly and have a low income, rely on Federal governments programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Before these programs, disabled and impoverish citizens relied on local charity which is provided most often by churches. Religious discrimination at the salon is one thing. Not getting food or shelter or medical care because of your religion is life threatening. “There are Pagan charities but currently they are few and far between. Beside the obvious life saving support Medicare and Social Security Disability (SSD) or Social Security Insurance (SSI) provides, we are getting assistance without having to declare our personal religious creed.” http://www.patheos.com/community/paganswithdisabilities/2011/07/08/cutting-social-security-and-medicare-is-a-raw-deal/

    • http://paosirdjhutmosu.wordpress.com Djhutmosu Si-Hathor

      That is a very good point that some people seem to forget. All places are not equal, and moving to a place with a more religiously-tolerant culture is often not practical, especially during times like these. And if you’re in a really bad situation, and you only have a possibly intolerant church-based charity to help you, well, that makes a bad situation worse. If all things were equal, it’d be always easy to simply pass over businesses that don’t discriminate and move to more religiously tolerant places. Of course, all things are NOT equal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Priest-Christopher/1580911511 Priest Christopher

    I appreciate this being posted on the most popular Pagan blog. I must make a few minor corrections to the article though. The Salon as a whole did not say that they stand with Christ too, the stylist there who recommended Anastasia did, and the woman she recommended discriminated against us. The stylist at the Salon who said she stands with Christ too also did not “tell” me to leave the Salon, she encouraged me to leave. She did apologize for what had happened, but she did not take any stance for our civil rights and obviously sided with the woman she recommended who had discriminated against us.

    Recently, I talked to the owner of the Salon building, who is Pagan or so she said, and we got into a large disagreement over whether or not this constituted discrimination, which of course it does. She did agree to tell her girls to leave religion out of their business basically. Whether or not they will do it is another story. And I received no assurance that the person who discriminated against us would no longer be recommended by anyone there.

    Priest Christopher, Temple Of The Greek Gods.

    • Elnigma

      Thanks for the interesting update

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      Thank you for the clarifications. Please keep us updated.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Priest-Christopher/1580911511 Priest Christopher

        Thank you for picking up our story, people have the right to know that this stuff is still happening.

        • Elnigma

          Brightest Blessings, Mazel-tov and Congratulations on you and your partner’s handfasting!

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      I’ve tweaked my post to make it more accurate.

  • Anonymous

    Being clueless, I thought that doing business involved the exchange of goods and services and money. I thought that money was more or less belief-neutral. So that, if a provider of services performed one or more services for another–and received appropriate money in payment–the beliefs of the respective exchangers did not matter to the exchange.

    OK, I gotta be honest. The best ever haircuts I’ve ever got were done by a Pagan co-practitioner. But that was because she was equally a very talented hair stylist. I never even jostled her Paganism, however, to cut a Christian’s hair, charging her top-end fee and garnering a top-end tip, to boot!

    Hair styling was about the skillful acts, the aesthetics and fashion, the gossip, and the money. Not about theology or interfaith.

    I never imagined hair styling as a religious act. Nonetheless, I would be unsettled if a hair stylist found an image of the Virgin Mary, Saint Francis of Assisi, or Jehovah in my hair.

    • Elnigma

      LOL maybe she didn’t want to give tonsures to just ANYONE

  • Sunweaver

    For anyone living in the Murfreesboro, TN area, I can recommend an excellent Pagan-friendly hair stylist. Not only is she very skilled, but reasonably priced. She’s Christian, but will cut anyone’s hair with a smile, a cackle, and at least one reference to the gnomes that live in the shampoo bowl.
    No one else in this town will touch my hair with anything sharp.

    May Aphrodite bless everyone with such an awesome hair stylist as this. I really am heartsick for my fellow Hellenics over in NC. I’m sorry that had to happen to you and wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

  • Coltakashi

    Hotels, restaurants and gas stations are inherently involved with interstate travel and thus come under the authority of the Federal government to regulate under the Interstate Commerce Clause, Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution. However a hairdresser is not a business engaged in interstate commerce. It would be subject to regulation by the state and local governments, but the Federal government has no particular legitimate interest in regulating that kind of business. Some women don’t use hairdressers and many hairdressers operate as small businesses out of their homes. You would have to find state or local law to address such discrimination. It is not a deprivation of equal protection of the law because it is not a government action.

    Since a person’s religion is not generally visually obvious except for a fw, like Muslim women in burkas or Orthodox Jews wearing their distinctive dress, the simplest way to avoid this problem is to talk about somethingvother than their religion during a hair dressing appointment. Most hairdressers are interested in getting paid and not in talking religion with customers. It is Not a big problem worth wasting the time of the EEOC or a Federal court jury about.

    • Anonymous

      The interpretation of Interstate Commerce (as has already be discussed above) has been left VEEEEEERRRRRY broad by the courts.

      For example, if one was to engage in a burglary in which one stole firearms, they could be charged in federal court, if the firearm had ever crossed state lines. No joke, dead serious – if a firearm was not manufactured in the same state as the crime was committed, the perpetrator could be charged with a federal crime. And if the gun itself was manufactured in the same state, it is unlikely that the ammunition was, which still leaves one open to federal prosecution.

      I’ve sat on a Federal Grand Jury twice now and had both occasions come up.

    • Kawamura2

      So, basically you’re saying, if Pagans and Gays don’t want to be discriminated against, they should stay in the closet? Why should I have to hide who I am, for fear of being denied goods and services?

      So, should I have the right, if I run a business, to refuse to cater to Christians and Heterosexuals? I mean, they’re all over, and they make no bones about who they are. They don’t have to worry about being refused service. What you are not getting is, this is a civil rights matter.

      This is basically the same thing as the civil rights fight in the 50s and 60s. You know, back when they had whites only restaurants, restrooms, water fountains. The ONLY difference is, with Paganism and Homosexuality, you don’t have a colour to go by. It is only by people not being afraid to be open about who they are that they are discriminated against. This is a civil rights and civil liberties issue, which falls under the federal government.

      When you start segregating people, for religious or any reasons, you are on a slippery slope. A fascist theocracy isn’t far behind.

      • Grimmorrigan

        I think the point is that the less visiable ones faith is the less likely you are to face such matters. I’ve never had a business discriminate against me due to my religion, mostly due to the fact I never bring my faith up. I’m one of those pagans who gets told he “doesn’t look Pagan enough” and have been accused of being a covery Christian because I keep my hair short and my dress professional. Visiably I’m your general run of the mill white boy. So if you want to talk about discrimination based on visability, I get more of that from Pagans that I do Chrsitians. However once I open my mouth….

        • Kawamura2

          Yes, but the kind of discrimination you are describing doesn’t affect your civil liberties. What you are describing cannot be considered a violation of your rights unless said Pagans deny you goods and services, or threaten your livelihood (such as being fired from a job for being Pagan or Gay), or denying your right to marry the one you love.

          What you are describing is plain and simple ignorance on those people’s parts, which can and usually is remedied by them getting to know you, I am sure. Unless you’re extremely hard to get along with. I know Pagans can be judgmental, believe me. However, most of us look past the physical appearance. There is no “Pagan Look”. Short hair and professional dress do not a Christian make, as you should know. Most Pagans do realize that, and would especially if we got to know you, I am sure.

          I am not extremely vocal about my religion personally either, however, I will not deny or lie about it. I feel that if Christians can be open and honest about what they believe in, I should have every right to be. Why should I hide my religion or sexuality?

          Although I believe religion and spirituality are very personal things, and I don’t discuss my core beliefs with just anyone, I should still be able to be visibly Non-Christian (i.e. be able to wear symbols of my belief, etc), without being discriminated against. If they can wear a cross, I should be able to wear a pentacle. If I cannot do that without being denied goods and services, then I am a second class citizen, or worse.

          If looking professional with a short haircut is “You”, if that is your thing, and you don’t feel you are being forced to look that way by anyone, that’s great. Nothing wrong with looking sharp. However, if you are doing it to fit in, appease the status quo, and avoid conflict, then i say, you’re doing yourself and everyone else a disservice by not being true to yourself.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Alas, it seems from Grimmorrigan’s narrative that there is indeed a Pagan Look and its violation can evoke from some Pagans the behavior we find most distressing from some Christians.

            Doing it for financial survival *is* doing it for yourself and your family.

  • Coltakashi

    In a more general way, when a particular business service involves close association for an hour or more, the moral sense of many people would be offended by certain behaviors, and the fact is that because there is always competition for a customer’s money, there will always be someone who will provide services regardless of the customer’s religion. When it is not a basic necessity of life, like food, clothing, housing, transportation, when it is not a government service, when it involves close involvement of the seller if services for an extended time, and could be petceived by a reasonable objective party as indicating the service orovider’s endorsement of certain behaviors, allowing such businesses to avoid association with customers who engage in
    Objectionable behavior does luttj,le harm to the customer. A balancing of personal interests in such a case favors the person with a religious objection.

    • Anonymous

      Coltakashi wrote:
      When it is not a basic necessity of life, like food, clothing, housing, transportation, when it is not a government service, when it involves close involvement of the seller if services for an extended time, and could be petceived by a reasonable objective party as indicating the service orovider’s endorsement of certain behaviors, allowing such businesses to avoid association with customers who engage in Objectionable behavior does luttj,le harm to the customer.

      [sarcasm] Oh, like if I don’t want to serve black people in my diner I shouldn’t have to? At least its easy to tell them from us white folk, with queers and gays and lesbians it could be anyone – makes it that much harder for us hard-working upstanding Christians to tell them apart.[/sarcasm]

      Discrimination is illegal. Period.


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