Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council is an extreme bigot, even by Christian right standards. He’s called for the deportation of gay people in the past and said many other truly vile things. On his boss Tony Perkins’ radio show, he made this monumentally stupid argument:
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins invited his colleague Peter Sprigg on to “Washington Watch” yesterday to discuss an Idaho state legislative committee’s decision not to include protections for LGBT people in a proposed nondiscrimination law.
Sprigg — who travelled to Idaho earlier this week to testify against the measure — celebrated the decision, saying that banning employment and housing discrimination against LGBT people “would increase the power of government to interfere with the operation of private businesses and private organizations” and would place the government in the position of “taking sides” on a “controversial issue.” (We weren’t aware that the FRC opposed the government taking sides on controversial issues!)
Sprigg said that what the Idaho legislature should really do is remain “morally neutral” in order for “the marketplace of ideas” to sort out whether or not it’s okay to discriminate against LGBT people, rather than making “a legal statement that it is morally wrong to disapprove of homosexual conduct and morally wrong to disapprove of people presenting themselves as the opposite of their biological sex.”
This is what we would have called, in the old days when I was coaching debate, a generic argument. It can be used against any change at all without actually addressing the specific arguments being made. But it can’t really be made without hypocrisy on multiple levels. The first level, obviously, is that Sprigg has called for the government to take action many times over on “controversial issues.” If you made that generic argument against his specific proposal, he’d find that laughable — right up until he does the same thing to you.
The second level is that this argument would have worked just as well against anti-discrimination law in general. Should we prevent businesses from refusing to hire black people? Or women? Or Christians? Of course not. After all, that would be making “a legal statement that it is morally wrong to disapprove” of women working outside the home. It would be “taking sides” on a “controversial issue” to force businesses to hire blacks or Jews. But Sprigg would never make that argument because he knows it would instantly discredit him. So he uses this generic argument, applies it inconsistently and hypocritically, and engages in special pleading.