Religious Freedom is the Right of Every American. Sincerity Doesn’t Enter Into It.

Religious Freedom is the Right of Every American. Sincerity Doesn’t Enter Into It. April 6, 2015
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ed Uthman https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ed Uthman https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

Indiana passed a law a couple of weeks ago with the purpose of allowing religious freedom.

I’m going to write several posts this week dealing with the many questions surrounding this law. The drama its passage has created brings all the pigs to the trough.

On the one hand, we have Christian bashing by a biased and bigoted media. On the other hand, we have corporatism, flexing its muscle and openly demanding that government pass laws to suit its true masters.

We have social Christians who are doing their usual drop kick of Christian teaching in favor of what’s happening’ now by coming out in full force against religious freedom. Sandwiched between these groups we have the uncomfortable Christians who are trying to parse the debate to the satisfaction of everybody concerned, twisting and turning like atonal wind chimes, blowing in a gale.

Meanwhile, most people, including most Christians, are going about their daily lives, pretty much ignoring the whole thing. They don’t know that this little drama is about them, their freedoms and whether or not they will be able in the future to practice their faith without government bullying.

Today’s post on the Indiana law will be a simple one. I want to address the stupidest argument in favor of doing away with First Amendment protections of the free exercise of religion that I’ve heard in all my long life.

This argument, which has come from some surprisingly intelligent people, is based on the fact that human beings, no matter their beliefs, are inconsistent. Let me repeat that: People are inconsistent.

We are not mathematical formulas that always perform in a set pattern. We are, whether we will admit it or not, random. No human being, not one, is consistent.

However, the argument is being leveled at Christians that they must be absolutely consistent in how they live their faith. Otherwise, they should forfeit their First Amendment rights as American citizens and allow the government to coerce them into violating the 2,000-year old constant teaching of their faith concerning marriage.

The application of this bogus line of reasoning goes something like this:  If a baker bakes a cake for a wedding in which one or both of the participants has been divorced, then they are being inconsistent when they say they will not bake a cake for a gay wedding. Thus, they have no right to First Amendment protections of their religious liberty.

The things I’ve read don’t put it quite that crudely, but that is their reasoning.

Let’s take that argument and look at it in all its absurdity.

Constitutional Rights are not based on things like sincerity and consistency. No one asks, even in this age of gun control, if a gun buyer sincerely believes in the right to bear arms. There is no requirement for those who write letters to their elected officials or who seek redress in the courts to be consistent and sincere in how they live their convictions.

The idea that the First Amendment right of the free exercise of religion should be subjected to a consistency and sincerity test designed in parlor discussions by those who oppose these rights is obvious — absolutely obvious — twaddle. It makes me wonder what people are smoking that anyone takes this stupidity seriously.

I could easily raise serious questions about the underlying theology of the argument being advanced, based on teaching that even I, with my total lack of theological training, “get.” But I’m not going to muddy the water with that discussion.

The point here is simple. It is straight forward. It is, as I said, obvious.

Constitutional Rights are not predicated on ephemeral personal attacks about whether or not an American citizen is “sincere” or consistent in how they use that right. The First Amendment is the right of every American citizen. They may use it, or not, as they chose.

If Americans want to lobby their government, they can. If they don’t want to do that, they don’t have to.

If Americans want to speak freely about the issues of the day, no one can stop them. If they don’t want to do that, they can stay silent.

If Americans do not think it violates their religious faith to bake a cake for a gay wedding, they can bake cakes until their oven melts down. But if their faith has taught for 2,000 years that marriage is between one man and one woman and it violates their deepest conscience and the straightforward, well-known teachings of their faith for them to participate in a gay wedding, they are — or they should be — free to not participate in a gay wedding.

Attempts to create false parallels between gay marriage and the black Civil Rights movement do not hold. There is not and never has been a 2,000-year teaching in favor of segregation. In fact, there is a considerable body of Scripture that speaks against such practices. Civil Rights laws did not violate religious freedom for the simple reason that, no matter how strongly individual segregationists might have tried to deify their sins, segregation was not a religious practice. It was a matter of secular law.

Marriage, on the other hand, is defined as between one man and one woman in the first chapters of the Bible and was specifically sanctified as between one man and one woman by Our Lord.

That has been the constant teaching of Christianity for 2,000 years. It is the teaching of the vast majority of Christian religious leaders today.

Americans do not have to accept this teaching for themselves or believe in Christ to know that the First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion should allow Christians to follow this teaching in their own practices. It is tyranny of the first order to use government to coerce people on penalty of losing their livelihoods to violate their faith in order to bake cakes and make floral arrangements.

The business owners in question do not turn away any group of people, including gay people. They simply do not want to participate in one type of ceremony because that particular ceremony violates their faith. The sheer hubris involved in bringing this kind of massive force against them in order to break them down and force them to violate their faith commitments is mind boggling. It is evil.

For years now, advocates of gay marriage have used the slogan “If you oppose gay marriage, don’t get gay married.”

They have legitimately exercised their First Amendment rights to lobby for gay marriage, to participate in the electoral process to work for gay marriage, and to petition the government through the courts to gain the legal changes to allow gay marriage. All of this, I might add, was based on their personal moral beliefs.

Now, they want to take the same rights that they used away from those who disagree with them. Even worse, they seem determined to use government force to bend everyone in the nation to their will.

They appear to be willing, even eager, to destroy the same First Amendment freedoms that empowered their cause in order to achieve the Pyrrhic victory of forcing people who do not want to participate in their weddings to do so against their will and in violation of their deeply felt religious beliefs.

This activity makes that slogan I quoted into a sham.

Was it a lie all along?

I don’t know. All I know is that it has become a lie today.

I also know, and I will repeat one last time, that Constitutional Rights are not subject to a sincerity or consistency test.

If someone advances this inane argument to you, tell them that.

 

 

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87 responses to “Religious Freedom is the Right of Every American. Sincerity Doesn’t Enter Into It.”

  1. I don’t agree that baking a cake is participating in their sin. I am a criminal defense attorney. I represent people who have done things that are considered sins. Does my representation mean that I am participating in their sins? The time I spend with my clients is far more than a baker spends on cake. And, would a baker be participating in the sin of gluttony by baking a cake for an obese person?

    I think Christians have overreacted to this issue. Do you really think God is going to condemn you for baking a cake? This is just silly.

    • I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not it is participation. After all, the lady who bakes my children’s birthday cakes doesn’t come join the party. However, when a business sells a custom product and does a good job, it is a type silent advertising. And it can “read” to other people as endorsement, which I think is actually the bigger issue. It is very easy for someone to argue that, “Baker X is a Christian, and Baker X baked a cake for my same-sex wedding (or that other same-sex wedding), and I know baker X wouldn’t have anything to do with anything immoral, so same-sex marriage is a-okay with Christianity.” This is especially common with young people, who look up to others as an example of what a Christian life looks like. It’s the root of the idea of scandal, I think, when a Christian appears to endorse something that is against Christian teaching, whether it is same sex marriage, adultery, slavery, porn, ignoring the poor, ignoring the widow and orphan, victim-blaming, etc. In which case, participation is less the issue than endorsement. These bakers do not endorse same sex marriage or an active same sex lifestyle, and do not wish to endorse it by providing a product that will help celebrate it.

      I would assume that you representing criminals is not immoral unless you choose to use immoral means to represent them. It is generally understood that criminal attorneys are not endorsing the criminal life.

    • What about a photographer for wedding pictures? What about the catering staff? Don’t tell me that my participation in mortal sins is silly. You have no concept of the gravity of sin.

      • What about me defending a child a molester? Am I participating in his sin? What if I get him off knowing that he will molest more children?

        Baking a cake, taking a picture is not participating in the sin. Perhaps if the photographer were requested to take pictures of gay people having sex…well then that is a different story.

        The issue is “participation.” What is the definition of participation? In criminal law it is called “aiding and abetting.”

        • How do you mean “defending?” Are you talking about defending his right to molest children, or are you talking about providing legal counsel so that this person will have a fair trial?

        • First of all defending a client is not participation in a sin. Providing the means for that person to perform the sin is a sin. I think the definition of participating is clear here.

          As to lawyers in general, it has always struck me that defending a person known to have committed a crime is lying. It’s not that you’re participating in a sin but that you’re committing a different sin.

          Of course this is only my opinion and I’m no expert.

    • “I think Christians have overreacted to this issue.”

      I disagree. I think Christians have under reacted. It is the activists and Christian haters who have overstepped by not acknowledging that a business person has the right to follow their own conscience in the work that they choose to do. Why should a Christian who truly believes that gay marriage is a perversion and a great sin before God be forced to make a cake to celebrate a gay wedding according to the design of the prospective customers? It is the activists’ side who wants to bring the force of the law down to say he is not allowed to say no. The point is that it doesn’t matter if his morality is wrong. He isn’t awarded power to prevent others from making their own choices, only the power to choose what he will do with his time and his talent.

  2. A person who operates a bakery and bakes cakes as a business is not “participating in the ceremony” if they bake a cake which the purchaser then feeds to guests at the reception following a same sex wedding ceremony.

    It’s just a cake.

    All they are doing is participating in a commercial transaction for a material good. If they refuse to provide goods or services which they provide every day to one customer because of that customers race, religion or gender then they are discriminating and denying that customer’s right to participate in the free market.

    • I’m going to allow this, but given the nastiness of the attacks on Christians in the larger media, I am going to be fairly quick to delete comments that I feel are attacking people of faith.

    • This is right on point. For instance, I do not believe in divorce (no Catholic does) but I would bake a cake for a wedding reception of a couple on their second marriage (resulting from a first divorce, not death). The cake is for the party. I am not participating in their marriage ceremony. The only people participating in the ceremony are the officiant and witnesses. The officiant, if religious, has the right to not participate in any of the ceremony because it is against their religious views. That is and has always been the case anyhow – a Catholic priest wouldn’t perform the marriage of a couple on their second marriage, having been divorced.

      • You are personalizing a Constitutional right. Whether or not individual people want to avail themselves of a Constitutional right does not negate that right for other people. For instance, not everyone wants to write a blog. But that does not limit my Constitutional right to do so.

        • I have said nothing that negates anyone’s constitutional right. I am certainly not in favor of denying people their right to practice their religion.

  3. Here’s why religious freedom laws are not discrimination. If a gay person walked in and asked for a birthday cake, he wouldn’t be denied one. It’s only when it’s coupled with a sinful act such as gay marriage that the baker would have to abstain. People have the right to a free conscience. This is completely different than Jim Crow laws where a black person was not served because of his race. That black person would have been denied that birthday cake or any other service, solely because of his identity. Religious freedom laws are more akin to a conscientious objector not serving in the military, where it a person forced to perform a service against his conscience. The gay lobby is nothing but a bunch of bullies looking to shove their sins down our throats. What Liberals ultimately want is for Christians to reject the Bible and eat their theology.

    • “Religious freedom laws are more akin to a conscientious objector not serving in the military, where it a person forced to perform a service against his conscience.” Excellent, excellent point, this, and a way of putting it I hadn’t seen come up in this debate.

      Unfortunately, I am seeing more and more Christians talk themselves into modern, secular ideas (not just on this issue, but it is the most prominent one right now). Just this morning came the argument from a friend that, since verses about women covering their heads and keeping quiet in church are subject to cultural interpretation, so should verses about homosexual practices.

        • Thank you Manny. I have to correct my posts over and over because I don’t see mistakes until after they’re published, and even then people catch me in all sorts of errors. Such is life. 🙂

      • Manny, the counterargument that I have read (which I am still weighing) goes like this: Regardless of the way the baker
        phrases it – the baker is, in substance, discriminating against gays – in this specific act of denying a wedding cake – discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, which is contrary to public policy and many state’s laws.

        The argument is not that ONLY a baker who always
        closes his doors to all gays for all products and services is discriminating illegally. The argument is instead that this baker is denying this product in this instance on the illegal basis of sexual orientation, because the ONLY thing that makes the gay wedding different from the straight wedding is the sexual orientation of the
        wedding couple.

        • That’s a pretty weak counterargument. The baker doesn’t discriminate if a homosexual came in for a birthday cake, or anything other than a gay wedding cake. If a straight person came in asking for a gay wedding cake – for whatever reason – he would also be denied. It’s not based on the person’s identity but on the product being forced to provide. I’ve heard of people ordering cakes with all sorts of sexual designs, graphically presenting male and female genitals. If a straight person were to come into a religiously minded baker, are you saying that he is forced to provide that cake? I doubt you’re saying that. Which means that a person can discriminate on the product he is being asked to provide based on his conscience.

          • I think it’s a rather strong counterargument, but reasonable minds can differ. I ask that you look not at the baker as a whole, nor judge him as a discriminatory person or not a discriminatory person in general, but consider his act. It is the act that might or not be illegal.

            If i earn my living as an instructor and I sell lessons to the paying public – cooking lessons, fishing lessons, driving lessons, weaving lessons, and today I refuse to sell driving lessons to a woman named jane because my religious beliefs hold that a woman should not drive a car, I have discriminated against her on the basis of her gender. The fact that i would sell her cooking lessons, doesnt change that.

            A second question is “should my religious beliefs outweigh her right to services”, but the first question has been clearly answered – I have discriminated against her on the basis of her gender.

          • Manny, If I sell lessons for a living – cooking lessons, fishing lessons and driving lessons, and I deny your wife driving lessons because it goes against my Islamic religious beliefs to participate in a woman driving a car, then I have discriminated against your wife on the basis of her gender. The fact that I would sell her cooking lessons doesnt change that.

  4. I agree, @hamiltonr:disqus, the attacks and rancor have gotten out of hand, but it’s coming from both sides. It’s a passionate issue. I feel like @ahermit:disqus and @guadalupelavaca:disqus, if you are in business to sell things/provide services to people, then you should provide those services. There should be an easy way to solve this – not that there is one. I don’t frequent Christian bookstores because they don’t provide a product or service I need. Would proprietors labeling their businesses or categorizing their services in a similar fashion help? Maybe, maybe not. But, knowing that a business specializes in religious or secular services might help. Rep. Emily Virgin from OK thought it might, as well. I don’t know. Just spit-balling.

    • The attacks against Christians and the brute force arrayed against them are so dishonest and over the top that there is no way that I will concede that this is going “both ways.”

      As for Rep Virgin, I like her. I agree with her on most things. But she’s wrong in certain areas. This is one of them.

  5. Goods, services and the right of unobstructed passage to conduct your business should be had by equal access to all honest yeomen within the community. If a baker won’t bake a Gay cake, utilities companies, purveyors of necessary victuals, garbage collectors, financial institutions might also refuse service.

    • First, there is no such thing as a “gay cake.” Second, the issue is not a question of providing service for a group of people, and it does not involve public utilities. You are arguing a straw man.

      • If a gay couple has a problem with their utilities, should the service repair man who objects to their lifestyle be forced to provide those services? How is that different from the baker? How is that a straw man?

            • If you see that this does not apply to the situation, then think about it for a while. It will come to you. It’s tres obvious.

              • The repairman is providing a service to a group of people he believes is sinful. Same as the baker. Sarcasm as a response is not usually the best way to prove a point. I was disappointed you could not distinguish the two situations but rather just said : “they are different just because”

                • This is not about “a group of people.” It is about a specific type of event. Are you sincerely this confused, or are you just carping?

    • If instead of a gay couple it was a couple of white supremacists who wanted their cake to say White Power then I think you understand the objection on the part of the he baker. It isnt a question of whether a gay man or a white supremacist can walk into your store and buy something off the shelf, but whether a person will be forced under the law to actively apply their talent and labour to that which they judge is morally wrong.

      • You’re analogy does not hold. The white supremacist is discriminating against a group of people for the simple reason that they are members of that group.

        These small business people do not discriminate against any group of people. They provide services to everyone. They simply do not want to participate in one type of ceremony because it violates the 2,000 year teachings of their faith. The bigotry here is not theirs. The bigotry belongs to those who will not simply allow them the freedom to live their faith and go to another baker for their cake.

        • I think that you misunderstand my point. My comment is directed at those who would argue that a person who bakes cakes should not be allowed to turn down a job because of their moral objections. If the customer at the bakery was a white supremacist who wanted the baker to make them a ‘white power’ celebratory cake I think most people would respect the baker’s right to refuse the job. However, when the moral objection is to celebrating gay marriage people don’t mind disregarding the baker’s rights because they disagree with him.

        • “The white supremacist is discriminating against a group of people for the simple reason that they are members of that group.”

          Isn’t that what the baker is doing too? If the gays weren’t gay, would he be behaving toward them as he is?

          Discrimination by any other name would smell just as bad.

          • No. These small businesspeople routinely serve gay people. They are just asking to be allowed to not violate their faith by being forced to participate in one, specific type of the event.

            I’ve answered this repeatedly and from here on, I’m going to delete comments that just repeat the same thing. It stifles discussion and becomes both boring and bullying.

  6. A couple of things:

    The articles I’ve read from other Christian bloggers about consistency have been more along the lines of “stop being a hypocrite”, “stop making a mountain out of a molehill” and “get over yourself”.

    I haven’t seen anyone make the argument that our First Amendment rights were contingent on the consistency and sincerity of our beliefs. What are they gonna do, make you take a written exam and a polygraph test?

    Anyways, I think the biggest problem with these types of “religious freedom” laws is that what qualifies as a religion is extremely broad. A lot of people seem forget that “Religion” does not necessarily mean “Christianity”.

    You say Christians cannot use their religion as an excuse for racial discrimination. So what? What’s stopping anybody from creating a toxic offshoot, or an entirely different religion that does allow for racial discrimination?

    The issues I see with these kind of laws have little to do with Christianity and more to do with the unintended consequences that might arise as the result of having such a broad and vague definition of what constitutes a religion, from a legal standpoint.

    They open up a loophole in which anybody can circumvent the law under the guise of religious freedom.

    • Actually, what I said is that Civil Rights laws did not violate religious freedom because there is no teaching calling for segregation.

      As for toxic offshoots, you have to remember that you cannot legislate perfection in people without also doing away with all freedom.

      • There is no teaching calling for segregation? Plenty of Christian have thought there was. For example:

        Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix. – Virginia Judge Leon Bazile, 1959, in convicting Mildred and Richard Loving of “miscengenation.”

        He was wrong in his views? This is an invalid interpretation of Christian teaching (not to mention human history)? It doesn’t matter; I’m sure we don’t want the state to be judging correctness any more than to be judging sincerity or consistency.

        • Assuming that this quote is correct, it is not in any way a Christian teaching.

          Christian teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman has been constant for 2,000 years. What you are quoting, assuming that the quote is accurate, is the obscure ranting of a judge, a secular authority. The fact that he chose to conflate his opinions with his own version of Christianity does not make what he said Christian teaching.

          I’m going to delete Christian bashing on this post, and I will use a broad definition as to what constitutes Christian bashing. There are plenty of blogs, including blogs here at Patheos, where you can Christian bash as much as you want.

          In fact, there are plenty of blogs, including blogs here at Patheos, where Christian bashing is just about all they do. If that’s what you want to do, you should go to one of those places to do it. I’m sure they will welcome you.

          If you want to comment here, it would be better if you used the thinking part of your brain.

          • He thought it was a Christian teaching. You think it is not a Christian teaching. How exactly should the law determine that? Do you want the courts of the land saying “That is not the correct way to interpret the Christian faith, THIS is. Therefore we will not allow you exemption from the law, but we will allow this group as they have the correct interpretation of the faith” As a Catholic is that REALLY what you want courts to be doing?
            And that is before we even consider other religions. There are a few Jewish people who believe in segregation between men and women in all spheres of life, including commerce (see for example bus lines in Jerusalem that segregate passengers on that basis), other groups of Jewish people do not accept that as being necessary part of Judaism, would you want the courts determining what is the true understanding of Jewish law?
            And how about even smaller minority religions? Do you think the courts (or the law in general) is competent to determine what is the correct interpretation of a small faith held by perhaps a couple of hundred people?

            • He is not a religious authority. He is a secular judge.

              Marriage as between one man and one woman has been a consistent Christian teaching for 2,000 years. It has been universal.

          • Well.

            First, that’s a very well-known, firmly-authenticated quote, and can be found in even the most superficial discussion of Loving v. Virginia.

            Second, it’s not “Christian-bashing” to point out that Christians of various denominations have found justification for racial discrimination in the Bible. Heck, the Bible was used to support the existence of race-based slavery– google “the curse of Ham” sometime.( And, if it really needs to be said, there were Christians on the other side, and non-Christians who managed to come up with various forms of discrimination and prejudice.)

            Third, it’s kind of the point that the Judge was not an official Church authority. He was citing his understanding of his Christian beliefs. Any one can claim a religious conviction, not just a priest or a pastor or someone citing a section of Catechism. And not just a Christian belief either. You don’t want the state to be the judge of whether the belief is valid.

            And anyone is free to believe what they want. In a modern diverse state, how they act on their beliefs has to be balanced against other values, including the rights of equal treatment in the public sphere.

            If this be “Christian-bashing,” make the most of it. But I am sincere when I say I don’t mean it as such. And there are plenty of blogs, right here on Patheos, where Christians of various denominations have expressed serious reservations about these sorts of laws.

            • The fact that it is not Christian teaching, while marriage being between one man and one woman has everything to do with the question of First Amendment rights.

              • Your First Amendment rights give you the right to define marriage according to your own beliefs. They don’t give you the right to define it for everyone else.

                There’s a difference between the Sacrament of Matrimony, the legal definition of civil marriage, and a celebratory party.

                It would be an infringement of First Amendment rights if a priest was compelled to celebrate an invalid marriage in a Catholic liturgy, or if a couple was forbidden to be married in the religious rite of their choice. I can’t, for the life of me, see why it’s an infringement of first Amendment rights to be asked to bake a cake for a party in the same way that you bake all the other cakes for all the other parties. I can see how refusing to bake the cake would be seen as, at best, a failure of charity, and at worst, illegal discrimination.

                Although, if I understand correctly, sexual orientation is not a protected category under Indiana law. So the baker who doesn’t want to bake the cake just needs a “no gays” sign in the window. There’s consistency for you.

                • Again (she said wearily) you do not understand how law works. It is not a matter of the definition of marriage under the law. It is a matter of religious belief, which, in the case of marriage, has been constant for 2,000 years.

                  Marriage as a legal definition is one thing, and it has been and is being debated vigorously in this country. However, the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion is a separate issue.

                  From the beginning of the debate about gay marriage, gay rights advocates have repeatedly assured the public that legalizing gay marriage would not result in any narrowing of the liberties of Americans. Yet gay marriage is not even legal in all states and already we have this massive attack on those who do not, based on their religious beliefs, wish to participate in gay marriages.

                  This raises the question as to whether gay rights groups were lying in their earlier statements.

                  Your basic argument is that First Amendment protections of the free exercise belongs to clergy but not to individual Americans. That’s a very Obama way to look at things. it is also, if it is pushed on the people, the making of a massive public revolt.

                  If gay rights advocates are smart, they will take Yes for an answer and stand down on trying to coerce people to participate in their ceremonies against their will.

                  • Again (she said wearily) it doesn’t matter if a religious belief is two thousand years old or twenty years old, held by millions worldwide or by a small group, in conformity with a major faith’s definition of orthodoxy or a minority belief.

                    And it certainly doesn’t matter whether the belief is held by an individual or by a church hierarchy of some sort. That is not my argument at all.

                    (In fact, the Supreme Court seems to think that for-profit corporations are persons who can hold religious and political opinions– if I were the revolting sort, that’s what would have made me start grabbing for the placards and marching down to D. C.)

                    The First Amendment protects an individual’s free practice of his or her own religion– whatever that religion might be. Sometimes that right comes into conflict with other rights or laws. It’s the courts’ job to decide whether the government has a “compelling interest” (Is that the right legal phrase?) in enforcing the law without the requested exemption from it.

                    And in general, the courts have held that religious belief doesn’t entitle the person to exemption from equal-access and equal-employment laws. Otherwise, we’d have the Jewish busdriver refusing to transport women; we’d still have the hotel owner refusing to rent to interracial couples; we’d still have the restaurant owner refusing to seat black patrons; we’d still have “male-only” job ads. Is that what we want?

                    And if you don’t care for “Christian-bashing,” I don’t much care for being accused of lying. Nobody is being forced to participate in a ceremony against their will. The wedding reception is not the marriage. Even a photographer present for the ceremony is, arguably, not participating in it. I certainly didn’t think of the photographer at my wedding as a member of the wedding party. (Just in case you were wondering, that would be my mixed-gender, perfectly valid Catholic marriage.)

                    These bakers and florists are being asked to provide the goods and services they’re in business to provide. Sometimes against their will, maybe; in the same way that the managers of the restaurants and bus lines of Alabama were eventually compelled to provide goods and services against their will, without in any way being forced to change their personal opinions or their private lives. I — we– are not lying when we say that we don’t see a difference.

        • Polygenism (the theory that there are multiple ancestral couples) was declared a heresy by Pope Pius XII in 1950. Even if you do not believe that this has been the teaching of the Church since its founding (St. Paul speaks on this very topic–multiple times) I note that this was nine years before that quote.

          • Apologies Smithgift. I misunderstood what you were saying and wrote a tart reply. I deleted it. Again, apologies.

          • I know that, and you know that. But Judge Bazile, if he knew that, didn’t care.

            Or he may have interpreted the history of the sons of Noah as God “creating” the different races– a very popular Christian idea for a long time.

            The point is, I don’t think the Supreme Court should be in the position of determining what’s a heresy and what’s an orthodoxy. Do you?

            • That is not the legal question at hand. The Supreme Court has ruled many times on what constitutes valid religious behaviors.

      • But that was exactly one argument made at the time; that forcing a business owner to serve blacks in his restaurant violated his religious freedom:

        https://www.courtlistener.com/opinion/2349546/newman-v-piggie-park-enterprises-inc/

        Spoiler alert; the argument failed…

        Neither is the court impressed by defendant Bessinger’s contention that the judicial enforcement of the public accommodations provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 upon which this suit is predicated violates the free exercise of his religious beliefs in contravention of the First Amendment to the Constitution. It is unquestioned that the First Amendment prohibits compulsion by law of any creed or the practice of any form of religion, but it also safeguards the free exercise of one’s chosen religion. Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 82 S.Ct. 1261, 8 L.Ed.2d 601 (1962). The free exercise of one’s beliefs, however, as distinguished from the absolute right to a belief, is subject to regulation when religious acts require accommodation to society. United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78, 64 S.Ct. 882, 88 L.Ed. 1148 (1944) (Mails to defraud); Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145, 25 L.Ed. 244 (1878) (polygamy conviction); Prince v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, 64 S.Ct. 438, 88 L.Ed. 645 (1943) (minor in company of ward distributing religious literature in violation of statute).

        Undoubtedly defendant Bessinger has a constitutional right to espouse the religious beliefs of his own choosing, however, he does not have the absolute right to exercise and practice such beliefs in utter disregard of the clear constitutional rights of other citizens. This court refuses to lend credence or support to his position that he has a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of the Negro race in his business establishments upon the ground that to do so would violate his sacred religious beliefs.

        • It was an argument, but it was not a consistent and long-held Christian teaching. Marriage between one man and one woman is a constant, two-thousand year Christian teaching. It is also a Jewish teaching.

      • Its not about legislating perfection but about creating a framework under which a society can function with the least amount of friction.

        An analogy would be the way our traffic laws work. While you can pretty much do whatever you want on private roads within your own property, on publicly shared roads we need a common set of rules to enable us to get from one place to another while minimizing the amount of accidents that would result from everybody making up their own traffic rules.

        You have to look at the big picture. You’re looking at this from the perspective of your own religion: Christianity, and a specific issue: same sex marriage, when the religious freedom laws apply to any religion and any circumstances.

        The government, being secular, cannot prioritize one religion or belief over another. It has to give a 2,000 year old stance on marriage the same consideration as a 200 year old belief that some races are inferior, or a 100 year old belief that reciting the pledge constitutes idolatry, or a 2 week old belief that cannabis is sacred.

        With this in mind, its a very bad idea to craft laws that default to the adherence to religious beliefs and practices over local, state and federal laws when what constitutes a “religion”, for legal purposes, is so ill and broadly defined its basically a free-for-all.

        • If it is a matter of creating a system with the least amount of friction, then the clear path is to allow people to follow the dictates of their faith without government coercion. The reason for this entire debate is the almost pathological desire to coerce people to violate the dictates of their faith.

          I assume that Indiana has at least several bakeries and florists. I know that Oklahoma, which has a smaller population, has many bakeries and florists. Thus, denial of service is not an issue. Discrimination is not an issue (except in the purple press) since there is no desire to refuse service to a group of people. This is only about participation in one type of event. The arguments for the use of massive government coercion against their small business owners are all emotional wind-milling from what I can see.

          The “toxic offshoot” of trying to use the government to coerce people to violate their deeply held and historic religious beliefs will be massive, my friend. This attempt to narrow the First Amendment rights of all Americans is a classic case of a group of zealots shooting at butterflies with nuclear warheads.

          As for me advocating for my faith, no, not this time. I am actually advocating for the preservation of a unique and basic American freedom without which this country will inevitably be plunged into increasingly bitter internal conflict.

          But whatever my motives, you have no right on this blog to challenge them. Stick with the issues.

          • The presence of multiple florists or bakers or whatever is no guarantee of service. What if all the florists and bakers in an area have similar views? What if their personal convictions aren’t all that strong, but they’re unwilling to go against the majority opinion? It happens.

            And it places burdens on one type of customer in a commercial transaction that aren’t placed on any other type of person. “Will this business accept my business? Will I have to pay more, because the less expensive alternative won’t accept my business? Do I order the cake that I didn’t really care for, because the one that I liked, I can’t have?”

            Small concerns, maybe, in the general scheme of things, but repeated small insults can add up to a heavy load. It’s not equal treatment. And I thought we had decided, as a society, during the long hard slog of the civil rights movement and the women’s rights movement, that equal access in the public sphere is a basic right.

            And, whatever one’s convictions on marriage, cakes and flowers and photographs do not a marriage make. Nor do they have, in themselves, a religious significance. What they do signify is the contemporary secular customs with which a marriage is celebrated. Sometimes, to hear the brides and the grooms and wedding planners, you’d think that that stuff is as ritually important as the actual ceremony, almost a kind of civic religion. But it isn’t.

            In places where same-sex marriage is legally permitted, gay couples understandably want the same trappings as their straight friends and relatives. To refuse is to say to them, no, you are not equal members of this society.

          • Its not about motives, but about scope and perspective. As you say, the issues at hand are the First Amendment rights of all Americans. So when evaluating the ramifications of what we, as a society, deem acceptable or not, we have to look beyond a single sincerely held belief and beyond a single type of event.

            As for allowing people to follow the dictates of their faith without government coercion, that is, in the strictest sense, impossible in a place like the United States. The only way any single faith can practice its beliefs to their fullest extent is at the expense of all others: under a theocracy or some other type of totalitarian regime.

            One person’s belief is another person’s absurdity, one person’s truth is another person’s falsehood, and one religion’s evangelism is another religion’s blasphemy.

            The best we can reasonably hope for is for some kind of system in which we all sacrifice absolute ideological freedom in favor of creating an atmosphere in which tolerance is possible. Nobody gets everything they want, but at least what we’re left over is something we can all live with.

            With this in mind, the Christian reaction to this entire wedding cake fiasco has been over the top, akin to, as you put it, shooting at a butterfly with a nuke.

            Just because a gay couple could obtain the desired service elsewhere doesn’t make it okay. What is this, the wedding cake industry is now “separate but equal”, divided along the lines of sexual orientation?

            Anybody could walk into any bakery, Christian owned or not, ask for a wedding cake without specifying who its for, and serve it at a gay wedding reception without anybody being the wiser.

            So really, the only thing that should have been under contention is whether or not the baker could refuse to decorate the cake with messages and imagery that ran contrary to his or her beliefs, not whether or not they could refuse service entirely.

  7. The right to free expression of religion is inalienable.
    I think the point of requiring participation is to force not just a live and let live attitude, nor acquiescence. It is to force approval of any and all sexual deviance, not just ssm. Faithful religious people are the most likely to complain so we are in the sites of those who want to force our cooperation.
    It is not about a cake.

    • I had read the article. If I said that I hadn’t, I misspoke. I respect the Anchoress, but she’s mixing personal nonsense with Constitutional Rights in this post. I think she is actually trying to say what she thinks these people “ought” to do and making an argument as to why she thinks that.

      Her opinions about their consistency or lack thereof simply do not apply to First Amendment rights to the free exercise of religion.

      My view is entirely different from hers. I do not think that government drilling a hole into its citizens’ souls and coercing them to violate their deeply held beliefs is a trivial matter. I think it is tyranny.

      The Christian teaching on marriage has been universal and constant for 2,000 years. That makes this a question of the free exercise of religion.

      I also don’t think that the enormous effort being expended to bend these few small business people to the will of the zeitgeist is trivial. If it succeeds, everyone in this country, including gay people, will be the losers. These freedoms that these people are trying so hard to destroy keep all of us free, not just a small number of Christian bakers and florist.

      • Thank you for the article and clarification. Your argument helped me to understand why I felt something was amiss in others even though I could not name it.

  8. This dynamic is straightforward and is basically that 2 sets of VALID rights are coming nose to nose against each other in the marketplace. Gay people have rights to access publicly available goods and services and religious people have rights to observe the tenets of their faiths. But neither of those sets of rights is absolute. A religious business owner will never be able to deny products or services in public commerce at his own election merely by claiming “My god told me not to do this” — whether he is acting sincerely, capriciously or maliciously. It’s just not workable.

    One of my former and brighter law school professors has posited that the best compromise will be a s cietal determination of what is a business transaction that rises to the level of “participating” in an activity and what is a business transaction that does not rise to such a level.

    He suggests that the analysis should focus on the type of transaction: where the business is located in a retail location and customers enter and purchase standardized goods or services that are relatively quickly transacted, the right of the customer should prevail, even where the provider claims a religious objection.

    However, where the business provides a customized service, like a photographer at a wedding, or a customized product (like some cakes) the rights of the seller claiming a conscientious objection should prevail. It is reasonable to determine that a wedding caterer, or a wedding photographer, is drawn WELL into participation into what he claims is a sinful action, as compared to the man engaged to haul away the wedding trash or the company engaged to deliver the banquet chairs.

    There will be close cases, but rough reasonable guidelines are possible
    right now, with the finer points to be tuned as events unfold.

    • Your professor is a dreamer. This will be settled in the courts, and if the courts deny religious freedom, they will set a long-term battle in play.

      • I suspect that’s what he meant – that the courts will determine it. I confess that’s what I hope for – i wouldn’t leave this in the hands of the IN legislators, particularly in light of the recent weeks’ debacle.

        • R, Can you appreciate some levity at this juncture, particularly if it is mildly at your expense? Well, if you post it, I have my answer. 😉

          When I was in law school the joke was that “the A students become professors, the B students become judges and the C students make all the money”. I realized today that they never told us what happens to the D students.

          They become legislators, I imagine. 😉

  9. I think the most salient argument against these laws, and the “it’s my religious belief excuse” for not providing services is coming from many priests and ministers. The argument is that Jesus helped sinners, he washed their feet and walked among them, and did not deny them his favors. So, they say, “why, as his followers, should we behave any differently?” It is interesting the division within the church (that’s not the right term) and how that will play out. Reading the comments on articles and blog posts about these priests and ministers, even whole churches, making this argument is not very popular. I may be a non-believer, but, I did have to go to catechism classes as a kid, and I have Christian friends, and I read blogs like this, all of which remind me that Jesus was pretty kick-ass, and treated everyone fairly and equally whether or not they believed he was the messiah.

  10. Rebecca – it seems to me that you have two incompatible lines of thought going on:

    “Actually, what I said is that Civil Rights laws did not violate
    religious freedom because there is no teaching calling for segregation.”

    and

    “Constitutional Rights are not predicated on ephemeral personal attacks
    about whether or not an American citizen is “sincere” or consistent in
    how they use that right. The First Amendment is the right of every
    American citizen. They may use it, or not, as they chose.”

    Taking the second statement as correct, there is nothing to prevent someone from claiming that his membership in the newly created “Church of White Power – Mud People Haters” confers upon him the religious freedom to ignore Civil Rights laws.

    And at the same time, those beliefs should not – as I read your second statement – be subject to a test on whether they are sincere or consistent.

    I’m perfectly willing to discuss whether or not Civil Rights laws vis-a-vis private businesses should or should not be applied – but it seems clear to me that as the law now stands Civil Rights laws do trump Religious Freedom laws in the general case.

    It seems to me that you are arguing that Religious Claims that a person’s religious beliefs ‘uh-huh, do too’ include a belief that they are religiously required to refrain from serving persons of other races are not ‘real’ religious beliefs.

    As always, I could be wrong on that and welcome your clarification.

    I am not sure how you keep the general case of religious freedom while still keeping civil rights protections.

    ——–

    Also – not that this has to do with the above argument, or that I expect you remember the post in question – I once identified myself here as ‘an agnostic who would be happy to call you a friend’.

    I’m happy to tell you that I was received into the Roman Catholic Church last weekend. Funny how things turn out.

  11. Rebecca, while I agree with you that laws are not based on sincerity. I do think that if a Christian who has a business and wants to deny gays their services, they need to be consistent and sincere in their beliefs and deny their services to everyone that doesn’t follow their beliefs. Otherwise how do you know if they are sincere or being bigoted?

    In my opinion this is about people being unkind to one another.

    The baker should bake the cake, take the cash, pray and tithe. That covers the baker. The gay couple should find a baker who wants to bake their cake. They will be married and eating cake at their reception so they are covered.

    If we all did this, we wouldn’t need the law.

    I read something the other day that resonated with me. I first thought about it as a mom but I think it applies for all people – You cannot love someone if all your focus is on what they are doing wrong.

    Rebecca’s next post is about bringing souls to those who have separated from our church. Denying someone’s reality (saying gays who are legally married aren’t really “married”) or not baking a cake for them isn’t doing anything but making that separation bigger. In my opinion, it’s better to bake the cake and pray for them instead of denying their reality. God only knows what might happen if we stopped condemning and just prayed.

    • Sus, you’re putting caveats on a Constitutional Right. That is not the way good law is written or enforced.

      What you think about them personally, is your business, but there is no measure for what you are suggesting in good and fair governance.

      The First Amendment says that the government shall not interfere with the free exercise of religion. It does not add “unless religious people are consistent according to bystanders carping opinions.”

      • The thing about this situation is that you cannot prove that people are not providing services because of their religious beliefs. Bad people (and I’m not saying all these people are bad) will say anything to get their way. How do you prove or disprove that someone is doing something because of their religious beliefs, or using their religious beliefs to excuse their actions?

        • That marriage is between one man and one woman is a constant teaching for 2,000 years of the Christian faith and for longer than that of the Jewish faith. It does not require proof other than that to show that it is a matter of religious faith. There is nothing serendipitous about it. The businesses in question are not refusing service to a group of people. They merely want to not participate in one specific type of service because it violates the 2,000-year teachings of their faith.

          These are the significant points:

          1. Constant teaching for 2,000 years, which is clearly a matter of religious faith and has been accepted as such not only since the founding of the Republic, but throughout Western civilization.
          2. No desire to refuse service to a group of people.
          3. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

          Internal motivations of individuals do not enter into this. There is no reason to prove what the person thinks down in their heart. It is a matter of the criteria I mention above.

          People seem to be confusing the government with their mothers. Your mother may care what you feel down in your heart, but the law does not.

        • One need not prove or disprove anything. I quote Rebecca, and the following sums it up: “The First Amendment is the right of every American citizen. They may use it, or not, as they chose… Constitutional Rights are not subject to a sincerity or consistency test.”

  12. Enjoyed this post Rebecca and I must say that it is not because I hate Gays and/or that I’m being mean spirited but I’m sure that many would make that claim and many others would probably say that I must make the most of it.cause new rule for Gays will over ride Christian bigots belief and we should all forget about this Christian common sense of over 2000 years ago and get with the “Times.”

    I better close now but I will say that I succeeded in completing my Lent sacrifice of not writing any comments until Easter… actually many would say that “IT” was a blessing for them. 🙂

    Who’s Laughing?…lol

    God Bless

    • Hi Victor! So you were being quiet for Lent? Well, I hope you had a blessed Lent and a happy Easter.

      Peace.

      • Thank you for the comment Amaryllis…. I think!… Hey, I’m on Facebook full time now…
        I hear YA! Now you’re planning on making UP for lost time… Right?…lol
        God only knows for sure…:)
        Peace

  13. I’m sure I wrote a comment several days ago describing how it seems to me that the position on Religious Freedom you describe here also conflicts with Civil Rights laws.

    I used no bad language and made what I thought were clear and concise points.

    Was it captured by your spam filter? Did you decline to approve it for some reason?

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