Last year I offered progressives an opportunity to show their ideological consistency. Many of them had affirmed that Christians have a right to be free in their own churches as long as they stayed out of the public square. I do not accept such a “deal.” I believe that conservative Christians have just as much of a right to the public square as any other group. But if progressives were being honest, then they should have been upset at Eric Walsh’s dismissal from a government position. He was fired for sermons he delivered in his church. Progressives had a chance to show that they actually believe in freedom of worship even if they did not believe in freedom of religion. The silence of progressives defending Walsh indicated just how badly they failed that test.
So the question I have is whether they are on the side of the Civil Rights Commission because they truly believe in public accommodations or because they do not like conservative Christians. That is a little blunt but given my research on Christianophobia, my concern is quite reasonable. If you think that last comment is out of bounds, then there is an easy way to prove that I am wrong. Take a case where a Christian organization needs protection for public accommodations and see if progressives will protect that organization. If the principle of public accommodations is driving the concern of progressives, then certainly they would defend that Christian organization.
We also get to see if progressives truly believe in public accommodations. When people truly believe in rights, then they extend those rights to everyone, even their enemies. For example, I do not believe for a second that a progressive activist would be okay with someone at the Ruth Institute being killed. That is because they believe that not being killed is a right shared by everyone. But do that believe in public accommodations for everyone? If they do, then they would protect the right of those at the Ruth Institute to be protected from abuses of public accommodation.
This is not about the SPLC. I have been critical of SPLC in the past. I anticipate that I will be critical of them in the future. They were once an important organization in the fight for civil rights, but they have degenerated into a partisan hit squad. But this is not about them except for the fact that they are a private organization. They are not part of the government, and their opinion about who is a hate group carries no legal weight. Vanco does not have the protection of stating that they are reacting to an official government list. They are reacting to the opinions of those at SPLC about what they define as a hate group. In short Vanco dropped the Ruth Institute because they did not like some of the implications of their religious beliefs. Since religion is a protected group, this is every bit a public accommodations violation as it would be for Masterpiece Cakeshop.
Perhaps that should be enough to prosecute a case. The larger issues of fairness may dictate that those feelings of humiliation and loss are too costly for us to allow a business to go unpunished. Perhaps as a society we want to make a statement that no one should feel bad because they are not accommodated. That is a respectable position, although it is not mine. My personal position is that business should be forced to provide a product for a person in a store that they can take and do with it whatever they want to do. But when it comes to serving events or promoting a cause, then the business owner has freedom of conscience rights. That means that someone has to serve a same-sex couple that comes to eat in his or her restaurant but does not have to cater a same-sex wedding.
Since we have looked at public accommodations from the point of view of the same-sex couple, to be fair we also need to look at accommodations from the point of view of the Ruth Institute. They hired Vanco to process their online donations. Now Vango has dropped them. First, we have to recognize that all of the emotional trauma visited on the same-sex couple certainly applies here. Vango dropped them due to the idea that they are a hate group. Why is this not as much of a humiliation, rejection and judgment as the same-sex couple felt when not provided a cake? The SPLC list of hate includes organizations such as KKK and Nazi groups. The Ruth Institute has been lumped in with truly hateful groups and in addition to that humiliation, they are now losing the services of their online processing company. It is reasonable to argue that the members of this group have at least as much right to feel rejected as the same-sex couple. Some would say they have even have more reason to feel rejected.
I contend that the Ruth Institute has suffered worse than the same-sex couple. However, even if that is not true, it is hard to argue that they have not suffered at least as much as that couple. So if the ideals of fairness and public accommodations are so important that we cannot hurt the feelings of the same-sex couple, then certainly it is so important that the Ruth Institute should be protected.
Will progressives truly show that they agree with public accommodations even for groups they do not like? Given my experience with the unwillingness to support Eric Walsh, I do not hold out much hope. But I would be very happy to be proven wrong. It would give me pleasure to know that progressives are truly committed to tolerance. It would give me pleasure because I am committed to such tolerance. That is why I explained my position above as to allowing freedom of conscience with informal, but not formal, sanctions.
If there are not progressive activists and politicians who begin to speak out, then I will conclude that all of their talk of tolerance is a charade. They need not wonder why individuals like myself do not believe them when they insist that want equality. They have shown their true colors. They fight for the rights of those they like but not others. I have no problems calling out hypocrisy among conservative Christians who talk about moral leaders and then voted for Trump. But I also have no problems calling out hypocrisy among progressives who only show concern for equality for those they prefer.