BLOG: Fight between religious freedoms and rights is just getting started

Now that Gov. Jan Brewer has vetoed the Arizona Religious Freedom Bill, the fight between the “rights” of some folks to marry and of some others to religious freedom is just getting started.

Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona said SB 1062 was "broadly worded" and "could result in negative and unintended consequences."Photo courtesy of the Office of the Arizona Governor

Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona said SB 1062 was “broadly worded” and “could result in negative and unintended consequences.”Photo courtesy of the Office of the Arizona Governor

The Arizona legislature passed Senate Bill 1062 to protect businesses that object to gay marriage on religious grounds from being required to provide goods and services for them, such as wedding cakes, bridal photos, etc.

Brewer’s veto, which is the second time she’s vetoed such a bill, was neither principled nor dispositive. Brewer was under pressure to veto the measure because of threats from the National Football League  to move the 2015 Super Bowl out of the state, from Apple to pull out of a proposed new facility, and a variety of other business groups that were sympathetic to the gay position. What the veto shows is the split within the Republican Party on this, among other values issues.

Of more interest to me is the question of how and why government is in the business of deciding whose rights get protected.

Americans have been creating “rights” all over the place since the ’60s. A right to contraception, to abortion, to a job, to health care, and against “discrimination” Almost anything that some group thinks is a good idea is expressed as a “right”. Most are called fundamental or constitutional rights. This is a dangerous practice. First because they not really found in the plain language of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights but are inferred or found in the penumbra (shadow) of express rights. Second, because more and some of these rights place an affirmative duty on another person to do something contrary to the original view that rights were limitations on government only. This second point is particularly true for the right against “discrimination”.

When the government became the protector of some rights for some group, it gained a great deal of power. Maybe too much power. Unfortunately this view became discredited because it was a rallying point of the opponents of the civil rights movement. Nonetheless, the view still has merit as in this case. Arizona has a fairly typical state civil rights law that prohibits discrimination in public accommodations. Originally these laws applied only to discrimination based on race. Then sex was added, and sex became sexual orientation, and the number of orientations have multiplied. So a Christian  photographer got fined nearly $7,000 by the state of New Mexico for refusing to shoot pictures of a same-sex wedding.  .

As a Christian and a fan of limited government, I’m in a pickle. I don’t like seeing this photographer getting fined for her religious convictions. I also don’t like people passing judgment on others even when they are “in sin” — as I often am myself. Not that kind of sin, but sin.

A long time ago hotels quit asking for proof that a heterosexual couple were married before renting them a room. Today I’d be really upset if a diner that refused to serve black folks because of the “Curse of Ham” supposedly being on them. Or a preacher that urges his flock to vote against Mitt Romney because he is Mormon — like many ministers had done with John F. Kennedy because he was Catholic.

Within Catholic doctrine, being materially involved in another’s sin is sin, but what’s “material” is a matter of conscience. Being a participant in the wedding as best man surely would fit that category. Is taking pictures of a gay wedding being “material” to the homosexual conduct? I’m not sure. The photographer thought it was material. So why should the government force her to act against conscience? Because gays have become, or are becoming, a protected class against whom “discrimination” is illegal.

This is all pretty major stuff. The answers will tell us the kind of society we will have. It’s an issue for which the NFL and Apple have no particular skill, nor should they have the power to impose their values on the rest of us. But it appears that in the end somebody will impose their values on the rest. Like abortion, I see no political compromise.

At this point in a blog, I usually make my final point — my brilliant, insightful conclusion that solves the problem. Here, I just don’t have one. This fight tests the limits of our political system. There’s an old legal saying that “hard facts make bad law.” No matter how this comes out, I fear we will have bad law.

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24 Responses to “BLOG: Fight between religious freedoms and rights is just getting started”

  1. nick batt

    Apparently my skills of written communication need improvement. Yes, a capitalist God centered society is superior. As was the US at its founding. Free men, free markets and free churches; yea freedom. As we lose our dependence on God the state becomes more and more the arbiter of right and wrong. That’s what John Adams meant in the quote referenced above. As Alexander Hamilton noted “if men were angels no government would be necessary. Our government could be as free as it was because the people were moral.Even so the market and the government assumes greed and the lust for power. Moreover, I’d note that even authoritarian regimes like Franco’s Spain or Saudi Arabia find themselves limited to some extent by the presence of faith communities. Franco didn’t enter WWII and refused passage to German troops. The Saudis have given humanitarian support for Syrian refugees and even offered a peace plan in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  2. Sean

    Some famous guy once said “Our constitution was written for a religious and moral people”.

    • jules of Holy Toledo

      So true, Sean….regarding
      “Our constitution was written for a religious and moral people”
      Perhaps our moral compass can be set from above (spiritually) which is not enforceable in this lifetime (retribution awaits us)
      ……………..or…………………………………………………………………………………..
      our moral compass can be set from below by an enforceable “law of the land”
      complete with punitive measures, right here in River City.

      enjoying you comments Sean …observer Jules…

  3. Patrick O'Gara

    So, Nick – if I have got your drift right – we are saying that some naughty states, such as Franco’s Catholic/Fascist Spain, Pre-Reformation England, and the Irish Republic until about 20 years ago (when it woke up) were “all-powerful” …until they stopped being so.
    Like now.
    Sounds reasonable enough.

    Nick is right, though, Jules. Capitalism works – because it is solidly based on greed and selfishness.
    Socialism doesn’t work – and won’t ever – because it presupposes that human beings can act decently and reasonably.
    And they don’t. And won’t. And can’t.
    So we might as well get on with it the way it is.

  4. jules of Holy Toledo

    Are we to conclude from all of this that a Capitalist God Centred society works best?
    My firsthand experiences behind the Godless Iron Curtain always seemed like one of extreme safety, order and enjoyment.
    After the USSR broke up and a new Capitalistic Russia emerged complete with re-opened churches, it seems that decadence, extortion, kidnapping, drug dealing, murder and exploitation were given the green light.
    Save for the beauty of Saint Basils Cathedral in Moscow, ya might as well stay home, maybe go to Philladelpia…..where ya can find all the decadence, extortion, kidnapping, drug dealing, murder and exploitation…American style!

    …observer Jules….

  5. Denis Eble

    That’s all well and good, Nick, but I believe that this is about the United States. In that our republic seems not to be totalitarian nor fascist nor communist, then where does God fit into governance of our nation?

  6. nick batt

    I meant the state is all powerful relative to the individual. Other examples are Nazi Germany, Communist China, North Korea or Mexico prior to the Cristero revolt. When the state is the only source of power to decide right and wrong, lawful and unlawful then anything goes. Some higher power, be it faith, spirituality or even a humanist creed like the Masons, Kiwanis, or the LWV needs to have a claim on the loyalty of the people to be a counterweight to state power.
    The Marines have a saying “Kill ‘em all and let God sort it out” which derives from a military saying from the crusades “Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoset”, or “Kill them all. God will know His own.”. By “All” the saying refers to the enemy.

  7. Patrick O'Gara

    You should ask Nick for an example of an “…all-powerful state without God.” Denis.
    Then when he says, “Stalinist Russia, ” ask him why, in that case, if it was all powerful – why it no longer exists.
    Then ask him to name any other all-powerful state without God that has ever existed.
    You might also ask him exactly what being “all-powerful” entails.

    I’d ask him myself, but I’m too lazy.

  8. Patrick O'Gara

    Do’h… As the Bahai’s say.

    Too much bold.
    Editor required, pronto!
    …in line one, I think.
    Sorry.

  9. Patrick O'Gara

    Right again, Nick</B.. (that is to say I agree again. We are getting quite 'matey.')

    “…Finally, nowhere in our founding documents is there a guarantee of freedom from religion.”
    Exactly – and why on earth should there need to be?
    If Nick or I want to be free of religion, why should anyone want to try to stop us?

    And If we are each rich enough to get our marriages annulled, Kennedy style – what’s that got to do with the rest of the world?
    Capitalism at work here – in its most honest and workmanlike form.
    In fact Nick and I would no doubt agree on a bumper sticker reading: “Kill all anti-Capitalists – let God sort it out.”

    Eh, Nick? Waddaya think?

  10. nick batt

    Neither the AZ public accomodations law nor those in most states require businesses to provide services to anyone. Only to refuse service to a protected class. Originally this was race. Then creed or color. Then sex. In AZ gay wasn’t expressly a protected class so the argument was made that no religious exemption was needed. Unfortunately, sex has gotten re-interpeted as sexual orientation elsewhere so the new law was a` proactive step to protect religious folk who objected to gay marriage.
    This new law would have protected Jewish folks from providing services contrary to their beliefs. So a Jewish or Muslim caterer or a deli owner couldn’t be forced to serve ham or other foods that violate the kosher or halal rules.
    Ugly people aren’t a protected class yet but obese folks are agitating against extra charges on airlines. Women have sued over the appearance rules at Hooters. Former Rep. Joe Kennedy even had a book written against him by his ex-wife for getting their marriage annulled by the Catholic Church (which he had to do to get remarried in trhe Church).
    At least in Ohio (and probably elsewhere) professions like pharmacists and doctors have “conscience clauses” in their professional codes of conduct so the are not required to perform procedures or provide medecines that are contrary to their religious beliefs eg contraceptives, abortion.
    Finally, nowhere in our founding documents is there a guarantee of freedom from religion. That concept was in the constitution of the former Soviet Union. It is a really bad idea as are recent attempts to reduce the freedom of religion to a freedom to worship only. These concepts would create a Public Square that is naked of religious belief, see The Naked Public Square by John Richard Neuhaus. Without God, the state becomes all powerful.

    • Denis Eble

      “Without God, the state becomes all powerful.”

      Hmm. I’m trying to understand this quote, Nick. Actually, it seems to be nonsense. What does imagining a Divine Being have to do with the governance of a nation- a nation without a national religion? Were we Saudi Arabia or Iran, where religion is enmeshed with governance, then the ‘God thing’ would be obvious. Yet, in the Land of the Free, we govern without religious imposition.

      • jules of Holy Toledo

        Actually, in the early days of the Russian Revolution..the plan was to replace God with another, powerful, manipulative, all encompassing force.
        The new God was to be known as the State. Churches and seminary’s were closed, The new God had a nice bright red flag, with a hammer & sickle.
        It worked well…the previous moral compass learned under Orthodox Catholcism (through guilt & fear) was replaced by the new moral compass under Communism (through guilt & fear)
        If one violated the law, it did not make God cry with hurt, but instead it hurt the State (and everybody in it)…….
        so law and order prevailed.(probably much better than Americans would understand)
        But now …it’s over, God is back, so is the greed of capitalism and all the rest…Putin with an estimated total worth of over 70 billion dollars is in charge….yes he goes to church on Sundays.
        Wonder what Uncle Joe (Stalin) would think….smoking his pipe and sipping Vodka on Sunday mornings? Full circle ?

  11. Denis Eble

    Yea, that PC thing could get way out of hand! I’d hate to be accused of being PC! It’s a slippery slope from being PC to becoming tolerant!! Can’t have that! After all, Jesus never became too tolerant of others, did he?

    • jules of Holy Toledo

      You nailed it Denis !
      Buddha had a slant on this slightly ahead of the one called Christ…

      “first to Tolerate, then to Accept with just a slight leap to something called Love”

      PC is A – OK…I’ve sure cleaned up my act as a result!

      Thanks for this Denis!

      • Denis Eble

        Well, you are welcome, Jules. I still cannot understand why so many followers of Jesus act in ways counter to what he taught and modeled during his lifetime. Why do many Christians ‘believe’ that Jesus was exclusive? That he was selective in sitting at table? That he delineated boundaries?

        What, therefore, gives them the right to use his name as their faith choice? Seems like fraud to me.

  12. chuck childers

    Arizona has plenty of photographers. The plaintiff could go to the 99% that aren’t bothered to be involved in the wedding ceremony.
    This is about forcing that lady with her own views to get lock step with current political correctness.
    In a few years, courts will rule that ministers will have to walk lock step too, and perform the wedding service. Sorry about their personal belief system . PC trumps all that

  13. Patrick O'Gara

    Amazingly, I agree with Nick on at least one point here. (or maybe I just think I am) I believe any photographer should have the right to refuse to take snaps of people simply because she thinks they are too ugly, or too tall or because she simply doesn’t like the look of ‘em – regardless of their political, sexual or religious ‘bent.’

    Remember, Totalitarianism means that everything is either forbidden or compulsory. And neither option is good.

  14. Sean

    Why don’t you do a little research and get back to us Denis.

    • Denis Eble

      Sean- I don’t know where to begin my ‘research.’ I’m betting that you could help. Give me a clue, will ya?

  15. Denis Eble

    There are still a few yard signs sticking up above the snow that read, Protect Religious Freedom. I shake my head when I see one of them- the idiocy of it all! I’ve lived over 70 years in the Toledo area and never have I worried about or heard anyone concerned about his or her “religious freedom.” When did this dire circumstance happen? Apparently I didn’t notice anything about these “freedoms” slipping away.

    Oh, I read about mosques being burned and vandalized as well as forbidden to be built in certain areas due to intense bigotry. Is this what these yard signs are protesting? I read about synagogues being vandalized and smeared with ugly graffiti. Is this part of the yard sign protest? When I was a kid, I heard that the KKK burned a cross at Monroe and Secor as the Sisters of Noter Dame began construction of their Mother House. Does the yard sign speak to this display of intolerance?

    If none of these, then what “religious freedoms” are in danger? The freedom to assemble in the worship space of one’s choice? The freedom to follow the rules and rituals of one’s belief? The freedom to not be intimidated due to one’s faith choice? The freedom not to be discriminated against because of one’s faith choice?

    Who can tell me what “religious freedoms” they are talking about?

  16. nick batt

    The quote is from Martin Niemoller. It is inscribed at the Holocaust Memorial in Washington. So I take it you are on the side of the photographer? It would make sense with the government coming after the Christian.

    • Christy Besozzi

      The state has a public accommodations law which the photography company apparently violated. To have a business open to the public in that state requires they provide services to anyone.

      Tell me, does that photographer refuse to take pictures of people who have been divorced (NT law)? Or are wearing clothes made of different fabrics (OT)? Or who were serving shrimp during the wedding where they were contracted to take pictures (OT)?

      All 3 of the above are counter to some Biblical laws. Apparently the photographer is Christian and is claiming it is against her faith to take photographs of gays. Where is that in the Bible? Jesus doesn’t say anything about homosexuality or that His followers should withhold services to people they do not approve of.

  17. Christy Besozzi

    I’m just going to plug in a comment I made to another article on the same topic:

    Remember that famous poem made from speeches by a German Christian clergyman after the Nazi campaign of annihilation of Jews, homosexuals, and others:

    “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist.
    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.” [end quote]

    If we start to have laws or interpretations of law that make it allowable to exclude some people from legal protections against discrimination because someone claims their religion calls for it, we can expect to repeat much the same scenarios, hopefully not as deadly in effect.

    So, if this law passes and stands [thank goodness it was vetoed], think about which groups and individuals could be put in another poetic list as the slippery slope gets in high gear, such as…

    First they denied the gays of the right to eat in any public restaurant they want, and I did not care because I am not gay.
    Then they allowed denial of services and renting of dwellings to Muslims, and I did not speak out – I am not Muslim.
    Then they allowed business to discriminate against hiring Baha’is. But I did not speak out. I’m not a Baha’i.
    Not long after, a city passed a law that prohibited Mormons from going door-to-door to introduce their faith to people, thus allowing their freedom of speech to be abridged. But, well, I’m not Mormon so I did not speak up.
    Next a state passed a law to deny tax-exempt status to Catholic churches because “they” (the government leaders) considered the Pope and members to be misguided. Employers could be free to not hire any Catholics. But, I’m not Catholic either, so what is that to me.
    But then, I was fired from my job because I was not the “right kind” of Christian.

    We have to be very careful to protect everyone’s freedom of speech, pursuit of happiness, and freedom of religion, including freedom from religion in many cases.

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