Monday, March 30, 2015

So a White supremacist walks into a Black-owned T-shirt business ...

Critics of Indiana's new religious freedom law claim that it will be used to discriminate against gays by allowing Christian business owners to deny services to gays.


The problem with this charge is that critics of the law who are now engaged in a massive campaign of disinformation are purposely conflating two different kinds of situations. They want you to think that a waitress at some Christian-run restaurant is going to take an order to the back and indicate to the owner that the people at the table are gay and the owner is going to walk to the table and say, "I'm sorry, we don't serve yer kind here."

C'mon. Anyone who believes that would ever happen has automatically forsaken any credibility in discussing this issue. No one seriously believes that would ever happen--and it helps to underscore this fact that no similar religious freedom law has ever been used to do this.

For one thing, no Christian business owner would do such a thing (out of charity, of nothing else). For another, if they did, they would be boycotted, which is bad for business. And for another, no court would allow the law to be interpreted that way since there is nothing the owner is being asked to do that in any way diminishes his right to the exercise of his religious beliefs.

But consider another, entirely different kind of situation, in which a Christian business, in having its services requested, could be imagined to deny its services.

Suppose you are the religious owner of a T-shirt business. A gay rights group comes in and asks you to print a T-shirt with a pro-gay rights message on it. You refuse because this puts you in a position of promoting something that is against your religious beliefs. The same would go for a Christian baker asked to bake a cake for a gay wedding, or a Christian wedding photographer asked to take pictures at what he beliefs is not really a wedding since the marriage he is covering is not really a marriage under his religious belief.

And unlike the situations being posited by the critics of the Indiana law, these things have actually happened.

This is entirely another matter, since the service being rendered implicitly places the person granting the service in a promotional role. It can reasonably be interpreted as involving the vendor in supporting the event or function for which he is being asked to provide the service.

It is a different kind of thing from the restaurant example. And the conflation of these two kinds of situations by the critics of the Indiana law is simply intellectually dishonest.

To put the second situation in some perspective, I recently offered the example of a Black-owned T-shirt company being asked to print T-shirts with White supremacists slogans for a White supremacist event. Here you have a situation where no reasonable person could deny that the owner would feel complicit in the event for which he is being asked to provide a service.

Should the owner have to provide the service?

If you feel like you have to say "yes" in order to be consistent with your anti-Christian prejudice, then go right ahead. But if you do, then you really need counseling.

We could use the example of a Jewish or Muslim butcher having to provide pork to a non-Jewish customer. It's the same kind of thing.

I offered the Black-owned T-shirt business example on the Family Foundation's Facebook page and my interlocutor, Rob Matthau, said that it "really isn't analogous." Well, sorry, yes it is, as I explained in my response:
Rob, here's the similarity: In my analogy, the Black business owner is not being unreasonable in feeling that offering his services to the White supremacist group is not just offering a service, but helping it to promote its agenda, which is a violation of his freedom of conscience. In the same way the Christian businessman is not unreasonable in feeling that his freedom of religion (a kind of freedom of conscience) is being violated by giving a service which as a practical matter enrolls him in the cause. This is a very different kind of thing than running a restaurant and denying someone a meal. And it is a measure of the intellectual dishonesty of critics of Indiana's law that they are conflating these two very different situations.
Here is the bottom line: Some gays (not all) and their allies (not all, but a whole lot of them) claim they have "rights" by virtue of the fact that they are gay. And one of the rights they want is to bully other people into agreeing with them.

They need to be told to mind their own business and stop demanding that other people's businesses support them against their will. Other people have rights too, one of which is the freedom of conscience.

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