School is Now in Session

Greetings, students.  Please find your seat.  I’m not going to call roll today, but I will insist on enforcing our usual “no cross talk” policy.  Today’s lesson will be quick and hopefully, easy to understand.  Ready?

For arguments sake, let’s say that you run an establishment that hosts weddings.  To really crank up the realism in this scenario, let’s also say that you are a horrible bigot.  Now as a horrible bigot who runs a wedding hosting establishment, I am sure you are asking yourself who you are legally allowed to discriminate against.  You know how it is, life is short and you only get so many chances to ruin someone else’s day for no reason other than your own prejudice or outdated cultural beliefs.  The damn government already pissed in your Cheerios by forcing you to open your establishment to black weddings, and it was only by the grace of god that the resulting lingering odor of fried chicken and watermelon stained table cloths that you were positive would be the end result never materialized.  Thanks again, Jesus, for that small blessing.  Then that damn government went and forced you to open your doors to those unbiblical heathen sinners who were engaging in the abomination of miscegenation.

While you were certain god had a lightening bolt with your name on it for allowing that blasphemy to occur, Jesus apparently understood that you were forced by the evil, mean jack-booted federal thugs to permit these weddings, and approved of your little acts of protest (cranking the AC in the winter and the heat in the summer while claiming the system was broken) enough to spare you and your family.  Even though you managed to escape the fires of hell in that instance, when you saw those two carpet-munching man-haters trying to mock god himself by pretending their demon-possessed souls and father-abused bodies could feel love, god’s perfect gift to the world, you had to put your foot down.  After all, it was Adam and Eve, not Audra and Eve, and didn’t god send Aids down from heaven to deal with dykes like this?  And while Jesus himself may not have said anything about homosexuals, the Old Testament and Saul of Tarsus, who most definitely was not a sexually repressed closet case, both condemned the beast like act.

Imagine your surprise when, after honoring your hateful god and turning those sinners away, you found yourselves the proud owners of a 13 thousand dollar fine for discrimination.  You almost swear, before catching yourself of course, wondering what happened to this great nation when god-fearing Christians can’t even discriminate against a couple of queers anymore.  I mean, you weren’t going to stone them to death, even though, biblically, that’s exactly what you should have done.  You just didn’t want their icky gay germs to contaminate your beautiful wedding location.  What’s worse is that if you catch the Aids from breathing the same air as these god haters, the government probably won’t even let you sue them.  How is that fair?  Having not taken this class yet, you call up your lawyer to see if you can do anything about this horrible infringement on your religious liberty.  Your lawyer, after performing a ton of research on your bank account balance, assures you that you should give him a lot of money.  He definitely, without a doubt, is not telling his friends about the unwinnable case he just took on for a couple of rich religious idiots and how, counting appeals, he just paid for his first house, that sports car he always wanted, and an engagement ring for his soon to be trophy wife.  I promise that, after a couple of lines and beers, he never once said to his friends, “Hey, some people hit the lottery, some people inherit, and some people find well-off religious bigots; we all get rich in different ways.”

Now I totally admit that I made our hypothetical business owning bigots into a pair of ridiculous strawmen.  Yet cases such as this one are currently taking place, as students who clicked the above link now know.  Let’s look at that non-hypothetical case, shall we?  Once again, here is the link.

Owners of a New York wedding venue who were fined $US13,000 for violating the state’s anti-discrimination law are arguing Monday that they should be legally allowed to follow their Christian faith.

The owners of Liberty Ridge Farm north of Albany refused to host the 2013 wedding of Melisa and Jennie McCarthy, citing their own religious beliefs. Now the business, owned by Robert and Cynthia Gifford, is appealing a ruling from the state’s Division of Human Rights that it violated New York law and is seeking to have the fine reversed.

Now note first of all that the owners of this particular venue were fined for violating the New York state anti-discrimination law.  Why is this important?  Because if you take a look at that law you will notice that it applies to the following: “age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, marital status, or disability.”  Well, will you look at that?  Sexual orientation is included.  Unfortunately that is not always the case in the United States, but in New York state it is part of the law.  So let us see what the bigot’s Gifford’s lawyer is going to argue in this case.

“It would violate the Giffords’s faith to facilitate this union,” attorney Caleb Dalton told a five-judge supreme court appeals panel.

But Dalton, counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, said the Giffords’s faith did not allow them to participate in a marriage other than between one man and one woman.

So it seems that Dalton is arguing that this case sees two rights in conflict:  the McCarthy’s right to access versus the bigot’s Gifford’s right to religious freedom.  Or as the bigot Cynthia Gifford melodramatically puts it:

Cynthia Gifford told reporters they are asking the court to respect the freedoms upon which the United States was built.

“When the government tells you what to say and punishes you if you don’t, it’s very frightening,” she said. “And all of us Americans should be scared about this, no matter where we stand on the issue.”

Now churches, as far as I know, are exempt from anti-discrimination laws.  It would be kind of heavy handed after all to force a church to hire an atheist pastor.  I believe that exemption ends once the employees no longer have any pastoral duties.  My uncertainty on the matter is irrelevant, of course, because the homophobe’s Gifford’s business is not a church.  Their argument is absurd, which you can discover by substituting any of the other protected classes in place of homosexuals and see how long it would take their case to be thrown out of court.  If the Gifford’s bigoted viewpoint became law, you would immediately have various businesses not only refusing service to homosexuals, but also to blacks, interracial couples, women not accompanied by a man, Muslims, Jews, women, Catholics, the disabled, and white males over 50 (that would be my store.  Hey, they may be a Trump supporter, and I’m not taking that chance.), to name a few.  Perhaps the Giffords feel it should only be a narrow exemption allowing the discrimination against homosexuals, but there is not only no logical reason to limit the religious freedom exemption to only that group, it would also be ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court, especially after this year’s ruling on marriage equality.

Now I am sure I have some libertarian students who feel a business owner should be able to serve who ever they want, with the only possible punishment for open bigotry being from the free market.  To those students I kindly say, “Fuck off.”  (I have tenure.)  While they are kindly fucking off, they can remove their cars from the tax funded roads.  Every single business, no matter how small or large, benefits from the public coffers.  Be it the publicly funded roads that their customers travel on, to the publicly funded police force that protects their business, we all depend on public money at some time.  New York state has decided that one of the concessions they demand from people who wish to operate a business in their state is is adherence to the state’s anti-discrimination law.  If you are not willing to obey that law, then you are perfectly free to move your business to a different state or country with laws more to your likings.

We keep hearing people in these situations complain that their religious liberties have been violated.  Bull.  We have freedom of religion in this country, as we have freedom of speech, yet neither freedom is absolute.  I hate the “yelling fire in a crowded theater” example, so instead I will suggest you visit the nearest airport and joke about how long it took you to hide all the bombs in your suitcase.  From your jail cell, please write me and let me know what they said when you played your “freedom of speech” trump card.  Religious freedom has limits as well.  Even if I sincerely believe that the only way to please Jesus and get into heaven is by using copious amounts of heroin, the drug task force is not going to allow me to freely practice my religion.  Child sacrifice, ritual cannibalism, marrying multiple 12 year olds, and the withholding of medical care from minor children are just some of the “sincerely held religious beliefs” we have decided, as a society, are not to be protected.  Your religious freedom stops when it begins to affect the freedoms of other people.

You can march in bigot parades every weekend.  You can attend and tithe a church that preaches that Starbucks includes human semen in their lattes.  You can write internet post after internet post about how all homosexuals are going to burn in everlasting hell.  You can even preach that the bible calls for the death penalty for homosexuals, at an event with presidential candidates in attendance.

What you can not do, assuming you are in a state that protects people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation, is deny them the same services you offer to everybody else.  It really isn’t that difficult of a concept.

Quiz on Friday.  Enjoy the rest of your day.

 

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