Conservatives Defend “Religious Freedom” Laws By Feigning Ignorance
The response to Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” was so overwhelmingly negative that Gov. Mike Pence backed down and amended the legislation to make it clear that it was not meant to be used as an excuse to discriminate against people over their sexual orientation or gender identity.
However, many other conservatives–including some rumored to be in the running for the 2016 Presidential nomination–have doubled down, insisting that these businesses ought to have the right to refuse service to gay people or arrange flowers for gay weddings or whathaveyou.
I have a few favorites so far.
This weekend, Rick Santorum appeared on Face The Nation to voice his support for these kinds of bills.
Santorum compared it to a gay printer being “forced” to make “God Hates Fags” signs for the Westboro Baptist Church. Not exactly a very good argument. First of all, a print shop would be well within it’s rights to refuse, across the board, to print signs with vulgar language, so long as that rule applied to everyone. Second, if the print shop did not have such a rule, yeah, they would have to print that sign. Because they are operating as a business and not as a private citizen.
He also stated that “tolerance is a two way street.”
You know what? No! It’s not. It’s honestly not. That would literally be impossible in this situation, as well as most others.
One of the favorite hobby horses of the Right is the concept of the “tolerance paradox.” They love it. They bring it up constantly, every chance they get. “If you were so tolerant, you’d tolerate my intolerance!” they announce, ever so smugly, as though they have caught you in some kind of trap. Except it’s just not the trap they think it is.
Say, for instance, you are a teacher and there is a teenage girl being bullied because she has acne, or because she dresses differently, or because she’s overweight or something. Do you try to be “tolerant” of their rights to express their views on her skin condition, choices in apparel or weight? Or, do you tell them to knock it the hell off? I’m gonna guess the latter! Because it is what makes sense.
Even if you chose the former, it would be entirely impossible for all people in that situation to have their way and also be tolerant. Given that fact, precedence goes to the person with the least power, to the person who is being hurt, not to the people who want to do the hurting. Duh.
Now, the bullies who are being mean to the girl over whatever they believe is wrong with her still don’t have to like her or invite her over for tea. They are free to discuss their dislike of her amongst themselves, on their own time. But they can’t go bothering her about it in school while she is there trying to get an education.
In his response to the legislation, former House majority leader Tom DeLay was also pretty confused about the difference between liking people and discriminating against them.
“This is the result of the gay agenda,” DeLay said. “We’re now seeing what the gay agenda is all about … What they’re trying to do is to undermine religious liberty so that they become an accepted sexual orientation. That’s what’s going on here and we have got to fight this battle to the bitter end because once you let the government dictate to you what you believe and what your values are, then this country’s finished.”
“This isn’t about discrimination,” he continued. “We love people that have chosen to be homosexuals. The problem is we abhor the sin.”
DeLay went on to say that if he owned a business, he’d have no problem serving a gay customer, provided that he didn’t know about their sexual orientation.
“But if he comes in and asks me to undermine my values,” he said, “undermine my religious liberty, then I have the right to stand up for what I believe in and not serve him. It’s not discrimination; it’s the government telling us how we are to act, what we are to believe, and that has got to be fought with every ounce of our being.”
Guess what! Discrimination has absolutely nothing to do with who you like or do not like. It honestly doesn’t. You can like someone and still discriminate against them, and you can not like people and not discriminate against them. Your personal opinions are not the issue here, your actions are.
I do not personally care if Tom DeLay or any other Christian conservatives personally like LGBT people. I have no interest in enacting a law requiring Tom DeLay to have a gay best friend. I would not support any legislation requiring anyone to like anyone. I myself dislike many people, including Tom DeLay.
What I do care about is that people are not fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity, or refused service for those reasons. I am reasonably sure that we have all been perfectly clear about that.
By feigning ignorance of what we are actually arguing for, these idiots are just making themselves look stupid. They know there’s no such thing as a “tolerating intolerance” when it comes to people’s rights, and they know that this is not about whether or not they personally like or dislike gay people. This is about public accommodation and equal access to services. That’s it. That is the issue here.
I honestly don’t know how they think they are going to come out on the right side of history with this. In no instance, ever, in the history of our entire country, or any other country for that matter, have the people arguing for the right to discriminate come out on top in the long run. Not people wishing to discriminate against women, not people wishing to discriminate against black people, no one. The people who came before them have used the exact same arguments, and they lost every time. There’s no “This time it’s different!” Lester Maddox lost and so will they, the only question is when they will give up and stop making complete and utter fools of themselves.