Saturday, March 28, 2015

The religious freedom fakeout

Indiana enacted a law that prohibits "state and local laws that 'substantially burden' the ability of people — including businesses and associations — to follow their religious beliefs."

Um, okay. Can somebody tell me

  1. What's an example of a law, in Indiana or anywhere else, that has "substantially burdened" anyone's religious beliefs?
  2. Why it's so important for a for-profit business to follow anyone's religious beliefs? (More on this below.)
  3. How a law like Indiana's is needed when we have the First Amendment? What exactly does such a law do that isn't covered by the First Amendment, and is it a good idea to do more than the First Amendment requires?
The "right" of businesses to have religious (or other) beliefs is one I've criticized more than once: in January 2013, December 2013 (specifically talking about the then-pending Hobby Lobby decision), June 2014 (first reaction to Hobby Lobby), July 2014 (more Hobby Lobby thoughts). Nobody — certainly not the blinkered and prejudiced majority on the Hobby Lobby decision — has explained why the business owner has a superior right to "express" his religious faith than his employees do. That's why the Hobby Lobby decision is such a travesty of law and such a disgrace for the Court. It's blindingly, indefensibly hypocritical and one day will rightly be tossed in the trashcan, the way Dred Scott has been, its majority Justices despised for indulging their rank prejudice.

As far as the rights of actual human religious believers are concerned, I think reality is pretty damned clear:

  • Religious believers are in absolutely no fucking danger of having their rights abridged.
  • Religious believers' rights have not been abridged.
  • When religious believers complain about being an endangered species or a victimized minority, most of the time their complaints are utter horseshit.
  • When religious believers say their rights have been violated, they're complaining about perfectly reasonable attempts to keep the public square public.
For God's sake (pun intended), the United States is the most religiously devout nation in the developed world! What objective, sane observer would say that this country needs more protection for believers?

The price of living in a pluralistic society is that we all have to suffer the occasional abridgement of our "rights" in order to keep the peace. It used to be that organized religions and their followers understood that. Not any more, if the likes of Mike Huckabee are to be taken as representative of the faithful today. So for the Mike Huckabees (and Rick Santorums and Pat Robertsons and all the other privileged white men crying "victim") out there, let me take one more shot at explaining things to you.

To take the obvious and absurd example, even if a religion called for human sacrifice, we still wouldn't permit it. (At least, I hope not.) But you don't have to go as far as that to run up against behavior that requires government to balance the competing interests of different groups.

Is it really such a grave imposition on a business owner to require that she not refuse service on the basis of sexual orientation? Or for another business owner not to be allowed to refuse to carve an ice sculpture just because the occasion is a gay couple's wedding? (I'm tired of using bakers as examples.)

How far are the rest of us supposed to go to accommodate these "faithful" people? And why should it be permissible to discriminate if you claim your God tells you so, when I can't claim that same permission just because I tell myself so?

Why the fuck should we take at face value the absolutely idiotic argument that providing a service to a gay wedding (or a Satanic one or a Buddhist one or a Baptist one) is an endorsement of the ceremony, the lifestyle, or the couple getting married? Why the fuck shouldn't we blazon forth the truth: that the objectors are just scared that they'll be tarred as collaborators in sin in the eyes of their bigoted brethren?

And how long until we stop manufacturing fake crises and start dealing with our real problems: poverty, racism, environmental degradation, climate change, etc., etc., etc.? The list of real problems is long and growing longer. Let's stop fucking around with this fake outrage bullshit and get something useful done!

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