Indiana, Discrimination, and Progressive Intolerance

Unknown-1Isabel Wilkerson’s book, The Warmth of Other Suns, about the migration of blacks from the Jim Crow South, tells of an Alabama doctor who relocated by car to California. His trip was an endurance ordeal because nowhere along the way could he get a meal or a room.

That is discrimination.

It’s what the 1964 Civil Rights Act addressed. The argument at the time was that restaurateurs and hoteliers shouldn’t be forced to serve people against their will. But that freedom was deemed overridden by the rights and interests of the victims of such discrimination, and the greater public interest. A reasonable societal decision.

imagesNow we’re told it’s the same issue of discrimination when a photographer or florist doesn’t (for religious reasons) wish to service a gay wedding. But recalling that Alabama doctor, I don’t think it’s comparable. Are they likely to be the only photographer or florist in town? (And would you want your wedding photographed by someone forced to do it?)

The great irony is that, after gays fought intolerance for so long, now the tables are turning, with the intolerance going in the other direction. Gays now have the right to marry, in most places. Must they also have the right to demand service from even religious objectors to gay marriage?

I support gay marriage, and reject Biblical teachings against it as vile nonsense. But I also accept the right of other people to think differently, and to live in accordance with their beliefs. I tolerate the foibles of my fellow humans, wanting everyone able to live as they choose.

“Tolerance” was long actually a liberal shibboleth, but for them it’s never a two-way street. Bible thumpers are required to tolerate gay married couples in their neighborhood. images-1But gays, and their political allies, should likewise be tolerant toward others who don’t share their perspective. That latter kind of tolerance is in short supply. Now viewpoints that, not long ago, were in the majority, are anathematized as bigotry. On this standard, President Obama, until 2012, was a bigot.

The word “progressive” was embraced to sidestep the bad odor of “liberal.” But “liberal” is a perfectly honorable word – and it’s right that “progressives” eschew it because they tend to be, in the strict sense, illiberal.

That they have their heads up their asses on such matters is exemplified by our Governor Cuomo who, in an excess of political correctness, curtailed state travel to Indiana.* images-3Yet he himself plans to travel to Cuba. Similarly, some businesses were shunning Indiana – while cheerfully continuing to do business with China. Is Indiana really worse on human rights than Cuba or China? Is gay marriage even allowed in those countries? If I were gay, I’d rather live in Indiana. (Heck, if I were anyone I’d rather live in Indiana than Cuba or China.)

This issue goes beyond forcing people to take wedding pictures against their religious beliefs. I’ve written about Brendan Eich, forced out as head of a major company, because he had supported a California ballot referendum (which passed) against gay marriage. images-4Isn’t this – people made pariahs, even losing their jobs – because of their beliefs – precisely the “McCarthyism” that lefties spent half a century beating their breasts about, as the crime of crimes? How did they so grievously lose their way?**

Our society has undergone a great change, very swiftly, on our attitudes toward gay people. But it’s hard for some people to get with the new program, especially if their religious beliefs come into the matter. I don’t think the correct approach is to browbeat those people, demonize them, and coerce them. That can only aggravate animosity. A softer approach would be better.

* Connecticut’s Governor did likewise, despite Connecticut itself having a “religious freedom” law almost identical to Indiana’s.

** See the comments on my post about Eich for a good illustration (“Rob”) of tortured lefty thinking.

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4 Responses to “Indiana, Discrimination, and Progressive Intolerance”

  1. Paul Landsberg Says:

    Frank, I will disagree. Go back to basics. Exactly what problem was the Indiana Legislature and Pence trying to solve? Was there truly a problem is such magnificent proportions that truly religious bakers and florists across Indiana needed relief through law?

    Now do the sniff test. In the Twitter pic of the private signing, posted by Gov Pence’s office you will find (amongst others):
    Eric Miller, the head of Advance America
    Micah Clark, Executive Director of the American Family Association of Indiana
    Curt Smith – President of Indiana Family Institute

    ruh roh. Three arguably (very) rabid anti-gay activists or leaders. At a closed signing ceremony. Hand chosen photo by Governor.

    In my opinion Governor Pence tried to pay back some religious and anti-gay big supporters with an asinine law targeted at gays and he got called out. Big time.

    As for businesses and other governors pressuring Pence to modify the law, one of my maxims I want my kids to learn is that “you don’t pay stupid people.” Meaning, if you see a business that is poorly managed, move on. Indiana got caught being stupid (sadly there is infinite quantities of stupid) and businesses and governors publicly stepped up to highlight it, and take action. Are some of them hypocrites? Absolutely!! Does that completely diminish any value in their actions? I’m not sure.

    On Obama in 2012 being a bigot. Yup. You are correct. The subtle difference I would point out is that President Obama did not go all out trying to pass laws to codify his beliefs.

    Final point. I shudder to now throw the whole issue of what is a “real” or “recognized” religion into the courts. And, then having same said court try to decide if someone truly holds those beliefs. Here come the Wiccans en masse to Indiana!! (grin)

    I guess I am more sanguine about the whole stir. Indiana got exposed engaging in dumbassery. Enough people were stirred to go beyond just sadly shaking their head and promise action. Economic action. Score one for common sense.


  2. rationaloptimist Says:

    In fact, Indiana’s law is no different from ones already enacted in many other states, which in turn follow the federal RFRA that was signed by Bill Clinton. The law was actually originally prompted by cases such as those of certain American Indians, whose religious practices, employing “controlled substances,” otherwise contravened federal law. The idea was to clarify that religious values COULD be overridden by general laws, but only if there is a compelling governmental/societal interest, and only in the least restrictive ways possible.
    I think that if a wedding photographer has religious principles against same sex marriage, it’s wrong to force him to photograph one. Again, I don’t feel such situations are comparable to the kind of harm done by the discrimination that prompted the ’64 Civil Rights Act. The photographer’s rights have some claim to be respected, as against the rights of the gays. Such balancing of some rights against others is the essence of a democratic society. But there are some people who feel their rights (or those they champion) are so privileged that they override everyone else’s.
    And — I absolutely do not believe in punishing people for their beliefs — as in the case of Brendan Eich. That’s not how America is supposed to work.

  3. Lee Says:

    The question is whether the florists and photographers make themselves available to the general public. When a church, religious university, etc. wants to hire a leader, it is perfectly acceptable to hire someone of their own faith, not give that leader a health plan that includes birth control, etc. But if the hiring of a secretary is not limited to people of that faith then the employer must follow the law, provide birth control to the secretary if required by law, etc.

    Likewise if a florist / photographer holds him/herself out to the public and is not exclusively a supplier to people of the same faith then that florist cannot discriminate against people who are atheist, Jewish, interracial couples, homosexual couples, nor any other class that society has chosen to protect. While it might not be so good for the first few gay couples who employ the photographer, it will be good for the photographer. It is substantially these sorts of laws that made small southern white towns of old have to serve, and eventually see the wisdom in serving, all good people.

  4. rationaloptimist Says:

    The problem of southern discrimination against blacks pre-1964 was of a whole different order than any discrimination suffered by gays from wedding services providers. I just don’t see the latter as rising to the kind of concern of the former, such that it’s necessary for society to exert coercion upon florists and photographers. Why such intolerance toward their peccadillos, in a free country?

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