"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

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“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Friday, October 05, 2012

Following up

on my post from a couple of days ago, specifically the "religious freedom" decision I noted here.

And what should pop up today but this report from the Center for American Progress, on the state of "religious freedom" vis-a-vis marriage equality laws.

The key issue is here:
But opponents of marriage equality would like to think otherwise. They disingenuously argue that marriage equality will unduly require clergy to officiate weddings between same-sex couples even if doing so violates their religious beliefs. Opponents similarly claim that marriage equality laws violate the religious freedom of shopkeepers, restaurant owners, and private citizens by compelling them to provide goods and services to same-sex couples, even if they already must do so under existing nondiscrimination public accommodations laws.

Forget the requiring clergy to officiate at same-sex weddings garbage, because that's all it is. Not gonna happen, not in this country. (At least, not until the right and the "centrists" have managed to completely gut the Bill of Rights.)

This "religious freedom" of shopkeepers, et al., to discriminate on the basis of the personal prejudices clutched in their sweaty hands (because when it comes right down to it, that's all this particular form of "religious belief" is) is, once again, completely bogus. They have no such right, and never did. It's a given that there is no such thing as unlimited freedom -- there are always constraints, otherwise you don't have a society, you have a bunch of wild animals. (And even there, freedom is limited by your ability to feed yourself and find shelter -- that's the "freedom as zero sum game" so beloved on the right. Makes you wonder what universe they live in.) The basic rule in nondiscrimination laws is that if you're going to offer goods or services to the general public, you damned well offer them to the general public. Discrimination on any other basis than ability to pay has no place in an egalitarian society. (Ron Paul's little fantasy about the "marketplace" taking care of segregation is so jaw-droppingly stupid that it beggars belief -- for anyone but Ron Paul, I guess.)

What this particular interpretation of "religious freedom" represents is an all-out assault on religious freedom, no less.
Even with the ample religious exemptions built into marriage equality laws, some conservatives still claim that they do not go far enough. These opponents of equality want to go as far as to exempt individual citizens from providing goods and services to same-sex couples when doing so would allegedly be inconsistent with their faith. They believe, for example, that shopkeepers and restaurant owners should be able to deny goods and services to same-sex couples, all in the name of “religious freedom.” They similarly believe that public-sector employees, such as city clerks, should be able to deny government services to same-sex couples if they are religiously opposed to marriage equality.

In truth, exempting private citizens from existing laws that prohibit discrimination against gay individuals is not about safeguarding religious freedoms. Instead, it is simply about giving people a license to discriminate.

While this attitude seems to be endemic in the so-called "Christian" right, the most egregious example that comes to my mind is the Roman Catholic hierarchy, who have turned into quite a choice group of bullies. One sterling case in point is the controversy over adoption services for same-sex couples in Illinois. The Catholic Charities claimed that being forced to do so violated their "religious freedom" after the passage of Illinois' civil unions law. I suspect a bit of deception here -- Illinois had non-discrimination laws in place that precluded discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation that caused nary a ripple among the Catholic hierarchy. (Well, they didn't like that law, and lobbied against it, but there's only so far you can carry a bad idea.) However, they had been really active in lobbying against the civil unions bill, and their reaction to being "forced" to place children with same-sex parents (mind you, under the same criteria used to evaluate potential opposite-sex parents) was to threaten to close their adoption services. The state called them on it, and they lost. The party line, of course, is that they were "forced" to close down. The reality is that the state said you cannot use taxpayer money to discriminate against taxpayers, so Catholic Charities chose to terminate adoption services. (Frankly, at this point the idea that it's in the best interests of children to be left in the care of a Catholic organization is somewhat farfetched.)

One can make the case that Catholic Charities qualifies as a "religious organization" under the law (although if I remember correctly, Catholic Charities was created as a separate organization in order to be able to accept government money without violating the establishment clause. Funny thing about that.) But taking this to the realm of "personal religious beliefs" enters a whole new world of ugly. It is, as the report states, nothing more than a license to discriminate.

So actually, the conflict is not about "religious freedom," but it's about "religious supremacy" -- and it's the supremacy of particular sectarian doctrines. And that's all it is.

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