Thursday, August 29, 2013

Revisiting Frank Turek's Notions About 'Freedom'

Frank Turek
Yesterday I wrote briefly about Frank Turek's piece, “Freedom: Another casualty of the gay agenda,” that appeared in the Christian Post. Today Turek's polemic is in American Family Association's blog. These things do tend to repeat themselves like greasy chili from a New Jersey truck stop.

It is hard to know where ideas in the Christian right echo chamber originate. Turek, who lost consulting gigs – including one at Cisco – due to his homophobia, is likely to be a repeater in contrast to an originator. The idea that Christians lose freedom proportionate to achievements in LGBT equality is neither new nor original. It is also easily debunked.

Turek's essay is about Elaine and Jon Huguenin, owners of Elane photographers in New Mexico. They decided not to photograph a lesbian commitment ceremony, due to religious objections, in violation of a non-discrimination ordinance. A unanimous decision of New Mexico's supreme court upheld lower court decisions that Elane photography's actions were discriminatory. Of course the real victims are the couple who were denied service. Some selected passages:
Although the lesbian couple who brought the complaint easily found another photographer, Elane Photography now must pay nearly $7,000 in court costs for merely exercising her First Amendment rights.
The fact that they obtained the service elsewhere is irrelevant. Being denied service is hurtful and demeaning.  As for the $7,000 they must now pay, blame the lawyers for pursuing a hopeless cause just to make a discriminatory point. Why should taxpayers subsidize theories of Christian supremacy in the courts?
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was put in place to prevent … using the strong arm of government to force citizens to advocate (not just tolerate) ideas and behaviors that contradict their religious or moral convictions. Forcing people to support same-sex weddings or commitment ceremonies is forcing them to advocate same-sex behavior.
Among other things, the First Amendment provides freedom of speech and free exercise of religion. It has nothing to do with what people think.  Requiring a photographer to comply with the law and serve everyone regardless of race, creed, color or sexual orientation has nothing to do "advocating" anything. If these people photographed a bar mitzvah, would they be advocating for not recognizing Jesus Christ. If they photograph a Catholic wedding are they advocating for an extension of the saints that they recognize. It's rubbish.

Turek then tries to make the case that freedom of speech includes the freedom to withhold speech and that somehow this is applicable.
The First Amendment protects not only the right to free speech, but also the right not to be coerced into speech.
Turek cites Wooley v Maynard and he is correct. The more compelling case is West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette. The Court held that students had a First Amendment right not to salute the flag or recite the Pledge of Allegiance. However, the issue with Elane Photography has nothing to do with free speech. If refusing service is an expression of free speech then there are no enforceable anti-discrimination laws in the Untied States including the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Of course this is just nonsense. This is all settled law. Turek attempts to make an argument based on a hypothetical:
Imagine a homosexual videographer being forced to video a speech that a conservative makes against homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage. Should that homosexual videographer be forced to do so? Of course not! Then why Elane Photography?
Nice try. Elane knew perfectly well that they were violating the law in which discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited. Were I said videographer, I might argue that people who hold those views are not a protected class. I could be wrong. Therefore, I would seek legal advice.

Nevertheless, I would obey the law because I don't need to make a point our of self-pity that requires me to be a self-sacrificed victim.

Finally (although there is much more), Turek substitutes religious belief for science as he compares race and sexual orientation:
First, homosexuality, unlike race, is a behavior, and statistically a harmful behavior. As a result, people have good moral reasons – even beyond religious beliefs – for opposing or not wanting to advocate homosexual behavior. But since race hurts no one, there is no moral justification for refusing to serve someone merely due to race.

Second, people are born into their race but not their sexual behavior.  Sexual behavior is always a choice; race never is. You will find many former homosexuals, but you will never find a former African American. (I know whom you’re thinking about. Let him rest in peace!).
Turek's brand of conservative Christianity is clearly a choice and he cannot be denied service because of it. The idea that being gay is "statistically harmful" is outright bigotry. Most of the additional health concerns that LGBT people face are the result of Christian oppression. While gay men are disproportionately carriers of HIV, becoming infected is 100% preventable. As for the rest of this drivel;

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American School Health Association, the American Sociological Association, the Interfaith Alliance Foundation, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Social Workers and the National Education Association, sexual orientation is innate and immutable.

Turek tries to conflate sexual orientation with having sex. Gibberish. Sexual orientation defines our romantic attractions to men, women, both or neither.

Turek's views come not from science or medicine. They are premised on ancient texts that he believes should be accepted literally. Even that is selective observation as we stopping killing disobedient children and wives who are not virgins a few centuries ago.

Has Frank stoned someone for working on the Sabbath lately?
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