Friday, November 13, 2015

Al Mohler redefines controversy

Albert Mohler
Friday, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological seminary and influential Christian, writes “Why Can't Christians Just Join the Revolution?
Why not just join the revolution? This question seems obvious to many people who look at conservative Christians and honestly wonder why we cannot just change our views on homosexuality, same-sex marriage and the entire LGBT constellation of issues.

We are constantly told that we must abandon the clear teachings of the Bible in order to get “on the right side of history.”

It’s not that we don’t understand the argument – we just cannot accept it.

Mohler goes on to explain, in response, that the Bible is the “inerrant Word of God.” At least it is when it suits him.

In the first paragraph, Mohler poses a rhetorical question that is intellectually dishonest. Few LGBT people, their friends and families care about Mohler's “views on homosexuality, same-sex marriage and the entire LGBT constellation of issues.” We would be content if Mohler and his constituents would not persist on trying to impose those views on public policy in order to discriminate. That is the issue. Whether or not Baptist churches will  recognize same-sex marriages is largely irrelevant. Again, most of us don't care.

Mohler's second paragraph is intellectually dishonest. Mohler is also self-absorbed. We are not telling him that he is on the wrong side of history. Rather, we are telling jurists, legislators and voters that Mohler is on the wrong side of history because it is jurists, legislators and voters who define public policy. We try to prevent Mohler from substituting his judgment from their judgment in that regard. Sometimes we are successful at doing so. Sometimes we are not.

Mohler then goes on to explain that he understands the argument (he doesn't) but that he cannot accept it. We do not really care. What we insist upon is the premise that LGBT citizens should be free of discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Religious belief does not serve as a right to discriminate. Public policy should conform to that premise. As HRC often points out (it has almost become trite) in many states a gay person can get married on Sunday and get fired on Monday for having done so.

It is inexcusable that many states do not provide anti-discrimination protections as a mater of common decency. Christians have been successful at shaping public policy. It is equally unacceptable that Christians seek a right to discriminate in those states and locales that do provide anti-discrimination protections.

In that regard, precedent works in our favor and goes back to 1879. In Reynolds v. United States the Supreme Court ruled that a federal law outlawing polygamy was constitutional. The Court held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from regulating religious belief. However it is free to regulate actions (in this case, marriage).

There are many cases between then and now. Fast forward to 2010. In Christian Legal Society v. Martinez the Supreme Court held that a student organization at a public university was not free to restrict membership to those who shared their religious beliefs if doing so resulted in discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

It's a careful balancing act of competing freedoms. In April of 2014 the Court refused to hear Elane Photography v. Willock. Elane refused to photograph Willock's commitment ceremony on the basis that it would conflict with her religious beliefs. The New Mexico Human Rights Commission ruled that Elane violated New Mexico's anti-discrimination law for public accommodations. New Mexico's Supreme Court concurred. The Supreme Court has now effectively concurred well

I expect that Alliance Defending Freedom is going to petition the Supreme Court on behalf of discriminatory bakers and that discriminatory florist. I also expect that the result will be the same.

Al Mohler is not advocating for religious freedom. Rather he seeks religious privilege which includes the right to discriminate against LGBT citizens and taxpayers. That is the issue that we pose to Christians. That is the issue that Mohler refuses to address. Perhaps he can't.

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