(Updated: Mr. Senz informs me that he worked in the "finance sector" for five years)
For starters, the Obama administration isn't calling anyone a bigot. Senz doesn't like a recent report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. I provided some bullet point a few days ago. According to Senz:
The battles over religious liberty—or “religious liberty,” as many media reports term it—have been much in the news in the last several years, from the Obama administration’s attempts to compel the Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for contraception through their health insurance to fining bakers and photographers for declining to assist in same-sex weddings. Now, a donnybrook has erupted over a recent report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights called (ironically) “Peace Coexistence.”I will confine myself to those two bakers and one photographer (not plural). They refused service (some years ago) to gay couples contrary to valid nondiscrimination laws. They have lost every legal round. Indeed, the photographer went all the way to the Supreme Court.
What Mr. Senz fails to appreciate is that there are competing rights; The civil rights of LGBT citizens to live free of discrimination and the right of Free Exercise which is part of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Free Exercise means the the right of citizens to practice their religion as they please, so long as the practice does not run afoul of a “public morals” or a “compelling” governmental interest. It does not mean the right to refuse service to people they disapprove of. That would have the effect of making every nondiscrimination law including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 entirely unenforceable.
The USCCR dusted off the scare quotes and had sharp words for those opposed to some recent changes in public policy: “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia or any form of intolerance,” said Chairman Julian Castro. He added, “today, as in past, religion is being used as both a weapon and a shield by those seeking to deny others equality. In our nation’s past religion has been used to justify slavery and later, Jim Crow laws.”That sounds about right to me. However, I honestly do not think that the bakers want to deny me equality. It has been my consistent opinion that what they really want to do is to demonstrate their disapproval (dispense shame) by refusing service. I am not going to allow Senz to claim that baking a cake is to “assist in same-sex weddings.” At least not without some opprobrium. That is just nonsense.
A business license is a privilege that comes with certain obligations. In some states and municipalities that includes not discriminating against gay people. We all pay for the roads that bring people to the business. We all pay for the police and fire departments that protect the business. Assist? Where does that end? Chair and table rental? How about the tailor that hems the tux? Just how many hoops must a gay couple jump through to get all of the things that are necessary for a wedding? How many people have a right of disapproval?
Archbishop William Lori, archbishop of Baltimore and chair of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, responded with no minced words, …Lori might be important to Mr. Senz. He means nothing to me. The bishops are obsessed with same-sex marriage while the pope is obsessed over “gender theory” (something that he obviously does not understand). According to the Church Catholics have a duty to frustrate same-sex marriage. That arrogant instruction does not alter valid nondiscrimination laws.
Discrimination Is Banning People from Practicing Their FaithJustice Scalia disagreed in Employment Division v. Smith. Simply stated there are no religious exemptions to otherwise valid laws. “My religion forbids paying taxes.” The Court has also ruled that the state has the right to compel student vaccinations in spite of a religious objection to the contrary. No one is forcing anyone to operate a public accommodation.
The first freedom in the First Amendment of the Constitution regards the free exercise of religion—not freedom of “worship,” as some politicians have recently tried to re-cast it. What is the distinction? Worship concerns the activity of persons, individually or separately, directed toward God. Religion is wider than worship and includes it. Religion involves a worldview, a set of principles that one holds to be true and that govern one’s actions.
For Christians, the imperatives to tell the truth, protect the unborn, care for neighbors, and pursue peace (to name a few) are all rooted in the notion of the dignity of every human being as an image of God. (Secular human rights activists have a hard time generating a foundation for universal human equality, which is why they tend to treat the unborn, ill, and elderly so poorly.) As Lori notes, these are the beliefs that drive the churches to open hospitals, adoption agencies, and schools.That “dignity” thing doesn't seem to apply to “objectively disordered” gay people. That verbiage about secular people is just nonsense. I am not sure about hospitals but the Church operates schools to propagate Catholicism. Catholic Charities is an enormous enterprise. Christus Health in Texas, for example, had revenues of $673 million in 2014. It showed a profit (surplus) of $25 million and is sitting on over $2 billion in assets. It paid its CEO nearly $3 million. 11 people were paid over $1 million. But I digress.
When Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the Casey v. Planned Parenthood decision that “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life,” this was the idea that his muddled phrase groped toward. We have the freedom to live according to our principles, provided those principles are not manifestly immoral.The case, by the way, is Planned Parenthood v. Casey and there is something for everyone and the questions resolved are split. I honestly do not understand what Senz is trying to say here but Justice Kennedy affirmed that Roe v. Wade was the law of the land in the plurality decision. None of this really had anything to do with religious liberty.
We Can Have Pluralism Or Government-Established ReligionThe Establishment Clause means exactly what it says. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion …” That is not the same thing as a prohibition on “establishing a religion.” The rest is just nonsense. Those laws in New Mexico (the photographer), Oregon and Colorado (the bakers) had been on the books for many years. I hate to break it to Senz but the catechism is not a substitute for reason. Moreover these are civil — not criminal — violations and none of them have anything to do with the federal government. Did Senz get any of this right? Well, we seem to have different understandings of compassion that wee can argue about.
The First Amendment prohibits the government from establishing a religion. But when the federal government declares ideas that everyone held until five minutes ago, supported by reason and lived out with compassion, as de facto hateful and criminal (“first they came for the photographers and bakers…”), then the government is essentially creating a new public faith and forcing everyone to adhere to it.
As Lori noted, “a pluralistic society, there will be institutions with views at odds with popular opinion. The Chairman’s statement suggests that the USCCR does not see the United States as a pluralistic society. We respect those who disagree with what we teach. Can they respect us?”Utter nonsense. Rubbish! The idea that religious liberty sometimes competes with legitimate civil rights interests does not constitute a view of the U.S. that is not consistent with a pluralistic society. Quite the contrary. In fact we do not preference Christians in spite of the fact that they constitute the majority.
If not, we may be witnessing the instantiation of Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s “Rationalia” or a resurrection of the French Revolution’s Cult of Reason. The current administration’s hostility toward Christianity is clear, and Christians must be prepared to face it. Some propose hunkering down and weathering the storm, as in Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option (which has its merits). Others like Lori intend to stand and fight.I had to look up “instantiation.” The administration is not hostile toward Christianity. The Benedict Option? Just what we need a religious traditionalist local resistance movement which demands that the government violate the Establishment Clause. Because Christianity is so repressed! What they want is the right to deny service to people they disapprove of contrary to nondiscrimination laws and all neatly cloaked as “religious freedom.”
We are persistently a secular society. Our founders designed it that way. Senz needs to get out in the real world, hold a real job again perhaps, because those days of discriminating against gay people are over! Eventually sexual orientation and sexual identity will be added to the Civil Rights Act. It's just a matter of time. Christians said very similar things when segregation came to an end. Prior to that they probably posited similar thoughts with the end of slavery.
They will get accustomed to gays enjoying Equal Protection because it affects so many of them. I would speculate that half of American families have a gay family member and they are not going to tolerate that person being subjected to discrimination. Gay couples have a constitutional right to marry and that is not going to be frustrated by some eunuch in the Vatican. Transgender citizens should enjoy equal protection as well, irrespective of the current pope's obsessions.