Thursday, September 14, 2017

Hate group propagandist claims that anti-LGBT discrimination doesn't exist

“The baker is not evidence of the harm of nondiscrimination laws. He is evidence of the discrimination that those laws are intended to prevent.”
James Gottry
Alliance Defending Freedom, the Christian legal organization, is fervently dedicated to preventing the passage of nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBT people. Their definition of religious freedom includes the right to refuse service to people they disapprove of. They like to call such measures “SOGI laws” (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity).

Last September James Gottry, a lawyer employed by ADF, wrote that such measures represent “A Subversive Response to a Nonexistent Problem.” Gottry has re-tooled the polemic for consumption at The Federalist with the title: “Why ‘Fairness For All’ Legislation Actually Produces More Discrimination.”

According to Gottry:
To understand this new proposed legislation, we must first understand its ancestry. Such legislation is the immediate descendent of SOGI laws (laws that add the new classifications of sexual orientation and gender identity to existing “nondiscrimination” laws). … in short, while SOGI laws purport to combat discrimination, in effect, they threaten every American’s constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. The operative word is “purport,” because available data reveals that systematic, widespread denial of housing, employment, or services to individuals who identify as LGBT doesn’t exist.
“New proposed legislation” is in the abstract. He is not referring to any particular bill. In summary, Gottry asserts:
  1. Such laws do not protect LGBT people.
  2. Such laws pose a threat to constitutionally afforded rights. Ergo, they are unconstitutional per se.
  3. Such laws are unnecessary because they supposedly prevent discrimination that does not exist in the first place
Is this an attempt at cognitive dissonance? One cannot argue that nondiscrimination laws are harmful and, at the same time, argue that the discrimination does not exist. If discrimination does not exist then no one can run afoul of the law.

I concur that we should not pass esoteric laws that serve no real purpose. However, Mr. Gottry's employer represents numerous people who have refused service to LGBT people. Gottry mentions the supposed victimization of Jack Phillips and Barronelle Stuzman, the bigoted baker and florist respectively. They are victimizers, not victims. They have visited upon gay people their disapproval by refusing service. Religion is no excuse for behavior that harms others.

What Gottry is claiming is that refusing service to LGBT people is not discrimination and that Christians have a constitutional right to engage in such behavior (which I assert is discrimination) as an extension of Free Exercise. It is called Christian Privilege and Christian Supremacy. It is practiced by Christian Nationalists.

The Supreme Court has already ruled that, while the government cannot regulate belief, it can regulate conduct (Reynolds v. U.S., 1879). The Court has also ruled that there are no religious exemptions to otherwise valid laws (Employment Division v. Smith, 1990). In 1968 the Court awarded full attorney's fees to the plaintiff in Newman v. Piggie Park which presupposes the validity of Newman having prevailed in the lower courts. Piggie Park, a chain of fast-food restaurants did not seat black people. The owner claimed that “his religious beliefs compel him to oppose any integration of the races whatever.” Piggie's pretext was plunked.

Mr. Gottry champions Christian privilege. He is also intellectually dishonest — presenting an opinion absent evidence as fact by claiming that there is no discrimination. The fact that there is ample evidence of anti-LGBT discrimination causes the rest of the argument to fall apart:
So without a significant, unresolved problem to address, these laws have functioned as Trojan horses, empowering governments to personally and professionally destroy individuals who seek to peacefully live and work in a manner consistent with their consciences (but at odds with the government’s views). One of the ways these laws operate is to silence those who hold to millennia-old views of marriage—views that the Supreme Court acknowledged in Obergefell are held “in good faith by reasonable and sincere people.”
What's a conservative Christian polemic without victims of misguided secular people? More to come but claiming that a nondiscrimination law acts as a Trojan horse is to suggest a hidden agenda. These measures have been passed and enacted in the democratic process to prevent discrimination; which the state has a compelling interest to deter. People are held accountable for refusing service not their beliefs. There is no trap. Nor is there a hidden agenda. Furthermore, Gottry is confusing belief with behavior.

People are free to believe anything they want about marriage. That does not mean that they are free to discriminate against people who do not agree with them and in defiance of law. Nor are they silenced as Gottry claims. They are free to air their views. Again, they are precluded, by law, from discriminating.

Get out your crying towel:
Barronelle Stutzman is a prime example: This 72-year-old grandmother faces the loss of her business, savings, and home for declining a request by a long-time friend and customer to participate in the celebration of his same-sex wedding by designing custom floral arrangements.
The age of Barronelle the Bigot is irrelevant. She is old enough to know better. She could have settled this matter at any time for a $1,000 fine but ADF has convinced her that she should challenge the law. In fact it was probably ADF's trolling for victims that caused her to break the law in the first place. As I read the testimony, Stutzman couldn't wait for a gay couple to ask for flowers so that she could turn them down. She has no idea what the couple wanted only that the flowers she was asked to sell would end up at a same-sex wedding. It was no way to treat what they continue to insist was a “long-time friend.” She is a prime example of why these laws exist in the first place and Gottry's reasoning is no more persuasive than that racist owner of Piggie Park. It is just more of that pervasive arrogance that the seller of the flowers is a participant in the wedding whose approval is required.

This is the discrimination that Gottry claims does not exist. The irony is that might not exist in the absence of groups like ADF.
Similarly, while Phillips gladly welcomes and serves anyone who enters his bakery, he can’t celebrate all events or convey all messages. In fact, Jack has a longstanding custom of not designing certain cakes that express messages with which he disagrees, such as cakes that celebrate Halloween, or contain racist, Anti-American, or vulgar messages. Ironically, the same Colorado commission that ruled against Jack held that three other nearby bakeries had the freedom to decline to design cakes with messages that criticized same-sex marriage.
Phillips does not welcome and serve anyone. He offers wedding cakes only to heterosexual couples, denying the same goods and services to gay couples. Moreover, much of this is irrelevant tripe. Phillips is free not to bake cakes that he does not like providing that in doing so he is not refusing service to a protected class. As for those three other bakeries, the objective of the customer or customers was to be denied service. The idiots (or idiot) asked bakers to make cakes with personally derogatory messages cloaked in scripture. The commission ruled that the bakeries did not discriminate on the basis of creed or religion.

There are many verses from scripture that can be used to condone racism (biblical scholars disagree on whether or not they actually were intended to serve that purpose). Imagine the African-American baker being asked to inscribe the infamous racist message of Bob Jones, Sr. on a cake:
White folks and colored folks, you listen to me. You cannot run over God’s plan and God’s established order without having trouble. God never meant to have one race. It was not His purpose at all. God has a purpose for each race.
The phrase “God's plan” always seems to reflect the personal biases of the person employing the phrase. The baker, in this case, is free to decline the request because of the nature of the message and, more importantly, the fact that the refusal does not treat one class of customers differently — unless, of course, you believe that mindless racists are a protected class.

Contrast that to the wedding cake for a same-sex couple. It is no different than asking a Christian baker for a cake celebrating a young man's bar mitzvah (a Jewish ritual welcoming boys and girls into the congregation). The event does not conform to the Christian baker's beliefs and no one would suggest that the baker is a participant (unless, possibly, he is willing to submit to some rather painful surgery). Refuse to bake the cake and face charges of anti-Semitism. The baker is no worse off for having baked the cake and his enterprise has profited from the sale.

Why is that any different than the cake for a gay wedding? While it doesn't conform to the baker's religious views it is not personally derogatory and no one is forcing the baker to alter his religious views. The baker sure as hell is not a participant in something that he disapproves of which is based upon the disapproval of the people being wed. He bakes the cake and makes a profit. American enterprise at work. How and where the cake is consumed should be irrelevant. It becomes relevant when the bakers is a sanctimonious self-absorbed zealot with a perverse need to demonstrate his disapproval.

Later on:
Recognizing the harmful effects of SOGI laws and lack of redeeming qualities, legislatures from no fewer than 15 states rejected such legislation in 2016 alone. Utah is the only state to pass a statewide SOGI law in the last six years, and its legislature did so because they believed a lie about SOGI laws—that such legislation was “fair.”
The effects of nondiscrimination laws are only harmful to racists, anti-Semites, homophobes and others who feel a need to discriminate. That should disqualify them from owning public accommodations but it does not. It is intellectually dishonest to assert that preventing discrimination lacks redeeming qualities. The state has a compelling interest in preventing discrimination of all kinds. The fact that states in the Bible Belt deny such protections to LGBT people only goes to demonstrate that a majority of their citizens are backward rubes. That includes my home state of Florida.
Proponents of Fairness for All legislation don’t dispute the harm that can result from SOGI laws. Instead, they claim that SOGIs are inevitable, and therefore state legislatures must seek to mitigate those harms by inserting limited exemptions.
There is no such thing as Fairness for All legislation. I dispute that nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBT people can be harmful! I advocate for no exemptions other than those afforded under the Constitution which need not be addressed separately in nondiscrimination measures. Unfortunately, to get such laws passed requires some horse trading at our expense.  It is necessary because some Christians do not approve of gay people based upon disputed interpretations of ancient chronicles of dubious provenance and collateral superstition. Some of those exemptions are direct violations of the Establishment Clause. Eventually they will be challenged.

The person who claims that obvious discrimination does not exist is also claiming that nonexistent harms cause by nondiscrimination laws do exist in spite of all evidence to the contrary. The baker is not evidence of the harm of nondiscrimination laws. He is evidence of the discrimination that those laws are intended to prevent.
Suffice it to say, such laws do not bolster constitutionally protected freedoms for everyone. Instead, they empower the government to target viewpoints with which it disagrees, and invite activist courts to strip away the constitutional rights of individuals and organizations not explicitly exempted from the law. As I write elsewhere, such a voluntary surrender of fundamental freedoms is hardly a model fit for replication.
This has absolutely nothing to do with viewpoints which are beliefs. An imbecile who believes that scripture commands him to be a racist is still compelled to serve African-Americans while still believing any fool thing that he wants. Furthermore, the government is not targeting anyone. That is the language of victimization. We are a nation of laws. We expect people to obey laws. There is no “fundamental freedom” to discriminate against people one disapproves of! Gottry is intentionally confusing belief with conduct.

By reference Gottry is offended by the idea posed by LGBT groups that public servants do not need, and should not have, protections to discriminate. It is outrageous that we permit such behavior. Kim Davis lost her case for good cause. If one needs to discriminate then that pretty much disqualifies them from public office. At least it should.

Gottry concludes this mess of dishonesty with:
Proponents of “Fairness for All” legislation claim to desire a tolerant society, but true tolerance means respecting every person’s viewpoints and beliefs, even those with whom they disagree. It also means respecting constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and refusing to empower the government to demand that Americans sacrifice our national birthright. Freedom of conscience is not a token to be surrendered as the price of citizenship in a free society; it is the mark of citizenship and the fruit of a free society.
Wrong! I do not have to respect viewpoints that say that I am objectively disordered or that I am the cause of someone's farm foreclosure. What I have to respect is their right to hold those beliefs and those are two very different things. Respecting the right to hold beliefs that I find repugnant does not mean that there is a constitutional right to discriminate. My respect inures to the person who follows the law in spite of personal biases. Discrimination is not a societal right. Discrimination is a severely inflamed pus-filled cyst that needs to be lanced for the common good.

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