April 9, 2015

No Shock, No Shame, No Circus

This Indiana thing has gotten way out of hand. It's pitting neighbors against one another, being driven by a false narrative of bigotry, and in one case - Memories Pizza - ruined an entire family's business, one that didn't actually do anything, but give their opinion on the matter to an overeager local reporter. In this 2015 dystopia, some labeled that a "thought crime" and threatened to burn them down and murder them all. They were forced to close.

Universal values are being actively stomped in favor of pure relativism - always a sign of immoral and unethical behavior. Opponents of Indiana's religious freedom law have characterized this as a streetfight between the bigoted and non-bigoted, although which is which is a matter of debate.

So, let's argue.

Think this unreasonable?
It's discrimination.
See this sign to the right? This sign that we have all seen in every business we have ever gone into ever, ever? This sign represents everything opponents apparently do not want businesses to be able to do. This sign is a discrimi-mongering, value-judgilicious, judgy judgment. A discriminating judgment. This sign represents pure discrimination: if customer expects service from owner, but does so from outside their values, they can refuse. Their values in this case are that shirts and shoes are required for their service to be delivered. But if one has no shirt, and no shoes, the owner may discriminate, and one should not expect their service. 

A totally reasonable sign because of its principle: it is universally accepted that business owners can and do make decisions about their business, including whether or not it will be delivered. But apparently, if you do that in Indiana (or 19 others states that have the very same religious freedom law, or any other state under the federal version of the same law) everyone loses their minds.   

Let's say a woman walks into a bakery and asks the baker - a devout Christian - to bake a cake. He says, great - I bake cakes every day! Ah, but this cake should say, "Happy Abortion" on it. See this lady is planning to celebrate her abortion la vida loca with friends right after the procedure. So the baker refuses, citing his religious beliefs as to why he must decline service.

Is his refusal unreasonable?

Is his refusal immoral or unethical?

Is he dehumanizing this woman in refusing?

Should declining material support toward an event celebrating such a legal, albeit controversial institution, itself be illegal, involving steep fines and/or possible incarceration by force should those fines not be paid, as potential consequences?

Should there be financial, social, and emotional bullying of such religious folks, who have never refused service because of who they were dealing with, but exactly what they were being asked to provide support for?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, here's my next one: why? Why is it wrong to refuse service of your business to endeavors antithetical to your value system? I'm not speaking about the law here - state law across the country varies on this issue. I'm talking ethics.

If you do not believe it unreasonable, immoral or unethical, should be illegal, or subject the baker to copious amounts of bullying for declining to make a "Happy Abortion" cake, then how is refusing to make a gay wedding cake any different? The scenarios are equivalent - both institutions are legal, both are controversial, and many religious folks find them to be antithetical to their value system.

This "Happy Abortion" scenario is analogical for actual situations occurring around the country involving bakers, florists, and photographers, who have been targeted by activists over their refusal to provide material support for gay marriages. It has resulted in the financial and social bullying of folks by those activists who have sued them as well as state entities that have targeted them for "damages," although the only folks actually being harmed in all this are those being targeted.

How does being offended and outraged by folks standing for values you hate compare to the actual harm caused to those who are standing for their (unpopular) religious values? Across the country, targeted Christians have been run out of business, fined exorbitant amounts of money, many are facing legal entanglements brought on by well-funded, "witch-hunting" organizations designed for just this purpose. Some have even received death threats - threats of being murdered - no doubt from those that wave the flag of "tolerance," but always seem willing to spear you with the sharp end if you're not quite as "tolerant" as they.

As Americans, we are free to disagree with folks refusing material support for stuff we think is cool. And in those cases we can vote with our feet and our money. We can also writhe in agony and wretch at the mere thought that some folks might have different values than our own perfect "all inclusive" ones. But you are a dirty, filthy pirate liar if you say you would not invoke (or do not have) the very same right of free association (or dis-association) the First Amendment grants toward anyone asking you to participate in events you personally find to be immoral or unethical.

Would the outrage and call for consequences be the same if a gay baker refused to service a pro traditional marriage event? Or a Muslim baker refused to service a gay wedding? And if not, why not? Just like the "No shoes," sign, these are discriminatory value judgments. They aren't treating everyone the same, they're being selective based upon their values. Businesses do it all the time, usually to favor events and/or clients that pay more, not less - another form of discrimination. When opponents want these people to be summarily prosecuted and burdened just as targeted Christians, maybe then I'll take their outrage seriously.

Fair-minded people would give passes to the gay and Muslim bakers, citing their personal values as valid reasons for their recusal. We might not all agree with their decisions or their values, but we don't have to. But Christians are not given the very same pass. These targeted folks never refused service because a client was gay - in all of these cases, service was never denied because of a client's identity, they would (and did) happily take their money for services rendered. But because they personally hold religious values that do not support gay marriage. And yes, there's a difference.

The Cato Institute's Roger Pilon nails it in his piece, "Tim Cook's Moral Confusion - and Intolerance" - a short read and well worth it. Pilon challenges Cook, Apple's CEO, who argued against Indiana's law in a Washington Post Op-ed when he invoked the founding values of the Declaration of Independence - freedom and equality. Pilon responds:
Rightly understood, (freedom and equality) hold that we’re all born free, with equal rights to remain free. That means—to cut to the chase—that we may associate with anyone who wishes to associate with us; but we are equally free to decline to associate with others, for any reason, good or bad, or no reason at all. That right to discriminate is the very essence of freedom. That’s why people came to this country, to escape forced associations—religious, economic, political, or otherwise. Cook turns those principles on their head. He says religious freedom bills “rationalize injustice” by, for example, allowing a baker to decline to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. He would compel the baker to accept that request, by force of law. That’s the very opposite of the freedom of association—the right to be left alone—that the nation was founded on.
Freedom and equality are mutually exclusive concepts, but protect each other, as our founders discovered. We are all born equal as innocent human beings, and should be treated respectfully. As a universal value that means no one has the right to take advantage, harm, or kill us for their own relative concerns. Freedom is the liberty to pursue whichever relative concerns one finds valuable, provided they do not violate our universal equality respecting our value of life.

I personally believe all people should be treated equally. I'm certain opponents believe the same. I believe in freedom. I'm certain opponents believe the same. So why is anyone arguing? Simple: opponents have re-defined equality from "equality of life," to "equality of outcome," meaning everyone must receive the very same results no matter what they want, who they want it from, or what values they conflict with. To decline is labeled bigotry.

Clearly this is true to some who have threatened death (violation of equality of life) in favor of their relative concern (equality of outcome). But when equality is re-defined from a universal to a relative value, it becomes just another arbitrary concern competing with other people's concerns. It inevitably causes conflict by violating people's liberty if they cannot side with their own values when they conflict with other's values. Without equality defined universally, we cannot enjoy our relative freedom. If someone compels us to something we would not voluntarily do, and coerces and forces us to action against our values - values that are not in violation of equality of life - then we are being taken advantage of. And if we are being taken advantage of, we are certainly not being treated as equal human beings.

Would opponents rather have an oppressive version of equality? One that labels outrage a criminal offense, than both equality and freedom, that protects life and engenders liberty, that has always pissed off somebody, but makes America, well, America. In this country, no one has a right not to be offended - criminalizing offense would contradict a free people's liberty, destroying the right to hold any personal values valuable, crushing freedom altogether. There are countries where folks do have rights not to be offended: Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, any number of Middle Eastern countries, or despotic African ones. You could be arrested and imprisoned or executed simply for holding views or values that offend the state.

Then again, opponents may get exactly that. In 2013, Justice Richard C. Bosson, of the New Mexico Supreme Court, upheld a decision against Christian photographers who refused to shoot a same-sex wedding, writing that forcing them to give up their religious convictions was acceptable as "the price of citizenship." This judge required private citizens to give up their beliefs and values for the state - exactly what Tim Cook apparently wants. Cook is the same guy that has blocked certain Christian apps in his iTunes store he finds offensive, and still does business with countries that execute folks for being gay. Cook himself is gay. And now I will invent a word that combines "irony" with "hypocrisy," that I shall call, "ironcrisy."

"I prefer the tumult of liberty,
to the quiet of servitude."
Targeting Christians simply because their personal values differ from yours is unethical when it results in their direct, actual harm. The moment we believe our own offense and outrage gives us the moral license to treat others like shit, let alone actually cause harm to them, we lose the argument.

This is not at all about treating everyone equally, it's about treating Christians differently. People causing harm to these folks are doing to them exactly what they are professing Christians are doing to gays - bigotedly discriminating against them for who they are.

Funny. That's the very thing many were so upset about in the first place.

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