Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat depicted business owners who wish to discriminate against gay customers as the real victims in the debate over whether it should be permissible, as a recently vetoed Arizona bill would have authorized, for businesses to deny services to gay people on religious grounds.
In his March 2 column, Douthat conceded the inevitability of marriage equality, contending that once that debate is finished, the question will be whether marriage equality opponents will be able to express their "dissent" by, say, turning gay couples away from their businesses. Even as he urged his fellow Christian conservatives not to "call it persecution" if they're required to treat LGBT people equally, Douthat's entire column attempted to frame the fight for equal treatment as a matter of conservative victimization, rather than fundamental human dignity (emphasis added):
But there's another possibility, in which the oft-invoked analogy between opposition to gay marriage and support for segregation in the 1960s South is pushed to its logical public-policy conclusion. In this scenario, the unwilling photographer or caterer would be treated like the proprietor of a segregated lunch counter, and face fines or lose his business -- which is the intent of recent legal actions against a wedding photographer in New Mexico, a florist in Washington State, and a baker in Colorado.
Meanwhile, pressure would be brought to bear wherever the religious subculture brushed up against state power. Religious-affiliated adoption agencies would be closed if they declined to place children with same-sex couples. (This has happened in Massachusetts and Illinois.) Organizations and businesses that promoted the older definition of marriage would face constant procedural harassment, along the lines suggested by the mayors who battled with Chick-fil-A. And, eventually, religious schools and colleges would receive the same treatment as racist holdouts like Bob Jones University, losing access to public funds and seeing their tax-exempt status revoked.
I am being descriptive here, rather than self-pitying. Christians had plenty of opportunities -- thousands of years' worth -- to treat gay people with real charity, and far too often chose intolerance. (And still do, in many instances and places.) So being marginalized, being sued, losing tax-exempt status -- this will be uncomfortable, but we should keep perspective and remember our sins, and nobody should call it persecution.
But it's still important for the winning side to recognize its power. We are not really having an argument about same-sex marriage anymore, and on the evidence of Arizona, we're not having a negotiation. Instead, all that's left is the timing of the final victory -- and for the defeated to find out what settlement the victors will impose.
From the March 2 edition of Fox Broadcasting Network's Fox News Sunday.
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Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan pointed to the fight against measures that would allow businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers as further evidence of "the politicization of everything," ignoring the fact that conservative media and legislators spearheaded the push to allow individuals and businesses to deny services to the LGBT community.
In a February 27 screed lamenting the decline of "the nation's morale," Noonan launched a wide-ranging attack on "the aggressive left" and its alleged responsibility for sowing the seeds of "national division." Obamacare, the IRS, the EPA, the NSA, and Nancy Pelosi all featured in Noonan's list of terribles, as did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), whom she compared to Vladimir Lenin because Obamacare. Noonan also expressed concern about "the eroding end of the idea that religious scruples and beliefs have a high place" (emphasis added):
We are suffering in great part from the politicization of everything and the spread of government not in a useful way but a destructive one. Everyone wants to help the poor, the old and the sick; the safety net exists because we want it. But voters and taxpayers feel bullied, burdened and jerked around, which again is not new but feels more intense every day. Common sense and native wit tell them America is losing the most vital part of itself in the continuing shift of power from private to public. Rules, regulations, many of them stupid, from all the agencies--local, state, federal--on the building of a house, or the starting of a business. You can only employ so many before the new insurance rules kick in so don't employ too many, don't take a chance! Which means: Don't grow. It takes the utmost commitment to start a school or improve an existing one because you'll come up against the unions, which own the politicians.
It's all part of the malaise, the sclerosis. So is the eroding end of the idea that religious scruples and beliefs have a high place that must culturally and politically be respected. The political-media complex is bravely coming down on florists with unfashionable views. On twitter Thursday the freedom-fighter who tweets as @FriedrichHayek asked: "Can the government compel a Jewish baker to deliver a wedding cake on a Saturday? If not why not." Why not indeed. Because the truly tolerant give each other a little space? On an optimistic note, the Little Sisters of the Poor haven't been put out of business and patiently await their day in court.
While Noonan lamented the implications of a world in which being LGBT isn't sufficient reason for a business owner to deny someone a service, her survey of the "politicization of everything" excluded a look at the role of conservative media outlets like Fox News in crafting the narrative that LGBT equality poses a dire threat to religious freedom - the very narrative that led legislators across the country to begin proposing bills that would make LGBT customers legitimate targets of discrimination.
"This is America!" With that call to jingoism, Fox News legal correspondent Shannon Bream gave voice to a disconcerting push to grant private businesses the right to discriminate.
Bream's moment of candor came after her guest, Bernie Goldberg, cogently explained that business owners operating on Main Street don't get to pick and choose whom they serve and whom they refuse to serve. Bream jumped in:
Why not? Why not? I mean, this is America. We all have freedoms. I mean, why would you want to do business with somebody, no matter what your personal issue was that they had with you, why would you want to force them to do business with you? Why not just go down the street and say, "I'm going to spend my money to somebody who supports me and is kind to me and wants to help me and provide these services for me."
"Corporations are people, my friend," Mitt Romney quipped on the campaign trail in 2012. Increasingly, loud voices on the right are agitating to make sure that corporations and private businesses are seen as religious people who can always discriminate against employees and customers based on their religious beliefs.
Sometime in the next four months, the Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling determining in part whether corporations can deny their employees benefits based on religious liberty protections.
At issue is a provision in the Affordable Care Act requiring for-profit businesses that offer health insurance to include coverage for contraceptive care. Religious groups, rallying behind the owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores, challenged that provision, arguing that it violated the right of Christian business owners to practice their religion.
In part this is the logical outcome of the push on the right to be more permissive of discrimination in the private sector, which Bream eloquently laid out by shouting "America" and "freedom."
In 2010, Rand Paul came under fire for saying that he objected to laws that prohibited businesses from discriminating. "I think it's bad business to exclude anybody from your restaurant," he said, "but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership." Paul expressed general support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but lamented the fact that it extended to private businesses, a core piece of the legislation. The market, Paul argued, would take care of businesses that chose to discriminate.
While Paul was excoriated for his remarks, they were embraced on the right. Fox Business host John Stossel bragged that he would "go further" than Paul, calling for a partial repeal of the Civil Rights Act and give businesses the right to discriminate:
Because private businesses ought to get to discriminate. And I won't ever go to a place that's racist, and I will tell everybody else not to and I'll speak against them. But it should be their right to be racist.
That hypothesis, that private businesses should have the right to discriminate and be punished by the marketplace, has played out in recent days in the debate over an anti-gay bill in Arizona that would have made it easier for businesses to discriminate against gay customers.
That fight came after months of Fox News pushing anecdotes about Christian business owners under siege by laws the kept them from forcing their religious views onto employees and customers.
"Jan Brewer, the governor of Arizona, vetoed religious freedom," Rush Limbaugh opined on his radio show. "And, naturally, Democrats and their media allies are cheering. Even some Republicans are praising Arizona. Meanwhile, our founding fathers more than likely are spinning in their graves at about 400 rpm."
The night Brewer vetoed the bill, Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, argued in support of the right for businesses to discriminate on MSNBC's All In: "But in terms of private businesses doing it on their own, I think they should have the freedom and individuals should have the freedom to associate how they want."
It's a point Rand Paul and John Stossel were making in 2010. It's a point that opponents of the Civil Rights Act have been making for 50 years. And it's a chilling reality that it's once again a prominent aspect of public debate.
Catholic League President Bill Donohue's anti-equality arguments collapsed under questioning from CNN host Chris Cuomo, who tried to get Donohue to explain how marriage equality undermines religious freedom. Donohue couldn't point to any specific damage done by marriage equality, but resorted to comparisons of same-sex marriage with polygamy and condemnation of the modern notion that marriage should be based on love.
During the February 27 edition of CNN's New Day, Donohue sat down with Cuomo to discuss Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's veto of a measure that would have allowed individuals and businesses to refuse service to gay couples on religious grounds. Donohue defended the bill as an effort to protect religious liberty, leading Cuomo to ask how marriage equality engenders religious freedom.
Donohue couldn't point to any negative consequences - religious or otherwise - of allowing same-sex couples to marry, but he made clear he wasn't happy about "alternative lifestyles" or the shift away from the notion that marriage is about "duty," not shared love and commitment:
CUOMO: How does gay marriage compromise your rights?
DONOHUE: Gay marriage - the problem with gay marriage is this - it makes a smorgasbord. It basically says that there's no profound difference, socially speaking, between marriage between a man and woman - the only union which can create a family - and other examples.
CUOMO: Who says that's the purpose of marriage? What if you want lifelong companionship and commitment?
DONOHOUE: If a man and woman don't have sex, we can't reproduce, can we? We can't propagate.
CUOMO: But you don't have to be married to propagate.
DONOHUE: No, that's right.
CUOMO: You don't have to want to have kids to be married.
DONOHUE: Look, I don't want alternative lifestyles to be exactly that. I want marriage to be given a privileged position.
CUOMO: Who says it's an alternative lifestyle? Why isn't it just a lifestyle?
DONOHUE: Well, you want to make it that way and a lot of people - polygamy ...
Fox News host Megyn Kelly and senior political analyst Brit Hume were shocked by the suggestion that Arizona's anti-gay law might allow "a Christian doctor who is deeply conservative in his religious views to deny treatment" to patients on the basis of sexual orientation, an interesting change of pace for a network that has no problems regularly defending the religiously-based denial of women's health services.
In a February 25 segment on Fox's The Kelly File, Kelly and Hume agreed that the Arizona law -- which could provide legal protections to religious business owners who deny services and accommodations to gay couples on the basis of their sexual orientation -- went too far because the possibility of denying medical services to gay people was "an order of magnitude greater than the legal right to deny services to a gay wedding":
But neither Kelly nor Hume managed to point out the obvious -- Christian doctors are already enabled to deny services to all women on religious grounds.
Fox News host and Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson championed an Arizona measure that would allow businesses and individuals refuse services to gay people on religious grounds as a bulwark against "fascism."
Appearing on the February 26 edition of America's Newsroom, Carlson told co-host Martha MacCallum that the bill simply promotes "tolerance." The measure, which awaits Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's signature, is opposed by numerous business owners and conservatives, including Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain (R-AZ), 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and three GOP state senators who originally backed the bill. Carlson wasn't swayed by such critics, twice charging that it's "fascism" to require individuals and business owners to provide equal services to gay people:
CARLSON: Well it's pretty simple. I mean, if you want to have a gay wedding, fine, go ahead. If I don't want to bake you a cake for your gay wedding, that's okay too. Or should be. That's called tolerance. But when you try and force me to bake a cake for your gay wedding and threaten me with prison if I don't, that's called fascism.
Fox News has spent the last several months championing anti-gay business owners who refuse to serve gay customers - depicting efforts to prevent discrimination as threats to religious liberty. Now, with several states debating bills that would legalize homophobic discrimination in business and employment, Fox News is now defending the extreme, anti-gay segregation policies it helped to create.
The push to legalize anti-gay discrimination first came to public attention on February 12, when the Kansas House of Representatives passed a bill authorizing individuals and businesses to refuse any services "related to, or related to the celebration of" any union - effectively allowing blanket protection for the denial of services to gay couples. After a storm of negative publicity, the State Senate has shelved the bill.
Similar bills have recently died in Idaho, South Dakota, and Tennessee, but the Arizona legislature has sent its own license to discriminate measure to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's desk.
The wave of anti-gay segregation measures is the culmination of a concerted right-wing strategy, bolstered by Fox News, to cast anti-gay discrimination as an integral part of religious freedom.
Long before the public outcry over Kansas' license to discriminate bill, Fox threw its weight behind businesses whose owners refuse, ostensibly on religious grounds, to serve gay and lesbian couples - precisely the form of discrimination that conservative state legislators have sought to legalize.
As part of Fox's continued conflation of homophobia and Christianity, the network has repeatedly defended discrimination by anti-gay business owners as an essential part of religious liberty.
On December 10, Fox & Friends hosted Colorado baker Jack Phillips and his extremist Alliance Defending Freedom-affiliated attorney to discuss a court ruling that Phillips had violated the state's anti-discrimination law by refusing to serve a same-sex couple. The segment featured a graphic proclaiming "The Death Of Free Enterprise," while co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked Phillips why he thought he shouldn't have to discard his "personal religious beliefs just to make a buck."
The editorial board of the National Review ripped into "organized homosexuality" for opposing a measure passed by the Arizona legislature that would allow businesses and individuals to deny services to gay couples on religious grounds, defending the bill as part of the "live-and-let-live" credo.
In an editorial published online on February 24, the conservative publication's editors defended the bill as "necessary," criticizing the "oppression envy" shown by LGBT activists who have opposed the law and rejecting comparisons of the legislation to Jim Crow laws (emphasis added):
It is perhaps unfortunate that it has come to this, but organized homosexuality, a phenomenon that is more about progressive pieties than gay rights per se, remains on the permanent offensive in the culture wars. Live-and-let-live is a creed that the gay lobby specifically rejects: The owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado was threatened with a year in jail for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. New Mexico photographer Elaine Huguenin was similarly threatened for declining to photograph a same-sex wedding. It is worth noting that neither the baker nor the photographer categorically refuses services to homosexuals; birthday cakes and portrait photography were both on the menu. The business owners specifically objected to participating in a civic/religious ceremony that violated their own consciences.
Gay Americans, like many members of minority groups, are poorly served by their self-styled leadership. Like feminists and union bosses, the leaders of the nation's gay organizations suffer from oppression envy, likening their situation to that of black Americans -- as though having to find a gay-friendly wedding planner (pro tip: try swinging a dead cat) were the moral equivalent of having spent centuries in slavery and systematic oppression under Jim Crow. Their goal is not toleration or even equal rights but official victim-group status under law and in civil society, allowing them to use the courts and other means of official coercion to impose their own values upon those who hold different values.
Which is to say, what is regrettable here is not Arizona's law but the machinations that have made it necessary. It seems unlikely that those religious bakers and photographers were chosen at random, or that their antagonists will stop until such diversity of opinion as exists about the subject of gay marriage has been put under legal discipline.
The editors' assertion that the measure only targets services related to same-sex marriage has been debunked by experts. As constitutional law professor Kenji Yoshino of New York University has noted, the measure is written broadly enough that any individual or business owner would be allowed to refuse service to any gay person on the grounds that doing business with a gay person imposed a substantial burden on his or her religious beliefs.
From the February 21 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:
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CNN anchor Chris Cuomo highlighted the extreme anti-LGBT history of the legal organization that helped write an Arizona bill that would allow individuals and businesses to refuse to serve gay people on religious grounds, noting the group's record of opposing LGBT equality under the guise of protecting religious liberty.
As the Religion News Service noted on February 21, the principal drafters of the Arizona anti-gay segregation measure were the right-wing Center for Arizona Policy and the Scottsdale-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). Spokespersons from both organizations have commented publicly on the bill, but media coverage has featured scant attention to the strident anti-LGBT positions taken by ADF in particular.
But in an interview with ADF attorney Kellie Fiedorek on the February 24 edition of New Day, Cuomo refused to let ADF escape scrutiny. Like other supporters of the measure, Fiedorek dodged uncomfortable questions about whether the bill would allow businesses to discriminate against gay customers.
But when Fiedorek compared requiring businesses to serve gay customers to asking a Muslim to participate in a burning of the Koran or an African-American to photograph a KKK rally, Cuomo pushed back, noting the ADF's record of defending anti-gay discrimination:
Fox News has repeatedly hosted members of the fringe group Clarion Project, an anti-Muslim organization known for spreading Islamophobic fears, to discuss serious national security matters.
On February 20, Fox News hosted Ryan Mauro, a national security analyst from the Clarion Project, also known as the Clarion Fund, to discuss possible security threats on airlines. Mauro has recently appeared on Fox several times where he has argued that 'Muslim patrols' were a growing security concern for the United States, discussed the possibility of an anti-American alliance in the Middle East with Syrian Jihadists, and hyped fears that Somali refugees in the United States were becoming 'homegrown' terrorists.
But Mauro and other Clarion Project members are not credible sources to discuss issues such as these given their virulent history of Islamophobia. Clarion Project has been widely criticized for producing and spreading Islamophobic material including the movie, Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West, a film that depicted Muslims as terrorists seeking world conquest. Think Progress reported that this was only the first installment of "Clarion's ongoing production of Islamophobic films."
Mauro himself has penned numerous pieces for the anti-Islam blog Islamist Watch where he has tracked his progress in identifying "Muslim enclaves" in the United States that he says will become "'no-go zones' where governments admit to having little authority over Muslims living there" :
The construction of the building blocks for similar Muslim enclaves and "no-go zones" in the U.S. is one of the most disturbing programs of Islamist groups. If successful, these territories will be the first to establish Shari'a law in the country, thus offering a profound challenge to America's constitutional order.
Other board members from the Clarion Project who have also made their way onto Fox include Frank Gaffney, one of America's most notorious Islamophobes and Fox's go-to anti-Muslim activist, Zuhdi Jasser. Gaffney has used funding for his Center for Security Policy to produce reports promoting the baseless myth that Muslims are conspiring to implement Sharia law in the United States.
According to a Center for American Progress report, the Clarion Project is funded by three of the seven top anti-Islam and anti-Muslim think tanks and organizations in the United States, including the Donors Capital Fund, Newton D. & Rochelle F. Becker foundations and charitable trust, and Anchorage Charitable Foundation and William Rosenwal Family Fund. The Center for American Progress describes these donors as the "lifeblood of the Islamophobia network in America," and the report tracks how these donors use their money to support groups like the Clarion Project to "spread a deliberately misleading messages about Islam and Muslims that is fundamentally antithetical to our nation's foundation and principals of religious freedom."
Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers condemned a legislative push in Kansas to legalize religiously-motivated anti-gay business and employment discrimination, contradicting Fox News' pattern of defending anti-gay discrimination and sparking criticism from Powers' Fox News colleagues.
In a column for USA Today published on February 19, Powers blasted a Kansas bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse services to same-sex couples based on the owner's religious views. Since its passage by the state House of Representatives on February 12, the bill has been shelved by the Kansas Senate. Powers took issue with supporters of "homosexual Jim Crow laws" using Christianity to justify anti-gay bigotry - a common practice at Fox News (emphasis added):
Whether Christians have the legal right to discriminate should be a moot point because Christianity doesn't prohibit serving a gay couple getting married. Jesus calls his followers to be servants to all. Nor does the Bible call service to another an affirmation.
Christians backing this bill are essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws.
Christians serve unrepentant murderers through prison ministry. So why can't they provide a service for a same-sex marriage?
Some claim it's because marriage is so sacred. But double standards abound. Christian bakers don't interrogate wedding clients to make sure their behavior comports with the Bible. If they did, they'd be out of business. [Evangelical pastor Andy] Stanley said, "Jesus taught that if a person is divorced and gets remarried, it's adultery. So if (Christians) don't have a problem doing business with people getting remarried, why refuse to do business with gays and lesbians."
Maybe they should just ask themselves, "What would Jesus do?" I think he'd bake the cake.
Powers' Fox colleague Erick Erickson made clear that he wasn't a fan of her column, tweeting a link to a blog post that criticized her position and called the right to refuse service essential to "the common good." Erickson called the post "your must read of the day":
Fox News contributor Ben Carson joined the growing list of American conservatives praising Vladimir Putin's Russia for its ultraconservative social policies, asserting that Russia is "gaining prestige and influence throughout the world" thanks to Putin's hardline brand of Orthodox Christianity.
In a February 12 column for TownHall.com, Carson echoed Pat Buchanan and Breitbart.com in musing that the former Soviet Union - once pilloried as the "godless, evil empire" - has long since overtaken the United States in the realm of "Christian values." Carson lauded Russia's religious conservatism while endorsing Putin's recent remarks suggesting that the U.S. and western Europe have become "godless" (emphasis added):
We used to characterize the Soviet Union as a godless, evil empire. Like many societies based on communism or socialism, the Soviets saw fit to minimize the importance of God and, in many cases, wreaked unimaginable persecution on religious people.
Why is faith in God anathema to such states? It's because they need to remove any authority other than themselves as the arbiter of right and wrong.
Interestingly, last year Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized Euro-Atlantic countries, including the United States, of becoming godless and moving away from Christian values. Some may bristle at such an accusation, but when you consider that many Americans are hesitant even to mention God or Jesus in public, there may be some validity to his claim.We also casually have tossed out many of the principles espoused in the Bible and have concluded that there's no authority greater than man himself.
As secular progressives try to remove all vestiges of God from our society, let us remember the godly principles of loving our fellow man, caring about our neighborhoods, developing our God-given talents to the utmost so that we become valuable to the people around us, and maintaining high principles that govern our lives. Our Judeo-Christian values led this nation to the pinnacle of the world in record time. If we embrace them, they will keep us there.
While we Americans are giving a cold shoulder to our religious heritage, the Russians are warming to religion. The Russians seem to be gaining prestige and influence throughout the world as we are losing ours. I wonder whether there is a correlation.
From the February 6 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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