Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Maine's Proposition 1: Religious Freedom

Legalized gay marriage will no more result in churches being required to accept homosexual couples than legalized interracial marriage resulted in the KKK being required to accept interracial couples.

This is one of the scare tactics that is being used (by fundamentally dishonest people for whom bearing false witness is a cultural sport) to scare people away from legalized gay marriage. They claim that if gay marriage were permitted, then your local church would be required to marry gay couples and accept them as equal members in their church community, in stark contrast to the teachings of that religion.

Yet, clearly, with the Civil Rights Act nearly 50 years old and interracial marriages now widely accepted, nobody is yet forcing the KKK to open its doors to black members.

If they wanted to receive government money, then they would have to adopt a policy of non-discrimination. However, insofar as the organization remains private, its members still have the legal freedom to be as bigoted as they wish to be.

The same is true of the Church of the Anti-Gay Bigot. Churches are not supposed to be getting any tax money anyway. So, if a particular congregation wishes to continue to preach and practice anti-gay bigotry they should suffer no cost in doing so.

The analogy that I use here is quit apt and quite appropriate. The Church of the Anti-Gay Bigot is to homosexuals what the KKK is to blacks – including an element that openly preaches and practices acts of violence against members of the target group. Both of them hold prejudices that are just as poorly grounded. Both of them, in fact, can point to biblical passages that support their position.

I will argue for protection of the right to freedom of speech, freedom of association for such groups. This means that the members of these groups are not to be treated to violence, no matter how contemptible their speech or their beliefs. The only legitimate response to words are words and private actions. That is to say, it is legitimate to morally condemn the words of the hate-mongering bigot, as I am doing here. It is not legitimate to turn to violence or to institute legal penalties against what these groups say.

So there is no justification in passing laws that require the Church of the Anti-Gay Bigot to open its doors to gay members. Homosexuals will still be subject to these types of discrimination and will have to learn to respond only with words and private actions.

However, there is no need to hold back on the words – as long as the claims are true.

Of course, the many Churches of the Anti-Gay Bigot have also been keen to attack any type of legislation that seems to give the appearance of recognizing homosexual marriage as legitimate. They do so with the same type of justification used by the KKK and other racist groups in condemning anything that gives interracial marriage (and racial integration) an appearance of legitimacy. When the government gives legitimacy to these types of relationships, it effectively states that those who deny the legitimacy of these types of relationships are mistaken. "You have the right to speak your mind, even if you are wrong,"

The claim is that it is inappropriate for the government to declare that the preachings of any church are mistaken. This amounts to taking sides in religious disputes.

However the government does take sides and must take sides in some religious disputes. It allows and in some cases even pays for blood transfusions – effectively stating that the government's official position regarding blood transfusions are mistaken. It facilitates the growing, shipping, and eating of pork, giving legitimacy to activities that certain churches say is not legitimate. In fact, it recognizes marriages between people of different faith, even though some churches still hold to the idea that marrying outside the faith is prohibited. It allows businesses to stay open on the Sabbath and passes no prohibitions to charging interest to citizens.

If the arguments against the government giving the appearance of legitimacy to that which any religion prohibits are sound, then we are on our way to a whole pack of additional laws that so far have remained off the books. Either we prohibit everything so long as there exists a religion in this country that prohibits it, or we reject the argument that the government must enforce all of the prohibitions of every religion that has a presence in this country.

Just as we have reason to hope that the ideology of the Nazi Party and the KKK fade into history, we have reason to hope that the Church of the Anti-Gay Bigot goes that way as well. We have no reason to regard these three groups differently from one another. All three of these are groups that have targeted a special segment of the population for special hatred – be they Jews, blacks, or homosexuals. All three of them deserve our condemnation for doing so.

However, the claim that permitting homosexual marriage interferes with the freedom of the Church of the Anti-Gay Bigot is as false as the claim that permitting interracial marriage violates the rights of the KKK or the rights of the Nazis.


Burt Likko said...

It may be a little bit more pernicious than that, though: accepting government money comes in two forms -- first in the form of taking money the government gives you, and second in the form of not paying money the government demands of others. Most churches are tax-exempt organizations. Exemption from taxes is a form of governmental subsidy. If a church applies for tax-exempt status, must it submit to governmental rules (i.e., non-discrimination in use of its facilities for same-sex marriages) to keep that exempt status?

It seems you would argue "Yes, that is an appropriate result; if the Church of the Anti-Gay Bigot wants to discriminate against gays it can forfeit its tax-exempt status and become a truly private organization." Bear in mind that as things stand right now, a significant number of churches -- particularly smaller ones -- would not be able to continue operation if they had to start paying property and other kinds of taxes, which would inhibit the ability of sincere believers to attend the church of their choice.

If I were a lawyer for the church, I could credibly argue that this is effectively governmental action restricting religious practice.

Now, I don't personally agree with that way of looking at it. "Withdrawal of a special privilege" is NOT the same thing as
"governmental repression." But there are plenty of people who would see it that way, particularly when it is their churches who have to make the (to them) unpleasant choice of acting contrary to their religious principles or closing their doors. It's certainly the case that the special privilege I'm talking about here has been in place for enough time that it is thought to be something of an entitlement -- and the attitude and fear driving the political ploy to which you object is precisely the same as that of the objection to modification of other kinds of popular entitlement programs like Medicare or Social Security.

Anonymous said...

Their is an error in your blog. The KKK claims to be but is not simply racists against blacks. They are a simple discriminatory group with their own opinions against everyone. There is such thing as a black KKK member, although they are extremely rare. As long as you discuss hate towards a person or group, the KKK most likely will respect you and allow to join their cause.

Anonymous said...

We are American taxpayers who work, sleep, eat, cook, shop, clean, shower, walk, drive, visit with family & friends, listen to music, love to dine out and travel...
call us all that before calling us "gay". We love each other - for 27 years now, but the amount of time we make love is way less than 1%. Such a silly fuss!!!
We just want Equal Rights for the Equal Taxes we pay - OR... reduce our taxes by 15% until we get Equal Rights. Only fair. Blessings to us all. Lee & Ron

anton said...

Transplanted Lawyer makes a good point but it should go further. Clergy also receive a financial benefit as long as their "church" is recognized by the government. Clergy are allowed to deduct the cost of their housing and its maintenance, heat, light, insurance, etc. from their personal income taxes even when those costs are paid by the church. It is, therefore, in the personal interest of the clergy to keep the pot boiling.

Anonymous said...

A act against Truth anywhere is an attack against Truth everywhere. So-called homosexual marriage is an attack on Truth. Truth is not up for democratic vote -- it is what is, for eternity, or isn't Truth. If it isn't Truth it's a Lie. Homosexual "marriages" are a Lie. The Truth is the Truth if no one accepts it. A Lie is a Lie if everyone accepts it.

Burt Likko said...

So, how does one ascertain this Truth?

If the answer is based on some sort of revealed wisdom (e.g., reference to a holy book or the teachings of a prophet) then I reject it totally.

And if you are wise, you will, too.

Anonymous said...

So what does a Transplanted Lawyer lawyer seek? Truth or Lies? Does the Transplanted Lawyer know or is there no such thing as Truth or is Truth relative to the Transplanted Lawyer? Truth is forever, else it was never Truth.

Wisdom is Truth. Folly is Lies.

Alonzo Fyfe said...


The relevant truth here is your own bigotry. You learned to value things that harm other people. You have learned to value doing things with your time on this planet denying value to others.

That is the truth.

Burt Likko said...

Anonymous if I were cross-examining you in court, I'd ask the judge to instruct you to answer my question. Your response did not answer my question, and therefore does not provide me with any confidence that you know the Truth. Why does the Truth hide behind evasions, dodges, and rhetoric? Liars hide, conceal, and dissemble, else their deceptions are revealed.

You didn't answer my question. That tells me that you are likely to be a liar rather than a purveyor of truth.

Anonymous said...

The Transplanted Lawyer interjected speculations and opinions about Truth and advised the defendant based on those unfounded speculations. In court an objection would be raised and the question dismissed. The question would asked to be rephrased without the speculation and opinion.

Truth simply is. For example, if a star went supernova in a galaxy 10 million light years away, even if we did not know about it or missed an opportunity to detect it 10 million years from now does not discount the Truth that the supernova did happen. Truth does not have to be sense perceptible or even documented. Again, Truth simply is.

As to the person who claimed bigotry and how it harms others. Blindness to Truth is bigotry and harms everyone -- bigots and non-bigots alike. A support system of Lies does not make Truth -- just well-organized bigotry.

Eneasz said...

Anon, no one is questioning the basic nature of truth. You aren't shocking anyone by asserting that "truth simply is." Everyone already knows that.

You, on the other hand, seem to conflate truth with morality. When you say "homosexual marriage is an attack on Truth", what you actually mean is "homosexual marriage is bad." Saying that it's an attack on truth, if one were to take you literally instead of re-interpreting your sentence, is simply nonsensical. It's like saying horizontal is an attack on green. The sentence does not parse.

It seems you are conflating these two intentionally, so when someone says "You are wrong" you can defend the actual definition of truth (as per your super-nova comment) instead of defending your incorrect assertion of moral badness. Obviously it's easier to defend something that's correct than something that's incorrect, thus the intentional conflation. Stop doing that. That is dishonest. It is essentially "bearing false witness", which I believe there is a "thou shalt not" for.

Restate your claim in a way that makes sense.

Anonymous said...

There is no conflating -- if one knows and understands Truth. It only seems conflating or nonsensical because Truth to some or many is not understood.

Saying sea makes clouds may have been thought as conflating two thousand years ago. We now know that it is not.

No conflating, no dishonesty, thus no "false witness".

Burt Likko said...

And still no answer to the question: " does one ascertain this Truth?"

To say "Truth simply is" does not explain how it is ascertained. A bacteria "simply is" in the sense that it has an objective existence. Ascertaining its presence or absence from a given location, however, is a different matter altogether.

I predict that next Anonymous will contend that Truth is "self-evident." If so, it is hardly self-evident that same-sex marriage is not as "True" as an opposite-sex marriage; the love and commitment between same-sex partners can be and often is the same as between opposite-sex partners and the laws and property rights that go along with marriage can easily be extended to same-sex partners and in many places, they already are.

Eneasz said...

Anon -

Truth to some or many is not understood.

Please, enlighten us then. What is it we don't understand?