Thursday, April 9, 2015

"RFRA and Hypocrisy of the Left"

                    Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“RFRA and Hypocrisy of the Left”
April 6, 2015

The first thing about RFRAs (Religious Freedom Restoration Acts) is that they should be unnecessary. The First Amendment is clear: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof.” The First Amendment has never been amended. How does one restore something that was never taken a way? Yet more than twenty states (including Connecticut where I live) felt the necessity to pass such legislation. One assumes it must be part of the American Bar Association’s “Full Employment Act.”

The real reason for RFRA, however, has to do with the ascendancy of other rights, some of which are incompatible with existing ones. Most of the time our rights live together harmoniously, but there are times when they conflict. Gay rights, for example, have increased in prominence, while religion (or at least the practice of it in the United States) has been in decline[1]. When a photographer refuses to photograph a gay wedding because her religion believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman, she is demonized by the media and political elitists, and is subject to law suits. The photographer is assumed to be acting in a discriminatory fashion. But we live in a pluralistic society where photographers should not be coerced to photograph a function they would rather not. Photographers do not have monopoly status. They compete for their business. And the couple has alternatives. If a photographer is persistently biased, his or her business will likely fail. Tolerance is, after all, (or should be) a two-way street.

Our rights were laid out in the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment protects our religious rights, as well as our freedoms to speak and assemble. The 14th, 15th, 20th and 24th Amendments protect us against discrimination based on race, creed or sex. In a majority of states, the rights of gays, including marriage, are the same as anyone else. Underlying our rights as individuals, however, is a foundation of communal social responsibility, decency and respect that can abrogate individual rights. For example, the right to speak out does not extend to yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. We can assemble, but we cannot block a fire engine from reaching its target. We have a right to petition government and the right to demonstrate, but that does not make it okay to injure someone because we are offended by his or her race, creed or sexual orientation.

If an action taken does not directly infringe on another’s rights, should that person be required to participate in a practice objectionable to their religious beliefs? If a lesbian baker refuses to make a cake for the wedding of heterosexuals because she finds one of them to be chauvinistic, is that a civil rights violation? Or is she exercising her fundamental right to serve whom she chooses? The history of this country is replete with examples of people freely exercising their religious beliefs, even when doing so risks harming the greater good. During World War II pacifists were allowed not to serve in a capacity where they would be required to take up arms against an enemy, even though they benefitted to the extent that their freedom to do so was defended by one who gave his life. Discrimination is wrong, but denying one’s right to practice his or her religion is also wrong?

The Left’s fixation on equality is too often underscored by political correctness. It is manifested in an intolerance that is at odds with their declared vow for tolerance. A Christian fundamentalist is automatically seen as a racist. Some, I am sure, are, but so is the accuser. Based on a fabricated story Rolling Stone found a University of Virginia fraternity guilty of sex crimes. The reporter, editors and magazine officers walked away unaffected. Too bad the same could not be said for those falsely accused. The Left did the same thing to Duke lacrosse players a few years ago, and more recently to a West Coast venture capital firm that was accused of sex-discrimination – a case that got tossed out of court as baseless. There was no remorse on the part of the accusers; they justified their actions based on the claim that their accusations brought attention to a problem deemed to be pervasive. That innocents got hurt was irrelevant.

Discrimination takes many forms, apart from the ones we normally associate with such behavior like race, creed, sex and sexual orientation. The Left has a tendency to categorize people by what they represent, rather than by who they are. Old white men are conservatives, as are Christian fundamentalists, high school graduates, gun-loving members of the bourgeoisie and anybody deemed to be stupid. According to their definition, the media, single women, African-Americans, the hip and young, minorities, teachers, college graduates and public sector union employees must be liberals.

It is why the Left cannot abide articulate Black conservatives like Ben Carson, Tim Scott, Thomas Sowell or Jason Riley. It is why they don’t like women governors such as Susan Martinez, Jan Brewer, Nikki Haley or Mary Fallin. It is why they never speak of gays like Ken Mehlman, Richard Tisei or Paul Babeu. The media largely ignored it when 300 Republican lawmakers and operatives filed a friend of the court brief at the Supreme Court in support of gay marriage. Reading or watching mainstream media sources, one would never know that Log Cabin Republicans is celebrating its 38th year. These people and groups do not conform to the narrative spun by the Left as what defines Blacks, women and gays. Conservative Blacks, women and gays do not campaign or write columns as victims, but as individuals with ideas. Their opinions are based on empirical evidence, not on tales told as they would wish them to be. Theirs is a belief in freedom; it is the realm of ideas that drives them.

The hypocrisy of the Left can be seen in their infatuation with polls. Four years ago, neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton publically supported same-sex marriage. (In keeping in character however, they both claim to have done so privately.) Was it a messenger from God that informed them they were wrong? Or did their public persona catch up to a changing culture expressed in polls? From being intolerant of such ceremonies, they are now intolerant of those who hold the same views they did a few years ago.

The whole episode in Indiana is a sorry example of the decline in morality, not because gay marriage is wrong, but because of the persistence of intolerance among those who would preach tolerance. It is hypocrisy of the worst kind.

[1] A recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed the number of Americans unaffiliated with any particular faith to be 16.1%, more than double the number who say they were not affiliated with any religion as children.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. I hope there are a lot of people in this country that look at this situation the same way. Hammering someone for not wanting to be coerced into doing business is wrong when there are multiple alternatives to that business person's trade. I suspect those who jumped on the bandwagon to criticize the pizza place are seeing that they are not going to simply have their way. There were a lot of people who disagree with the critics and that was clearly shown by the amount of money donated to the owners of the pizza business.