Monday, September 24, 2012
Tangled web of conflicting rights
Elaine Huguenin, who with her husband operates Elane Photography in New Mexico, asks only to be let alone. But instead of being allowed a reasonable zone of sovereignty in which to live her life in accordance with her beliefs, she is being bullied by people wielding government power.
In 2006, Vanessa Willock, who was in a same-sex relationship, emailed Elane Photography about photographing a "commitment ceremony" she and her partner were planning. Willock said this would be a "same-gender ceremony." Elane Photography responded that it photographed "traditional weddings." The Huguenins are Christians who, for religious reasons, disapprove of same-sex unions. Willock sent a second email asking whether this meant that the company "does not offer photography services to same-sex couples." Elane Photography responded "you are correct."
Willock could then have said regarding Elane Photography what many same-sex couples have long hoped a tolerant society would say regarding them – "live and let live." Willock could have hired a photographer with no objections to such events. Instead, Willock and her partner set out to break the Huguenins to the state's saddle.
Willock's partner, without disclosing her relationship with Willock, emailed Elane Photography. She said she was getting married – actually, she and Willock were having a "commitment ceremony" because New Mexico does not recognize same-sex marriages – and asked if the company would travel to photograph it. The company said yes. Willock's partner never responded.
Instead, Willock, spoiling for a fight, filed a discrimination claim with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, charging that Elane Photography is a "public accommodation," akin to a hotel or restaurant, that denied her its services because of her sexual orientation. The NMHRC found against Elane and ordered it to pay $6,600 in attorney fees.
But what a tangled web we weave when we undertake to regulate more and more behaviors under overlapping codifications of conflicting rights. Elaine Huguenin says she is being denied her right to the "free exercise" of religion guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment and a similar provision in the New Mexico constitution. Furthermore, New Mexico's Religious Freedom Restoration Act defines "free exercise" as "an act or a refusal to act that is substantially motivated by religious belief," and forbids government from abridging that right except to "further a compelling government interest."
So New Mexico, whose marriage laws discriminate against same-sex unions, has a "compelling interest" in compelling Huguenin to provide a service she finds repugnant and others would provide? Strange.
Eugene Volokh of the UCLA School of Law thinks Huguenin can also make a "compelled speech argument": She cannot be coerced into creating expressive works, such as photographs, which express something she is uncomfortable expressing. Courts have repeatedly held that freedom of speech and the freedom not to speak are "complementary components of the broader concept of 'individual freedom of mind.'"
A New Mexico court, however, has held that Elane Photography is merely "a conduit for another's expression." But the U.S. Supreme Court (upholding the right of a person to obscure the words "Live Free or Die" on New Hampshire's license plates) has affirmed the right not to be compelled to be conduits of others' expression.
New Mexico's Supreme Court is going to sort all this out, which has been thoroughly reported and discussed by the invaluable blog The Volokh Conspiracy, where you can ponder this: In jurisdictions such as the District of Columbia and Seattle, which ban discrimination on the basis of political affiliation or ideology, would a photographer, even a Jewish photographer, be compelled to record a Nazi Party ceremony?
The Huguenin case demonstrates how advocates of tolerance become tyrannical. First, a disputed behavior, such as sexual activities between people of the same sex, is declared so personal and intimate that government should have no jurisdiction over it. Then, having won recognition of what Louis Brandeis, a pioneer of the privacy right, called "the right to be let alone," some who have benefited from this achievement assert a right not to let other people alone. It is the right to coerce anyone who disapproves of the now protected behavior into acting as though they approve it, or at least into not acting on their disapproval.
So, in the name of tolerance, government declares intolerable individuals such as the Huguenins, who disapprove of a certain behavior but ask only to be let alone in their quiet disapproval. Perhaps advocates of gay rights should begin to restrain the bullies in their ranks.
British badger militants put pictures of Minister's home on the net in 'campaign of intimidation' over controversial cull
THE Environment Secretary has been targeted by animal rights militants who have published photos of his home online as part of a campaign of ‘intimidation’ against a controversial badger cull.
Owen Paterson – who last week approved the cull in Gloucestershire to try to stop the spread of TB among cattle – was forced to obtain a High Court injunction against the website, which also lists his address and office phone number.
Although activists removed the information, within hours it had reappeared on a ‘mirror’ site hosted in Australia but easily accessible in the UK through a simple Google search.
The website claims a high-level Civil Service mole, sympathetic to their cause, went ‘out on a limb’ to leak the private details.
It has also published addresses and phone numbers for senior Defra civil servants, board members of Natural England, which is licensing the cull, and officials at the National Farmers Union.
The Mail on Sunday is not revealing details of the website to protect those named. We have also established the identity of the British woman behind it but for legal reasons – linked to an unrelated police investigation – she cannot be named.
The site, which advises protesters to ‘stay legal’, carries photographs of Mr Paterson’s North Shropshire home under the headline ‘House on the hill. Owen Paterson has a posh place’. There is also an aerial shot and a view of the main entrance gates – key information for any extremist planning to trespass.
It will also concern police given Mr Paterson’s previous role as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, where he was an obvious target for terrorist groups.
Text on the anti-cull website boasts Mr Paterson is ‘very, very angry about the site publishing his office phone number. Many people are ringing it and playing the “badger badger” song to him’. This is a reference to a YouTube video in which cartoon badgers dance to a soundtrack.
The website adds: ‘Below is the rest of the ministers [sic], this was leaked to us by someone who is high up in the civil service. Please put a few minutes to one side each day to contact them.’
Martin Haworth, director of policy at the National Farmers Union, said: ‘We are very disappointed this has happened. We have asked Defra and Natural England how this information could have been discovered.’
Natural England declined to comment on the leak ‘for security reasons’.
A Defra spokesman said last night that its databases had not been compromised.
Police are preparing for fast-track prosecutions against activists who launch night protests against the badger cull.
Farmers taking part have been asked to sign a police witness statement known as an MG11, saying they have not given permission for anyone to disrupt the cull.
By collecting the forms in advance, police hope they can bring about charges more quickly.
It's Always Our Fault - Revisiting the "Stockholm Syndrome"
I've been following the sad news out of Benghazi. The late ambassador Stevens was a courageous man committed to uplifting the Libyan people who, together with the Egyptians, are supposedly our new "allies." Seeing photos of his corpse being dragged like garbage through the streets of the city by those who demand the niceties of Sharia Law, those who wish to establish the worldwide Muslim Caliphate and enforce the subjugation of women - I had nothing pithy left to say, only sadness to feel.
Yet it took the American Embassy in Cairo, Hilary Clinton and the Vatican to raise my hackles. The embassy tweeted: "we condemn the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims"; whilst Hilary, parading the endemic White House political correctness, called the obscure video by a crackpot "reprehensible" saying "we absolutely reject its content and message." The Vatican's Father Lombardi did not condemn the killings in Benghazi; rather he condemned "provocations against the sensibilities of Muslim believers."
Yet, the attack in Benghazi was more an act of war than a spontaneous protest - 400 militants showed up with mortars and RPGs.
Why? Why does the most powerful government in the world apologize to a rioting rabble, murderers of ambassadors, avowed followers of Bin Laden, pillagers of sovereign American property, whilst at the same time equating the obnoxious and isolated video with the iniquitous violence, as though the two were in any way comparable? The allure of the freedoms guaranteed by our Bill of Rights seems lost to the White House; the integrity of moral judgment has become clouded amongst our leaders.
Yes, this obscure and largely unseen video may indeed hurt the feelings of some devout Muslims, and may inflame some habitual anti-American hatred. But so will every Hollywood movie, every porn site, every political statement that's deemed impure and insulting to the Islamists who have zero tolerance to Western mores and traditions. This 14-minute video by some Egyptian Copt in California about the prophet Muhammad, "Innocence of Muslims," has been on YouTube since June - yet the propagators of these riots waited until September 11th, that infamous anniversary, to fan the flames. (On September 8th a major Egyptian TV station aired this largely ignored short film).
The real question is not the volatility of millions of Middle Easterners taught from birth to hate America and to despise Israel (as any excuse is usually enough). The real question is why we feel the need to pander and apologize to the most radical, violent and intolerant extremes around the world, to let them set the tone; a tone designed to stifle all criticism of Islam, to declare as blasphemy any attempt to reform radical Islam. (To Islamists, free speech does not extend to defamation of Islam and democracy merely another avenue to implement their 7th century theology).
There were indeed in the past other isolated incidents - Geert Wilders' "Fitna" movie in Amsterdam, the now infamous cartoons in the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in Denmark, a few pages of a discarded Koran burnt in error in Afghanistan. In the whole scheme of things, it's remarkable that there are not many more of these criticisms of Islam as we experience some of its radical manifestations today.
When Saudi citizens murdered 3000 innocents on 9/11, no embassies were burnt in America, no ambassadors murdered, no riots started. Yet an amateur film of no value seems to bother the Muslim World more than these 3000 victims. Apologies seem to go only one way - that is the real quandary. We are irrevocably always the Infidels, and they are always the revered protectors of Muhammad.
Ignored yet more relevant is the proliferation, by contrast in the Middle East, of daily anti-West, anti-Semitic propaganda. It's everywhere, all the time - it's the staple of much of the media, the education system, the Madrassas and the Mosques.
A 41 episode series (Horse Without a Horseman) based on the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion has been running on Egyptian TV presenting the Jews as a cabal of conspiring demons taking over the world.
In Syria, a government-supported TV series trotted out the ancient blood libel, that of Jews murdering Muslim children, then using their blood to bake Passover Matzos. Strange also, since Kosher laws expressly forbid blood residues from meat.
Hamas and the Palestinian Authority regularly equate Jews with the sons and daughters of pigs and monkeys, deserving of death and banishment. The PA pay convicted and jailed suicide bombers $3000 per month using American government subsidies.
Ahmadinejad talks of destroying Israel. Huge crowds danced, celebrated and handed out sweets in the Middle East capitals on 9/11.
The list is endless as are the calls to violence, rage and vengeance.
Does anyone from that world apologize for these daily genocidal exhortations? Does anyone from the West demand it? None that I have heard. Why? At MSNBC a consensus from a talk show recently advocated jailing the videographer as an accessory to murder, but not jailing the murderers themselves, not any lynch mobs. The murderers are granted victimhood in our upside-down world.
US Ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, had forbidden the embassy's security to carry live ammunition - talk about a misguided attempt not to antagonize the Muslim Brotherhood, after all, talk about a more direct accessory to murder.
Where's the outrage when in the Middle East homosexuals are tortured, women stoned, acid thrown into the faces of young girls, Coptic Churches burned, IQ deficient kids used as suicide bombers? The silence is more than deafening.
We now apologize for our unique freedom of speech, the core bastion of our society; we apologize for the words, cartoons and photos of a few independent individuals exercising their inalienable right to free expression, to differing opinions overwhich we have no control over or responsibility for.
Our ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, and White House spokesman, Jay Carney, insist unwaveringly, against all evidence, against the findings of the Libyan and Egyptian authorities, that the violence was not premeditated, that it was entirely due to the obscure YouTube video. Reports also further note that the brother of Al Qaeda's current leader, namely Mohammed Zawahiri, was instrumental in the Cairo attack.
Yet we seem to take the hate speech in the Middle East for granted, the beheadings, kidnappings, rapes, murders, suicide bombings. We cowardly choose to respond by subsidizing these supremacist and fanatical leaders, these anti-American entities. We now show every variation of weakness and pandering, any apology we can muster in spite of the immutable reality that the Middle East only respects the strong horse and mocks the weak horse. Logic and morality be damned.
We, and our ambassadors, should not be anywhere in which we cannot engender respect or elicit appreciation. Skype as an alternative really works very well nowadays. The White House ignores the green revolution in Iran, that hugely deserving opposition to a viciously anti-American regime, in a country of people primarily pro-American. Yet this same White House supports Egyptian President Morsi who demands the release of the first World Trade Center bomber, blind sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman. This same White House supports the Muslim Brotherhood, who has refused to recognize the State of Israel and whose leaders reaffirmed Jihad on Israel.
We apologize when we should stand firm; strangely, we draw our enemies close and alienate our friends. I don't understand - do you?
Australia: Nazi-themed striptease slammed by Queensland Jewish Community
Nazi regalia and artifacts are not banned in Australia but no-one forces you to buy them. Similarly, if you don't like the show below, don't go there. All sorts of things that offend Christians are not censored
A NAZI-themed striptease being performed in Brisbane clubs has been slammed as "repulsive" by Queensland's Jewish community amid warnings it's becoming part of a trend towards shows glorifying the Third Reich.
The controversial burlesque show features a syringe-wielding, scantily-clad Nazi doctor with a swastika armband conducting scientific experiments on a pair of hooded girls.
Performed to a crowd of hundreds at the recent Dead of Winter festival at Brisbane's Jubilee Hotel, the show is the brainchild of burlesque artist and model Ali Darling, 24, who adapted it from a Rob Zombie short film.
Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies president Jason Steinberg said featuring swastikas and other Nazi iconography in a burlesque performance was disrespectful and repulsive.
"It is offensive to the Jewish community - also it would be offensive to the majority of Queenslanders," he said.
"It shouldn't be acceptable in this day and age for someone to use Nazi symbols in a way that glorifies that era."
He said there were still Holocaust survivors living in Queensland, and it was inappropriate for images from that era to be used in a burlesque show.
Ms Darling said she had been performing the show, entitled Werewolf Women of the SS, for about six months, and it had become one of her "signature acts".
"It's a pretty popular show and I will be expanding it because it's going to go into my stage production."
She said the show was satirical and highly stylised, and although she had "absolutely" had negative feedback about it, she'd had an equal number of people praising the performance.
"I get as many people loving it as hating it, which is fine with me. I like getting in people's faces," she said.
Ms Darling, who also has an act featuring a real pig's eye and another where she tears pages out of a Bible with her teeth and spits them at her audience, said she knew of a few other burlesque dancers with similar performances around Australia.
Brisbane cabaret performer Bertie Page said she had noticed a disturbing trend towards Nazi-themed burlesque shows.
"I've noticed it around the traps, it seems to be somewhat of a trend at the moment and I find it really quite concerning," she said.
Swastika-themed burlesque costuming has become available on the internet, and a recent film Burlesque Assassins features a group of dancers as Nazi-fighting killers.
Ms Page, who has German heritage, said she was worried such performances could give burlesque a bad name, and said the use of the swastika was an "indisputably terrible thing".
"The minute you put on that swastika you are representing a power that is bought at the expense of others' lives," she said.
Lola Montgomery, a performer who is completing a PhD in burlesque, said she did not think there was a trend towards Nazi-themed burlesque, and saw such performances more as isolated incidents.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.