Friday, October 31, 2014
City Tells Idaho Wedding Chapel It Can Turn Away Homosexual Couples
If I were a clergyman and a homosexual couple asked me to marry them, I would accept with gladness and insist on being prepaid in cash. I would then begin the service with readings from the Bible -- a routine part of Protestant worship. I would read Leviticus 18:22, Romans chapter 1, 1 Timothy chapter 1 and Jude verse 7. That would be a great witness to Bible teachings for people who most likely have never heard them. If the wedding party then stormed out, I would not be at fault for quoting my holy book and homosexuals thereafter would stop bothering clergy with their nonsense
No, you can't force a minister to marry you by invoking an anti-discrimination law. Or at least that's what the Idaho city of Coeur d'Alene has told the owners of the Hitching Post, who had organized a lawsuit against the city out of concern they would be required to marry gay couples. The story got national attention at the start of the week because of fears that the couple who owned the chapel, Donald and Evelyn Knapp, would be fined or even jailed if they refused to marry gay couples.
The city originally told the couple as much, because it's a for-profit business. But now the city is backing off and has determined the Knapps can say no. Unfortunately the reason is not because a wedding ceremony is not a right and nobody of any race, sexual orientation, or religion should be able to demand that somebody must bless (in any definition of the word) their relationship. Rather, the city's anti-discrimination ordinance doesn't specify that a business has to be a non-profit in order to claim a religious-based exemption from the law. From Boise State Public Radio:
"Initially, the city said its anti-discrimination law did apply to the Hitching Post, since it is a commercial business. Earlier this week, Coeur d'Alene city attorney Mike Gridley sent a letter to the Knapps' attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom saying the Hitching Post would have to become a not-for-profit to be exempt.
But Gridley said after further review, he determined the ordinance doesn't specify non-profit or for-profit.
"After we've looked at this some more, we have come to the conclusion they would be exempt from our ordinance because they are a religious corporation," Gridley explained.
Court filings show the Hitching Post reorganized earlier this month as a "religious corporation." In the paperwork, the owners describe their deeply held beliefs that marriage should be between one man and one woman."
An American Civil Liberties Union representative gave the decision his nod of approval as long as the business is a "religious corporation" and as long as they don't perform non-religious ceremonies and then refuse to serve same-sex couples.
The timing of the filings and various complexities of the organization of the Hitching Post as a business prompted some additional intrigue throughout the week. Walter Olson of the Cato Institute explained it all from a libertarian perspective in his Overlawyered blog here. I decided not to engage in discussing the intrigue further because, though the technical components may matter in a legal sense, from a philosophical perspective, it shouldn't make a difference.
The reasons why the Knapps don't want to marry any couple and their status as a profit or a non-profit or whether they also offered civil ceremonies should not matter. The only thing that should matter is that they didn't want to marry a couple for whatever reason they declared.
Why? Because the idea that a wedding ceremony is a public accommodation is absolutely absurd. Is there a service that is any less of a public accommodation than an actual wedding ceremony? The whole idea of a public accommodation laws (and don't read this as a general endorsement) is that the identity of the customer is irrelevant to the business transaction. A business operator's opinions on race or religion should have no reason to come into play when selling somebody gum or a hamburger or a ticket to see a movie.
But a wedding is literally hiring somebody to tell you that you and your partner are awesome and are going to be happy and to enjoy life. A wedding ceremony is literally speech. The actual marriage certification process with the state is something else entirely. Marriage is a right. A wedding ceremony is not.
Same-sex weddings, and the right not to perform them
by Jeff Jacoby
ON OCTOBER 7, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage. On Oct. 15, county clerks in the state for the first time issued marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
Then, five days later came startling news out of the Idaho resort town of Coeur d'Alene: Two Christian ministers, owners of the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel, had reportedly been told by local officials that they were now required to perform same-sex weddings, or risk fines of up to $1,000 and as much as six months in jail if they refused. Under the city's antidiscrimination ordinance, the Hitching Post is considered "a place of public accommodation," and refusing to marry couples on the basis of sexual orientation was no longer a legal option.
So the two ministers, Donald and Evelyn Knapp, filed a lawsuit, seeking to block the city from forcing them to host same-sex ceremonies in violation of their sincere religious beliefs. "The Knapps are in fear that if they exercise their First Amendment rights they will be cited, prosecuted, and sent to jail," their attorney told reporters.
At first blush, the story seemed to confirm the grimmest forebodings of those who have warned that the gay marriage juggernaut will roll right over religious liberty concerns. Was the government really threatening to jail clergy who refused to perform same-sex weddings?
The short answer: No, it hasn't come to that — at least not yet. The Knapps weren't charged with any violation, and since they recently reincorporated the Hitching Post as an explicitly "religious corporation" under Idaho law, it seems doubtful that any prosecutor is seriously gunning for them.
But Coeur d'Alene isn't ruling out the possibility, either. Only if the Hitching Post truly operates on a not-for-profit religious basis, City Attorney Michael Gridley wrote in an Oct. 20 letter, would the Knapps be legally exempted from the antidiscrimination ordinance "like any other church or religious association." Conversely, if their wedding chapel provides services "primarily or substantially for profit and they discriminate in providing those services based on sexual orientation," they could be cited for breaking the law.
Should they be?
Religious convictions haven't sheltered florists, bakers, and other vendors who have declined to provide their services for same-sex ceremonies. The Supreme Court earlier this year let stand the penalty imposed on a New Mexico photographer who turned down a request to shoot a lesbian couple's commitment ceremony. The American Civil Liberties Union argues that wedding chapels, like bakeries and photo studios, are bound by nondiscrimination law, regardless of the owners' moral beliefs. By that argument, it makes no difference that the owner of a company is an ordained minister. An operation like the Hitching Post isn't a ministry, the ACLU would say, it's a business — and the First Amendment can tell the difference.
Yet there is considerably more to the First Amendment than the unique protection it extends to churches. The freedom of expression it enshrines secures the right to speak no less than the right not to speak. Time and again the Supreme Court has confirmed that government may not force Americans to utter words they disbelieve or deny.
"If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation," Justice Robert Jackson wrote in a landmark 1943 decision that struck down a law compelling students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, "it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein."
Whatever one's views on same-sex marriage — or on nondiscrimination statutes generally — it is unfathomable that ministers could be forced by law to pronounce the words of a marriage ceremony against their will. That they are being paid to perform the ceremony doesn't diminish the significance of the words they are saying, or erode their constitutional liberty to choose not to say them.
Supporters of same-sex unions have nothing to gain by forcing anyone, least of all clergy members, to officiate at weddings when it would violate their principles to do so. That is "just something we don't do in a liberal society," insists Andrew Sullivan, a stalwart advocate for gay marriage. Concerns about what "marriage equality" is doing to religious tolerance and dissent run deep; surely the best way to allay those concerns is with respect and goodwill. As same-sex wedlock comes to Idaho, it is in everyone's interest that freedom of speech and conscience not be driven out.
The Terrorist-Sympathizing Opera
The Metropolitan Opera in New York City is hardly a site for hundreds of angry protesters. But they have erupted over their current selection, an opera called "The Death of Klinghoffer."
Leon Klinghoffer was the 69-year-old paralyzed New Yorker who in 1985 was aboard the hijacked cruise ship Achille Lauro, then executed by Islamic terrorists because he was a Jew. The terrorists forced the ship's barber and a waiter to throw his body and his wheelchair overboard off the coast of Egypt.
Klinghoffer's daughters, Lisa and Ilsa, have objected to this opera for decades. In the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, they recently proclaimed, "Terrorism is irrational. It should never be explained away or justified. Nor should the death of innocent civilians be misunderstood as an acceptable means for drawing attention to perceived political grievances. Unfortunately, 'The Death of Klinghoffer' does all of this and sullies the memory of our father in the process."
The Anti-Defamation League tried a moderate approach, applauding the Met's decision to cancel plans for a global simulcast. While agreeing the opera itself wasn't anti-Semitic, it could "foment anti-Semitism globally or legitimize terrorism." That should be enough to cancel the operation, shouldn't it?
So why would the most prestigious opera company in America promote this terrorist-sympathizing production? As always is the case in instances such as this, the left pleads artistic license. In The New York Times, drama critic Anthony Tommasini proclaimed: "Of all the arts, opera can use the subliminal power of music to explore motivations, including seething hatreds. This opera tries to explore what drove these Palestinians to take that ship and murder its most vulnerable passenger."
Tommasini declared further, "To try to understand why someone does something or to appreciate the fact that evildoers do not see themselves as evildoers is not the same as glorification or promotion of that evil." He called it "a searching, spiritual and humane work."
After this artistic monstrosity, could a searching, spiritual, and humane exploration of the "seething hatreds" of Adolf Hitler be not too far behind?
No, because when it comes to the performing arts in America's cultural capital, there's a remarkable bias and selectivity among the tastemakers.
Surely there were people who despised Kennedy with every fiber in their beings in 1962 but no one's going to finance an opera sympathetically exploring the motivations of Lee Harvey Oswald. Let's face it: There were those who wanted Martin Luther King dead.
Would anyone ever countenance a performance at the Met — or anywhere else — that might be described as a "searching, spiritual and humane work" studying the motives of James Earl Ray? So why do we need a tasteless work of "art" that allows a Palestinian terrorist project the murder of an innocent American Jew as anything other than what it is — evil?
Don't get us wrong. It's not that the drama community feels any sort of affinity with religions or the religious. While the Met sympathizes with Islamic terrorists, Broadway is making a mint mocking Mormon missionaries in "The Book of Mormon."
The newspapers have lauded stage productions like Colm Toibin's "The Testament of Mary," which derided the apostles of Jesus Christ as a group of mouth-breathing buffoons, or worse. That production lasted all of two weeks on stage last year, but was nominated for three Tony Awards. Mary Gordon in The New York Times applauded how these evangelists "are portrayed as menacing intruders, with the lurking shadowy presence of Stalin's secret police."
Why provide sympathy to Islamists? It is not because these "artists" are sympathetic to the message of Islamofascism. It is because they're cowards. It's quite obvious that the theatre artists of New York have never dared to paint Muhammad and his contemporaries into a "secret police" corner of Mecca.
In a video from the Metropolitan Opera, the composer John Adams promoted his work by saying "Opera is the art form that goes to the max. It's the art form that is the most emotional, the one that goes the furthest, and in a sense terrorism is the same thing." Apparently, extremism and murder can be casually compared to opera, and extremism in the defense of opera is no vice.
‘The best answer to bad speech? More speech’
Ahead of the spiked/Newseum conference on press freedom in Washington DC on 5 November, where he is speaking, Nick Gillespie of Reason explains why he feels ‘almost utopian’ about the future of the media.
‘I think press freedom is important because human freedom is important. I don’t make a distinction between freedoms that should be enshrined for the press or the media and those for other people. The idea of free expression, which also includes other types of behaviour and other gestures that might not be covered under a more strict definition of press, all of that is vitally important. It’s our means of communication, which is the most fundamental act of humanity.’
So says Nick Gillespie, in his distinctive, effortless drawl. For those that know of the editor-in-chief of Reason.com and Reason TV, his commitment to free speech will not be a surprise. This, after all, is someone the Daily Beast described as ‘clear-headed, brainy… [and] among the foremost libertarians in America’. He is not concerned with advocating a particular press-specific liberty; he is concerned with liberty in general.
‘In a good way’, he tells me, ‘the press in America is not licensed or regulated, nor does it have to seek certification from the state before it’s allowed to do what it does. I think that’s extremely important because one of the pressing issues in the US, and I think elsewhere, is that the press has a seemingly different relationship to government, to state power, to corporate power, than mere citizens. And a lot of people push this as a positive thing. As a result we have press-shield laws so that reporters won’t be put in jail for refusing to name their sources. They have been given certain exemptions from legal process. And I think that’s very disturbing.’
Given the post-Leveson interest in press regulation and the possibility of licensing the press in the UK, Gillespie’s point is worth listening to. His problem is not with protecting press freedom. ‘The idea that individuals and press organisations are allowed maximum ability to criticise or to lavish praise on people in power or out of power or whatever is really rare and unique’, he says. ‘And a lot of American journalists do not understand the situation they’ve inherited.’
His problem, rather, is with making press freedom an exception to free-speech laws as a whole. ‘The exceptionalism in America, which is great and predates the founding of the country – it started in the colonial era – is that people have a right to free expression, and they have a right to free speech and free assembly. And that is what undergirds our press freedom. The press should have no rights that the average citizen does not have.’
Unfortunately, many in the US and the UK seem to think that the press should have fewer rights than the average citizen. It needs to be pulled up and reined in; it is corrupting public debate, and determining the way too many people think. I ask Gillespie what he makes of this argument: ‘In the US, it’s conservatives and Republicans who tend to say that the press is distorted and biased in favour of left-leaning liberal Democrats. As they see it, the liberal media won’t talk about Benghazi; and they won’t talk about Hillary Clinton’s private life in the way they do about Sarah Palin. Rather, they’ll go on and on about fantasy scandals of the right. What’s interesting in the US context is that when the conversation turns to culture, the positions flip and it is the left that will say that the media – music, movies and television and other forms of entertainment – tend to reinforce really negative stereotypes towards women, towards gays, towards blacks.’
Gillespite continues: ‘I think what unites the right and the left in stupidity and error when it comes to this broad-based understanding of the media, which is really the sum of the press as well as the entertainment industries, is that they’re wedded to an old model, which grew out of the Frankfurt School, whereby the audience is assumed not really to have a mind of its own. It just kind of gets pushed along by whatever it reads and sees. And this argument is wrong, because everyone who watches a TV programme, or goes to a play, is an active participant, a person who processes information, who makes decisions every second about what things mean.’
I ask Gillespie about the perceived influence of Fox News, a familiar bête noir not just of American liberals, but of right-thinking left-ish types in the UK, too. ‘Yeah, liberals will say Fox News, or “Faux News”, as they call it, is programming people and inflaming passions among Tea Party wingnuts who bring their guns to church and shoot people on the way home from church before they watch the football. On the flipside, right-wingers will say that places like CNN stand for the “Clinton News Network”, or they used to in the 1990s. Or they’ll say that NPR is a state-funded bastion of liberal and left-wing ideology. So there is a common widespread transpartisan complaint that the other side did not win whatever position they have fairly, but that they did it through mass brainwashing. And I guess, for me, the big take-away is that the whole idea that the culture industry and the media brainwashes people is not only offensive - it’s also deeply, deeply wrong and dismissive of the way that people actually make decisions about their politics and their ideology and about their everyday life.’
Still, if particular influential media outlets are misinforming people, isn’t that a problem? ‘There’s a longstanding cliché in America that the best answer to bad speech is more speech or better speech’, he says. ‘And I think that’s what we have. If a particular news organisation or a particular university or a particular corporation is a font of stupid, misinformed, erroneous dissembling ideas or discourse, the best thing to do is to really speak back to it, and to really engage and to force its errors into the full light of day.’
It’s at this point, in the tech-enabled ability of people to speak back to ‘erroneous discourse’, that Gillespie comes over as positively happy. ‘I’m nearly utopian about the new media’, he tells me. ‘I started with Reason in 1993. At that time – we’re based in Los Angeles, but we’re virtually around the country – we could only get easy access to about half-a-dozen newspapers housed at the UCLA library. That was our basic source for reporting on contemporary news. And then, very quickly, we got access to things like Lexus Nexus, which is a newspaper database, then the worldwide web, where we could read so much more and then of course express ourselves. The internet made it easier and easier to do whatever we wanted.
‘So you look at Reason Foundation, which is the non-profit which publishes Reason. You take a non-profit that doesn’t have a lot of money, that doesn’t have a lot of power or insider connection. And we have come from publishing a monthly magazine and occasionally writing op-eds in newspapers to now, 20 years later, when we have a complete media operation, where we’re online everyday and we reach over four million people every month. We have the ability to reach out and engage an audience as well as the people we disagree with that was virtually unthinkable when I joined the staff in 1993. And that’s why I’m nearly utopian. And every day, there are new sites of information and expression that were simply not able to exist in any meaningful way a quarter of a century ago.’
His optimism even extends to Wikileaks, Anonymous, and Edward Snowden. ‘I think that Wikileaks, and Anonymous, and later Snowden – but even more than Snowden, the platform that the founder of eBay and the journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras and other people created at the intercept – I think the platform is more important than the individuals… I think it’s another reason for optimism, even giddiness. What organisations like Wikileaks and Edward Snowden did is establish a way you could work with mainstream media as well as non-mainstream media and get information out in a way that was virtually impossible before. And it doesn’t rely on the cooperation of established media, or legacy media, in the way that something like the Pentagon Papers did. That was a stolen government history of the Vietnam War and its folly which really only could be distributed by major media in the later 1960s and 1970s. So Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, the intercept, the people like Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, and the people who fund them and create a platform… this means you have journalists taking on stories that would not be taken on otherwise.
‘And what’s fascinating about a document dump is that you don’t have to wait for an established journalist or a certified journalist to come through and tell you what is important. Rather, you can sift through it yourself as a citizen journalist. That is immensely powerful and it’s great and we’re going to see more of it. And it won’t end the state, nor even necessarily make the state act better, or corporations act better - but it will constantly give us remedies for the worst things that the powerful in our society do.’
I might not share all of Gillespie’s enthusiasm for the new culture of leaking and document-dumping. But in his commitment to press freedom and freedom of expression, in his optimism about the potential of the internet, and in his refusal to bow to the ‘blame the media’ brigade, I can see some of the very things we lack in the UK right now. It’s high time we Brits rectified this.
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.