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06/30/2011

The 'right' to arbitrary discrimination: Team Morality's latest misplaced value

by Jeremy Hooper

Some very obtuse legal logic courtesy of Focus on the Family's Bruce Hausknecht:

The language of New York’s deeply flawed religious exemption makes no sense as anything other than a fig leaf to provide cover for the last few senators necessary to push the vote total over the top, in an attempt to fool the folks back home into thinking that they have not just been thrown under the bus.

And if we must talk about “feelings,” then why are the feelings of gays and lesbians of higher priority than the “feelings” of people forced to perform a service or provide a product in furtherance of something that violates their deeply held beliefs? Is there a hierarchy of hurt feelings?

And before I get a lot of comments with “segregated lunch counter” race analogies, let me head that off by stating that New York’s official recognition of religious groups’ “right” to say “no” to gay marriage in their facilities makes the race analogy inapplicable. If religious “groups” have the moral (and/or constitutional) right to say no, you can’t logically argue that the same right exercised by an individual would somehow be immoral or deserving of less legal protection. What New York has done is draw an arbitrary line at who can and cannot exercise their religious freedom with regard to their beliefs about marriage.

Dig Deeper – NY Town Clerk: Don’t Force Me to Sign Same-Sex Marriage Licenses [Focus on The Family CitizenLink]

Okay, but here's the thing: Religious groups ALWAYS have the right to deny marriages. Not gay marriages. Not specific marriages. Marriages, in general. And without any special religious protections. Any religious faith has just about free rein to nix any kind of altar-bound couple for any kind of reason (whether it be the one they actually state or the one they justify with some other excuse). Almost everyone on the pro-same-sex marriage side supports religious groups right to make these decisions.

But churches are not individuals. A Catholic Cathedral can deny an atheist couple's ceremony, but that is far from the same thing as a cake baker doing so. A Hindu Temple has no obligation to play host to a Southern Baptist wedding, but a county clerk damn well better fulfill the duties of civil licensing regardless of the intended couple's characteristics. And so on and so forth.

So yes, Bruce, a person who wanted to draw historical perspective on this matter could absolutely pull from segregated lunch counter similarities, if that was the rhetorical framework he or she chose to use. Because lunch counters are not synagogues. Lunch patrons are not seeking a religious-specific meal, regardless how kosher the meat. The cook behind the counter shouldn't be free to refuse service to a newly-wedded couple simply because the eggs or sausages or ordered in a way he or she personally frowns upon.

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