“Religious Liberty”

BillDo is upset over the upcoming vote on legalizing gay marriage in New York state:

The New York State legislature is one vote away from passing a gay marriage bill. What is holding it up is pressure from Catholics, Protestants, Jews and others: they want to insulate religious institutions from state encroachment. That they have to fight for their First Amendment rights shows how threatening gay-marriage legislation really is.

The threats to religious liberty are not hypothetical. …

Well, thanks for clarifying that opposition to marriage equality comes from religious quarters. This confirms what I and others have been saying for a while.

But wait, what’s this? Threats to first-amendment rights? And non-hypothetical ones? As a properly sensitive liberal guy, I’m certainly all for protecting everyone’s freedom, to the extent required by the first amendment and the Kumbaya Act of 1993. So do tell, Bill: what exactly are these real, non-hypothetical threats?

The threats to religious liberty are not hypothetical. A New Mexico photographer who refused to photograph a gay couple’s commitment ceremony was forced to pay the couple’s attorney’s fees; Christians in New Jersey who objected to allowing a gay union ceremony in their privately owned facility have had their tax-exempt status stripped; a psychologist from Georgia was fired after she declined to counsel a lesbian about her relationship. And so on.

In other words, there are real concerns that if gay marriage passes in New York, religious liberty will be jeopardized.

First of all, there’s nothing in there about marriage. All of the above can already happen; extending marriage rights to gay couples wouldn’t change anything.

For another, I fail to see words like “church”, “synagogue” or “mosque” in those examples, so it’s not clear which religious rights are being trampled.

But most importantly, what I see is three examples of people being bigots and getting slapped for it.

In other words, the “religious freedom” BillDo is crusading for is the right to hang a “no faggots” sign on the door of one’s business. Because hey, that’s what Jesus would want.

Here’s a hint, Billy-boy: if you’re beating someone over the head with a stick, and someone takes away your stick, your rights aren’t being trampled, and you don’t get to play the victim.

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11 Responses to “Religious Liberty”

  1. Eamon Knight says:

    BillDo is upset

    Oh, way to go putting your readers to sleep with non-news in the first three words!
    😉

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  2. John Swindle says:

    That man is a professional. He gets offended for a living. I sometimes wonder if all the things he finds offensive actually happen. You know, in the real world.

    The Georgia shrink who was fired obviously ran afoul of her employer’s policies, not those of any governmental entity.

    In the case of that photographer, does your spider sense tell you that there must be more to that story?

    A privately-owned christian facility losing its tax-exempt status is a step in the right direction, but was it really about refusing business? I find that hard to believe. Religious groups are allowed to determine for themselves what sort of services will take place in their buildings. Synagogues, for example are not required to perform a catholic wedding ceremony just because somebody asks for one. Donohue did not say that the facility that lost its tax-free status was a church. For all we readers know, they were never legally entitled to that status, just that the building was owned by christians. One can easily imagine they were getting away with non-payment of taxes until their bigotry brought the situation to the attention of tax authorities.

    If all these things happened as Donohue said, I’d agree that they were miscarriages of justice, or at least fall in a grey area. Thing is, though, you can’t take anything the man says at face value.

    By the way, referring to him as BillDo was confusing at first. I thought you were talking about Bill O’Rielly (altering Kieth Olbermann’s terminology, “Bill O” to rhyme with “Dildo”). I had already started writing this rant, when I realized you were talking about a different Bill. Didn’t have to change a word. And the rhyme is still appropriate.

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    • arensb says:

      In the case of that photographer, does your spider sense tell you that there must be more to that story?

      Oh hell yeah. Though the “more” in this case, I suspect, is that the photographer runs an ordinary photography business, one that’s open to the public. I suspect that he or she declined to do business with gays and got sued under whichever laws prohibit you from having a bar open to the public but with a “no Jews” sign out front.

      A privately-owned christian facility losing its tax-exempt status is a step in the right direction, but was it really about refusing business?

      I don’t remember the details, but there was a church somewhere in the northeast that wanted to baptize people in the local river or something, and wanted to build a gazebo in which to conduct their rituals, but it had to be on public land, near or on a ramp leading down to the water. They worked out a deal with the town, such that they were allowed to build a private building on public land, but had to open it to use by the public. And when some gay people wanted to take advantage of it, the church felt its religion was being trampled on.

      Donohue did not say that the facility that lost its tax-free status was a church. For all we readers know, they were never legally entitled to that status, just that the building was owned by christians.

      A-yup. For all we know, it was a non-profit that picked up trash by the side of the road or something. It may have been started by religious people with religious motives, but if they were getting government funds, that shouldn’t matter. As the saying goes, Caesar’s money, Caesar’s rules.

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      • Fez says:

        Though the “more” in this case, I suspect, is that the photographer runs an ordinary photography business, one that’s open to the public. I suspect that he or she declined to do business with gays and got sued under whichever laws prohibit you from having a bar open to the public but with a “no Jews” sign out front.

        I think the general area of law is discrimination in public accommodations. Have to check with the girlfriend on that one. Part of the problem is that sexual orientation is not a federally protected class thus it’s currently left to the states to determine if it is or isn’t. Cue another reason for social conservatives to be pushing for the repeal, or at least the artistically reinterpreted application of, the 14th Amendment.

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      • arensb says:

        Yeah, this is another case where I bet there’s more than BillDo is telling us. I don’t know whether New Mexico considered sexual orientation a protected class, but I also wouldn’t exclude the possibility that the photographer accepted the gig, then bailed on finding out that gays were involved. This could be a simple case of breach of contract, for all I know.

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      • arensb says:

        This is probably the photographer BillDo’s talking about. Sounds like what I said originally, a case of a business being bigoted and being called on it.

        If the photographer had said, “Sorry, we don’t photograph Jewish weddings because it’s against our Christian beliefs”, would BillDo still defend them?

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  3. John Swindle says:

    arensb — It appears you have located the christian-owned building that lost its tax-free status. In the case of the photographer, our friend BillDo said it was in New Mexico. So I googled, using these keywords:
    — photographer “attorney fees” “New Mexico”
    Google handed me links to (among a lot of other stuff) two PDFs that appear to apply to this discussion.
    One of them gave a quick outline of the finding for plaintiff and This other one summarizes the first and states the result of the appeal.
    Two women were denied accommodation by the photographer who was offering her services to the general public, but flatly stated she would not take photos of their commitment ceremony – because the gay is against her religion.

    In the suit and the appeal, it was found that the refusal was a violation of the New Mexico Human Rights Act.
    Interestingly, the plaintiffs did not ask for any damages; they just wanted the court to call a halt to an illegal business practice.

    Splendid.

    So this is what caused Mr. Donohue such alarm: two women refusing to allow their rights as human beings to be eroded by bigots.

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    • arensb says:

      One often hears the argument that the cause of the Civil War wasn’t slavery, but states’ rights. But when you look more closely, it turns out that that primarily means the right to own slaves.

      Same here: a lot of people complain that gay rights abridge their religious freedoms. But upon closer inspection, they really mean the religious freedom to be bigoted, and not get called on it.

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  4. John Swindle says:

    One of my favorite characterizations of Donohue came from comedian Kathy Griffin in 2007. As she was receiving an Emmy Award, she said something silly about Jesus. Donohue jumped right on it. She said later that she was concerned because she was being reviled by The Catholic League! But then she learned that The Catholic League is just some guy with a computer.

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    • arensb says:

      Given the lack of links in his press releases, I’m not sure he’s graduated to computers yet. I’ve often heard the Catholic League characterized as “Bill Donohue and his fax machine.”

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