Like the zombie lie that cannot be killed, social conservatives defending business owners who would decline services to gay couples continue to rely on the same analogy about the government hypothetically forcing a Jewish deli owner to handle and serve non-kosher food.
Bleeding Heartland has discussed the basic logical flaw here, but let’s walk it through one more time.
Only days after I tried to explain to talk radio host Steve Deace why this analogy doesn’t work, Deace fell back on his comfortable ground for defending religious-based discrimination against the LGBT community. From Deace’s latest Washington Times column, “Religious bigots and their special kind of stupid.”
It’s obvious some folks were so busy earning their politically correct merit badges from the Marxist Media echo chamber, they forgot to do what we used to call in this business “research.” Furthermore, in their zeal to show how they’re willing to tolerate everyone except Christians, it’s also clear they haven’t really thought through what they’re advocating for.
For example, do these same people want government to force a Jewish kosher deli owner to handle and serve non-Kosher foods? If so, they’re a bunch of anti-Semites.
Do these same people want government to force a black business owner to serve a white supremacist conference? If so, they’re a bunch of racists.
Do these same people want government to force a homosexual print shop owner to make the vile paraphernalia for the Westboro hate-mongers? If so, now they’re a bunch of homophobes, too.
For the record, I don’t think Deace understands the concept of Marxism either, but that’s a topic for another day.
The salient point here is that business owners can fully control what goods and services they sell. Protecting historically disfavored groups from discrimination is not at all comparable to the government forcing a business to sell a product that violates the owner’s religious beliefs.
Observant Jewish business owners would never be forced to sell non-kosher food. They can choose to serve kosher food only. However, they can’t serve kosher food to some people but not to others, based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.
Similarly, a devout Catholic urologist would never be forced to perform vasectomies. But if s/he did vasectomies for some patients, others could not be refused based on race or religion.
Civil rights protections don’t prevent business owners from any number of decisions that reflect their religious beliefs. In observance of the Sabbath, Chick-fil-A can stay closed every Sunday. Businesses owned by Orthodox Jews stay closed every Friday night and Saturday.
Yesterday I heard a different version of this analogy: could a Jewish baker be forced to make someone a cake decorated with a swastika? No. Bakeries can choose what kinds of cakes they sell. They can refuse to make cakes of a certain size or shape. They just can’t offer swastika cakes to some people, then refuse to sell them to others.
I’ve heard some people complain that straight white men are the only Americans not protected against discrimination. But that’s not true either. Under current civil rights law, lesbian restaurant owners can’t refuse to serve men or people they perceive to be straight. African-American business owners can’t systematically turn white customers away.
If you run your own business, you can choose what to sell, you just can’t prohibit sales to people you disapprove of.
P.S.- Another big point of Deace’s Washington Times editorial is that Indiana’s law is no different from the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by a Democratic-controlled Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton.
Garrett Epps, a constitutional law professor, explained in this column for The Atlantic why Indiana’s law differs significantly from the federal law.
[T]he Indiana statute has two features the federal RFRA-and most state RFRAs-do not. First, the Indiana law explicitly allows any for-profit business to assert a right to “the free exercise of religion. […]
Second, the Indiana statute explicitly makes a business’s “free exercise” right a defense against a private lawsuit by another person, rather than simply against actions brought by government. […]
Democrats also offered the Republican legislative majority a chance to amend the new act to say that it did not permit businesses to discriminate; they voted that amendment down.
So, let’s review the evidence: by the Weekly Standard’s definition, there’s “nothing significant” about this law that differs from the federal one, and other state ones-except that it has been carefully written to make clear that 1) businesses can use it against 2) civil-rights suits brought by individuals.
Of all the state “religious freedom” laws I have read, this new statute hints most strongly that it is there to be used as a means of excluding gays and same-sex couples from accessing employment, housing, and public accommodations on the same terms as other people.
Brett Arends made a more valid point in a column for Market Watch:
Professor Conkle at Indiana University notes that, ironically, the law won’t change much in many parts of Indiana anyway. Indiana has no statewide laws banning discrimination against gays in the first place (although some counties have local ordinances). In many parts of the state, a business owner who didn’t want to serve gays wouldn’t have to plead exemption from the law on the grounds of religion. There’s no law to be exempt from. Conkle, who adds that he is a supporter of marriage equality, is a professor of law and of comparative religion.
UPDATE: The Iowa .Gif-t Shop weighs in on my back and forth with Deace.
I stupidly got sucked into an argument with another paranoid social conservative who believes evangelical Christian doctors may now be forced to perform abortions. No. Doctors can decide what services to offer. It’s not discrimination for a doctor to refuse to provide abortions, period. However, if an abortion provider refused to serve certain women because of their race, religion, marital status or sexual orientation, that would be discrimination.
Why is this concept so hard for some people to understand?