free exercise of religion

Tolerance on the Left

UPDATED (BELOW), 08/10/12

I begin with the Chick-fil-A controversy. If you know more about it than is good for your mental health, jump to the text that follows the  second row of asterisks.

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For the benefit of anyone who has just returned to the U.S. after spending six weeks in Tierra del Fuego, the Chick-fil-A controversy began when the company’s president and COO, Dan Cathy,

made what was seen as an inflammatory statement. Cathy stated: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage’. I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”[43][44][45]

And it took off from there:

On July 2, 2012, the LGBT watchdog group Equality Matters published a report with details of donations given by Chick-fil-A to organizations that are opposed to same-sex marriage, such as the Marriage & Family Foundation and the Family Research Council.[46][47][48] Also, on July 2, Biblical Recorder published an interview with Dan Cathy, who was asked about opposition to his company’s “support of the traditional family.” He replied: “Well, guilty as charged.”[49][50] Cathy continued:

“We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. … We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that,” Cathy emphasized. “We intend to stay the course,” he said. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”[49]

In the wake of this interview, Thomas Menino, the Mayor of Boston, stated that he would not allow the company to open franchises in the city “unless they open up their policies.”[51] Menino subsequently wrote a letter to Dan Cathy, citing Cathy’s earlier statement on The Ken Coleman Show and responding: “We are indeed full of pride for our support of same sex marriage and our work to expand freedom for all people.”[52] In Chicago alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno announced his determination to block Chick-fil-A’s bid to build a second store in the city: “They’d have to do a complete 180,” Moreno said in outlining conditions under which he would retract the block. “They’d have to work with LGBT groups in terms of hiring, and there would have to be a public apology from [Cathy].”[53] Moreno received backing from Chicago’s Mayor, Rahm Emanuel: “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values,” Emanuel said in a statement. “They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty.”[53] San Francisco soon followed suit on July 26 when mayor Edwin M. Lee tweeted, “Very disappointed #ChickFilA doesn’t share San Francisco’s values & strong commitment to equality for everyone.” Lee followed that tweet with “Closest #ChickFilA to San Francisco is 40 miles away & I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer.”[54]

In the wake of this interview, Thomas Menino, the Mayor of Boston, stated that he would not allow the company to open franchises in the city “unless they open up their policies.”[51] Menino subsequently wrote a letter to Dan Cathy, citing Cathy’s earlier statement on The Ken Coleman Show and responding: “We are indeed full of pride for our support of same sex marriage and our work to expand freedom for all people.”[52] In Chicago alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno announced his determination to block Chick-fil-A’s bid to build a second store in the city: “They’d have to do a complete 180,” Moreno said in outlining conditions under which he would retract the block. “They’d have to work with LGBT groups in terms of hiring, and there would have to be a public apology from [Cathy].”[53] Moreno received backing from Chicago’s Mayor, Rahm Emanuel: “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values,” Emanuel said in a statement. “They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty.”[53] San Francisco soon followed suit on July 26 when mayor Edwin M. Lee tweeted, “Very disappointed #ChickFilA doesn’t share San Francisco’s values & strong commitment to equality for everyone.” Lee followed that tweet with “Closest #ChickFilA to San Francisco is 40 miles away & I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer.”[54]

The proposed bans in Boston and Chicago drew criticism from liberal pundits, legal experts and the American Civil Liberties Union. Kevin Drum of Mother Jones magazine said “[T]here’s really no excuse for Emanuel’s and Menino’s actions… you don’t hand out business licenses based on whether you agree with the political views of the executives. Not in America, anyway.”[55] UCLA law professor and blogger Eugene Volokh observed, “[D]enying a private business permits because of such speech by its owner is a blatant First Amendment violation.”[56] Echoing those views were Glenn Greenwald of Salon, professor [Jonathan] Turley of George Washington University, and Adam Schwartz, a senior attorney with the ACLU.[57]

The city of New York is heard from, as well:

A powerful New York politician claims she was just speaking as a private citizen when she tried to run Chick-fil-A out of town, but she used her official letterhead and even invoked her position as City Council speaker to apply pressure on the embattled chicken chain.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has mayoral aspirations, sent a letter to New York University president John Sexton on Saturday asking the school to immediately end their contract with the fast food restaurant. The Atlanta-based company’s sole New York City outlet is in the school’s food court.

“I write as the Speaker of the NYC Council, and on behalf of my family. NYC is a place where we celebrate diversity. We do not believe in denigrating others. We revel in the diversity of all our citizens and their families,” the letter begins….

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said last week that he would not follow the lead of his counterparts in Chicago, San Francisco and Boston, who all said Chick-fil-A was not welcome in their cities. Bloomberg said it was “inappropriate” for any government to decide if a business can or cannot operate in a city because of someone’s political views.

(The first two block quotations are from Wikipedia, as of July 30, 2012. I note the date because history and interpretations of history are notably unstable elements in the hands of Wikipedia’s contributors and editors.)

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It is good to know that there are those on the left (the ACLU, Kevin Drum, and Glenn Greenwald, RINO Bloomberg) who defend Chick-fil-A’s right to exist. But those few voices do not cancel or diminish the left’s general stance of vitriolic disrespect toward persons who oppose the LGBT agenda. That agenda includes legal recognition of same-sex “marriage” (of course), the legalization of adoption by same-sex couples, and a laundry list of other “rights.” All would be secured by depriving non-believers in the LGBT agenda of  freedom of conscience, freedom of association, and property rights.

Tolerance in America — left-wing style — has become a one-way street: Conservatives must succumb to the left’s social agenda, but the left need not tolerate the beliefs of conservatives. Conservatives who oppose the left’s social agenda are not viewed as mere political opponents. Nay, they are — depending on the issue at hand — hate-filled racists or hate-filled gay-bashers.

In a lifetime that now surpasses the number of years prescribed in Psalms 90, I have heard, read, and witnessed much hate. But for sustained, high-volume hate, nothing in my experience exceeds that which pours from the lips and keyboards of left-wingers. As a group, they are intolerant of truth, where it contradicts their cherished beliefs , and hateful toward those whose values conflict with theirs. For example:

  • Skeptics of the flimsy evidence for anthropogenic global warming, and who offer ample evidence against AGW, are flat-earth-global-warming-deniers.
  • Those who believe that governmental interference in economic affairs leads to slower growth and more poverty are not merely drawing out the implications of economic logic and empirical analysis. No, they are the hand-servants of greedy, exploitative corporations and super-rich fat cats (who, oddly enough, bankroll many left-wing causes).
  • Persons who object to the killing of human beings at the fetal stage are not merely principled defenders of life, they are meddling moralists who seek to deny women the convenience of abortion.
  • Those who understand that marriage is a long-standing social institution which cannot be redefined by statute are hate-filled, bigoted troglodytes, not defenders of an essential, civilizing institution.

Left-wingers march in lockstep like wind-up toy soldiers. And all it takes to wind them up is to propose a governmental intervention in social or economic affairs — preferably one that flouts a social tradition that is based on decades and centuries of of experience. Why do leftists have so little respect for the wisdom that accrues in social norms?  Because leftism is rooted in two psychological tendencies. One of them is adolescent rebellion, which can persist for decades past adolescence. This explains the left’s hatred of conventional authority figures who (usually) represent conservative (civilizing) values (e.g., parents, police officers, military officers, members of the clergy).  The other psychological tendency is the urge to dominate others, an urge that leftists project onto conservatives. (See this, this, and this.) In that regard, I have observed, at first hand, that vociferous leftists are fiercely defensive of their autonomy, despite their willingness to deny autonomy to others. (Think “liberal” fascism; more here and here.)

In the face of incessant propagandizing for LBGT causes by the left’s vast academic-entertainment-opinion-cum-news conspiracy,  those who dare to be different are not lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons. No, the LGBTers are figuratively ensconced in the left’s sheltering arms, where their outré “lifestyles” are celebrated, promoted, and proclaimed to be normal — or, at least, The New Normal. Those who dare to be different, these days, are the defenders of traditional sexuality, traditional marriage, and traditional families — the core of civilized society. UPDATE: It fact, it is now possible to be accused of a crime for the mere act of stating a preference for traditional sexuality, traditional marriage, and traditional families. This is not surprising, given the growth of the thought hate-crime industry.

And so it has come to pass that heads of hugely influential corporations (e.g., Google and Amazon) lend their names and money to the LGBT cause. Having become “the thing to do,” the LGBT cause is joined by lesser corporations. That cause is today’s version of affirmative action; it is embraced by boards of directors and senior executives who do not have to live with the consequences of their politically correct policy edicts. The consequences include the reduction of corporate income (which belongs to shareholders) by the  hiring, retention, and promotion of otherwise unqualified persons — so that the directors and senior officers can feel good about their commitment to “inclusiveness.”

But that is nothing to the destruction of liberty that is sought in the name of LBGT “rights.” Consider the case of same-sex “marriage”:

It was only yesterday, was it not, that we were being assured that the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex partnerships would have no impact on persons and institutions that hold to the traditional view of marriage as a conjugal union? Such persons and institutions would simply be untouched by the change. It won’t affect your marriage or your life, we were told, if the law recognizes Henry and Herman or Sally and Sheila as “married.”

Those offering these assurances were also claiming that the redefinition of marriage would have no impact on the public understanding of marriage as a monogamous and sexually exclusive partnership. No one, they insisted, wanted to alter those traditional marital norms. On the contrary, the redefinition of marriage would promote and spread those norms more broadly.

When some of us warned that all of this was nonsense, and pointed out the myriad ways that Catholics, Evangelicals, Mormons, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and others would be affected, and their opportunities and liberties restricted, the proponents of marriage redefinition accused us of “fearmongering.” When we observed that reducing marriage to a merely emotional union (which is what happens when sexual reproductive complementarity is banished from the definition) removes all principled grounds for understanding marriage as a sexually exclusive and faithful union of two persons, and not an “open” partnership or a relationship of three or more persons in a polyamorous sexual ensemble, we were charged with invalid slippery-slope reasoning. Remember?

No one, they assured us, would require Catholic or other foster care and adoption services to place children in same-sex headed households. No one, they said, would require religiously affiliated schools and social-service agencies to treat same-sex partners as spouses, or impose penalties or disabilities on those that dissent. No one would be fired from his or her job (or suffer employment discrimination) for voicing support for conjugal marriage or criticizing same-sex sexual conduct and relationships. And no one was proposing to recognize polyamorous relationships or normalize “open marriages,” nor would redefinition undermine the norms of sexual exclusivity and monogamy in theory or practice.

That was then; this is now….

…[A]dvocates of redefinition are increasingly open in saying that they do not see these disputes about sex and marriage as honest disagreements among reasonable people of goodwill. They are, rather, battles between the forces of reason, enlightenment, and equality—those who would “expand the circle of inclusion”—on one side, and those of ignorance, bigotry, and discrimination—those who would exclude people out of “animus”—on the other. The “excluders” are to be treated just as racists are treated—since they are the equivalent of racists. Of course, we (in the United States, at least) don’t put racists in jail for expressing their opinions—we respect the First Amendment; but we don’t hesitate to stigmatize them and impose various forms of social and even civil disability upon them and their institutions. In the name of “marriage equality” and “non-discrimination,” liberty—especially religious liberty and the liberty of conscience—and genuine equality are undermined.The fundamental error made by some supporters of conjugal marriage was and is, I believe, to imagine that a grand bargain could be struck with their opponents: “We will accept the legal redefinition of marriage; you will respect our right to act on our consciences without penalty, discrimination, or civil disabilities of any type. Same-sex partners will get marriage licenses, but no one will be forced for any reason to recognize those marriages or suffer discrimination or disabilities for declining to recognize them.” There was never any hope of such a bargain being accepted. Perhaps parts of such a bargain would be accepted by liberal forces temporarily for strategic or tactical reasons, as part of the political project of getting marriage redefined; but guarantees of religious liberty and non-discrimination for people who cannot in conscience accept same-sex marriage could then be eroded and eventually removed. After all, “full equality” requires that no quarter be given to the “bigots” who want to engage in “discrimination” (people with a “separate but equal” mindset) in the name of their retrograde religious beliefs. “Dignitarian” harm must be opposed as resolutely as more palpable forms of harm….

The lesson, it seems to me, for those of us who believe that the conjugal conception of marriage is true and good, and who wish to protect the rights of our faithful and of our institutions to honor that belief in carrying out their vocations and missions, is that there is no alternative to winning the battle in the public square over the legal definition of marriage. The “grand bargain” is an illusion we should dismiss from our minds…. [Robert P. George, "Marriage, Religious Liberty, and the 'Grand Bargain'," Public Discourse, July 19, 2012]

The battle over the legal definition of marriage (and other items on the LGBT agenda) will be won through the exercise of political power, abetted by lies and chicanery, and not by sweet reason. Conservatives will (and should) eschew lies and chicanery, leaving them to the LGBT crowed and its allies. But conservatives should not flinch from the use of political power; their cause is liberty, and it is just.

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Related reading:
Michael Brown, “The Rise of the Intolerance Brigade,” Townhall.com, August 2, 2012
Matthew J. Franck, “Truth and Lies, Nature and Convention: The Debate Over Same-Sex Marriage,” Public Discourse, July 30, 2012
Christian Smith, “An Academic Auto-da-Fé, The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 23, 2012
Michael Barone, “Supporters of Ted Cruz and Chick-fil-A Break News,” The Examiner, August 4, 2012

Related posts:
Libertarianism, Marriage, and the True Meaning of Family Values
Same-Sex Marriage
“Equal Protection” and Homosexual Marriage
Conservatism, Libertarianism, and “The Authoritarian Personality”
Parenting, Religion, Culture, and Liberty
“Family Values,” Liberty, and the State
The F Scale, Revisited
Civil Society and Homosexual “Marriage”
The Psychologist Who Played God
The Left
Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Due Process, and Equal Protection
Rationalism, Social Norms, and Same-Sex “Marriage”
The Left’s Agenda
In Defense of Marriage
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm
Abortion, “Gay Rights,” and Liberty