Thursday, March 24, 2016

Freedom takes a dive in Georgia.

Having witnessed bowl after bowl of steaming crap offered up as "informed opinion" on the matter of Georgia's Religious Freedom Bill, and the entertainment industry's threats to abandon Georgia, I think it's pretty obvious that few, if any, of the opinions I have read are actually informed in any way. In other words, they haven't read the bill.

So here it is. Read it:
(and voting history for the same

Here's a summary of what it says:

  1. You can't force a minister of a religion to perform a marriage, rite, or sacrament in violation of his religious beliefs (19-3-11 paragraph (b)). Furthermore, government can't sneak up and punish him by taking away his tax-exempt status for having exercised this discretion (19-3-11 subparagraphs under (c)).
  2. Anybody can attend such a marriage, rite, or sacrament; or they may choose not to, at their own discretion (19-3-11 paragraph (d)). Furthermore, you can sue if you're prevented or forced (19-3-11 paragraphs (e) through (g)).
  3. If the company you work for is open on your sabbath (specifically, Saturday or Sunday), then they must make reasonable accommodations so that you have the same opportunity to have a day off on your sabbath as others (10-1-573 paragraph (a)).  
  4. The Government can't pass a law forcing your business to operate on Saturday or Sunday (10-1-573 paragraph (a)).
  5. No faith-based organization (which is expressly defined as not meaning an individual) may be forced to rent or lease their facilities for an event that is objectionable to the faith-based organization that owns the facilities. (10-1-1001 paragraph (a))
  6. No faith-based organization may be forced to provide services that violate sincere religious beliefs that they have demonstrated in practice or clear expression... except to enforce the terms of a contract that was freely entered into by that organization. (10-1-1001 paragraph (b)). 
  7. Furthermore, the government can't sneak in again and punish them for 5 or 6 by taking their tax-exempt status. 
  8. This one's important, so I'm quoting it verbatim (emphasis added):
    "Except as provided by the Constitution of this state or the United States or federal law, no faith based organization shall be required to hire or retain as an employee any person whose religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith based organization's sincerely held religious belief as demonstrated by practice, expression, or clearly articulated tenet of faith."  (34-1-9 paragraph (b)) As before, you can't dick with their taxes in a sly attempt to force them by finance to do what you can't force by law.
  9. Government can not substantially burden a person's exercise a religion, even if they pass a law, unless they have a damned good reason in the public interest, and the burden is the least restrictive means of meeting that interest. (50-15A-2 paragraphs (a) through (c))
  10. The bill doesn't allow "invidious discrimination" that is prohibited by law or the Constitution; it doesn't burden prisons and jails in violation of public safety; it doesn't create new rights; it doesn't protect public officers who fail to perform their duty. It has boilerplate language that makes it enforceable and repeals any unspecified parts of older legislation that may conflict with it.

That's it.


In discussing this case, a Georgian responded to me: "We are already protected under the first amendment, thank you very much."

He couldn't be more wrong. The First Amendment says what Congress can or cannot do, but does not prevent states or municipalities from passing laws. And in particular, while it prevents the passage of laws pertaining to religion, it does not prohibit the passing of laws mandating behavior deemed abhorrent to those who practice a religion. In other words, "You must be Baptist" is clearly forbidden, while, "If you rent out your building at all, you must allow Satanists to rent it, because equality" is something that could spend years in court.

Reading the bill, you'll see that it specifically states that it doesn't supersede federal law or the constitution. It specifically limits its definition of "government" to "the state or any political subdivision of the state or public instrumentality or public corporate body created by or under authority of state law."

Look at what the legislation does. It does not re-state the First Amendment. Rather, it provides protection from legislation that indirectly quashes free exercise under the pretense of some other cause. Such legislation is clearly necessary in that this kind of legislation is routinely passed and upheld. So, if like my Georgian friend, you argue that pastors are "protected" under the First Amendment, or that these things don't happen in reality, you're fooling no one but yourself.

In those situations where faith-based organizations have been targeted, it has been precisely because they operate a "for profit" business. It has been the completely unsubstantiated claim of lawmakers that, because faith-based organizations are routinely offered tax-exempt status, then it must follow that a for-profit business cannot be faith-based. Not only is this absolutely deplorable logic, it is entirely irrelevant to the First Amendment, which mentions no such thing. In fact, I argue that it is unconstitutional to require a church to seek government sanction to be granted the protections of the First Amendment. An organization can clearly be faith-based whether they seek tax-exemption or not, as these rights are granted by God to each individual. But the contrary assumption, accepted by the courts, leads to repeated persecutions that cannot be credibly denied. The remedy is to clearly define the law so that the courts cannot continue to misinterpret it.


I've heard the argument that entertainment companies are justified in putting economic pressure to bear in defense of their employees who may face discrimination. In other words, they're justified in picking up and moving elsewhere. While it's true that they are free to do this, whether they're justified in doing it is a matter of debate.

There are two parts to this... whether your employees would face discrimination, and the economic choices that would result. Let's start with the implied "slippery slope" of discrimination.

First, note that there is nothing whatsoever in this bill that requires anyone to discriminate against anyone. If you don't want your employees discriminated against, then don't discriminate against your employees. 

Second, what it does do is prohibit your employees from discriminating against others. This is a bad thing only if you actually encourage your employees to discriminate. Under this law they can't go to a minister and say, "I don't believe in what you believe; I'm not a member of your church, and am never going to be; but you have to marry me, bitch, or I'll sue." Got a problem with that? Then I have a problem with you.

Exclusivity is not now, nor has it ever been, synonymous with "discriminatory practices". Example: imagine for a moment if you ran a shelter for battered women and were told that you must open your doors to and provide services for child sex offenders. Or suppose you were told that you had to hire such an individual. You'd think it was an idiotic suggestion... purely laughable. Well, it's no less laughable or idiotic to assume that a preacher should be forced to preside over the wedding of gays or Satanists, or a man marrying a platypus; or hire someone who operates against their beliefs. It is not the purpose of that organization. And always keep in mind that this bill is limited to faith-based organizations; not individuals or commercial businesses that happen to be run by people of faith.

Congrats! You're a minister!
Furthermore, the refusal of the preacher to provide such services presents no burden to anyone wishing to get married or engage in any other sacrament. They have their li'l hearts set on getting married by an ordained minister? Well, anyone can become ordained and fully licensed to perform marriages in any state in under five minutes. And if the idea of a store-bought ministry genuinely bothered you, then you wouldn't be in a position that required it, would you? A genuine adherence to the tenets of any faith would prevent you from imposing on the minister in a way that you yourself know to be sinful. Face it. There's no burden whatsoever on those who wish these services. The only reason for claiming "discrimination" is to aggressively engage in discriminatory and punitive actions of their own.

And if you want to rent a church building, set your sights on a church you would attend. If you would not attend any church, then you cannot show any harm from not hiring any specific one. It may be a pretty building, but it's not yours. Again, think in terms of reasonability. Should that same faith-based organization be forced to hire out their facilities to the Ku Klux Klan? No? Then why should they be forced to hire out to you?

And if it's tripping you up to think of those mean old Christians, then apply your standard equally and fairly and ask yourself if anyone -- whether it's you, or the Klan, or a coven -- should be able to legally force a Muslim congregation to rent out their mosque to them. Then try to build a convincing explanation as to why you should be treated differently.


So we know that this isn't about discrimination. Rather, it's an exercise of power and control. So let's talk about the economic sanctions.

Companies can, in fact, pack up an move if they do not like the people or environment in which they work. These are the same people today as they would be tomorrow. If you're not going to like them tomorrow, then you sure as hell already don't like them right this minute, so why not pack your bags now?

Again, the law does not force people to discriminate. Now, if you don't like that a particular group doesn't provide services to you because doing so would violate their religion, then blatantly obvious to the simplest simpleton that they could just not do business with them. As a matter of documented fact, it's what both sides say they want. One side says, "we'll go elsewhere!" The other side says, "please do!" And then the idiots who claim they don't want to do business with bigots threaten to leave an entire state unless people they claim they don't want to do business with are forced to do business with them. It's not only stupid in the extreme, it's hypocrisy in action.

In every piece of legislation you have to ask yourself whether this can be done better with more freedom than with less. It's clear to me that this is a situation where more actual freedom... the kind so unpopular with the delicate snowflakes of the current generation... is required.

I've written about this before: the Jew doesn't go to court to force a Nazi to bake his cake. This is because a Jew has the dignity to not do business with Nazis. That's perfectly reasonable. If you think someone is bigoted against you, then it takes the most incongruously pathetic lack of self-esteem imaginable to beg a court to make that bigot take your money so you can support his business and feed his family. Rather, you should support other businesses, so the bigot's will fail. And you proudly stay where you are if you believe you have nothing to be ashamed of.

That doesn't appear to be the case with the entertainment industry. They want to force behavior, and to do so they threaten to 'punish' everyone for not allowing them to do so. The reasonable response to this is, "Don't let the door hit you on your way out," accompanied by the rational understanding that it's no punishment to the children who remain when a bully abandons the playground.

Of course, that's not the way things go in the real world. People aren't rational, and Disney will get their way as they usually do. They will forgo their own freedom to associate as they would like so that they may force the submission of people they say they don't like. And they will count this as a victory because it has never been about preventing bigotry...'s about putting their own bigotry first.

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