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Arizona Bill 1062: The Right to Discriminate for religious reasons

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Arizona's house and senate just passed a bill that is being billed as an anti-gay bill, because that is how it got started. The New York Times has a comprehensive article on the topic. The governor now has to decide whether to sign it. (She vetoed an earlier bill, and this one has been amended in the hope that she will sign it.)

 

This bill amends an existing law. The existing law allowed religious institutions to discriminate on a religious basis in situations where the law would stop other persons or institutions from discriminating. Under existing law, a church can refuse to perform a gay wedding, but a photographer cannot refuse to take photos at one -- at least not because the couple were gay. 

 

People ought to have a right to discriminate, but this is not a good bill and I hope the governor rejects it. I see two major problems with this bill: it expands an exemption for "religion", but religion is just one ideology among many. Thought and action should be free, not just religious thought and action. Secondly, the bill does not make is clear if this religious "right" can be demanded by a person qua employee. Can a government clerk refuse to dispense advice on contraception? What about private employees? Can a cashier refuse to serve customers who are buying alcohol -- as happened in Marks & Spencer?

 

Some states are trying narrower laws, saying that private individuals and organizations can refuse to offer their services to wedding ceremonies that are against their beliefs. I think those are so narrow that they don't matter much, but they're silly, and the less silly laws the better. 

 

Text of the Arizona bill.

Edited by softwareNerd

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I can't say I have, nor ever will, read the entire Arizona law regarding discrimination through religion, as opposed to discrimination by or against religion. Furthermore, I am atheist, and don't care what the faithful believe. However, this policies-making smacks of mind-control, and more nonsense about how all people should think as the state wishes them to think. The entire national homosexual agenda has been another civil rights movement, extended from the African-American movement popularized in the 1950s and 60s. I often reflect on a broadcast of a college speech from that era, delivered by Malcolm X. In it, he acknowledged that people will never reconcile their racial differences when forced to work side by side. Whether or not this is true could never be accurately determined. Rather, he advocated economic spheres for minorities, owned and operated by minorities for those minorities, a commonly accepted practice at that time. Expanding those minority-specific economic spheres could have been a better solution than government imposed hiring quotas. In a free market economy, these minority-owned businesses would expand with all of the same freedom as established mainstream competitors, until the competitors recognized the opportunity slipping away because of their ignorance of that share of the market. History did not take this route.

 

We are a better society for overcoming ethnic prejudice. But the legacy of government interference with private industry persists. If homosexuals want to have churches welcome them, who is stopping them from starting their own churches? Who is stopping them from starting their own homosexual photography services? Christians place those "fish" symbols on their bumpers and business cards, presumably to signal to like-minded people to favor them for their religious identity. Homosexuals could use the same method for promoted their businesses, creating a symbol, a rainbow or something. Prior to hiring quotas, businesses would advertise as being "equal opportunity employers." This was a signal that that business was willing to do business with all factions of the market.

 

Why do people always seems to think government is the best means to force people to accepting ideas they would otherwise reject? Many people will never accept the idea of homosexuality as normal; religions are allowed to approve and disapprove of specific behavior. If they weren't free to disapprove of homosexuality, then religions, and their church membership, aren't free in America. You can't have it both ways. No one should prevent anyone form starting their own faith-based belief and forming a congregation around it, unless it advocates violence. And even then, only the violence may be the subject of law enforcement. But that is a different subject. My point is that if any church decided one day that homosexuals are welcome, that must be their choice, not one imposed by government. My understanding of organized religion is that it is always seeking to expand their market share. It is an irrational business for irrational people. Perhaps one day, all rational people will adopt a rational code of behavior, and have no need for churches. Then, policies on gender orientation will seem as anachronistic as policies on witchcraft.

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Imagine the female Senator who co-sponsored this bill walking into a shop in her neighborhood, getting called a whore and being thrown out for not being appropriately covered up or accompanied by her husband, because the owner of the store is a Muslim.

I wonder if she'd be OK with that. I doubt it. I bet she'd be outraged, and on the Senate floor the next day sponsoring an exception to her own law.

Edited by Nicky

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The opposition to the bill has always based its argument on the false notion that the state should stop people from discriminating (the so-called "civil rights" stance). The proponents have appealed to the right to discriminate, which is correct in principle. Yet, they are not willing to defend it in principle. A few days ago, a proponent was insisting, on CNN, that nothing in the bill would allow a restaurant to refuse service to a gay person. What? If we take him at his word, the bill is pointless. In fact, reading it, it is ambiguous.

 

I know that many Objectivists are sympathetic to this bill, because they see it as one concrete, supporting the correct principle. No doubt, the principle is true: everyone should have the right to discriminate, on any basis, even an irrational basis such as the religious folks have. A few years ago, I'd have agreed; so, I empathize with the position. Yet, having watched the way religious people argue, I've come to realize that they're playing me for a sucker. It amounts to "Hey! you agree with rights, so vote me these rights, but don't expect me to vote for your rights". Huh! That's not how rights work.

 

If the religious extremists want my vote, they aren't getting it with a bill that is ambiguous but seems to support some concrete rights. My view is: "Sorry, not buying that. Come back with something unambiguous. I'm in no hurry on this concrete; so, it is your problem, not mine". I'm not making perfect the enemy of the good. Political negotiation on small improvements is fine. So, if the bill is unambiguous, then my question is: "What concrete rights are you willing to respect in return?"

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Well so much for property rights.  There may be atheists who don't want to serve religious people, whites who don't want to serve blacks and muslims who don't want to serve infidels.  Maybe I don't want to serve folks under 30, being they can't be trusted and all.  Come on, people, it's my business who I serve and don't serve.  Be consistent and give us all the right to discriminate against anyone we wish.  

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I agree with the principles of softwarenerd's argument, but principle alone is not enough, unfortunately. The United States did not get to its sorry state overnight with one sweeping piece of rotten collectivist legislation. Progressives have remolded our society via the incrementalist approach, bill by bill, dollar by dollar, year after year for three generations. Since no "pure" pro-liberty bill could ever survive in today's social and political climate, I think it's better to take back territory where we can. Rights for some is better than rights for none.

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I agree with the principles of softwarenerd's argument, but principle alone is not enough, unfortunately. The United States did not get to its sorry state overnight with one sweeping piece of rotten collectivist legislation. Progressives have remolded our society via the incrementalist approach, bill by bill, dollar by dollar, year after year for three generations. Since no "pure" pro-liberty bill could ever survive in today's social and political climate, I think it's better to take back territory where we can. Rights for some is better than rights for none.

 

I agree. While it is true that the bill itself is stupid and reflects the religious right's misunderstanding of the concepts of rights and liberty, the idea of any person having a right to another person's services/time/life is more fundamental of a folly than the mistakes in the bill (I haven't actually read the through bill, but I get the gist of it). At this point, the veto of this bill is being seen as a great victory for the LGBT community in Arizona, and a victory for "civil rights", which means that any attempt to bring forth a new law which properly protects freedom of discrimination will be met with incredible resistance as it is will be seen as "regressive" as opposed to "progressive" civil rights policy. 

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Rights for some is better than rights for none.

Not for me it's not. In fact it's worse.

Look at it this way: would a flat tax be better or worse than the current progressive tax rates? I think it would be better, because it would spread the hurt around, and that would be an incentive for everyone to want to keep taxes low.

Same with this: if we're gonna have an oppressive law, I want it to apply to everyone. The last thing I want is to find myself in a minority it applies to, while the majority get an exemption. That's worse than having it apply to everyone. Not because I want them to suffer too, but because I want them to help me get rid of the law.

Exceptions are the worst thing that could happen when there's an oppressive law in place. And the thugs know that very well, and they use them to pit us against each other all the time. This would be an example of that.

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Nicky - As for spreading the pain to spur people to action, that seems kind of like banging one's head against the wall because it feels good when it stops. I'm not convinced psychology works that way - it seems instead that shared pain tends to have the opposite effect in practice, conditioning people to accept the pain as a price of admission to society or a fact of life. Hence the hazing in college fraternities - all members must go through it. One of the reasons why Social Security and Medicare are so entrenched is the old mantra "everyone pays in." Actually, I think when people see that one class is being unfairly targeted, that creates a much bigger social motivation to come to their aid. The victimization is much clearer.

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To clarify, I am not making perfect the enemy of the good. [For instance, I'm happy with Institute of Justice style incremental-ism.] Some states are trying very narrow and unambiguous bills: saying that a person can refuse service to gay weddings. That would be far better than this ambiguous Arizona bill. 

 

I agree with Reason Being that the opposition to this bill was all on bad civil-rights grounds. It is too bad that almost everyone will see it as a victory for the civil-rights ideology. The religious lobby could easily craft a narrow and unambiguous bill along the lines that other states are trying, and if that goes through it will be a clearly targeted attack on the civil-rights ideology. Too bad the Christians allowed this opportunity to pass. 

 

(BTW, the bill is just two pages long)

 

When a supporter of the bill says that it does not allow a restaurant to deny service to a gay person, you should suspect what's going on here. The proponents are hoping to fight this case by case, allowing judges to write law. [something the GOP loves to do, even though they claim that Democratic judges are pioneers in the area.]

 

The religious wing of the GOP is not clueless. So, do not assume they just happened to come up with a crappy bill. They are organized, long-term thinkers, who will keep pushing the envelope. They are experts at spinning this "rights" argument. For instance, they will say that a doctors should not be forced to give advice about terminating a pregnancy. Meanwhile, they will insist that a doctor who gives such advice must follow all sorts of rules that make it difficult to provide abortions! In states where they could not get their was on abortion, they come up with cynically spurious rules that they pass under the color of patient safety.

 

It is time to call their bluff. 

Edited by softwareNerd

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Ari Armstrong posted an article about the cake baker who was threatened with fines for saying he wouldn't serve gays. Armstrong's point was that "The right to gay marriage rests on the freedom to contract—and that is precisely the freedom the court seeks to deny Phillips. If gay couples have the right to freedom of contract—and they do—then so does [the baker]"

I agree with the right to discriminate...but how does this apply to "public services" like transportation? 

Let's say you go and start your own bus company, you might call it national city lines, when you come to sell tickets on these buses, you could stipulate that you only sold sitting tickets to people whose skin was white, because as you say, that's your "right" to "discriminate". I'm sure I wouldn't be comfortable with this, but is this the same sort of case as the baker?

Edited by Ben Archer

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I agree with the right to discriminate...but how does this apply to "public services" like transportation? 

Let's say you go and start your own bus company, ... you only sold sitting tickets to people whose skin was white, because as you say, that's your "right" to "discriminate". I'm sure I wouldn't be comfortable with this,... ...

No rational person would be comfortable with that. White people who think this is wrong may decide to boycott the bus line. Perhaps another bus line would come in and the previous company would be bankrupt, serving only bigoted whites.

Still, it ought to be legal to discriminate on irrational, illogical grounds. Otherwise, government is being set up as the arbiter of what is rational and irrational in the sphere of private action.

Traditionally, bus-lines, railways, etc. are considered "common-carriers" with less latitude to discriminate, compared to other businesses. However, this is mostly a counter-measure to the licencing monopoly granted to them by governments. As long as licencing restricts competition, it is okay to insist that such businesses not discriminate. Similarly, if my internet provider says he will not connect Jews or Muslims, he should be stopped, because government severely hampers competition from other firms. Without this, if the industry were open to all comers, businesses should be allowed to discriminate for any stupid reason they can come up with.

Edited by softwareNerd

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Traditionally, bus-lines, railways, etc. are considered "common-carriers" with less latitude to discriminate, compared to other businesses. However, this is mostly a counter-measure to the licencing monopoly granted to them by governments. As long as licencing restricts competition, it is okay to insist that such businesses not discriminate. Similarly, if my internet provider says he will not connect Jews or Muslims, he should be stopped, because government severely hampers competition from other firms. Without this, if the industry were open to all comers, businesses should be allowed to discriminate for any stupid reason they can come up with.

A good point on the licensing monopoly, thank you. I've had this discussion with a few friends who tell me that , sure we should technically be able to discriminate, but if you remember how America was during the 50's, it "not the kind of world I'd want to live in." With businesses popping up everywhere that say "No Jews/Blacks" etc. 

 

I have to wonder if America is slightly past that point, though—especially with the mob mentaility and outrage that comes from the new digital age we live in. There's lots of examples of the smallest slights against gays or blacks, that within a day go viral and end up all over upworthy

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An example of how some Christians view rights: high schoolers in a North Carolina school wanted to start an atheist's club. The principal denied it multiple times, even though the school had allowed a religious club. Part of the reason was that they would not "fit in".

This is ironic, because Christians complain that public schools force people into majority-influenced secular values and that's why they have to home-school. Yet, when they're in charge they're fine imposing their majority values, and others must fit in. This is analogous to their approach to law-making judges: they're fine if it is their guy making law.

In this case, the ACLU threatened to make a stink and the school relented. http://www.christianpost.com/news/nc-high-school-allows-atheist-student-group-after-pressure-from-natl-organizations-114786/

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Similar controversy in Indiana. This time, it has passed. This bill has two parts. The first is similar to the Arizona bill.

 

The second appears to clarify that it does not allow employees to say they won't serve someone on religious grounds if their employers says they should. This second is an important qualification. Without making this clear, the Arizona law was just too ambiguous. Still, I'd like to see this made more explicit. Something of the form: it should say that an employee qua employee cannot assert any rights under this law.

 

The first part still suffers from the notion of "religious freedom" being given a special place under law. 

 

One op-ed in Reason magazine makes a similar point about special rights for religious fol, but seems to say there's basically nothing to see here, since the law mirrors a Federal law that has been in place for many years.

Edited by softwareNerd

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This is ironic, because Christians complain that public schools force people into majority-influenced secular values and that's why they have to home-school. Yet, when they're in charge they're fine imposing their majority values, and others must fit in. This is analogous to their approach to law-making judges: they're fine if it is their guy making law.

This is just a ridiculous overgeneralization that is beneath you SNerd. What is more, laws restricting free-association, including discrimination, are a violation of rights. The marketplace can more than compensate for any perceived wrong.

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This is just a ridiculous overgeneralization...

What part is a over-generalization? Do you mean Christians do not try to impose their own values on other when they're in a majority? If so, do you mean this is because so many are Christian in name only, or do you also mean all the southern states that have worked so hard to restrict abortions?

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This is just a ridiculous overgeneralization that is beneath you SNerd. What is more, laws restricting free-association, including discrimination, are a violation of rights. The marketplace can more than compensate for any perceived wrong.

Indiana lawmakers didn't abolish any law restricting freedom. In fact they didn't abolish any law, period. They just passed a new law exempting Christians.

 

Let's say a neighbor of yours throws a party that lasts through the night, and then comse over around 11 in the morning to complain that he's having trouble sleeping it off because you're making too much noise. Would you be inclined to respect his right to eight hours of sleep in that situation?

 

I wouldn't. I'd rather he didn't sleep either. Then maybe he'll learn how being a dick affects others. Same with the status quo in Indiana. All these lawmakers (who obviously hold a majority, otherwise this law wouldn't have passed), and their constituents, are choosing to force everyone to abide by anti-discrimination laws that "protect" racial minorities and women. If I was in Indiana, I would do everything in my power to make sure they don't get to exempt themselves from the same laws, and, as long as I can at any time be the victim of minorities or women suing me on the suspicion of being a bigot, they can be the victims of gays suing them for actually being openly bigoted.

Edited by Nicky

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About 10 years ago, some California christian group was supporting a proposition to ensure parental notification in cases where a 16 or 17 year old tries to get an abortion. (Discussed in this thread here.)

 

That's when I first realized the trick these Christians are playing on reasonable people me... they find some grounds that will work with reasonable people [e.g. 16 year olds are minors and parents should at least get a chance to give their opinion about abortion]... and hope the law will pass because reasonable people will vote for it on this supposed basis. However, to vote for it is to drop the context, because those people would be reasonable with the 16-17 year olds in the first place. All that such a law would do would be to victimize kids of the unreasonable Christian parents. 

 

Quite a few Objectivists were arguing for the bill at the time, based on parental rights. I believe to do so is to fall for the trick of the more extremist groups within politicized Christianity. They want to take every inch they can get, without giving anything in return. Sorry... not buying that any more.

 

 

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Referring to "Christians as some monolithic group is the same sort of floating abstraction as "society". Saying Christians do this or that is equivalent to saying society does this or that and is absurd. Your hatred of "Christians", which is itself a form of otherism, permits you to behave in a unprincipled way concerning related issues. What is more, any law that creates protected classes, such as the civil rights laws of the 60's, violates the principle of Equal Protection. We should be protected from laws that do injustice. People should do as they please. The parts of the civil rights laws that strike down unjust laws are good. The rest is a violation of individual rights. In damning laws that allow people to act according to their own conscience and in advocating the status quo, you seem to be unprincipled in this area of thought.

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Referring to "Christians as some monolithic group is the same sort of floating abstraction as "society".

Fair enough, in a more general context. The bulk of my Christian friends and family are just regular folk, and -- as a group -- they're the same as the Muslim friends whose kids car-pooled with me for years, or the various agnostics I know. I don't hate "Chritians" or "Muslims" or "Buddhist" when the term is being used to mean "all who call themselves ...xyz...". In fact, some who call themselves Objectivists would rate far lower in my esteem than some who call themselves Christian or Muslim or Buddhist.

So, let me clarify: In the context of the thread, the "Christians" refer to the folks pushing their faith agenda on everyone else, with SWAT teams to back them up. Replaces "Christians" in all my posts within this thread as "committed political activist Christians" and you'll get the sense.

This gives me an idea, though, for a new term: Christianistas. (Sort of analogous to "Islamists".)

As for the argument itself, and whether it is fair on unprincipled, I've already made my arguments above, and cannot think of anything new to say right now.

Let me ask you this: do you think the typical person who calls himself Christian will refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding? I have an acquaintance who is very Christian (weekly church etc.), into tea-party politics, dutifully hates everything about Obama and thinks of people like Sean Hannity as wise intellectuals. Yet, he tells me he's disappointed in the attitude of people who discriminate against gays -- though he does support the bill itself.

So, have you come down from the level of principles to the level of concretes and visualized who exactly is pushing for this bill, in reality. And, once you see who this person is -- the one who is actively pushing for the bill -- let me ask you this: does this Christianista also support the atheists who want to put up a display next to the town's Xmas display, or end the practice altogether? 

Edited by softwareNerd

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The title of this thread is "The right to discriminate for religious reasons". One should have the right to discriminate for any reason. Businesses that close their doors to some lose business to those willing to cast a broader net. The market punishes discrimination. The problem is not a law granting permission to discriminate. The problem is that permission had to be granted since rights are not given by permission.

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The title of this thread is "The right to discriminate for religious reasons". One should have the right to discriminate for any reason. Businesses that close their doors to some lose business to those willing to cast a broader net. The market punishes discrimination. The problem is not a law granting permission to discriminate. The problem is that permission had to be granted since rights are not given by permission.

 

If the point is that certain "Christianistas" as softwareNerd is now calling them, want to protect discrimination against gays but not against other minorities, then the inconsistency of the "Christianistas" is the target of his criticism and your concern here is unfounded.  Basically what we are dealing with is a subset of the religious right that wants a bakery to serve blacks and hispanics but not gays but they will not frame it that way.  Instead they frame it as a form of protection for businesses that want to deny gays their service.  Who are they fooling?

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