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Does Religious Liberty Equal Freedom to Discriminate? - Comments

JOE1212's Avatar Comment 1 by JOE1212

Katherine Sebelius is NOT a practicing Catholic, she is a fallen away Catholic. Catholicism is against contraceptives.

Tue, 29 May 2012 00:05:18 UTC | #944106

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 2 by Neodarwinian

" Does Religious Liberty Equal Freedom to Discriminate? "

Rhetorical question?

NO!!!!!!!!!!! This is a secular republic, or a secular democratic republic, or a secular democracy. Regardless of the type of government you think we have, wackaloons, theocracy is not part of it and this last gasp effort to grasp at any straw ( redundant, I know! ) will not work and the effort along with you, religion and your nut bag beliefs, sees the dustbin of history that your are rushing toward.

Tue, 29 May 2012 00:19:54 UTC | #944110

RJMoore's Avatar Comment 3 by RJMoore

Its seems to me that it's the perfect right of Catholic groups to object to a speaker at a private Catholic university if they dont like the cut of her jib; I dont see why that objection towards K. Sebelius is included in the article as though it were comparable to religious groups' having a veto over whom the (secular) state allows to marry or over whom a state legislature appoints as a judge.

He seems to conflate state and community.

Tue, 29 May 2012 00:43:06 UTC | #944113

ColdThinker's Avatar Comment 4 by ColdThinker

Religious freedom is not an absolute concept. The values of one religious sect can't possibly be extended to regulate the lives of people outside the sect. And a civilized society doesn't even allow complete freedom within a sect either. Human sacrifice, ritual torture or domestic violence are not allowed, even if it suppresses certain forms of religious practice.

The religious liberty argument is so completely illogical that it should collapse under its own absurdity. Strange that such a reductio ad absurdum rebuttal isn't used more frequently. But of course using logic is against the principles of religious freedom.

Tue, 29 May 2012 00:44:47 UTC | #944114

RJMoore's Avatar Comment 5 by RJMoore

Comment 4 by ColdThinker

Human sacrifice, ritual torture or domestic violence are not allowed, even if it suppresses certain forms of religious practice.

Because such practices infringe the rights of others, no?

Tue, 29 May 2012 00:51:38 UTC | #944117

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 6 by Cartomancer

After all his statement was about the right to marry, which is a secular legal issue. Even if the state were to recognize same-sex marriages, churches, mosques or synagogues or other places of worship would not be required to hold wedding ceremonies within them or sanction such marriages because the no legal standing is attributed to such ceremonies or sanctions.

That may be so in the US (in the UK most churches and some other religious centres do act as legal instruments of the state when they marry people) but even if it is true, I don't think that covers it sufficiently.

Even if there is no legal service conferred by a church's marriage ceremony, a service is nevertheless offered - the use of the church building, the services of an officiant, and perhaps a musician. Usually this service is paid for. The florist provides the flowers. The limo hire people provide the transport. The photographer provides his or her photographic services. The catering company provides the food. The church provides a venue and a speaker. These commercial services are pretty much equivalent.

If you're saying that a church should be allowed to discriminate in its service provision against people because they're gay (or, by extension, black, Mexican, disabled, female...) then you're implicitly saying that a shop or business should be able to discriminate thusly too. In Britain we have the 2007 Provision of Goods and Services Regulations which make that illegal. I don't know if there is equivalent legislation in the US, but even if there isn't, the principle is still sound. It is morally wrong and should be illegal to discriminate unfairly in the proviison of goods and services. And there is no reason why churches should be exempt from this. Being run by conscientious homophobes is not a good reason. If they offer to marry anyone then they must be compelled to marry everyone who asks.

It is my firm conviction that this fight will not be over until the churches, mosques, synagogues and other religious institutions are compelled to provide their services fairly and to all without discrimination. They do not have the liberty to murder who they want, steal what they want, rape who they want or set what they want on fire. Those "religious liberties" are denied to them, and for good reason. The "liberty" to discriminate is similarly unacceptable in a modern, civilized and morally upright society.

Tue, 29 May 2012 01:41:27 UTC | #944123

Russell Blackford's Avatar Comment 7 by Russell Blackford

Freedom of religion basically means that the state will not persecute you for your religion or impose a religion on you. Instead the state should simply make decisions to protect and promote the secular welfare of its citizens (i.e., their interests in this-worldly things).

It can get a little bit more complicated, but that's basically it. Sometimes a decision made on a secular basis will offend the religious or in some way constrain them, but they can't claim persecution if the state was simply acting in a religion-blind way, doing something that it would have done anyway, on secular grounds, even if the religion concerned did not exist.

Much confusion is caused when definitions of freedom of religion are used that do not start from this core meaning.

No one is being persecuted for their religion if the state, for secular reasons to do with its citizens' this-worldly welfare, makes a decision to recognise same-sex marriages in the same way as it recognises opposite-sex marriages. Nor is any religion being imposed on anyone if the state simply does this for reasons relating to the worldly interests of the people concerned. Thus, freedom of religion doesn't come into it.

However, if the state refuses to recognise same-sex marriage for a religious reason ... well, freedom of religion certainly does come into it. Public policy is then being used to impose a religious viewpoint.

At the risk of being accused of spamming, I do my best to sort all this out in my book FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE. In any event, the idea of freedom of religion (the state will not persecute you for your religion or impose an alien religion on you) is manipulated unconscionably in these debates. Properly understood, freedom of religion is a good thing, and it is compatible with other liberal freedoms such as freedom of speech (the state won't try to control what you say and how you express yourself). However, manipulation of the idea can give it a bad name.

Tue, 29 May 2012 01:41:37 UTC | #944124

RJMoore's Avatar Comment 8 by RJMoore

Cartomancer

If they offer to marry anyone then they must be compelled to marry everyone who asks

Even satanists?!

All you're doing is removing the liberty of people to form voluntary groups free from state interference. If a church wants to admit only red-haired, left-handed vegans...what's that got to do with the state?

They do not have the liberty to murder who they want, steal what they want, rape who they want or set what they want on fire.

Of course they don't, since such actions violate the rights of others. What you seem to be suggesting is that groups of people who voluntarily come together should have to acquiesce, faced with the threat of state coercion no less, to the wishes of those outside the group, a blatant infringement of the members' liberty.

Tue, 29 May 2012 02:08:59 UTC | #944126

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 9 by Steve Zara

Some religious leaders insist that believers should have the right to discriminate against others, because of what the believers believe. For example, a hotel owner might want to ban same-sex couples based on their belief that same-sex relationships are immoral.

One aspect of this sort of situation that I have not come across before, and an additional argument in favour of equality, is that the state should not get into arbitrating religious disputes. It's well known that there are religious people who are gay and who believe that their sexual orientation is not a problem for their religion. Now, what happens if a religious same-sex couple gets refused entrance to a hotel by religious owners? If the state should support the religious rights of believers, then which of these believers should the state support? It can't just pick the majority view of the religion as that's clearly unfair. The only fair course of action for the state to take is to consider the situation without taking religion into account, and arbitrate one way or another based on secular considerations.

Insisting that believers should have the right to discriminate is not just unfair to those unbelievers who may be discriminated against - it's also prejudiced against some believers. Only by acting in a secular way can the state resolve things fairly.

Tue, 29 May 2012 02:35:42 UTC | #944134

RJMoore's Avatar Comment 10 by RJMoore

Steve Zara

If you want to go down that route...fine. But then your actions have nothing to do with promoting liberty ( something which the author states is his concern, in the article);quite the opposite, in fact.

What right does the state have to get involved in religious affairs?!

Liberty involves one's being free to act in ways of which others disapprove, in the same way as freedom of speech means one should be able to say things others don't like or agree with.

Tue, 29 May 2012 02:54:01 UTC | #944137

Russell Blackford's Avatar Comment 11 by Russell Blackford

RJ ... where this leads you is to oppose all anti-discrimination law. I.e. to oppose to the use of such laws for the secular purpose of protecting individuals from certain exercises of private power. That may be a principled position - a Libertarian one, perhaps. But if that's the way you want to argue it, it has nothing much to do with religious freedom.

That said, it's possible to have a nuanced discussion of just which exercises of private power the state should/needs to interfere with and which it can/should leave alone. Some exercises of private power are more oppressive than others. In some cases, the private organisations concerned may have a much stronger case than others for exemption, based on freedom of association grounds (for example). It can get difficult, but it's important to sort out what is an argument based on freedom of religion and what is an argument based on something else, such as Libertarian political philosophy or concerns about freedom of association.

Tue, 29 May 2012 03:48:34 UTC | #944141

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 12 by Peter Grant

http://richarddawkins.net/articles/646057-does-religious-liberty-equal-freedom-to-discriminate Does Religious Liberty Equal Freedom to Discriminate?

No, religious liberty does not equal freedom to DO anything.

Tue, 29 May 2012 04:00:21 UTC | #944144

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 13 by Premiseless

Comment 1 by JOE1212 :

Katherine Sebelius is NOT a practicing Catholic, she is a fallen away Catholic. Catholicism is against contraceptives.

I don't think we yet have a real and common language for, "This person is NOT a practising delusional, but a reformed delusional. Delusional is against the individual using their own mind to decide when and when not to add to the 7 billion of us we (the human race) already lamentably cope with the welfare of."

Tue, 29 May 2012 04:44:07 UTC | #944148

Michael Gray's Avatar Comment 14 by Michael Gray

A telling condemnation of the insanity that reigns supreme in the US:

Maybe it is just because when visiting other developed countries it is sometimes easy to forget how it is possible that religious discussion can permeate politics as deeply as it does in the US

That as soon as one visits civilised locations, one is gut-wrenched at the absurdly infantile lies that pass as public discourse in the last fading moments of US world hegemony...

Tue, 29 May 2012 06:09:18 UTC | #944157

Vorlund's Avatar Comment 15 by Vorlund

There is no such thing as freedom of religion. If you are religious you are not free you are kissing the arse of your gaoler. If you insist others obey your religious piffle you are seeking to imprison them.

The former is rank stupdity the latter is far worse it is antihuman.

I'm glad that in the UK lawsuits have gone against religious bigots. What we need to do next is keep pushing until there is a legal definition that indoctrination is child abuse and discriminates by assumption that the child is automatically born into a religion.

Tue, 29 May 2012 06:54:43 UTC | #944164

ColdThinker's Avatar Comment 16 by ColdThinker

Comment 5 by RJMoore :

Comment 4 by ColdThinker

Human sacrifice, ritual torture or domestic violence are not allowed, even if it suppresses certain forms of religious practice.

Because such practices infringe the rights of others, no?

Sure. But if we ban religious, even consentual human sacrifice on private premises, why would it be a religious right to refuse a gay couple a lodging and possibly let them freeze to death on a cold night? Or refuse a certain kind of medical treatment on religious grounds?

One of the most important functions of the government of a civilized country is to limit the freedoms of its citizens. Unlimited freedom is anarchy, the very opposite of civilization. 

My point is I criticize the American habit of using the word "freedom" as if it is a good thing by definition. It is not that simple. Any freedom has to be defined by constant dialogue and careful political discourse. Accepting simple political statements like "Attacking Freedom is Bad" produces exactly this kind of idiotic situations, like defending physical and mental violence as a religious liberty.

Tue, 29 May 2012 08:05:25 UTC | #944170

Anvil's Avatar Comment 17 by Anvil

it seemed unfathomable to me that the President’s statement that we should grant some additional rights to some individuals represented an attack on the liberty of others.

Thanks, Lawro, nice piece. Would have changed 'additional rights' to 'equal rights', but hey.

Also want to re-state Carto's point regarding the UK. The religious have been promised that they wont have to perform 'Gay' marriages in their churches by way of selling them the deal.

We have to fight this at every level both on a point of strategy and principal.

This allows the use of private power to both distinguish and diminish the rights of other citizens of the state.

Whilst we should at all times agree with their right of assembly and their right to perform ceremony recognised by their church, we should not allow them to act as an office of state unless that office is available to all citizens of the state.

Anvil.

Tue, 29 May 2012 10:42:51 UTC | #944198

RJMoore's Avatar Comment 18 by RJMoore

Comment 11 by Russell Blackford

RJ ... where this leads you is to oppose all anti-discrimination law.

Yes, in the case of private groups/individuals, not in the case of institutions of state.

That may be a principled position - a Libertarian one, perhaps. But if that's the way you want to argue it, it has nothing much to do with religious freedom.

Why? I dont follow.

It can get difficult, but it's important to sort out what is an argument based on freedom of religion and what is an argument based on something else, such as Libertarian political philosophy or concerns about freedom of association.

Freedom of religion and freedom of association (from state interference) are equally important if you're concerned with liberty.

Tue, 29 May 2012 10:47:05 UTC | #944199

RJMoore's Avatar Comment 19 by RJMoore

Comment 16 by ColdThinker

Sure. But if we ban religious, even consentual human sacrifice on private premises, why would it be a religious right to refuse a gay couple a lodging and possibly let them freeze to death on a cold night?

Why would you ban anything that is consentual? Would you outlaw suicide generally or just in the case of religious folk's doing it?

Does an 'private' individual have the right to refuse access to his house on a freezing cold night?

Or refuse a certain kind of medical treatment on religious grounds?

Refused by whom? On whom? Are the rights of a third party being infringed?

One of the most important functions of the government of a civilized country is to limit the freedoms of its citizens.

Yes, but only in cases where a person has his/her rights infringed by other citizens; otherwise govt.'s function should be to ensure the maximum amount of freedom possible.

My point is I criticize the American habit of using the word "freedom" as if it is a good thing by definition.

But the writer of the article obviously thinks that liberty is a good thing.

Any freedom has to be defined by constant dialogue and careful political discourse.

Only where the rights of third parties are involved.

Accepting simple political statements like "Attacking Freedom is Bad" produces exactly this kind of idiotic situations, like defending physical and mental violence as a religious liberty.

Physical violence should be an no-no. You'd have to elaborate on whiat you mean by 'mental violence'.

Just another brief point: the writer says that, "In a democratic society, in principle governed by reason,...." Since when does democracy have anything to do with the 'reason' of its citizens?! All democracy means is that each person's vote is of equal value to the vote of every other person, in relation to the issues to be decided by citizens, e.g. electing one's local MP or Senator. The 'reason' behind each person's decision to vote the way he does has nothing to do with democracy; frankly, it's nobody's business.

Tue, 29 May 2012 11:17:11 UTC | #944202

Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Comment 20 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

Comment 9 by Steve Zara

One aspect of this sort of situation that I have not come across before, and an additional argument in favour of equality, is that the state should not get into arbitrating religious disputes. It's well known that there are religious people who are gay and who believe that their sexual orientation is not a problem for their religion. Now, what happens if a religious same-sex couple gets refused entrance to a hotel by religious owners? If the state should support the religious rights of believers, then which of these believers should the state support? It can't just pick the majority view of the religion as that's clearly unfair. The only fair course of action for the state to take is to consider the situation without taking religion into account, and arbitrate one way or another based on secular considerations.

That example you give should be a straightforward one for state intervention, because the religious views of both parties are irrelevant to the provision of hotel accommodation, so there is no justification for discrimination. It is in no way to the disadvantage of the hotel management if they have to provide a room for those of a different faith, or of a sexuality, gender or race of which they do not approve.

The only area in which I think religious people have a right to discriminate is in the appointment of certain roles within actual religious organisations, and only where it would be obviously detrimental to the purpose of the organisation if they appointed someone who did not support their faith.

Tue, 29 May 2012 13:00:33 UTC | #944212

Stephen of Wimbledon's Avatar Comment 21 by Stephen of Wimbledon

In response to Comment 7 by Russell Blackford.

Hi Russell,

In any event, the idea of freedom of religion (the state will not persecute you for your religion or impose an alien religion on you) is manipulated unconscionably in these debates.

I agree that manipulation is involved - modern organised religions are kicking in the traces because, as Lawrence notes, they are losing their grip on power.

But do the machinations of the priesthoods (redefining Religious Freedom in order to re-amplify their political power) really amount to being unconscionable?

It seems to me that it is important for us to recognise the fight we're in - this is political.

You are right to point out that freedom of religion means:

... the state will not persecute you for your religion or impose a religion on you ...

It's the use of the word persecute that goes to the heart of the matter. Hostility and ill-treatment can be quite objective descriptions of wrong-doing but, like taking offense, claiming persecution is something we could all do if we put our minds to it - such is the flexibility of these terms.

Indeed, it seems to me that we often recognise that repression is as much in the mind of the 'victim' as it is evidence based.

Which brings me, neatly, to your closing statement:

Properly understood, freedom of religion is a good thing, and it is compatible with other liberal freedoms such as freedom of speech.

I don't know what the word liberal gives us in that statement, to me human rights transcend factional labels - but moving swiftly on.

The whole point of a political debate is that rights are often difficult to harmonise and some debate is therefore required to find some compromise in specific instances. Your chosen sample - religion and free speech - are a case in point.

Is it conscionable to allow that religious freedom can mean the religious have the right to express themselves through marriage, while simultaneously denying that right to gay folk?

The religious are claiming that it is because marriage is, in some way they find hard to define, "special".

Setting aside the inability of the religious to express themselves when describing marriage, they are having no such difficulty redefining Religious Freedom to mean the Right to Discriminate. They would like us to interpret this as the right to recognise difference but, as Lawrence notes, it actually means the Right to Act with Prejudice:

One might rationally argue that individual human beings should be free choose what moral behavior they approve of, and which they don’t, subject to the constraints of the law. But when organized religious groups gain power of any form, power over the state, power over women, or power over children, the results inevitably lead to restrictions on liberty based on discrimination.

When you note that:

... manipulation of the idea can give it a bad name

... it seems to me that isn't helpful. We have to recognise that all ideas are the subject of manipulation - especially in politics.

The best way to manage this debate is to reflect back the reality of the demands they are making: A naked play for more political power.

In this fight your are bang on with one idea: We all need to point out to others that the religious are attempting to redefine the ages old definition of Religious Freedom and we need to call the religious to account for it - get them to explain their new definition.

Peace.

Tue, 29 May 2012 13:43:37 UTC | #944217

Gregory Penn's Avatar Comment 22 by Gregory Penn

In the spirit of science and reason, I take issue with two elements of Dr. Krauss's essay: one dealing with science, the other with reason. I want to state clearly at the outset that I am in whole-hearted agreement with the main point of the essay. I raise these issues because I value Dr. Krauss's contribution to the public forum of ideas and I do not wish to see that contribution undermined. The issue of science concerns the misuse of the term "maladaptive" in the context of evolutionary biology; perhaps it is trivial if you are not a biologist. The issue of reason addresses the assertion that homosexuality is involuntary, and the implications of that assertion.

The claim that homosexuality is not a choice is often central to arguments that it is not morally wrong and therefor homosexuals should not be targeted for discrimination. The problem is essentially a naturalistic fallacy: the claim that something is "good" if natural and "bad" if unnatural. Homosexuality is clearly natural; it is widely observed both in mammals and other animals. There are many natural behaviors--like violence, involuntary for some individuals--that we should suppress, however. So the argument that homosexuality isn't immoral because it is natural is unsound. There is also a deeper problem with it.

If the morality of homosexuality is predicated on whether or not it is a choice, then are we to pass judgement on the vast number of the world's bisexuals who do choose among possible relationships with women and men? Furthermore, are we to think of gays, "it's not really their fault," suggesting some flaw for which they can't be held responsible? Such an argument would be offensive to basic human dignity because it clings to the pathological notion that some manifestations of consensual and even loving sexuality are morally wrong.

Now for the issue of scientific vocabulary, which results in a patently false statement and promotes a fundamental misunderstanding about biological evolution. The problem is in the following statement: "Whatever the evolutionary basis of religion, the xenophobia it now generates is clearly maladaptive."

Maladaptive is being used here in the sense of something that isn't desirable, a sentiment with which I whole-heartedly agree. However, in the context of evolutionary biology maladaptive means that within a particular environment a trait results in a decreased probability that an individual's genes will be passed to future generations. More intuitively, maladaptive means something genetic that makes an individual likely to have fewer children than average. This is not clearly the case for religiosity. Religious and xenophobic individuals may have just as many children as atheists and secular humanists. In fact, religious individuals probably have more children on average. Fortunately, this unlikely to be the result of heritable traits.

These issues are important because we are promoting to roles of science and reason in public debate and we are not immune to mistakes in these areas. The value of science and reason lies largely in self-correction--the ability to revise our stance based on new observations of evidence or reasoning.

Tue, 29 May 2012 15:08:51 UTC | #944236

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 23 by Cartomancer

RJ Moore,

If they offer to marry anyone then they must be compelled to marry everyone who asks

Even satanists?!

Yes, even them. If you offer a service to the public you must offer it equally to all. A shopkeeper or employer isn't allowed to refuse satanists business, or blacks, or gays, or women. Why should a church be any different? Just because you don't like someone that's not a good enough reason to have a legal right to discriminate against them.

All you're doing is removing the liberty of people to form voluntary groups free from state interference. If a church wants to admit only red-haired, left-handed vegans...what's that got to do with the state?

If the church is providing commercial services then it has everything to do with the state. A shopkeeper might want to serve only red-haired, left-handed vegan customers, but he doesn't have the right to do that. That's what anti-discrimination laws are all about, and they're necessary to ensure fairness and equality of opportunity. That's why we HAVE states in the first place - to place checks on the unfairnesses, inequalities and harm caused by the law of the jungle and rampant inconsiderate self-interest.

If all the church did was hold private meetings of friends then it would not be subject to anti-discrimination laws, just as the shopkeeper wouldn't if he was only conducting a private transaction with a friend rather than offering his goods for sale. But this is not the case. Churches are businesses, with incomes, products and turnover. They charge money for marriage services and conduct them as a commercial transaction (and, in most cases, as a legal instrument of state also).

They do not have the liberty to murder who they want, steal what they want, rape who they want or set what they want on fire.

Of course they don't, since such actions violate the rights of others.

Refusing marriage services to gay people violates their right to being treated equally and their right to be free from harmful discrimination.

What you seem to be suggesting is that groups of people who voluntarily come together should have to acquiesce, faced with the threat of state coercion no less, to the wishes of those outside the group, a blatant infringement of the members' liberty.

When the matter at stake is the fundamental equality of all human beings, damn right that's what I'm suggesting. Individual freedom to cause harm cannot trump universal equality. They're not at liberty to murder who they like, they shouldn't be at liberty to discriminate against who they like in the provision of services to the public. Because this isn't just a group of friends meeting in each other's living room - it's a commercial business that provides services to the public - marriage services. The florist isn't allowed to discriminate, the photographer isn't allowed to discriminate, the venue for the reception isn't allowed to discriminate. Why should this one service provider be permitted to discriminate on spurious and irrelevant grounds where none of the others can?

Also, would you extend your same concern for "liberty" to a church or shop that refused to provide its services to black customers?

Tue, 29 May 2012 16:44:42 UTC | #944258

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 24 by Schrodinger's Cat

Whatever the evolutionary basis of religion, the xenophobia it now generates is clearly maladaptive. In a democratic society, in principle governed by reason, denying the rights of human beings for whom biology differently directs the basic human drives of sexual attraction, or the rights of women or men to control their sexual behavior should not be identified with liberty.

This is true.....but at the same time, whilst one might justifiably argue that some views are 'irrational', I don't think science should be getting into the business of deciding what is 'morally correct'. I think the latter may be every bit as dodgy a road to go down as that of the religious fundamentalists.

These issues simply don't have nice neat little soutions......they are a great deal more complex than religion = bad, rationality = good.

Tue, 29 May 2012 17:05:45 UTC | #944261

Roedy's Avatar Comment 25 by Roedy

If Christian business owners have the right to discriminate against gays in hiring on religious grounds, then surely gay business owners should have the right to discriminate against Christian job applicants.

Surely Shell oil should be allowed to show Creationist geologists the door on the grounds of incompetence.

The whole notion of discrimination in hiring is impossible to enforce. If you have ever run a business and put an ad in the paper offering an opening, you are flooded with hundreds of applicants. There are dozens of completely acceptable choices. How do you pick? You can't help but base it on just how likable they were. I would unlikely find a touchy, dour, critical, scowling Christian likable. Unless I picked someone clearly unqualified over someone qualified, the unhappy applicant has no case.

Tue, 29 May 2012 17:21:58 UTC | #944265

RJMoore's Avatar Comment 26 by RJMoore

Comment 23 by Cartomancer

Yes, even them. If you offer a service to the public you must offer it equally to all.

Really? The Holocaust Memorial Centre in Hungary must offer its facilities to a group of neo-Nazis? The NAACP must facilitate White Power advocates? Seriously, come on...

A shopkeeper or employer isn't allowed to refuse satanists business, or blacks, or gays, or women.

I think anyone is entitled to refuse to do business with those who dont share the ethos of the business in question. If the person looking to use the services of a particular organisation has a problem with the raison d'etre of the organisation, he/she should simply go elsewhere. Otherwise, what next? Binge drinkers demanding that AA allows them use its hall to promote the delights of Happy Hour drinking? Weight Watchers putting aside a section of its room for those who wish to extol the benefits of eating McDonalds twice a day?

Just because you don't like someone that's not a good enough reason to have a legal right to discriminate against them.

The law shouldn't even come into it. The state shouldn't have the right to dictate how and why people come together voluntarily to form groups or businesses, whether the groups are religious or not.

If the church is providing commercial services then it has everything to do with the state.

Rubbish. Do you think the Association of Intuitive Palm Readers must do business with those who make it clear that they think the service on offer is silly make-believe? Because the state says so?

That's why we HAVE states in the first place - to place checks on the unfairnesses, inequalities and harm caused by the law of the jungle and rampant inconsiderate self-interest.

Thats absolutely not why we have states in the first place...but the relationship between state and citizen is rapidly moving in that direction, Ill grant you that.

Self-interest....is there any other kind of interest?

Refusing marriage services to gay people violates their right to being treated equally and their right to be free from harmful discrimination.

No such right exits in the 'private' world. No person has the right to be 'treated equally'. You can certainly make the argument that the state shouldn't discriminate, although that is fraught with problems too.

Churches are businesses, with incomes, products and turnover. They charge money for marriage services and conduct them as a commercial transaction

Of course they charge money; how else would they pay for all the wafers and incense? If people dont like the service on offer, they should organise their own group and run it how they see fit.

When the matter at stake is the fundamental equality of all human beings, damn right that's what I'm suggesting. Individual freedom to cause harm cannot trump universal equality.

Humans are not equal and never will be, thank Jesu. Individual freedom should trump everything, providing others' rights aren't being violated.

Why should this one service provider be permitted to discriminate on spurious and irrelevant grounds where none of the others can?

Im inclined to agree with you here, albeit for a very different reason.

Also, would you extend your same concern for "liberty" to a church or shop that refused to provide its services to black customers?

Absolutely, in the same way as Nazi morons should be able to deny the Holocaust til the cows come home. It doesnt mean I dont find them and their views repugnant; but liberty is about consenting adults' having the right to do what they please whether I approve of their actions or not, whether it be porn, cosmetic surgery, gambling, bare-knuckle boxing, tattoos, praying to an imaginary god, or taking drugs.

Tue, 29 May 2012 17:57:23 UTC | #944269

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 27 by Mr DArcy

"Religious liberty", my backside!. That's like "consensual rape" or "creationist science"!

These professional Christian whingers are quite happy to attack "atheist liberty" as and when it suits them. No principles, no understanding, no humanity, - just endless bigoted ideas carefully refined over many years by churches and preachers.

They can stuff their "religious liberty" down a disused uranium mine. It might become less toxic down there.

As far as discrimination in general goes, at least in Britain,afaik, people like publicans and restauranters, and yes, even shopkeepers, can legally refuse to serve anyone without giving a reason. And there can be many reasons to refuse service apart from dislike of gays, e.g. drunkeness, threatening behaviour, upsetting other customers, inappropriate dress, smelling awful etc. etc. Many clubs legally discriminate against women or men members. Italian restaurants are allowed to discriminate against non-Italian speaking would-be waiters, and so on. In a world where something like 30,000 children die every day of poverty related issues, and where there are something like 300 million unemployed, these "inequalities" are not very high up on my list of priorities.

Tue, 29 May 2012 19:44:21 UTC | #944303

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 28 by Cartomancer

RJ Moore

Really? The Holocaust Memorial Centre in Hungary must offer its facilities to a group of neo-Nazis? The NAACP must facilitate White Power advocates? Seriously, come on...

Yes. If it offers its services to the public it must offer them to all the public. When you're in the business of venue hire, you're not allowed to discriminate.

I think anyone is entitled to refuse to do business with those who dont share the ethos of the business in question.

Privately, yes. But where the provision of goods and services to the public is involved, no. Equality is far more important than personal foibles.

If the person looking to use the services of a particular organisation has a problem with the raison d'etre of the organisation, he/she should simply go elsewhere.

And he usually will. But he should not be compelled to go elsewhere. Particularly if there isn't an elsewhere to go to.

Otherwise, what next? Binge drinkers demanding that AA allows them use its hall to promote the delights of Happy Hour drinking? Weight Watchers putting aside a section of its room for those who wish to extol the benefits of eating McDonalds twice a day?

Neither the AA nor McDonalds are in the business of venue hire for meetings. The AA hires venues, McDonalds sells food. If the AA refused membership to a gay person or McDonalds refused to sell food to a black person, that's the equivalency we're talking about.

The law shouldn't even come into it. The state shouldn't have the right to dictate how and why people come together voluntarily to form groups or businesses, whether the groups are religious or not.

Rubbish. There are copious laws governing the formation and conduct of businesses and societies. Business law is very complex, and it has to be to mitigate the kinds of injustices and advantage-taking that might otherwise occur. Businesses have to abide by anti-discrimination law, there's no reason why religious businesses should be exempt.

Rubbish. Do you think the Association of Intuitive Palm Readers must do business with those who make it clear that they think the service on offer is silly make-believe? Because the state says so?

Yes, I do. If they're a commercial business then they must abide by the same rules as everyone else.

Thats absolutely not why we have states in the first place...but the relationship between state and citizen is rapidly moving in that direction, Ill grant you that.

And a jolly good thing it is too. That's the main reason we STILL have states, and the most important reason to keep them strong and fair and well-governed.

Self-interest....is there any other kind of interest?

Communal interest? Interest in the welfare of others? Of humanity at large?

No such right exits in the 'private' world. No person has the right to be 'treated equally'.

But it very much does exist in the PUBLIC world, which is the world in which the state and commercial enterprises operate. The right to equal treatment before the law is pretty much the fundamental building block of the modern nation state, and the essential cornerstone of any just and moral society. And there is plenty of legislation backing up that right. And there should be more.

You can certainly make the argument that the state shouldn't discriminate, although that is fraught with problems too.

What problems would those be then? Seems an absolutely straightforward truism to me.

Of course they charge money; how else would they pay for all the wafers and incense?

And thus they are a commercial enterprise like any other, and should obey the same anti-discrimination laws. A candle shop or a biscuit manufacturer isn't allowed to refuse gays his services, why should a church that provides the same things?

If people dont like the service on offer, they should organise their own group and run it how they see fit.

If Rosa Parks doesn't like the bus service on offer then she should organise her own bus service and run it how she sees fit. If the black people of South Africa don't like the racist schools on offer they should organise their own schools and run them how they see fit. We could do it that way, where the state takes no action to ameliorate injustice or harm, and leaves it entirely up to private individuals, but then what a patchy, inconsistent and ultimately unjust picture we would get. The state has a positive duty to step in and regulate the harmful behaviour of its citizens, including discriminatory harm.

Humans are not equal and never will be, thank Jesu.

In terms of fundamental rights and dignities, yes they are. Thank the generations of enlightenment thinkers who demonstrated to us how important this insight is as a basis for good governance and social progress.

Individual freedom should trump everything, providing others' rights aren't being violated.

I think prevention of harm is a much more laudable prime directive, but even conceding that your premise is true for the sake of debate, the rights of others ARE violated by discriminatory trading practises and bigoted religious privilege. Specifically the right to be treated fairly, equally and in a just manner before the law.

Absolutely, in the same way as Nazi morons should be able to deny the Holocaust til the cows come home. It doesnt mean I dont find them and their views repugnant; but liberty is about consenting adults' having the right to do what they please whether I approve of their actions or not, whether it be porn, cosmetic surgery, gambling, bare-knuckle boxing, tattoos, praying to an imaginary god, or taking drugs.

This is not about what people do and believe privately. It's about the actions they take that affect society at large. And it's not about approval, it's about harm caused to themselves and most especially to others. No man is an island, our societies are so much more than just the conflicting whims of individuals. Communal living, society, civilization itself, are all products of the need to regulate and order the conflicting actions and desires of individuals. Were we all solitary hermits your point would work, as it is we need structure to regulate how we interact with each other, and make the whole project work.

Tue, 29 May 2012 20:40:40 UTC | #944314

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 29 by Peter Grant

Religious liberty is the freedom to believe nonsense entirely at one's own risk, it does not give one the right to make any claims on anyone else.

Tue, 29 May 2012 21:20:50 UTC | #944318

RJMoore's Avatar Comment 30 by RJMoore

Comment 28 by Cartomancer

Yes. If it offers its services to the public it must offer them to all the public.

It must offer them to those who are willing to play ball; it doesnt have to offer them to those whose views are antithetical to its own. If what you propose were the case, how would political parties or trade unions, both of which receive money from members, operate? Political parties expel members all the time if they dont toe the party line, and trade unions...well, I wont even go there!!

When you're in the business of venue hire, you're not allowed to discriminate.

The 'venue hire' is not analogous to, say, a nightclub hiring its dancefloor to a certain group of revellers; a church, AA, or Weight Watchers is offering a 'package' or an 'idea', of which the venue is just one part.

But where the provision of goods and services to the public is involved, no. Equality is far more important than personal foibles.

But that's the mistake you're making(at least in relation to the church): it is not offering services to the general public; it is offering them to those who share its views and beliefs, i.e. those who voluntarily seek to be a part of the 'package' that is on offer. If one doesnt like the package....

Equality is far more important than personal foibles.

And who judges what is a 'personal foible'? The state, i.e. the political group that happens to be in control of state agencies at a particular time?

And he usually will. But he should not be compelled to go elsewhere. Particularly if there isn't an elsewhere to go to.

Of course he shouldnt be 'compelled'; but neither can he, or the state, compel others to do what he wishes! And why isn't there 'elsewhere' to go? If enough people share your view, or the view that you feel is so compelling that the state should impose it on its citizens, there should be loads of options for 'dissenters'.

If the AA refused membership to a gay person or McDonalds refused to sell food to a black person, that's the equivalency we're talking about.

No. AA sells a package...sobriety, 'higher power', solidarity, comradeship, support, space to talk, etc etc. The venue is irrelevant. Nobody has the right to say, 'ah here, that's a load of nonsense. You must listen to my views on alcohol, which are " go out and get locked whenever you want; there's no such thing as alcoholism. We should be sitting around here drinking" . Thats the equivalent.

And a jolly good thing it is too. That's the main reason we STILL have states, and the most important reason to keep them strong and fair and well-governed.

The reason we still have states is that they allow for peace, security, and arbitration of disputes. They can be strong, fair, and well-governed without interfering in the private lives of citizens. Actually, where does it get this right from?!

Communal interest? Interest in the welfare of others? Of humanity at large?

All these are motivated by self-interest, i.e. to impose one's view of what's best for society on society. That the measures might benefit others doesn't mean that they aren't prompted by self-interest in the first place. In any case, it's been my experience that few people really do things that conflict with their own self-interest; usually there is a happy coexistence of their interests and the interests of others they are trying to 'help'.

What problems would those be then? Seems an absolutely straightforward truism to me.

But, eh, the state already does discriminate in many parts of life, particularly marriage. Not too much polygamy in the UK or US, is there?!

And thus they are a commercial enterprise like any other, and should obey the same anti-discrimination laws.

Churches(there are some exceptions, of course) aren't commercial enterprises; they have to charge fees to cover the costs involved. Otherwise, who is going to pay? The state?!

Take one of those 'member-owned' golf courses. It charges fees so its members can enjoy their hobby in a quality of surroundings that is to their collective liking; it's not really a 'commercial enterprise', even though money is exchanged for the upkeep of the course etc. Let's say they decide on a dress code or a code of etiquette...should someone be allowed show up, spit on the ground, and say, "fuck y'all...I'll play my round in a pair of Speedos while swiging from a flagon of cider"?! No...if they want to do that, let them organise a club that's to their liking; if such a club doesn't exist, bad luck.

If Rosa Parks doesn't like the bus service on offer then she should organise her own bus service and run it how she sees fit. If the black people of South Africa don't like the racist schools on offer they should organise their own schools and run them how they see fit.

But neither of those were private organisations, were they?

The state has a positive duty to step in and regulate the harmful behaviour of its citizens,....

If they're harming others...

....including discriminatory harm.

No. Thats up to people to sort out for themselves, without the threat of state coercion. Anyway, what is this state you talk about as though it were an authority on what's wrong and right? The state is an abstract entity, remember; it has no values, ambitions, desires, foibles, traditions, skills, money or relationships....people have those things.

...the rights of others ARE violated by discriminatory trading practises and bigoted religious privilege. Specifically the right to be treated fairly, equally and in a just manner before the law.

If you dont like what a church is offering, go somewhere else. If you think a church is bigoted, form your own church. You dont have the right to impose your views on others, nor they their views on you....that's what true liberty is about, not the travesty of some state approved version that dictates when and how you can make choices for yourself.

This is not about what people do and believe privately. It's about the actions they take that affect society at large. And it's not about approval, it's about harm caused to themselves and most especially to others. No man is an island, our societies are so much more than just the conflicting whims of individuals. Communal living, society, civilization itself, are all products of the need to regulate and order the conflicting actions and desires of individuals. Were we all solitary hermits your point would work, as it is we need structure to regulate how we interact with each other, and make the whole project work.

A very good defence of statism, which I find utterly depressing[!] and the antithesis of personal liberty. It will only end up in one place, I fear: a state which controls absolutely the actions of citizens.

Tue, 29 May 2012 23:06:24 UTC | #944333