The first clue that Emily Bazelon of the New York Times Magazine is afraid of religious liberty is that she writes for the New York Times Magazine
quips Benny Huang in his piece on The New Liberalism (Their Hurt Feelings Trump Your Constitutional Rights).
The second clue is that the headline of her column places religious liberty in sneer quotes: “What are the Limits of ‘Religious Liberty?’”
As in, so-called religious liberty. Religious liberty exercised by people she doesn’t like. Therefore, not real religious liberty.
And to think that journalists used to act as bulwark against governmental tyranny. These days we can count on the press to be several steps ahead of the government in its zeal for violating our most basic freedoms. If Emily Bazelon actually cared about our constitutional rights she would ask the opposite question—namely, what are the limits of government coercion? The fact that she doesn’t tells us a lot.
Why exactly does she believe that the right to decline a business transaction is somehow not protected by the free exercise clause of the Constitution? What makes this kind of exercise different than say, refusing to serve in the armed services during wartime, or refusing to serve ham in a kosher deli? I think the substance of her objection can be found in two sentences—“Women who have been refused abortion services report feeling judged and mortified. Gay couples turned away by wedding vendors say the same.”
And we wouldn’t want anyone to feel “judged and mortified!”
… Either religious freedom includes the right to make other people feel bad or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then neither the florist nor the pastor is safe.
Another problem is that anyone declined service for any reason could claim to be “judged and mortified.” I’m sure Chuck Netzhammer felt “judged and mortified” when he ordered a confederate flag cake, superimposed with the words “heritage not hate,” from Walmart, and was refused. In fact, I know he was. “I am highly offended, distraught, and in tears…”said Netzhammer.
… The third problem with Emily Bazelon’s argument is the most troubling. Never in a million years did I believe we would get to the point that actual adults—Americans, no less—would make a serious argument that hurt feelings trump constitutional rights.
… Louise Melling [of the ACLU] essentially argues that religious freedom must never include the right to engage in economic transactions on a voluntary basis because people are somehow harmed when they are turned away. … Melling argues that there is real harm done…to people’s feelings! “People turned away by an inn or bakery suffer the harm of being told that their kind isn’t welcome,” she writes.
Um…so? She’s clearly implying that we as Americans lack the right to tell someone else that their kind isn’t welcome. Her statement represents a sea change in the ACLU’s philosophy which used to take a strong stance in favor of our first amendment rights, even if it hurt people’s feelings. A telling example is the one they always trot out to prove that they aren’t a bunch of left-wing hacks. In 1977, the ACLU took the side of a Nazi group that was denied a permit to march through Skokie, Illinois, a city with a substantial population of Holocaust survivors. The ACLU maintained that supporting the Nazis’ constitutional rights in no way amounted to supporting their abhorrent ideology. I agree.
But I’m not sure that today’s ACLU would take that case and if they did they would be hypocrites.
Why? Because the clear message of the march was “Your kind is not welcome.” The ACLU used to believe that conveying such a message was within our rights but they’ve recently had a change of heart and decided that we all have a right to feel welcome. That right cannot be secured without the kind of heavy governmental coercion heretofore found only in novels about the dystopian future. And Canada.
Not everyone has this right, of course. Chuck Netzhhammer can still be made to feel that his kind isn’t welcome because he’s a poor white southerner. But homosexuals’ delicate feelings are always and everywhere protected.
This trend of elevating some people’s feelings over other people’s rights is absolutely terrifying. The government can’t make us be nice to each other and it shouldn’t try. All of our rights are on the chopping block. Expect hate speech laws in the British or Canadian tradition, an end to parental rights, and a governmental invasion of your church. As the late George Carlin once said,
“When fascism comes to America, it will not be in brown and black shirts. It will not be with jackboots. It will be Nike sneakers and smiley shirts.”
Smiley face fascism is here and it’s up to us to fend it off.