Yesterday, I and several other writers spent time exposing the fact that the story coming out Idaho, about pastors supposedly being threatened with jail if they won’t perform same-sex weddings, is, quite simply, a damned lie. The religious right has always lied, prolifically and without remorse, but things are different now because they’ve exhausted every other option. Though they might hilariously think that yesterday’s anti-gay ruling from a Puerto Rico district judge might be a glimmer of hope, those among them with a minor connection to reality know that they’ve lost. For years, they’ve been lying to their dwindling group of followers, telling them that gay rights will usher in a tyrannical system wherein extremist Christian pastors are jailed for refusing to perform same-sex nuptials, wherein garden variety Christian extremists will lose their businesses or be hauled off to camps. None of this is true, and none of it will ever come to pass.
Oh, they say, “but look at what happened to Catholic Charities! They were forced out of business in Massachusetts because they wouldn’t consider same-sex couples for adoption!” No, darlings, they were not forced out of business. They were given the choice — either comply with the law or give up the sweet, sweet government ca$h you receive to do your work. Despite the fact that the Vatican may indeed have more money than the God they represent, and could easily have gone on without it, they chose to stop helping kids.
Oh, but, they say, “look at (insert cake-baker/bed and breakfast owner here), who were forced out of business for refusing to participating in gay weddings! They lost their businesses, and the B & B owners were going to be forced to have sodomite weddings in their homes!” Well, no, darlings, they were not forced out of business by the government. Some of them lost a lot of business due to the holy free market, which views their bigotry as highly distasteful. The B & B owners weren’t being asked to do anything “in their homes,” as a B & B is a business like any other, and the parts of a B & B which serve customers are not the owners’ “homes.” If a lesbian couple was demanding to get married in the owners’ personal living quarters, that would be a completely different story.
And oh, but, they say, “look at these poor ministers of God in Idaho, being forced to do same sex weddings under threat of jail!” As you will see if you click the link above, every element of that story — from beginning to end! — is complete and utter bullshit.
Also a mountain of lies is the story about the Houston pastors, who are supposedly being bullied by big lesbian anti-Christian mayor Annise Parker, apparently a prominent general in the war against poor, put-upon wingnuts.
And around the country, some of the most easily led anti-gay wingnuts are taking the bait, making them further look like morons to the general population. A group of Michigan pastors today has made the bold proclamation that they’re willing to be jailed if the state passes a nondiscrimination ordinance. That’s pretty brave, dudes, but nobody asked you to go to jail. One of the pastors’ political allies seems to believe the situation is dire not only for pastors but for ordinary citizens:
One Michigan Republican politician — who has a past record of breaking into cars in order to masturbate to the sound of their engines — urged people to leave the state if the bill wins final approval.
It’s apparently called “cranking.” Vroom, vroom, bro.
The silver lining of all of this is that, since the religious right has nothing left besides lying, their strategy is starting to backfire. People who might otherwise agree with them, at least in part, are starting to notice that Christian right hate groups and their legal arms, such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, are some of the slimiest, most dishonest people in America, activists and lawyers who would make Saul Goodman blush and say, “wow, isn’t that kind of unethical?”
Libertarians are the only natural allies of extremist Christians on these issues. Though their beliefs about what should be do not line up with what the United States Constitution says about what is, they are at least consistent in that they believe that people and corporations should be given a very wide berth in determining who they will and not do business with. Cue libertarian legal writer Walter Olson, who has been writing about these issues recently. On Idaho, Olson looks at the ADF’s tactics and finds them to be completely dishonest:
While I hope the Knapps succeed in establishing their exemption from this law, I am still shaking my head at the ADF’s framing efforts, which via Starnes set off a predictable panic about dangers to religious liberty (see also, last week, on the Houston pastors subpoena). In this instance, those efforts amount to something very akin to hiding the ball, including (as cited by Sullivan) the quiet legal revamping of the business onto a religious basis in recent weeks and the silent removal of extensive language on its website that until earlier this month had promoted the chapel as a venue for civil, non-religious wedding ceremonies.
Now, the Knapps are free (or should be, in my view) to change their establishment’s business plan overnight to one that welcomes only ceremonies consistent with Foursquare Evangelical beliefs. But shouldn’t their lawyers be upfront that this is what’s going on? Especially since even sophisticated commentators, let alone casual readers, are construing the city of Coeur d’Alene’s legal position by reference to what its lawyer said back in May, when the Knapps were running the business the old way. (Back then, as Doug Mataconis notes, coverage included the following: “Knapp said he’s okay with other ministers performing marriages at their facilities but it is not something he will do.” — a position that appears to have changed, again without acknowledgment.)
Let’s be blunt. ADF, which was involved in helping the Knapps revamp their enterprise onto a religious basis, is by the omissions in its narrative encouraging alarmed sympathizers to misread the situation.
Could the city of Coeur d’Alene force the Knapps to provide ministerial officiation of same-sex weddings? As Eugene Volokh explains, in a post based on the initial reports, the clear answer is no, since such compulsion would be an unconstitutional forcing of speech and “would also violate Idaho’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”
Fascinating. Olson believes that the Knapps, as a for-profit, should still be granted an exemption. We strongly disagree, but the fact remains that Olson has the integrity to make his case honestly, calling out the ADF’s lies for what they are. Olson ends by asking why the ADF is lying in the first place:
But really, isn’t our libertarian case strong enough that it can stand on an accurate description of what’s actually going on?
Personally, I don’t believe that it is, as the libertarian case rests strongly on the resurrection of some of America’s most stained history. Average Americans really don’t want to go down roads that remind us of whites-only lunch counters. While I highly doubt that that’s what motivates most libertarians like Olson, we can’t say the same for religious conservatives of the Alliance Defending Freedom ilk, as their entire movement began as a segregationist movement. I wrote in May of this year about the fact that the truth behind the religious right’s desire to preserve “religious freedom” involves pure and rank bigotry — bigotry that is not just similar to that which motivated racist segregationists, but that is a natural extension of it:
[T]he Christian Right likes to pretend [their racist origins] never happened. But indeed, the fathers of their own movement were motivated first by animus against black people. And it was deeply, sincerely, super-personally held religious animus. When we say that today’s Tony Perkins figures are inheritors of that legacy, we don’t mean that they just happen to use a lot of the same lingo, but rather that we are dealing with the same exact lineage of people. Hell, Tony Perkins got his start with David Duke’s mailing list. It’s not truly a game of “connect the dots” if you’re only connecting two damn dots, now is it?
And, at least publicly, the Christian Right has gotten over it. Oh, many of them are still deeply racist, but they know they can’t say it in public, so they resort to code words and dogwhistles about welfare and entitlements.
When anti-gay folks talk about “religious freedom,” it’s not a new concept for them. Tony Perkins, Bryan Fischer, the Saul Goodmans of the ADF, and so on, are expressing the very values of their movement’s heritage by claiming that, due to people’s “sincerely held religious beliefs,” they should be exempt from following the law when it involves people they don’t like.
So, when Olson asks why the ADF is lying, that’s why. For one thing, lying is their first language, but they also have to continue to push the same euphemisms of victimization and “religious freedom” that they’ve been pushing since Jerry Falwell bellowed that the integration of the races would lead to the destruction of the white race.
As Andrew Sullivan (who agrees with Olson for the most part on so-called “religious freedom”) points out, Olson acknowledged the pattern of lying from the ADF, as well as from Fox News’s professional wingnut howler monkey-enabler Todd Starnes, more explicitly on his Facebook page:
Without agreeing with every assertion in this post about the Coeur D’Alene, Idaho Hitching Post case, I will note that I have learned through hard experience not to run with stories from ADF (Alliance Defending Freedom) or Todd Starnes without seeking additional corroboration. As a libertarian, I oppose subjecting this family business to any legal compulsion whatsoever, but it’s also important (as in the [Houston] pastors case) to get the facts straight before feeding a panic.
Facts? Who needs facts? Anti-gay extremists don’t traffic in facts. They’re not curious enough or aware enough about the world they live in to question whether their daddy figures are lying to them.
But that group of anti-gay extremists is shrinking every day. In order to push their discriminatory agenda through, they need allies to back them up. Instead of simply being an ally, and though Olson may be arguing from a libertarian perspective which might in theory support the Idaho wedding mill owners or the Houston pastors, he’s consistently having to point out that the people he would otherwise support are just constantly lying about everything.
Why? Because they want these things for different reasons. Though I find libertarianism to be selfish and unworkable, I have to give it credit for being mostly consistent. Many (if not most) libertarians are socially liberal and feel that the free market will work these things out on their own, and they want the freedom to make these decisions for themselves. The religious right wants these exemptions because they just cold hate folks. It’s never, ever been about principle for them.
The Mahablog looks at the Houston pastors case and finds Christian conservatives who are being forced to make the same acknowledgements as Olson does above. First, though, Maha gives some background to what’s really going on in Houston:
A new city ordinance bans anti-gay discrimination among businesses that serve the public, in private and public employment, in city contracting and in housing. The ordinance also exempted religious institutions from having to comply.
In spite of the exemption, several churches gathered signatures to get the ordinance recalled. They thought they had enough signatures to put the repeal on the November ballot, but the city attorney disqualified many of the signatures, so the petition drive fell short. Some of the Christians sued the city. The city attorney subpoenaed documents related to the signature gathering effort from five pastors not involved in the lawsuit but who were thought to be involved in the ballot petitions. Apparently the point of this was to find out what instructions the pastors had given people regarding how they would collect signatures.
According to several news stories the original subpoena mentioned sermons, although this has since been revised. Nevertheless the usual howlers on Fox News and elsewhere began to howl about the subpoenaing of sermons — leaving out the details, of course — and holding this up as an example of the abuse of innocent Christians at the hands of godless unbelievers. For example, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, got on Fox News and flat-out lied about the fact of the situation, falsely claiming that the city was trying to “dictate what pastors preach.” The commandment about “bearing false witness” seems often overlooked.
We, of course, know that Tony’s philosophy in life is to tell any lie he has to, as long as Christian conservative grandmas and David Duke’s mailing list continue sending him their Social Security checks.
Maha points us to a post from a Georgia theology professor by the name of Dr. Joel McDurmon, who is, from what I can tell, very anti-gay. But even he is sitting there watching the religious right and their news network lie about this and it bothers his moral compass enough to say something about it:
There is no doubt that the Mayor and City Council are radical and aggressive LGBT activists trying to advance their agenda against all morality and the will of the people in the actual subject matter behind these headlines. But the actual case does not warrant these alarming headlines, and our activists ought to be more responsible.
I write this only to calm some of the unnecessary alarm, and to introduce some reason and understanding into the mix. The headlines read as if the city has made some move to start monitoring all pastors’ sermons, and this simply is not the case. It also gives the impression that this is some out-of-the-blue, general attack tactic by the activists upon the pulpit. It is not. It is not out-of-the-blue, it is not broad and general as far as the implicated pastors goes, and it should not be a surprise at all.
The City is not making a move to monitor sermons. The city is merely responding to a lawsuit against it and using standard powers of discovery in regard to a handful of pastors who are implicated as relevant to the lawsuit. The issue is here: once you file a lawsuit, you open up yourself and potentially your friends and acquaintances to discovery. This is the aspect that has not been reported, but it is an important part of the context.
Even the Alliance Defending Freedom’s (they are representing the plaintiffs who filed suit) write up gives the impression that this is an attack on irrelevant bystanders, saying “the pastors are not even involved.” That’s not necessarily true. The pastors are not a party in the lawsuit, true, but at least some of them are quite possibly “involved,” and that’s a significant point. To the extent they are involved, Texas court rules (like most court rules) give allowance for discovery of evidence in their associations with the parties to the suit and the subject matter of it.
What is “discovery of evidence”? Is this some liberal tactic that has perverted our legal system? No, it is civil legal procedure 101.
Good heavens! When a conservative professor of theology in one paragraph uses the phrase “radical and aggressive LGBT activists trying to advance their agenda against all morality,” and then several paragraphs later has to call bullshit on the very legal group opposing said “radical and aggressive LGBT activists,” then the religious right has a big problem! Apparently there are some in that flock who still have a problem with unrepentant liars.
But as I said, lying is all the religious right has left. Back in the day when they had some public opinion on their side, before jurists became more educated on issues of sexual orientation as they relate to the Constitution, etc., perhaps their own flock didn’t notice the outright lying as much. As Right Wing Watch points out, just five years ago the religious right was scaremongering about the eventual consequences of federal hate crimes legislation, and they weren’t held quite so accountable. (Of course, as RWW’s post also shows, none of the religious right’s lies about said legislation ever came to pass. It’s worth a read.)
Maha highlights one of McDurmon’s commenters, another conservative Christian, who also seems to have a problem with the constant lying:
Thanks Dr for the very needed trusting-in-Christ reasonableness.
What I’m always mystified by, is one: how we evangelicals/christians think we can have (or demand) a laundry list of special privileges/exemptions etc, yet we are a minority who claim to follow a faith/religion that is so at odds (or should be) with the society we live in – yet we expect to carry on as before, unmolested in anyway whatsoever? That’s illogical. That’s never happened before in the history of humankind – yet we act as if it’s our right to be otherwise! If we have any understanding of church history or Scriptures we should know better…and be a lot more grateful about what we do have and less complaining about the few annoyances that come our way…
Second: How we think we can keep getting away with over-hyping and misrepresenting/mischaracterizing (and nearly lying sometimes – a la “death panels”) situations like this and not pay a price? When you cry wolf or in this case “persecution” over and over again; when in relative terms compared to real persecution; it is anything but persecution… Then how do we expect to be taken seriously, EVER!
Eureka, it’s a conservative Christian who seems to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around him/her.
And the answer to the commenter’s question is that more and more, from this day forward, courts and public opinion will take the moaning of the religious right less and less seriously, and quite frankly, it’s a bed that Tony Perkins, the ADF, NOM, the American Family Association and others will have made for themselves. Ultimately, it may be the self-destruction of their own political movement.
But lying is all they have left, and Grandma just got a Social Security check in the mail.