Indiana’s “Religious Freedom” law is different

The outcry over Indiana’s new law allowing discrimination is valid. Arguments that “other states have similar laws” is not.

Many states have religious freedom laws, and they’re good laws. They prohibit the government from interfering with one’s religious practice, as provided for in the 1st Amendment.bigots For instance, such laws protect a Catholic school that only wants to hire Catholics to teach their classes. That makes sense, doesn’t it? It’s the same concept that says a church cannot be forced to perform a marriage they disagree with. These laws often apply to various non-profit charities and businesses where it makes a difference who gets treated and/or employed. Charities often have religious foundations, for instance.

Indiana’s law is different.  Indiana’s law explicitly allows for-profit businesses to have these same rights. Thus, Jim-Bob’s restaurant is allowed under this law to discriminate when it violates Jim-Bob’s personal religious views. “Sorry, my religion says no coloreds can sit at my lunch counter.” (This, of course, is exactly what we predicted would happen when the Supreme Court decided the terrible Hobby Lobby case, giving corporations a religion.)

This is unprecedented. Here in Pennsylvania, for instance, our “religious freedom” law specifically prohibits for-profit businesses from doing this.

If you want to open a business, you need to open it to everyone. Don’t give me that tired libertarian argument that the marketplace will solve this. It didn’t do that for a hundred years before civil rights laws were passed, and clearly it is not doing that now or else we wouldn’t even be discussing this. In some small communities, there may only be one store within close distance, so don’t go arguing that this is a minor inconvenience.

Bigotry has no place in our laws, and the government should be supporting the people who are being discriminated against, and not those who wish to discriminate.

Just because it’s historical doesn’t make it not religious

“But it’s a historical statue!” was the weak-ass defense of the legislators who placed a huge monument to the Ten Commandments in a courthouse in New Mexico.  “The fact that it promotes a specific God and religion to the exclusion of all others, and the fact that there are absolutely no other similar monuments anywhere else on this property is meaningless.”

Fortunately, a judge who actually took the time to read the Constitution (you know, that document all the legislators swore on their Holy Book to obey) said “Give me a break, what are you, stupid?Ten Commandments Memorial Ordered Removed In Alabama

Okay, that’s not a direct quote, but you get the gist.

We’ve been through this many times before, and will continue to go through it again and again as Christians in America think that since they are the majority religion, everyone else can just suck it up.  And then when people say, “Hey, you know, I don’t really think this is allowed under the Constitution” and fight back, the Christians respond that we’re waging a War on Christianity.

Trust me, if Muslims, Hindu, Jews or Wiccans were doing this, it will still violate the Constitution.  That’s how it works, you see.

You want a monument to the Ten Commandments?  Fine, put it on your own property.  But public property belongs to all of us, which means you can’t favor one and not the others.  This is why even Satanists have been able to fight to get equal time on public property.

Don’t like it?  Then stop doing it.  Prohibit all religious symbols on public property and there’s no problem.

We should be able to discriminate because religion

The photographer who refused to provide service to a gay wedding because it went against his religious beliefs lost again, this time with an appeal to the Supreme Court.

This has some religious people quite upset, because they believe — try to follow this logic — that laws that prevent cruelty to and discrimination against other human beings violates their rights.  Their right to deny rights to others.

I know, right?

The law in that particular state prohibited this exact kind of discrimination, so the photographer thought that there should be an exemption for those who disagree with the law.  You know, in the same way that there are exceptions in other laws that allow you to disobey them if you don’t like them.  In the same way some religious folks were able to ignore laws that struck down interracial marriage back in the ’60s.

Oh, right, I remember now.  That never happened.

Republican leader Mike Huckabee thinks this decision is just terrible.  After all, the Bible is against this and our laws should do whatever the Bible says.  Which means that not only should we be stoning gays to death, we should also bring back slavery.

As Huckabee stated, “unless God re-writes it, edits it, sends it down with His signature on it, it’s not my book to change.” I wonder how many gays Huckabee stoned to death this week?

Here in this place called the United States, we have a Constitution in which the Founding Fathers said, in the very first amendment, that our government would not promote a religion in any way (the “establishment clause.”)  There are other parts of the Constitution that prohibit any sort of religious test be given to anyone in our government, too.

Is it all that surprising that people like Mike Huckabee pick and choose what parts of the Constitution they think should apply to them in the same way they do with the Bible?


Freedom of Screech

“You’re violating my freedom of speech!”

This statement is often heard from people who have no idea whatsoever what they are talking about.

The 1st Amendment prohibits Congress from taking away your freedom of speech.  That’s why they can’t pass a law censoring your views or punishing you for speaking your mind. There is absolutely no way an individual citizen can take away your 1st Amendment rights. Only the government can do that.

So you have freedom of speech. That doesn’t mean you have the right to spout out whatever you want without being criticized.

The people who argue this usually are just upset that someone has disagreed with them.  Well, sorry, my freedom of speech means that I can do that, too, you know.

This came up today when some conservatives recited the inane “freedom of speech” mantra after liberals were writing to the Washington Post to complain about Charles Krauthammer’s latest  You see, Charlie boy  was complaining about climate change — which he denies — and whining that people were trying to silence the dissenters.  When people who understand science complained and suggested that having him say such stupid things in a respected newspaper was like having an Flat Earther pen an op-ed column — and that maybe it might be a good idea for the Washington Post to not print lies about climate change — this was seen as proof of what Charlie said.  See?  They want to violate his freedom of speech!

Freedom of speech does not guarantee you an audience.  You don’t have the right to be in the Washington Post.  People have the right to complain about your column, and if you think that is wrong, then you clearly don’t understand what freedom of speech is about in the slightest.

Somehow, conservatives who boycott advertisers, yell at politicians to prevent them from speaking, and fight to censor books from school libraries that teach evil things like science never seem to think that they are “violating someone’s freedom of speech” do they?

Corporations are people, just like Soylent Green

Hobby Lobby claims they are being discriminated against because they are being forced to provide health care which could provide birth control to those heathen women — you know, those hussies who can’t control their libido that Mike Huckabee warned us about.


Hobby Lobby claims to be a Christian corporation. They refuse to even sell Jewish merchandise in the store. (“Want Hannukah gifts? Go elsewhere, Christ-killer!”) They have no problem whatsoever in buying cheaply-made crap from China because after all, the Bible approves slavery.

Most importantly, they claim they have the right to force their religious views on their employees.  Amazingly, a federal judge in Oklahoma agreed with them and held, for the first time that I can see, that a corporation can actually have a religious view.

Fortunately, this is now on appeal, and hopefully clearer minds will prevail.   Many groups are filing briefs opposing Hobby Lobby.

The issue is whether a business can refuse to give health insurance to its employees because of religious reasons.  I am shocked that some of my friends think that this is perfectly fine.  What’s next?  Will they refuse to give you your salary if you buy alcohol with it against their religious views?  Will we have to reduce our own freedoms to make our employers happy?

As I said previously:

This is an absolutely ridiculous decision. Hobby Lobby is not a religious organization; it’s a for-profit business. A business owner should not have the right to decide health care decisions for his or her employees. This is not comparable to a church, for instance, being forced to disobey its beliefs.

Should I, as a business owner, be allowed to force my beliefs on my employees? What if my religion believes women should wear burkas and never speak? Should I make all my female employees wear burkas?

The Court apparently believes employers have powers to ignore laws they don’t like. “If you work here, you have to live by my beliefs, not yours. Don’t like it? Tough!” I think we instead should say to business owners, “These are people who work for you, who have the right to make their own decisions about health care. You will give them the option, because this is America where we value individual decisions. Don’t like it? Tough!”

Your religion does not give you the right to disobey the law. There are Jamaican religions that believe in smoking marijuana during their ceremonies — tough, that’s illegal. Animal cruelty in the name of religion is illegal. Refusing to give your child medicine in the name of religion is illegal. Religions shouldn’t be exempt from the law just because they “really really believe” something. That’s not what America is about.

Look, if you start a business in America, we expect certain things from you. You have to pay a minimum wage; you have to have a safe working environment; you have to pay business taxes; you have to pay for worker’s compensation; you have to provide health care. Keep in mind that your employees may decide to use their money or benefits to do things you personally disagree with. Don’t like it? Tough. Don’t open a business.

If you don’t like the fact that we have freedom from religion in America, then maybe you should open a business somewhere else, like Iran. I understand they have no problem with you forcing religion on people who work for you.

Equal time for satanists

“This is a democracy!” cried the religious person on the Fox News interview.   He then went on to explain that since 90% of the population agrees with him that therefore it was OK for them to force their religion on the other 10%.  Satanist MonumentYeah, you know that 1st Amendment?  It only applies to the majority view.

Ah.  This is apparently a new definition of democracy for which I was unaware.

The discussion was about a bunch of Satanists who are demanding equal time in Oklahoma.  The Christians placed a Ten Commandments display on public property.  The Constitution demands that the government take no preference concerning religion.  Therefore, the Satanists get to put up their silly goat-head statue.

Many religious people, of course, are only in favor of freedom of religion when it’s their own religion.  In a recent debate on Fox News, they tried their best to deny the 1st Amendment applied.  David Silverman, head of American Atheists (and a friend of mine), tried to point out that the law demands that you allow them to place their own displays.   And then he had to once more clarify to the idiots that atheism is not Satanism.  “They’re all bunk to me,” he said.

There is a very, very simple solution to all of this.  Simply get your religious statue off of government property.  Then they don’t have to give “equal time” to Hindus and Satanists and Atheists and Pastafastarians.

Duck dodgers in the 21st Century

Nobody’s First Amendment’s rights are being violated here.  Anyone who tells you otherwise just doesn’t know what they’re talking about.   daffy_duck_dynasty_by_michaelcrutchfield-d6m08qz

Mr. Duck Dynasty Guy has every right in the world to say whatever hateful things he wants to and there is nothing the government can do about it.

He doesn’t have the right to his own TV show.

If you work for someone, they can regulate your behavior when it relates to your job.  If your words or actions can make the company look bad, they can do something about it, and for  many big-paying jobs (such as TV star), that’s even in your contract.

The First Amendment prohibits the government from infringing on your speech.  It doesn’t protect you against all consequences of your speech.

But conservatives are up in arms over this issue.  These are the same people who cheered when liberal commentators Alec Baldwin and Martin Bashir were removed from MSNBC for things they said.  They  happily approved of radio stations removing the Dixie Chicks from their airwaves because of an interview they did.  And they loved it when Bill Maher lost his TV show for his comments.

This is different, though.  It must be.  I’m sure.  I mean, otherwise, these people would be gigantic hypocrites, right?

“But all he did was confirm his conservative Christian beliefs,” they counter.  (Personally, I can’t recall the part of the Bible where Jesus talked about how happy blacks were living under Jim Crow segregation laws.)  Nothing he said insulted these conservatives.

But is that the standard?  “As long as you don’t say anything to upset people who already think exactly like you, you’re fine”?

What if he had said “I think we should kill all gays and worship Hitler”? Would they have objected to him being removed then?

This is just a matter of degree, and the conservatives who are complaining weren’t personally upset by this so can’t understand how others could be.  (This helps to support to the whole “conservatives can’t feel empathy” theme — “It doesn’t affect or bother me personally so therefore it isn’t a problem.”)

This was a business decision.  A&E knew advertisers would start boycotting the show and they made a financial decision to take action.  That’s their decision to dodge the Duck.

And the First Amendment has nothing to do with it.

Strict Scrutiny (part three): 1st Amendment Exceptions

The 1st Amendment is written about as clear and concise as can be.  No exceptions are provided:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That’s five really important rights all tucked into one small sentence. Freedom of Speech Freedom to establish a religion;  freedom to exercise your religion;  freedom of speech;  freedom of the press;  freedom to protest.

Constitutional fundamentalists read the Constitution strictly and argue that one must never interpret the document or read something into it that isn’t there.

Let’s take Freedom of Speech as an example.  Clear as day, right?  No interpretation needed.  No exceptions are allowed.

Here’s where we pause for laughter.

There are lots of exceptions to your right to free speech, and these are exceptions that just about everyone will agree are a good idea.  Most of these exceptions existed when the Constitution was written.  For example:

Time, Place, and Manner.  Your right to speech can be limited as to when and how you can exercise it.  You can’t stand in the middle of a courtroom during a trial and give a speech about taxation.  You can’t have a rally at 3 am using loudspeakers.  You can’t disrupt a military funeral claiming that “God hates fags.”  The time, place, and manner of your speech can be regulated.

Clear and Present Danger.  You have the right to speak out against the government, but if you’re inciting a riot, you can be stopped and you can’t claim they are violating your right to speak.  (It’s not the speech they are stopping, after all, it’s the violence you are encouraging.)

Defamation.  Libel and slander are not protected.  You cannot commit these crimes and then claim, in your defense, that the 1st amendment protects you.

Obscenity.  Obscene works are not protected, although there are very few cases about obscenity these days because of the proliferation of adult websites.  Still, the exception is there.  This is different from Child Pornography.  Things that would not be considered obscene if it involved adults would still be prohibited if children are involved.   In a sense, when you are convicted of child pornography, it’s because you are conspiring in the assault on the child.  (That’s the key — artwork featuring children is not prohibited, for instance, although I certainly wouldn’t want to have anything to do with you if that was the kind of thing you enjoyed.)

Commercial speech.  Advertisements can be regulated.  You can be punished for making false claims about your product and you can’t claim in your defense that your 1st amendment rights were violated.

Reasonable governmental interests.  You can’t reveal government secrets that would place our agents or troops in danger.  You don’t have absolute freedom to publish whatever you want in a school newspaper.  Radio and television airwaves can be regulated.  If you’re a government employee, you may be limited in what you can say about politics.  Your speech can be limited when you are in the military or in jail.  The government can restrict what lawyers can say.  (Seriously, we can be punished for violating our ethical requirements by revealing confidential information, for instance.)

Anyway, I could spend an entire semester on these exceptions (and did, when I was in law school).

And this is just for the Freedom of Speech part of the 1st Amendment.  I haven’t even mentioned the other rights in the 1st, all of which have exceptions.

“But wait,” you say.  “What about governmental secrets that don’t place anyone in danger, like in Snowden’s case?  What about restrictions on time, place and manner that are unreasonable?  What if I disagree with the government as to what is obscene?”

Aha.  Now you see why we need courts and lawyers.  Every case is different, and there are many shades of gray in the law.  What applies in one case may not in the next.

And that is why you must laugh at any Constitutional fundamentalist who proclaims that there is one right answer for every circumstance and that the Constitution does not need any interpretation.

Part four next:  If there are this many exceptions to just one part of the clearly-worded 1st amendment, why can’t there be exceptions to the poorly-worded 2nd amendment (especially since it’s the only amendment that contains the words “well-regulated”?)

Click here to read part one and start at the beginning.


He’s not the Messiah!

Some people just name their kids really stupid things that can haunt them for lives.

But when someone in Tennessee named their kid “Messiah,” that was too much for a judge. “The word Messiah is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ,” she said.

Good thing that judge wasn’t around in 1958 when Madonna’s parents were deciding on a name.

So the judge, over the parent’s objection, changed the child’s name, like a magical fairy.

I mean, while I certainly don’t want parents naming their kids “Hitler” or “Asshole,” I also don’t like the idea of the government coming in and deciding for the parents what the child’s name should be.

And it’s especially true here, where the reason for the name change was religion. That judge just didn’t want her personal religion made fun of, apparently.

Hey, wait, wasn’t there a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting this sort of thing? Like, the very first one?

Editorial cartoon of the day