Doublethink is a term from Orwell’s classic novel 1984. It is “the act of ordinary people simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in distinct social contexts.” I’ve heard people try to come up with real-world examples of the term, but so far none have really lived up to the original meaning. But I think we’re really standing on the threshold now, and it’s the issue of gay rights that threatens to push us over the edge.
Up until recently, one of the key components of the push for gay rights has been that it would take a “live and let live” philosophy. If you don’t like gay marriage: don’t have one. But obviously gay marriage wouldn’t somehow force religious institutions to change their doctrine or allow their buildings to be used, nor would it require religious people to participate in or condone gay marriages. Right? Well, no. Not really.
This became obvious when Arizona tried to pass a bill that would have enacted the principle that “we should not punish people for practicing their religion unless we have a very good reason.” If that doesn’t sound like what the Arizona bill did, that’s no surprise. According to Professor Doug Laycock, who is one of the foremost experts on law and religion, “Arizona’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was been egregiously misrepresented both before and after the veto.” You should really read his explanation of what the law really did, but the gist of it is simple: Rather than legalize anti-gay discrimination, the law would have simply clarified the context in which these types of cases would be viewed by the courts, who would still be open to determining who won or lost in any given case.
Instead, however, the country was fed the impression that Arizona wanted to legalize anti-gay discrimination. Which would be wrong, right? If a gay couple walks into your bakery and orders a wedding cake, you bake them the cake. Or else.
But what happens when a lesbian wants a haircut from a Muslim barber who refuses to touch any unrelated woman other than his wife? Or, for that matter, what happens when a gay stylist refuses to give a haircut to someone who doesn’t support gay marriage? In that last case, the stylist gave the following rationale for refusing to cut the governor’s hair:
I think it’s just equality, dignity for everyone. I think everybody should be allowed the right to be together.
In other words, he had a sincere moral conviction and it would violate that moral conviction to force him to use his business, his talents, and literally his body to support someone who was opposed to that moral conviction. Sound familiar?
Ross Douthat pointed out that the no-holds-barred takedown of the Arizona bill was unprecedented, and he understands what that signifies:
What makes this response particularly instructive is that such bills have been seen, in the past, as a way for religious conservatives to negotiate surrender — to accept same-sex marriage’s inevitability while carving out protections for dissent. But now, apparently, the official line is that you bigots don’t get to negotiate anymore.
So this is where we stand today. Either the American people realize that treating religious objections to participation in gay marriage is a legitimate concern (perhaps with the help of examples like those above) and adopt a more nuanced pose. Or, on the other hand, they ignore the examples and press forward. In that brave new world, I fully expect that the right of gay people to refuse service to religious bigots will be enshrined legally, but the right of religious people to refuse to participate in gay weddings will be scorned and derided. And then, ladies and gentlemen, we will have arrived at a real-life example of doublethink in the wild.
9 thoughts on “Gay Rights and Doublethink”
College campuses already have such doublethink:
“Tufts University had just kicked a Christian student group off campus because the group . . . required its leaders to agree with the organization’s statement of belief . . .
there is no chance that a Muslim student group would be forced to admit a hostile student because that would constitute discrimination against the Muslim student group. (In fact, when I once tried to persuade a Muslim leader to join with Christian groups in protecting religious liberty, he looked at me and said, “The college will never touch us. That would be discrimination.”)”
It’s a consistent source of tragic irony that colleges are among the places in the US with the least reverence for open discourse.
Based on a response to the Facebook post of this story (all DR stories are automatically posted to the FB page), I didn’t make the contradiction as clear as I could have. Here it is:
1. If you want to deny service to a certain class of people, that’s unacceptable.
2. If you want to deny service to a certain class of people, that’s just fine.
Technically, there is a change in “certain class of people”. If the certain class of people is gays, then it’s unacceptable. If the certain class of people is a religion, then it’s just fine. Ironically, religion is a protected class. Sexual orientation isn’t, at least not universally. Not that I’m opposed to it being added, but if it was added (and that’s fine) then we’d have a legitimate conflict to resolve.
And yes, I’m saying that forcing religious people to participate in something that violates their religion (e.g. gay weddings) is a violation of their First Amendment rights. So refusing to give a haircut to a Christian or Muslim because they support gay marriage is, indeed, denying service to a certain class of people. Which, you know, is OK with me. I think gay barbers should be allowed to say “no” if Mormon missionaries ask for a haircut. And I think conservative Muslim barbers should be allowed to not give haircuts to lesbian businesswomen.
At the very least, we should be able to have a reasonable discussion about this and hear both sides. Not pretend that one side is trying to resurrect Jim Crow when all they really want is to not be forced to violate their religion.
Another good example of double-talk, religious conservatives spent the last ten years saying that marriage should have a legal definition. Now, they claim that the legal definition or government established should not apply to them. Their mistake was pushing for a legal definition of marriage (a position I took when the whole prop X thing was unfolding).
Religious conservatives need to concede their war against gay rights now, because the next level is nuclear. If the discrimination continues, then LGBT will be added as a protected class which will solve both the double-talk problem, the discrimination problem, and may will set up a show-down between religious rights and gay rights that could end with religions being forced to perform same-sex rituals such as marriages and sealings (for Mormons).
This is such absurd fear-mongering. Every church in America (ok maybe not in Vegas) requires you have a meeting with a priest/pastor at a minimum, and many require premarital counseling before they’ll marry you. The pastor can turn you down and doesn’t have to give a reason. I’m unaware of any case where a church was forced to marry a couple they didn’t want to marry. Have any Episcopalians forced Mormons to let them in the temple for their big day? Why do you think gays will get that superpower?
Anyone who can legally marry has a right to do so – in court. A judge can’t say no. But any church can. That right’s not going anywhere.
It’s worth pointing out that Nathaniel Curtis is (correct me if I’m wrong, Nathaniel) in the pro gay marriage camp. So… fear mongering would be an unlikely charge to level at him.
More importantly, however, I knew it was just a matter of time before you were proven wrong on the whole fear mongering charge. I mean, this is how the gay marriage debate has gone for as long as I’ve paid attention to it. At every step of the way moderate supporters of gay marriage insist that it’s just a laissez fair equal rights question, and that they wouldn’t want to (1) sue to use religious buildings (2) force public schools to indoctrinate children on the issue (3) force religious people to participate in gay weddings (4) force religions to acknowledge gay marriages.
And, at every single point, exactly that has happened. You’d think that at some point the folks who cry “fear-mongering” would pause and consider the fact that all that fear-mongering ends up being frightfully accurate,but alas, it does not happen.
Case in point: Millionaire gay couple is suing to force a church to hold their wedding. Quote:
I imagine your response will be “But that’s the UK! It will never happen here!” You’re a smart guy, so I’m not sure why you actually believe that. If opposing gay marriage is equivalent to opposing interracial marriage (which lots of folks believe) then it follows trivially that religious institutions who oppose gay marriage are essentially racist. So… should they be accepted in society? Should they be given tax-exempt status? It will start with religiously owned and operated schools and universities (several lawsuits are already underway), but anyone who doesn’t see the end game as a subjugation of traditional religion beneath the ideology of secular, social liberalism is sadly blind or willfully clueless.
The UK’s head of state is the same person as the head of their church. Their church tithes are taken out of taxes by their IRS. The treatment of religion in the UK is completely different from the US. That’s the exact reason why our ancestors founded this country. That Atlantic-sized chasm of difference is why smart guys actually believe it won’t happen here.
The “this” in “this is such abusurd fear mongering” was restricted to:
Was the government able to force Mormons to have black clergy? (I don’t mean that in the gotcha sense; it’s just a concrete example of social pressure doing what government could not.) Could we honkies join the Nation of Islam? Race-limited churches still exist in America and continue to have tax exempt status. Religions are given a wide berth to do almost whatever they want in this country. With an issue as clear-cut as racism still allowed, you’re worried about something as contentious as gay marriage? That specific fear is ridiculous.
If you’re going to fearmonger, use some of the examples about child indoctrination and wedding florists that actually have some merit.
The first point from the UK case addresses the question of whether or not anyone want to force churches to recognize gay marriage. Obviously, some do. You’re right that Constitutional differences between the US and UK are important and relevant, but–at least in terms of what people will try–Europe works as a canary in a coal mine in this regard.
The second point is that–once again–the comment you’re replying to is from someone who is (I think) pro gay-marriage. So the “fear-mongering” label is suspect.
As for the thrust of your argument: “Was the government able to force Mormons to have black clergy?” Many would respond to that with a resounding “yes”. There was actually quite a lot of pressure on the Mormon Church, including investigations into tax-exempt status of BYU and a lot of retribution from other universities, harassment, etc.
Really, Ryan, what planet do you live on? Yes, there may be the vestiges of a legal right to have a racially-segregate church, but how many are there? Can you imagine the pressure such a church (the Mormon Church was actually never segregated) would be under in 21st century America? I mean, look at the fallout from local Chicago politicians who were threatening to withold building permits from Chic-Fil-A in retaliation for their stance. No, CFA isn’t a church, but it was totally illegal to use building permits in that way. No one stopped them.
Your naive faith in legal formalities is kind of admirable, but I just don’t think you have ever thought this through with something approaching real empathy.
I challenge you to find a word you can type into google that fits “Does anybody want to ____?” that returns no hits.
The canary in the coal mine for Mormons is again the Nation of Islam. It, and all of its holdings, are both barred to whites and tax exempt. So, “investigations” into the tax exempt status of LDS aren’t going to succeed (at least on appeal). The other pressures you cite were social, not government.
Again, the current Nation of Islam church is racially segregated. So the vestige is in fact the total preservation of the right. The number of similar churches is only an indicator of social pressure not government action.
As to your question of pressure that church is under: Well, nobody takes the NoI seriously. The social pressures have it completely neutered, but legally it’s protected.
You keep citing the Chick-fil-a building permits issue. The question of whether a corporation has the same legal rights as an individual to act in a discriminatory manner against a protected class is legally decided. Once sexuality is a protected class, the results will be the same as those for race: A corporation can lobby for whatever it wants, but it can’t legally have operational policies that are discriminatory. Given that Chick-fil-a’s only action was lobbying, the building permit thing was illegal and would have lost on appeal.
The greater point is that you easily jump the enormous gap between a single example of a building permit to gays forcing you to perform weddings and sealings on them. I’m not saying any shorter leap is ridiculous, only that one.
Asking me if I’m smart and what planet I live on is really not productive. As discriminatory organizations try to negotiate the terms of their surrender, I wish all involved would do it with some civility. I want people to stop using “hate” to describe peaceful religious convictions just as much as I want to avoid ridiculous overreaching and fearmongering on all sides.
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