Religious Liberty Within the Bounds of State-Imposed Doctrine: Frank Bruni and the NY Times

I’ve been called many unpleasant things in my life, and I’ve deserved no small number of them. But I chafe at this latest label: A threat to your religious liberty….

Baking a cake, arranging roses, running an inn: These aren’t religious acts, certainly not if the establishments aren’t religious enclaves and are doing business with (and even dependent on) the general public….

I support the right of people to believe what they do and say what they wish—in their pews, homes and hearts. But outside of those places? You must put up with me, just as I put up with you.”

(Frank Bruni, NY Times Sunday Review, Jan. 10, 2015)

Who, Me, A Threat To Religious Liberty?

Frank Bruni “chafes,” he says, when people label him a threat to religious liberty.

“I don’t mean me alone,” he adds. “I mean me and my evidently menacing kind: men who have romantic relationships with other men and maybe want to marry them, and women in analogous situations. According to many of the Americans who still cast judgment on us, our ‘I do’ somehow tramples you, not merely running counter to your creed but running roughshod over it. That’s absurd.”

He can chafe all he wants. His defense against this supposedly “absurd” charge stands upon a further violation of religious freedom, far more egregious than the one he’s trying to explain away. His position depends on the state arrogating to itself the right to define religious doctrine. Indeed despite what he says, it depends on the state running roughshod over religious creeds.

(The things I speak of here undoubtedly apply to many religions, but I will focus my remarks on Christianity, the faith I follow and know the best.)

Intolerant Insults Toward Religions’ “Intolerance”

Bruni insults religion freely enough, for example where he declares that we use religious beliefs “as a fig leaf for intolerance,” even though it’s clear he’s wrong about that: Christians’ beliefs pre-date homosexual activism by too many centuries to have been invented for the purpose of giving moral cover to “intolerance.”

He does so again where—expressing his own superior tolerance, I suppose—he describes “religious liberty” (the scare quotes are his) as sounding “disturbingly like a dog whistle” to those he disagrees with.

But these snipes aren’t where he commits his most blatant violation of religious liberty. Neither is it where he resorts to the language of “putting up with” each other, even though it’s clear that “putting up with” is really quite one-sided. Letting his policies prevail is “putting up with” each other, while advocating for views, he says, is “intolerance.” (I don’t think highly of the “put-up-with” ethic anyway.)

Religious Liberty Redefined

No, where Bruni really goes after religious liberty is where he tells us, “Baking a cake, arranging roses, running an inn: These aren’t religious acts;” and again, where he punctuates his message with, “I support the right of people to believe what they do and say what they wish—in their pews, homes and hearts.” This is where we see that Bruni’s idea of religious liberty is that there is liberty for Bruni’s idea of religion, but not for actual religious believers’ ideas of their religions.

Christians have always believed our religion is both private and public. A purely private Christianity isn’t Christianity at all. Christianity is an all-week religion, including believers’ lives in the workplace. Col. 3:23-24 (ESV) reads, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

One standard reference work, the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, speaks of “the significance of work in light of the nature of God. God is a personal being whose manifold activities and works not only bestow blessings upon His creatures, but even infuse the act of work with meaning and divine significance, enjoining upon humans an obligation to engage in work even as God works.”

Christians have always believed God rules all creation, and that therefore we can and should glorify God in all of our activities. This is core Christian doctrine. Even our failures to live that way provide pointers toward God’s intentions; for how many times have pastors exhorted church members to be more than Sunday-morning Christians?

“These aren’t religious acts”

For Bruni, though, there is nothing religious about baking a cake, arranging roses, or running an inn. Thus there is no threat to religious liberty when believers are forced by law to perform vocational services that run counter to their religiously informed moral beliefs.

Why is that? Because these on-the-job services have nothing to do with religion. And why is that? Because religion is only for private places. It’s unclear where Bruni gets the authority to say so, but there’s no doubt he expects readers to agree, and the state to set its policies accordingly.

Religious Liberty Within the Bounds of State-Imposed Doctrine

Thus if Christianity says religion isn’t only for private places, the state must disagree, on Bruni’s view. Christianity cannot be a publicly expressed religion, even if that’s what Christians have always understood it to be. If we believe our religion has implications extending beyond our pews, homes, and hearts, the state may disallow that belief—even in our pews, homes, and hearts.

Bruni says he’s no threat to religious liberty. He’s right—as long as religions adjust their core beliefs to accommodate state-imposed doctrine. But that doesn’t sound like religious liberty to me; in fact, it may be the grandest of all possible violations of religious liberty.

It’s one thing to require a Christian baker to bake a cake in violation of her beliefs. It’s another thing to tell her that’s not a violation of her religious liberty because the state says she’s wrong to believe what she believes.

Running Roughshod

If this isn’t running roughshod over religious creeds, I don’t know what is. First Amendment freedoms have been violated many times in the debates over same-sex marriage. Bruni tries to explain those violations away, but his attempt only compounds them. The violations remain, and will undoubtedly continue until Americans recognize them for the attacks on constitutional freedoms that they are.

Comments 154
  1. Gavin

    If you don’t want to host weddings for same-sex couples, then don’t host weddings. If you don’t want to bake wedding cakes for same-sex couples, then don’t bake wedding cakes. If you don’t want to photograph weddings for same-sex couples then don’t photograph weddings.

    No Christian baker is required to bake a cake in violation of her beliefs. She can say, “I don’t do wedding cakes,” and then she needs to stick to it.

  2. Bill L

    Tom,

    Would you have advocated (or do you advocate) that private business owners be able to discriminate against interracial weddings? (I’m thinking of how so many used basically the same argument as your OP in the 50’s and 60’s.)

  3. Tom Gilson

    Gavin, do you have the slightest awareness at all of what kind of restriction that involves?

    Do you have the slightest inkling of how your comment misses the point of the OP?

    Why did you write it?

    Really.

    Why did you ignore the OP in order to write something else that was obviously restrictive, with no explanation for why that restrictiveness was justified?

  4. Tom Gilson

    (You can think of how many private business owners would have used a similar argument, Bill L, but I’m not going to get sucked into trying to answer what you’re thinking. You have to state an argument if you want it answered.)

  5. Tom Gilson

    Is this the point, really?

    “Frank Bruni’s argument stinks, and it’s obvious to everyone that it stinks, but rather than admit that it stinks, let’s just ignore it completely, mention some other arguments, and see if they dance to those tunes again.”

    I’m not impressed. I’m annoyed. What is it about the pro-gay side that makes you think you don’t have to express an argument?

    (Bill L.: https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2010/05/interracial-marriage-and-same-sex-marriage-public-discourse/ . Since you might be planning actually to ask a real question, this might give you something real to ask about.)

  6. Gavin

    Tom,

    Gavin, do you have the slightest awareness at all of what kind of restriction that involves?

    Yes. Living your convictions can be a pain. Try being vegan. You don’t get to live your convictions by only inconveniencing other people.

    You say, “It’s one thing to require a Christian baker to bake a cake in violation of her beliefs.” I respond, “No Christian baker is required to bake a cake in violation of her beliefs,” and I explain why. Seems on point.

    I wrote it because you are incredibly confused about what “require” means.

  7. Tom Gilson

    Okay. Sheesh.

    “It’s one thing to require a Christian baker that if she wants to have a viable business in the wedding industry she must bake a cake in violation of her beliefs.”

    That any better? Or was it your point to tell us that “religious liberty” includes being legally/forcibly excluded from certain ordinary businesses?

    And did any of that have any effect on, “It’s another thing to tell her that’s not a violation of her religious liberty because the state says she’s wrong to believe what she believes;” which was the point of the post?

  8. Tom Gilson

    I know exactly what “require” means. Everybody knows. You know that I know what it means.

    You are incredibly uncharitable about what “require” means. That, or incredibly wooden in your reading of ordinary English.

    I’m not impressed.

  9. Travis

    There are a few updates regarding the whole Colorado cake thing too.

    Colorado mandated that the baker who refused to bake a same-sex wedding cake be forced to make them (or lose his license I suppose, nothing as medodramatic as chains and gunpoint). He also is required to attend “sensitivity training” And file reports showing that he hasn’t turned away homosexual customers.

    Link: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/06/03/baker-forced-to-make-gay-wedding-cakes-undergo-sensitivity-training-after/

    In an interesting twist, someone got the idea to go demand an anti same-sex marriage cake, and was denied. Will be interesting to watch that one develop.

    Link: http://denver.eater.com/2015/1/20/7858569/cake-shop-faces-legal-action-for-refusing-to-make-anti-lgbt-cake

  10. Scintimandrion

    Tom,

    I know that your* First Amendment prohibits Congress from restricting “the free exercise [of religion]”, and that later amendments and jurisprudence have extended that prohibition to the states, as well as entities deriving their authority from the state, such as municipalities, school boards and so on.

    So much for setting the stage. It’s obvious that for that prohibition to mean anything, there must be an agreed-upon definition for what, legally speaking, is encompassed by “religion”. I don’t know enough about US law to say that that question has been answered; and even if it has been, it’s always possible that a later decision could overturn an earlier one.

    Here, it seems to me, we have two opposing views of what is meant by “religion”. A broad definition, which you’re arguing for (and which I agree with), would be that “religion” is any aspect of a person’s behaviour (including acts, words and omissions) which is informed by his relationship with the God, gods, or spirits whose existence he believes in.

    A narrow definition, by contrast, would probably say that “religion” includes only those activities which meet certain criteria: perhaps including privacy (e.g., limited to devotees, initiates and voluntary inquirers, and definitely not intruding on a public space), a wholly or primarily devotional purpose (such as worship, prayer, theological reading, and so forth), and almost certainly the absence of any profit motive.

    If the latter definition is adopted by the courts (and I see no force that could prevent them from doing so if they so choose), then the very idea of a “Christian business” becomes, legally, a contradiction in terms. If it’s a business, it’s not Christian; if it’s Christian, then, whatever else it be, it’s not a business.

    Now, I see no reason to adopt such a narrow view of what comprises “religion”. It’s true that even on a wide view, the government and the courts have asserted the right to restrict practices – even religiously motivated practices – that they deem injurious to the public good. On even the wide view, it’s not clear to me that the harm done by allowing a private business owner to turn away an order he objects to fulfilling – especially when there are other competing businesses who would be more than happy to fulfil the same order – outweighs the harm done by ordering that same business owner to “serve whom the government requires or be shut down, and your conscientious objections be hanged”. But that stance does seem to be, increasingly, the order of the day.

  11. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Tom,

    “And did any of that have any effect on, “It’s another thing to tell her that’s not a violation of her religious liberty because the state says she’s wrong to believe what she believes;” which was the point of the post?

    I don’t believe that’s what the state is saying (nor what Bruni is saying, nor what Bruni says the state is saying). Rather, your religious beliefs do not entitle you to a free pass to break the laws of the land. That seems perfectly reasonable to me … considering some of laws that have been broken by people for their religious beliefs.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  12. Tom Gilson

    Shane,

    Your answer is logically equivalent to,

    “Regardless of the fact that you have explained what you think Frank Bruni’s position entails, and regardless of the reasons you gave for thinking so, I don’t think so.”

    But we already knew that many people don’t agree with my position. What we still don’t know is whether any of them have any good reasons.

  13. Tom Gilson

    Scintimandrion,

    Thank you for your comment. Note that the substance of it lies in two matters that you present. I’ll start with the second: your opinion that one harm is greater than another. You provide no reason for thinking so. You simply express your sentiment on the matter.

    The first was this:

    If the latter definition is adopted by the courts (and I see no force that could prevent them from doing so if they so choose), then the very idea of a “Christian business” becomes, legally, a contradiction in terms. If it’s a business, it’s not Christian; if it’s Christian, then, whatever else it be, it’s not a business.

    I think you have captured my intended point quite nicely with your use of the word “force.” Do you see why I would say that? I’ll explain further if necessary.

  14. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Tom,

    “and regardless of the reasons you gave for thinking so, ”

    I don’t see any reasons you gave to justify the comment

    “the state says she’s wrong to believe what she believes;”

    Sincerely
    Shane

  15. Tom Gilson

    It would be better, too, (and more sincere, frankly) if you would look for reasons explaining more than just a fragment of a sentence.

    Further:

    If you think I gave no reasons, you are wrong, as evidenced by the fact that I gave reasons. It’s that simple, that objective. If you don’t see any reasons, you really aren’t looking.

    If you think I gave bad reasons, then I disagree with you and you disagree with me about the quality, not the existence of my reasons.

    “I don’t see any reasons” is not a comment concerning quality but quantity. Do you want to talk about quality? You’re welcome to do so.

  16. Larry Waddell

    I believe what Mr. Bruni means by religious liberty is actually what many in the current political climate refer to as freedom to worship. Freedom of worship has nothing to do with the First Amendment meaning of religious liberty. The constitutional meaning prohibits the Government from establishing a state religion, impeding the free exercise of religion or abridging the freedom of speech.Implicit in the right to engage in activities protected by the First Amendment is a corresponding right to associate with others in pursuit of a wide variety of political, social, economic, educational, religious, and cultural ends.
    By attempting to covertly change the meaning of the First Amendment from from the historical constitutional meaning of religions liberty to some form of freedom of worship (even though that term may not be used) those like Mr. Bruni are attempting relegate opposing speech to the cloistered places of buildings, or personal thought. Attempting to restrict opposing speech from the market place of ideas is a form of soft despotism which, if allowed to succeed, will eventually lead to what ever political party is in power at the time doing the same to its opponents.

  17. Bill L

    Tom,

    If I understand some of the main thrusts of your argument, you seem to point out that government should place no barriers on how people should or should not express their religious convictions even in the public sphere.

    Yet anit-interracial marriage laws go back to the 1600’s in the US (long before social Darwinism ideas came around in the unhelpful article you linked to). The point is that people used religious freedom grounds to deny services to interracial couples. They justified their discrimination using their religion. I have not doubt they would have expounded their beliefs as a part of their whole religious way of life.

    Could you explain to me in simple terms why this is different?

  18. AdamHazzard

    Larry @19: Are you arguing that the law cannot prohibit any behavior that is defined by its practitioners as religious praxis?

  19. Tom Gilson

    Hi, Bill,

    Let’s take careful note of what I’m saying and not saying here. I’m saying the government should not be setting religious doctrine, and to do so is to violate religious freedom. Others have responded to Frank Bruni with something like what you’re referring to, but I’m not. What you apparently think I’m saying is not something I’m saying at all, at least not here.

    I’m sorry you didn’t find that article helpful. It was a side note, anyway, and your question is on a tangent. (See item 3.)

    What do you think of Frank Bruni’s article and his implication (if I’m right about this) that government should arrogate to itself the right to define certain Christian doctrines out of existence?

  20. Tom Gilson

    What I’m seeing so far among those who are ostensibly objecting to my position here is that you’re not even addressing it.

    May I take that as indicating that you concede the point?

  21. Bill L

    What I’m seeing so far among those who are ostensibly objecting to my position here is that you’re not even addressing it.

    It is being address Tom, but probably not in a way you would like for it to be. As much as you don’t want to look at how what I’m presenting is germane to the topic, as emotionally difficult as it may be, it actually goes to what I understand as your key point.

    You’re saying the government should not be setting religious doctrine – I get it. But that is the same argument people used to defend the right to discriminate against interracial marriage (IM). They were saying that the governments forcing of them to recognize IM by requiring them to perform their business services was just that.

    What do you think of Frank Bruni’s article and his implication (if I’m right about this) that government should arrogate to itself the right to define certain Christian doctrines out of existence?

    “Out of existence?” I hope that’s just hyperbole.

    The government has to find a balance between religious freedom and the freedoms of those who don’t share in that religion. You seem to agree for other issues. It just appears that on this issue you do not (or at least not to the extent you wish).

  22. Tom Gilson

    Oh, now I see. It does connect after all. Thanks for clarifying.

    Tell me, how much of anti-miscegenation laws were guided by religious belief, how much by Enlightenment prejudice concerning the “superiority” of the European races, and how much by eugenics? Do you have any sources showing that this was considered a question of religious liberty? If so, how was that question tested, and what was the outcome of that discussion?

    Or, we could invent facts in a vacuum. I don’t know enough about the matter to comment knowledgeably. Do you?

    That wasn’t “just hyperbole.” It was what Bruni was proposing.

    On this issue I have said nothing whatsoever about the balance of freedoms. Please quit putting those words in my mouth, and quit drawing conclusions on what I’ve said about it, since in fact I have said nothing.

  23. Ray Ingles

    Tom – I agree with you that Bruni’s position is overbroad. It amounts to the French “laïcité” which is not the balance struck by the First Amendment (and subsequent case law). People can ‘be religious in public’.

    However, it’s also established that freedom of religion is not a ‘get out of the rule of law free’ card. People can exercise their religion openly and without restriction… up until the point where it impacts the rights of others. For example, I can’t see this lawsuit getting anywhere in the U.S. And I think review is called for in this case, too.

    When rights conflict, the law has to balance harms. Now, whether or not you believe they were correctly interpreting Christianity, there were plenty of people who felt that Segregation was religiously mandated. But society decided that their First Amendment rights didn’t override the rights of ‘colored’ citizens to freely engage in commerce and public life. So there’s plenty of legal precedent for religious rights being overridden to protect people from discrimination.

    Before I argue about how that precedent might relate to LGBTetc. citizens, I’d like to ask – what sort of case would you accept? Where would the goalposts be? What sort of reasons could convince you that, as Scintimandrion put it, “the harm done by allowing a private business owner to turn away an order” doesn’t outweigh “the harm done by ordering that same business owner to “serve whom the government requires””?

  24. Ray Ingles

    Tom –

    Do you have any sources showing that this was considered a question of religious liberty? If so, how was that question tested, and what was the outcome of that discussion?

    The trial-court decision against Loving, presiding judge speaking: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”.

    Bob Jones Sr. on segregation in 1960.

    Or this.

    Nor is it hard to find people arguing the position today.

    That doesn’t mean that “social Darwinism” and eugenics had no part – far from it! But yes, miscegenation laws, and segregation laws in general, absolutely were argued for on religious grounds by prominent proponents.

  25. toddes

    To use Bruni’s thought:

    “I support the right of people to believe what they do and say what they wish—in their beds, homes and hearts. But outside of those places? You must put up with me, just as I put up with you.”

    With tongue firmly in cheek, if religious liberty is to be relegated to the private environs then so should sexual liberty.

    First, the problem with government mandated association is that eventually the government enforces who you can and cannot do business with, who you can and cannot hire or fire, even who can or cannot raise your children. There is no longer a marketplace of ideas or the freedom of association.

    Second, Progressives love to point out the intolerance of the segregation laws but then go to the opposite extreme of requiring that business be done with everyone under the force of law. Religious liberty takes a backseat to gender identity.

    Finally, forcing someone to provide service by force of law is as totalitarian as refusing service by force of law.

    “State’s your mother, your father, the totality of your interests. No discipline can be too severe for the man that denies that by word or deed.” H.G. Wells

  26. Bill L

    Quickly, to add to to what Ray has pointed out, I will remind Tom that miscegenation laws were in place in The Colonies in the 1600’s – that is before colonists were significantly influenced by the incipient Enlightenment, and long before social Darwinsim or Eugenics.

    On this issue I have said nothing whatsoever about the balance of freedoms. Please quit putting those words in my mouth, and quit drawing conclusions on what I’ve said about it, since in fact I have said nothing.

    Sorry I wasn’t more clear Tom. You asked me to comment on your position about the article. That is what I was writing about. I wasn’t trying to put words in your mouth.

  27. Ray Ingles

    toddes –

    First, the problem with government mandated association is that eventually the government enforces who you can and cannot do business with, who you can and cannot hire or fire, even who can or cannot raise your children. There is no longer a marketplace of ideas or the freedom of association.

    Not all slopes are slippery. I don’t think freedom of association has collapsed because of the Civil Rights Act. And there’s a difference between some limits in those areas and no freedom in those areas. Can you break that down into specifics?

  28. toddes

    Ray,

    While not all slopes are slippery, some are. Whether you think something has happened matters little to whether it has actually occurred. Desegregation forced students to be bussed to schools outside of their neighbors. How is that NOT forced association?

    As to specifics of the current situation, given that I am not prescient, I can’t.

    What I see is the pendulum having been at one extreme and is now moving toward the other. In your opinion, what prevents it from fully reaching that extreme of forced association or, even moving back to a state of forced segregation? Faith in a secular State? The secular state has failed over and over again with millions lying dead in its wake.

    [This is not a call for a theocracy either so please don’t go there.]

    The State should not be mandating with whom I can and cannot associate. There is no lack of secular bakers, florists and photographers. A refusal by one business does not prevent another business from providing a service.

    Discrimination happens. It is not the government’s place to legislate except, maybe, in the most egregious instances. A Christian baker refusing to provide a cake for an event is not one of these instances, IMO.

    What is your opinion of “sensitivity education” for the Christian baker mentioned above? How is this the place of the government?

  29. Tom Gilson

    Bill L,

    Suppose anti-miscegenation laws were religiously motivated. What analogy would that have to Frank Bruni’s opinion piece? Would you reason from there to the conclusion, “The state has the constitutional right to declare public Christian expression to be outside the bounds of Christian belief and doctrine”?

    I think you’ve brought a red herring into the conversation. If there’s an analogy here, show us what it is, by answering that question and explaining how you got there.

  30. Bill L

    Tom,

    Suppose anti-miscegenation laws were religiously motivated. What analogy would that have to Frank Bruni’s opinion piece?

    I gave the analogy more in relation to your OP, rather than Bruni’s article you linked to. I hope that’s still in your blog guidelines for staying on topic.

    Would you reason from there to the conclusion, “The state has the constitutional right to declare public Christian expression to be outside the bounds of Christian belief and doctrine”?

    I couldn’t find that quote either in the OP or Bruni’s piece. Is this his opinion, or what you believe his opinion is?

    I think you’ve brought a red herring into the conversation. If there’s an analogy here, show us what it is, by answering that question and explaining how you got there.

    Hopefully, this clears up some confusion about how you misplaced my analogy. It’s not a red herring. It’s a question asked by every sincere person I know (yes, most of my friends are liberals). My analogy is pretty much what I wrote in #21.

    If so many people have this question, and so many people seem to draw this analogy, probably the best thing to do is just answer the question and clear things up. I think if you do not, people will suspect you are hiding something. Myself, I doubt you would hide anything intentionally.

  31. Tom Gilson

    That wasn’t intended to be a quote. I should have used italics instead of quotation marks. But my entire OP was about Bruni’s position entailing that the state have the right to put boundaries around religious doctrines.

    Some day I’ll probably take up the anti-miscegenation question, but just because it’s a common one doesn’t mean I should do so today. I don’t see its relevance to the OP or to Bruni’s piece. “So many people” seeming to draw the analogy means nothing unless the analogy is real. In fact, let me re-ask what I was trying to ask before.

    Bruni’s position seems to entail that the state arrogate to itself the right to impose boundaries around religious doctrines. You’ve brought up anti-miscegenation laws in context of this discussion, and you’ve said there’s something of an analogy there. What is that analogy? Specifically, let’s suppose for the sake of argument that believers thought there should be some doctrine prohibiting miscegenation. Would that mean that the state had the right to impose boundaries around religious doctrines? Would it mean the state had the right to do so in this specific instance, where the doctrine in question is, “Christianity is now and always has been understood to be a publicly-expressed religion”?

  32. JAD

    Ray wrote:

    However, it’s also established that freedom of religion is not a ‘get out of the rule of law free’ card. People can exercise their religion openly and without restriction… up until the point where it impacts the rights of others.

    I am afraid that is a very anti-democratic and dangerous point of view. My rights and everyone else rights are not granted to us by society, the state or laws created by society or the state. Society has no power to create or grant universal human rights. It can only affirm rights that already exist.

    According to the Declaration of Independence:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    It’s our Creator that grants us our rights.

  33. Bill L

    That’s a perfect restatement of Fragenblitzen’s underlying principle (2). Thank you for providing that illustration.

    Surely you recognize the possibility that people could just use Fragenblitzen’s principle to avoid answering uncomfortable questions?

  34. Tom Gilson

    Thank you for pointing out the power of the Fragenblitzen: it leads straight to the accusation you just made! It’s called poisoning the well. “You’re not answering because you’re hiding!” It’s fallacious.

    Surely recognize the possibility that Fragenblitzen is an illegitimate debating technique.

    Surely you recognize that people might avoid answering certain questions because they don’t have time to branch off into brand-new topics they haven’t researched recently.

    Surely you know better than to poison the well by accusing that person of ducking and running, when their motivation could just as easily be that they have other things to do besides jumping to the beck and call of every commenter’s question.

    Surely….

  35. Bill L

    Tom,

    But my entire OP was about Bruni’s position entailing that the state have the right to put boundaries around religious doctrines.

    Yes, exactly. This is precisely why I brought up interracial marriage. And you answered that you would not support a persons religious right to discriminate against interracial couples. So you seem to agree – to some extent – that states should be able to regulate expression of religion in the public sphere. You an Bruni agree on this, the question then becomes, to what extent?

    However Tom, if you are saying that the state should not do this for same sex couples, then I’m asking you to explain why. What is the difference? What of those folks who use the freedom of religion argument to discriminate? Why are they wrong?

    Maybe I’m explaining myself poorly, or have missed something. This doesn’t seem to be a complicated question or a red herring.

  36. Tom Gilson

    By the way, yes, I do realize people could hide behind the Fragenblitzen when they don’t want to answer uncomfortable questions.

    So what? Where there’s Fragenblitzen going on, there’s good reason not to try to answer every question, and there is indeed Fragenblitzen going on here. If you’re trying to imply that I’m ducking questions, then you’re poisoning the well, and you’re also wrong.

  37. Bill L

    Tom,

    If you don’t have much time, just say so. I understand. It’s no big deal.

    Why don’t you take a breather?

  38. Tom Gilson

    Bill, the reason the analogy doesn’t work (re: 41) is primarily because there’s no good reason to think anti-miscegenation is a proper doctrine of Christianity. You haven’t established that it is. Just because some few Christians somewhere in history said so doesn’t make it so. If the state were to say that it wasn’t a proper, historic doctrine of Christianity, it would simply be recognizing a fact.

    In contrast to that, Christianity has always, universally, and absolutely emphatically insisted that believers live out their beliefs publicly as well as privately, except in the rare and idiosyncratic cases of the hermits and some (not all) monastics. When Bruni suggests the state abrogate that doctrine, he’s suggesting the state take over something that has been very, very, very, very, very, very much at the core of Christian belief for as long as Christianity has been around.

    That’s part of my answer to your question in #41. The other part of it is this: I have asked you twice now to answer the question I posed most recently in #36. I don’t think you have an analogy for me to worry about unless and until you answer that question. You haven’t done so; therefore I don’t think you have a valid concern for me to address.

    We’re still in process, though, and I don’t mind dealing with it if you can answer that question successfully.

  39. Tom Gilson

    Bill L, thanks for that suggestion in #43. It’s not just that I “don’t have much time,” though. It’s that …

    Oh, nuts, I’ve already explained it here and on the Fragenblitzen post, and I’m not going to explain it again.

  40. Tom Gilson

    You asked, “What of those folks who use the freedom of religion argument to discriminate? Why are they wrong?”

    That’s a fine question, but it’s on a branch topic, it would require a considerable amount of analysis having to do with several different angles on numerous different ways people could use that argument both rightly and wrongly, and you must understand that I’m not answering it now because it would take too long. See Principle (1), and thank you for providing yet another illustration for me.

  41. Tom Gilson

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  42. Bill L

    Bill, the reason the analogy doesn’t work (re: 41) is primarily because there’s no good reason to think anti-miscegenation is a proper doctrine of Christianity. You haven’t established that it is. Just because some Christians somewhere in history said so doesn’t make it so.

    OK, that’s all I was really looking for. It seems that would have taken you a lot less time from the start than your several retorts and additional post about my questions being irrelevant.

    Unfortunately, now I’m still a little worried because it looks like an issue of “right doctrine = my doctrine.” The reason that worries me is that so many people just a few short decades ago believed they were reading scripture correctly. We may all look at people like this today and think “what nut cases.”:

    http://thetencommandmentsministry.us/ministry/bible_and_segregation

    But would their views been much less than mainstream just a hundred years ago? So then how do we decide who has the right interpretation of Christian doctrine? No doubt if you have a good method, you should be able to make convincing arguments for uniting all Christian denominations. If one thing is clear about the history of religious doctrine, it is that it evolves over time with evolving morality.

    If I understand you, I think this is still your question:

    What is that analogy? Specifically, let’s suppose for the sake of argument that believers thought there should be some doctrine prohibiting miscegenation. Would that mean that the state had the right to impose boundaries around religious doctrines? Would it mean the state had the right to do so in this specific instance, where the doctrine in question is, “Christianity is now and always has been understood to be a publicly-expressed religion”?

    Hopefully, the first question is clear by now… discrimination based on religious belief – interracial marriage / gay marriage. So, does that mean the state has some right to impose boundaries? We both seem to agree that it does.

    If this is not clear let me know. Sometimes what is extremely obvious to one person is not to the other – I understand that.

  43. Tom Gilson

    Bill L, public Christianity is historic core Christian doctrine, anti-miscegenation isn’t; and if you don’t know the history of Christian doctrine, please don’t try to use it as an argument against historic Christian doctrine.

  44. Tom Gilson

    I do not think the state has the right to impose boundaries on what religions believe, which is what the OP is about. It’s about beliefs, not behaviors; and the state has no right whatsoever to regulate religious beliefs. So no, we don’t agree on that.

  45. Ray Ingles

    toddes –

    Desegregation forced students to be bussed to schools outside of their neighbors. How is that NOT forced association?

    It’s ‘forced association’ – in a limited context, for a concrete good. The problem was that ‘white’ schools and ‘black’ schools were patently and grossly unequal, and building a good school takes time. What do do about the students who were attending underfunded and neglected schools in the meantime? Not only that, but it was the government addressing how the government should allocate government educational resources. Private schools were always an option.

    As the school system changed, ‘busing’ has likewise declined. It’s not exactly a hot issue today.

    In your opinion, what prevents it from fully reaching that extreme of forced association or, even moving back to a state of forced segregation?

    A whole lotta people who’ve seen the history of that and won’t accept it? The most ‘segregation-like’ thing I’ve seen in the U.S. in recent years are the many legal efforts to block construction of mosques and such, but those don’t seem to be getting very far.

    The secular state has failed over and over again with millions lying dead in its wake.

    “The” secular state, singular? As opposed to “the” religious state, I assume?

    There is no lack of secular bakers, florists and photographers. A refusal by one business does not prevent another business from providing a service.

    In general… I agree! When there’s a history of discrimination (and even violence), though, I think an elevated level of scrutiny is called for. How exactly would you have addressed Segregation in the 1960’s? Every restaurant, hardware store, and grocery store in town is ‘whites only’. What do you do?

    I’m not sure that business discrimination against homosexuals rises to the level that requires government intervention in all cases. I’ve heard enough horror stories about things like housing and employment that I rather suspect so. (And if you work for the government, you are working for all citizens and you don’t get to pick which ones you give fishing licenses to, let alone marriage licenses.)

    What is your opinion of “sensitivity education” for the Christian baker mentioned above?

    Color me dubious. If intervention is needed, stick to demonstrable outcomes.

  46. Bill L

    Tom,

    I see, so it’s more about historic doctrine. Ok, fine. I will think about that.

    I do not think the state has the right to impose boundaries on what religions believe, which is what the OP is about. It’s about beliefs, not behaviors; and the state has no right whatsoever to regulate religious beliefs. So no, we don’t agree on that.

    There is of course a loose meaning of the word “belief” that many people use to also describe religious action. I don’t really think anyone is talking about regulating “belief” per se (the thoughts inside the mind). What they are really talking about is behavior. I think that’s how Bruni used the term even when he said “belief” and I had thought you were doing the same. Honestly, I’m not really sure how anyone could regulate actual “belief” (but the “sensitivity training” thing sounds sort of close and dangerously Orwellian).

    However Tom, if you agree that people should not be able to discriminate against others on the basis of skin color, it would seem that you do think the state has a place in this regulation. That would seem to fall under your definition of belief as I now understand it. Maybe you just say that it’s illegitimate belief because the religion in question has not held it strongly long enough.

  47. toddes

    ““The” secular state, singular? As opposed to “the” religious state, I assume?”

    Pointing out I typed ‘the’ instead of ‘a’ is little more than pedantry.

    Did you miss this part @32: [This is not a call for a theocracy either so please don’t go there.]

    The original article is about governmental boundaries on religious beliefs. If the government has the right to ultimately exclude religious beliefs from the public forum then is it not a secular State?

    “A whole lotta people who’ve seen the history of that and won’t accept it?”

    Forced segregation and forced association are two extremes. We have seen the first and we are beginning to see the second. To rely on the goodness and historical memory of “a whole lotta people” is laudable. It is also the epitome of Boghossian faith.

  48. Bill L

    toddes,

    Sorry to jump in here, but…

    Pointing out I typed ‘the’ instead of ‘a’ is little more than pedantry.

    I read it the same way Ray did. I don’t think he was being pedantic. It really looks like you meant to say “The.” In fact replacing “The” with “A” in that sentence makes little sense.

  49. toddes

    Bill L.,

    The relevant portion of my original comment:

    “Faith in a secular State? The secular state has failed over and over again with millions lying dead in its wake.”

    I used ‘a’ in one sentence and ‘the’ next.

    Would you prefer this:

    “Secular states have failed over and over again with millions dying in their wakes.”

    It was a trivial issue of structure. Even so, I see atheists grouping all religions under one banner so why quibble about atheism being grouped in a similar fashion?

    Ray,

    You quote the judge from Loving to support your opinion that miscegenation laws were argued on religious grounds. But that’s not the whole picture:

    “The trial judge in the case, Leon M. Bazile, echoing Johann Friedrich Blumenbach’s 18th-century interpretation of race, wrote:

    Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

    So is this a case of religion being used to argue for racism or as a cover for such? Basile did not quote scripture but (according to the article you linked to) referenced the ideas of a proponent of ‘scientific racism’. Merely mentioning ‘Almighty God’ no more makes this a valid religious argument than a reference to God by Westboro , Jim Jones or David Koresh.

  50. Bill L

    Tom,

    Would you consider the ideas that women should mostly be homemakers (not in the workforce), should submit to their husbands, or not have leadership positions in the church to be longstanding Christian values? I know many Evangelicals seem to.

  51. Tom Gilson

    No for the first one; yes for the second if properly understood, no to the second in the manner that it’s commonly misunderstood (so probably, no in the sense you’re thinking of); yes to the third in some circles but not all, as it’s highly controversial, it depends on what one means by “leader,” and my wife is a church leader by any common usage of the term, except for the usage where it refers specifically and uniquely to the head honcho.

    Now that I’ve answered your off-topic questions, can we get back on the subject?

    Or if your questions have something to do with why anyone should support state control over churches’ beliefs, would you kindly explain how? That’s what the OP was about, and it’s what absolutely no one has responded to except a couple people who agree with me that it’s clearly problematical.

  52. Tom Gilson

    Let me quote an earlier comment of mine:

    What I’m seeing so far among those who are ostensibly objecting to my position here is that you’re not even addressing it.

    May I take that as indicating that you concede the point?

    I think by now the answer must be yes. You have effectively conceded the point, by not addressing it in any way. That point is, Frank Bruni’s article amounts to a proposal that the state arrogate to itself the right to set boundaries around religious doctrines, which is a gross violation of religious liberty.

    Thank you all, and (speaking from the Eastern time zone here in the U.S.) have a nice evening.

  53. Tom Gilson

    If you really, really, really want to engage in some conversation about how the church should practice its beliefs in the public square, there must be some blog out there somewhere that’s having an active discussion on that topic. This isn’t it, as far as I’m concerned. This is about government policy affecting beliefs, not practice.

    I should think the difference would be obvious.

  54. BillT

    Just a brief note on Christian doctorine relation to IM, segregation, slavery. There is a story in the Bible called The Good Samaritan. It’s central point is that discrimination based on race is wrong. It requires no interpretation. It cannot be read in any other way. That is why any and everyone who used the Bible to support the above behaviors was simply wrong. End of discussion.

    The Bible (and every culture and faith in world history up to a couple of years ago) has similarly and just as unambiguously taught that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. Thus, Christians who object to participating, even commercially, in marriages that don’t reflect this understanding are within a reasonable Christian understanding of this issue.

  55. Gavin

    Tom,

    Frank Bruni’s article amounts to a proposal that the state arrogate to itself the right to set boundaries around religious doctrines, which is a gross violation of religious liberty.

    I just read Bruni’s article again and that is not what it says. He doesn’t want the state to set those boundaries. He wants the state to enforce anti-descrimination laws. There is no reason for the state to decide if the discrimination is a religious act or not. If you discriminate against a protected class, you broke the law. (Conveniently, there are straight-forward, legal ways to avoid providing professional services for same-sex marriages, if that’s important to you.)

    He is actually arguing against those who want to create religious exemptions, which would put the government in exactly the position of deciding when acts of discrimination are “religious acts” and when they aren’t. It seems that you are as opposed to that as I am.

  56. Tom Gilson

    Gavin, you didn’t read his article closely enough, or else you didn’t read the OP closely enough. You didn’t respond to anything I wrote in the OP, but only to that last comment of mine. Therefore I’m still considering the argument of the OP still to have been conceded by all comers.

    Now, let me add this: there’s a reason I’m putting it that bluntly (starting with #26). It’s because I’m trying to find out whether anyone will actually take up the argument in the OP. You’re all still welcome to do soand if you do, then I’ll gladly revoke my statement that you have all conceded it by not addressing it.

    So far, though, there have been no takers.

  57. Tom Gilson

    You write, “He wants the state to enforce anti-descrimination laws. There is no reason for the state to decide if the discrimination is a religious act or not.”

    Check what he said again. He has decided it isn’t religious: “These aren’t religious acts.” He assumes the state will agree it’s not religious. Otherwise his whole argument falls apart!

    His position absolutely depends on the state deciding whether it’s religious or not.

  58. Gavin

    “He assumes the state will agree it’s not religious.”

    No, he doesn’t. He assumes that the state won’t care if it is religious or not. Currently, the state is not telling the baker, “You could discriminate if you had a religious reason, but we don’t think you do.” It is saying, “you can’t descriminate.” The government is not deciding what is and is not religious. I’m quite happy about that.

  59. Bill L

    Tom,

    Why I don’t concede your point (yet):

    I think you have misinterpreted Bruni. (It seems several people have pointed this out to you. I would caution your interpretation in light of that that everyone concedes your point). He is not saying that the Government should regulate beliefs. He says they should regulate actions. There is a difference. I do concede that there can be a gradation in between. But beliefs can not really be regulated. Actions can.

    Can Christians still express their opinions about their disdain for SSM? Sure, they may do so in their Church, in editorial opinions in newspapers, in blogs, conversations, public speeches, political speeches, and myriad other forums.

    If people proclaimed their right to discriminate against interracial couples or working women, you seem to object that they should be regulated. Yet some people have done so based on religious grounds. You clearly disagree with those grounds, but that is just your interpretation against theirs. Indeed Christian seem to have a long tradition of the subjugation of women. When the state has an interest to protect its citizens from harm, it should do so.

    Do I think the state has an interest in protecting the children of Jehovah’s Witness’s children when their parents refuse medical treatment – yes. You may not have talked about balance in this issue, but it is central to it.

    Don’t forget what was said in #26:

    Tell me, how much of anti-miscegenation laws were guided by religious belief

    As it turned out, quite a bit. As Ray helped out in your other post today.

    how much by Enlightenment prejudice concerning the “superiority” of the European races, and how much by eugenics?

    As it turned out, not much at first… that was a later justification.

  60. Tom Gilson

    Gavin, you’re not just wrong, you’re obviously wrong.

    First, the state must care whether a religious belief is affected by a law. It’s a constitutional requirement.

    Second, when a complainant brings a religious freedom complaint to the courts, the courts must decide whether there is a religious belief involved. They can’t avoid it; it’s the nature of the complaints that have been filed in these cases.

  61. Tom Gilson

    Bill,

    I wrote in the OP,

    Bruni’s idea of religious liberty is that there is liberty for Bruni’s idea of religion, but not for actual religious believers’ ideas of their religions.

    No one has effectively addressed that core point here.

  62. Tom Gilson

    Here’s another version of my argument, stated more succinctly:

    If the state decrees that religion is only for private places, then Bruni’s point stands, and there is no violation of religious freedom in the cases in question.

    If the state decrees that religion is only for private places, however, then the state is setting boundaries around core historic Christian beliefs, ruling some of them either wrong or irrelevant.

    If the state sets boundaries around core historic Christian beliefs, then the state is setting boundaries around Christians’ religious beliefs.

    If the state sets boundaries around Christians’ religious beliefs, then it is violating Christians’ freedom to believe what we choose to believe.

    If the state violates Christian’s freedom to believe what we choose to believe, it commits an egregious violation of religious freedom.

    Thus Bruni’s argument in his op-ed leads directly toward, not away from, violations of religious freedom.

    If you’d like to engage with that argument, then please engage with that argument.

  63. Bill L

    If that is what you see as your core point, I would suggest it has been addressed…

    I’m assuming that what you mean by “believers ideas” is that they should be able to perform the actions they like. So Bruni’s ideas are the ideas then that I, most people and even you share. Namely, that there are actions that we should not accept as a civil society, even if done in the name of religion.

    You do not accept that someone should be able to legally discriminate on the basis skin color, EVEN IF that is their religious belief. Most people agree that religious belief only gets you so much of a free pass in society.

  64. Tom Gilson

    Bill, why would you assume that what I “mean by ‘believers ideas’ is that they should be able to perform the actions they like”?

    There’s no need to assume anything. I haven’t hidden what I mean; I’ve stated it repeatedly. There’s no need to get it wrong that way.

  65. Bill L

    Then I have no idea what you mean. I don’t see how an idea can be regulated. I would like to understand. Could you help me out here?

  66. Tom Gilson

    Regulated? No. Ruled wrong? Yes. Bruni’s defense of his position regarding religious freedom depends on the state ruling certain Christian doctrines wrong. The state has no business doing that.

  67. Tom Gilson

    Think of it this way. (I’m still trying to find a way to get the point across. I appreciate your engaging with it as you are now.)

    Bruni says, “these aren’t religious acts,” and that therefore it’s no violation of religious freedom for the state to require Christians to act in certain ways in those contexts.

    What if the state declined to agree with him on that, however? Then Bruni position falls apart.

    What if the state takes no position whatsoever on, “these aren’t religious acts”? Bruni’s position falls apart then, too. Bruni’s position depends on the state actually ruling that “these aren’t religious acts.” Only then could the state follow the path Bruni’s argument takes to his desired conclusion that there’s absolutely no violation of religious freedom involved in requiring Christians to act in certain ways in those contexts.

    (There might be some other grounds on which to build a case to support Bruni’s conclusion, but the case he built doesn’t stand unless the state specifically agrees with, “these aren’t religious acts.”)

    But Christian doctrine teaches that all acts have religious significance; For the state to agree with Bruni it must rule that Christian doctrine is wrong on that point.

    The state has no business ruling Christian doctrine wrong. It’s an egregious violation of religious freedom.

  68. Bill L

    Ruled wrong? I’m not really sure what you mean.

    Saying they don’t agree with, or are not going to take precedence over others? I think that’s more what they have in mind.

    Are they telling religious believers that don’t think women should be in the work place that those beliefs are wrong? No, I don’t think so. Are they saying that if you have a business that sells office equipment that you can’t not sell that equipment to a woman because you don’t think she should be working? That is how I see it.

  69. JAD

    Bill L:

    I think you have misinterpreted Bruni. (It seems several people have pointed this out to you. I would caution your interpretation in light of that that everyone concedes your point). He is not saying that the Government should regulate beliefs. He says they should regulate actions. There is a difference. I do concede that there can be a gradation in between. But beliefs cannot really be regulated. Actions can.

    This is very disingenuous. What is the purpose of regulating actions here? It’s to change beliefs, isn’t it? In the case of SSM it’s also blatantly coercive. In other words, what Bill L. wants the government to do is use coercion to change religious beliefs. (BTW Christians are commanded to act on their beliefs, so we can’t keep the two separate.)

    Can Christians still express their opinions about their disdain for SSM? Sure, they may do so in their Church, in editorial opinions in newspapers, in blogs, conversations, public speeches, political speeches, and myriad other forums.

    This is nothing more than smug condescension. Clearly, Bill L, Ray Ingles and Gavin etc. comment here because they have nothing but contempt for religious people and religious liberty. They are hypocrites, because in all their pretension and posturing against discrimination, they are actually in fact advocating for discrimination—discrimination against any religious beliefs which they disagree with. What next guys? Concentration camps?

    Let me turn the tables. Using your logic, you are discriminating against Christians unless you endorse our beliefs. Of courses that’s not what I think, but that is what you demanding when you demand Christian bakers, florists and photographers etc. do something contrary to their beliefs.

  70. Tom Gilson

    #73 simplified:

    Bruni wants to argue that there’s no violation of religious freedom involved in the state requiring certain acts in certain contexts. The reason there’s no violation of religious freedom in those situations, he says, is because “these aren’t religious acts.”

    If the state doesn’t actually agree that “these aren’t religious acts,” then Bruni’s argument loses its footing; it has no basis to stand.

    But if the state actually agrees with him that “these aren’t religious acts,” then it’s actually ruling certain Christian doctrines to be false.

    The state has no business ruling Christian doctrines false.

  71. Bill L

    Alright Tom, that seems like a reasonable position… if Christians do indeed see all act as religious acts, then the situation is more complicated. However, this still amounts to regulating an action and not a belief. The belief remains.

    Of course, that issue is a HUGE issue of practicality. I, and almost no one I have ever known would consider those actions to be religious actions. I have never known any religious believer outside of a convent or monastery to really behave in that way. It seems to strain credibility that the act of shoveling snow from your driveway or flipping burgers at McDonald’s is just as religiously significant as taking communion.

    Someone in this thread mentioned that then intent here was not about establishing a Theocracy, but for what you are suggesting, I see no reasonable way to live in a pluralistic society. People who do see life that way, it would seem to me, would have no recourse but to establish a Theocracy.

  72. Tom Gilson

    It seems to strain credibility that the act of shoveling snow from your driveway or flipping burgers at McDonald’s is just as religiously significant as taking communion.

    It doesn’t have to be equally significant. It only has to be religiously significant; and it is, in Christianity.

    Theocracy? Hardly. How about just letting Christian bakers and florists have the freedom to turn down certain requests based on their religiously-informed consciences?

  73. Bill L

    I am wondering then Tom, on what basis would you say it was OK for the state to rule against interracial marriage discrimination? You seemed to deem their religious beliefs wrong. So what basis did the state have for doing so?

  74. Bill L

    It doesn’t have to be equally significant. It only has to be religiously significant; and it is, in Christianity.

    Theocracy? Hardly. How about just letting Christian bakers and florists have the freedom to turn down certain requests based on their religiously-informed consciences?

    Or doesn’t pluralism extend that far?

    I don’t know that I have the perfect answer. What would have been wrong for letting people discriminate based on their religious convictions about race?

    Is that one too obvious?

    What about letting someone discriminate against gays over issues of housing? Hospital treatment? Insurance?

  75. Bill L

    JAD,

    What is the purpose of regulating actions here? It’s to change beliefs, isn’t it?

    No, it’s to try to make sure individuals are treated fairly.

  76. Gavin

    Tom,

    What does this mean?

    “If the state sets boundaries around core historic Christian beliefs”

    Can you give me an example of the state setting a boundary around a core Christian belief?

  77. Gavin

    Tom,

    JAD says, “Clearly, Bill L, Ray Ingles and Gavin etc. comment here because they have nothing but contempt for religious people and religious liberty. They are hypocrites…. What next guys? Concentration camps?”

    Is this over the line? May I respond in kind? (Actually, I wouldn’t want to.)

    -Gavin

  78. Ray Ingles

    toddes –

    Even so, I see atheists grouping all religions under one banner so why quibble about atheism being grouped in a similar fashion?

    Have you seen me do that? I made a distinction between Islam and Christianity on this very site a few days ago. On the other hand, I’ve objected – here (repeatedly) and elsewhere – to lumping all atheists (or even all secular states) together. Indeed, when I object to that, I use the difference between Islam and Christianity (both monotheisms) as an example!

    So, yeah, I’m gonna call you on “atheism being grouped in a similar fashion”.

    Forced segregation and forced association are two extremes. We have seen the first and we are beginning to see the second.

    Um, yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and say we are not “beginning to see the second”. Do you have a projected timeframe we could bet on, so we could possibly determine who’s predictions pan out?

    To rely on the goodness and historical memory of “a whole lotta people” is laudable. It is also the epitome of Boghossian faith.

    Well, no, things really can get better over time, and people and societies can learn. Doesn’t mean they will, but the trends seem pretty hopeful to me.

    So is this a case of religion being used to argue for racism or as a cover for such?

    C.f. the Bob Jones sermon I linked to. Quotes Paul, etc.

  79. Ray Ingles

    JAD – If you want to accuse me of having “nothing but contempt for religious people and religious liberty”, I’d appreciate it if you’d quote my words, rather than someone else’s.

  80. Tom Gilson

    Good morning, Bill,

    RE: #81, the state never “ruled against” interracial marriage discrimination. It simply quit discriminating.

    RE: #82, there are two important factors differentiating the current case from housing, medical, and insurance discrimination. First,

    First, you keep pointing us toward acts rather than beliefs. Now, I understand and I agree that Frank Bruni’s question leads toward actions, but it doesn’t go directly there. It goes there through beliefs; and it involves the government declaring certain core Christian beliefs wrong. That’s where Bruni’s proposal goes wrong.

    Remember that Bruni’s article is about attitudes: “Don’t tell me I’m violating your religious liberty!” It’s about beliefs. It’s only secondarily about actions. The same is true of my complaint against Bruni: it’s about the beliefs he assumes the government will enforce, on the way to making people act the way Bruni wants us all to act.

    Let me illustrate this further. The baker in the Lakewood, Colorado case was forced to undergo sensitivity training after he lost the lawsuit. (The mandate applies to his employees as well.) Now, sensitivity training could cover three different facets: what one believes about other persons’ values, what one believes about other persons as persons, and how sensitively one listens and communicates those beliefs.

    There is no indication in this case that the baker’s manner of listening or communication were at fault. Therefore he is under court order to attend training for the purpose of altering his religiously-held beliefs. The government has no business doing that.

    Again, (how many times must I stress this?) I’m talking about the government interfering with what people believe. Bruni’s proposal involves actions, but his logic requires that the government rule certain core Christian beliefs wrong. This is a clear and egregious violation of religious freedom. It’s a violation regardless of other cases, including housing, medicine and insurance. It’s a violation in itself.

    However, second, it’s fine to clarify the matter by asking the question you’ve asked: what makes this case different from others involving housing, medicine, and (I would add) employment? The language of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act explains it. Where there is a compelling state interest, then and only then the state can require persons to act in a manner contrary to their religious beliefs.

    So for example, there is a compelling state interest in assuring that minorities, women, the disabled, and older persons are not discriminated against in employment. That’s because people really need suitable employment (by which I also include advancement opportunities), and employment/advancement is a relatively scarce resource. In most cases it’s impossible (or at least completely impractical) for persons in these protected classes simply to go somewhere else for a better opportunity; they need their [prospective] employers to treat them fairly right where they are.

    So the government can and does require employers to do so, and they can do so regardless of the employers’ beliefs, because of this compelling state interest.

    Note then that the logic of this does not pass through, “You must change your beliefs.” It says instead, “Keep your beliefs if you want, but we disagree, and we’re telling you not to act that way.” And remember, my specific complaint with Bruni’s logic is that it requires the government to rule a core Christian doctrine wrong. So there’s one difference between Bruni’s proposal and the other situations you brought up.

    One further difference is found in the idea of compelling state interest. Persons celebrating their marriage can obtain services from many sources. I don’t believe there’s a compelling state interest involved in telling someone he has to be the one to do it for them, when someone else could do it just as easily.

    Therefore, there is logic that applies to some cases of discrimination that has nothing to do with Frank Bruni’s proposal.

  81. Tom Gilson

    Ray @86: I don’t care if Bob Jones quotes Paul. Heck, you yourself just got done explaining how you had been misinterpreted. It happens with Paul, too.

  82. Ray Ingles

    Tom –

    the state never “ruled against” interracial marriage discrimination. It simply quit discriminating.

    Actually, it’s a little more complicated than that. The federal government part of the (U.S.) state ruled that the state-level parts of the U.S. state couldn’t discriminate.

    I don’t care if Bob Jones quotes Paul. Heck, you yourself just got done explaining how you had been misinterpreted. It happens with Paul, too.

    Whether Bob Jones Sr. is correct about his interpretation of Paul is not relevant to whether his belief is religious or not. Roman Catholics believe that Protestants in general have incorrect beliefs, for example, but they still accept them as religious beliefs.

  83. Bill L

    Good morning Tom,

    I don’t have much time today, so let me just touch on a few things…

    RE: #81, the state never “ruled against” interracial marriage discrimination. It simply quit discriminating.

    I used that term “ruled against” rather loosely. I think you understand I was not referring to a specific judicial ruling (There may be one for all I know; I haven’t looked into it.) but just to the idea that the state prohibits IM discrimination. What I mean by that, is if an IM couple were to go to a cake store today, the the owners refused service based on their religious belief against IM, I’m sure they would easily win a lawsuit.

    As for the “beliefs” issue, I’m starting to wonder if we mean the same thing when we use the term. Perhaps we should define what we mean. Usually when I talk about beliefs in the strict sense, I am talking about the stuff that goes on inside our heads. Now you can communicate your beliefs (e.g. through speech) but then that is not a belief; it is a communication.

    So when I say that beliefs can not be regulated, it means that no one can stop what goes on in your private thoughts. They may prohibit speech, action, communication, and so on, but not the thoughts. Do you see this differently?

    I’m going to have to think more about the idea that the government is saying certain beliefs are wrong. And the idea that it is not the place of the government to do so. Let’s say I’m agnostic right now. I think you will agree that there are times when it is very much the duty of a government to prohibit certain actions (that stem from beliefs). The Jehovah’s Witness / blood transfusion issue comes to mind. Female circumcision may be another.

    OK, as for the discrimination issue, it looks like we’re on the same page. Certain kinds of discrimination (housing, employment, etc.) should be disallowed. What I always ask then, is where do we draw the line? I honestly don’t know the answer. What about a restaurant? An auto mechanic? A grocery store?

    Last, I do agree with you about the “sensitivity training” issue. Without knowing anything about it (I don’t) it sounds like a step too far.

  84. DJC

    JAD,

    Clearly, Bill L, Ray Ingles and Gavin etc. comment here because they have nothing but contempt for religious people and religious liberty. They are hypocrites, because in all their pretension and posturing against discrimination, they are actually in fact advocating for discrimination—discrimination against any religious beliefs which they disagree with. What next guys? Concentration camps?

    I assume I’m included in the ‘etc’ above, so let me comment candidly. While I don’t have contempt for religious people or religious liberty, I do have contempt for religious purity laws (of which prohibition on gay marriage is part) when they harm others or deprive others of rights. Basically, I (along with most atheists here I think) prioritize fairness and care as moral concerns well above purity, authority and tradition. You, I’m sure, prioritize them quite differently.

    This state of affairs puts us in direct moral judgement of each other. While you can sincerely accuse me of discriminating against your belief that same-sex marriage is immoral, I can just as sincerely accuse you of unreasonably depriving those of same-sex orientation of the right to marry. The same visceral disgust you have for my disregard for the purity and sanctity of the institution of marriage, I also feel towards your refusal to grant basic human rights to human beings, regardless of sexual orientation.

    Where do we go from here? Well, sorry to tell you but I see momentum on my side, society is changing, children are being brought up to first and foremost value care/harm and the importance of fairness– the cornerstones of liberal morality. Purity, sanctity, authority aren’t taught much and if talked about at all, usually in pejorative terms. As moral concerns they’re slowly fading from society.

    And this liberalizing was bound to happen in a secular society. Consider that everywhere we look in the public sphere now, the morality of care and fairness is explicitly or implicitly taught: preschools, schools, universities, businesses, even national parks. But purity, authority and tradition, not so much. Why? Because those latter moral values are basically meaningless without a specific religious doctrine to give them weight, and no religion is allowed to step up because “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”.

  85. Bill L

    I wasn’t going to comment further on JAD’s astounding post, but since everyone else is…

    JAD,

    DJC said it well. I agree with him to a large extent. But instead of really trying to understand why anyone who doesn’t share your beliefs would comment on a blog like this, it is certainly easier to label them as Nazis. If that’s all you want to get out of this interaction, you can stop reading this post right now.

    Why do I comment here? It’s because I am not convinced 100% of almost anything I believe, and I don’t know a better way to challenge my own beliefs then to interact with a group of intelligent people who have different beliefs to my own. From what I have seen, 90% of the regular Christian participants on this blog are indeed intelligent.

    As for me, you know almost nothing about me or why I comment. But that’s OK if you’re not really trying to understand anyone – are you? I have friends, family, and loved ones who are deeply religious. They are Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and various other religions. I deeply love these people and I care about how we (all of us) understand and interact with the world and all people in it.

    If you’re so convinced that your beliefs are correct, then you should be glad that people like me are here. What a perfect opportunity you have to explain to others why you are correct. From what I have seen, most of the regular participants on this blog (believer and non-believer) are rational people who are willing to change their minds when challenged for good reason. Wouldn’t you want the opportunity to save a few souls? Or would you rather just stay in judgement without knowing people?

  86. Scintimandrion

    I’ve been out of this discussion for a couple of days, so apologies for that.

    Tom, I do think that, at least sometimes, harm can be “quantified”. To give a trivial example, if you steal $1000 from me, you’ve harmed me more than if you steal $10 from me. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, or even a worthwhile exercise to attempt, in any particular case.

    But what I think on the question isn’t really relevant. It’s for “society as a whole”, through its governing institutions, to answer.

    To address the main point: I think that the distinction Bruni is inviting us to draw is between religious acts (e.g., taking communion) and acts that are merely religiously informed. As I understand his argument, he asserts that there is such a distinction, that everyone believes (or ought to believe) that there is such a distinction, and that “religious acts” have a certain amount of constitutional protection (if not complete protection), while mere “religiously informed acts” enjoy no such protection whatsoever, and may be regulated or prohibited by the federal government, or by state governments, at their unfettered discretion.

    A person (for instance, a judge) could, I’m sure, come up with a rule that distinguishes between “religious acts” and “religiously informed acts”. For example, one might say that an an act is “religious” only if it can only be done meaningfully, sincerely and in good faith by an adherent of a religion. But such a distinction would be artificial. Furthermore, in doing so – and this is your point, with which I agree – freedom to actually live out one’s religion would pretty much be abolished. Instead, as an earlier commenter remarked, there would be two more restricted rights: “freedom of conscience” (you can think what you like, provided it doesn’t affect your words or actions in any way whatsoever) and a qualified “freedom of worship” (you can privately worship how you like, provided it doesn’t involve acts or omissions that run sufficiently* counter to the public interest*). It recalls what I understand was the state of English religious liberty under Elizabeth I: people could believe what they liked in the privacy of their own thoughts, and maybe even gather with like-minded persons for unauthorised and secret worship, but in public they had to behave like good little Anglicans.

    Having said all that, the governing authorities probably don’t give two hoots about what you believe; as other commenters have remarked, they’re more concerned with how you behave, and whether your behaviour is sufficiently aligned with the mores they wish to see prevail throughout the country. And all that just goes to show that if “secular” means such things as “having no state church”, or “requiring no religious test for holding public office”, the US passes muster; but if “secular” means “having no shared morality or values”, the US not only is not secular right now, but it never has been and never will be.

    * As, apparently, to be determined by judges sitting alone or in panels on a case-by-case basis.

  87. Scintimandrion

    By the way, I regret implicitly asking an off-topic question. All I can really say in my defence is that it’s an occupational hazard when trying to comment on a post that is itself a response to a convoluted argument that conflates issues.

    Indeed, I’ve seen in this post and the commentary on it, three themes to the questions:

    1. Is there a difference between religious and non-religious acts, such that it’s possible to tell whether a given act is religious or not?

    2. Can the government or the courts legitimately determine whether an act is religious or not? That is, if the answer to question 1 is yes, should the government make use of the distinction when lawmaking; and if the answer is no, should the government try to come up with its own distinction that it can then make use of?

    3. Does the government have the authority to prohibit, regulate or restrict acts that are accepted under #1 or #2 as religious or potentially religious in nature?

    I’ve seen that you’re trying to talk about question #2, while most commenters (including myself) tend to jump a bit into to question #3. I suppose it’s because, for whatever reason, most people assume the answer to question #3 is yes, and so they can avoid #1 and #2 altogether, while moving on to a much more emotionally stimulating discussion about whether the particular act under discussion ought to be prohibited etc.

  88. DR84

    If a man asked a baker to simply make a copy of a cake that that baker had made for a wedding, and it came out that the man did not want it for a wedding at all, there would be no cries of discrimination if the baker declined on the grounds that he only makes that particular cake for weddings. At worst, people would just think the baker was odd and a poor businessman.

    The only difference between this scenario and an otherwise identical scenario except that its involves a gay couple is that the gay couple believes they are really having a wedding. In both scenarios, the actions of the baker are the same, his beliefs are the same, and his reason for declining to make the cake are the same. The only difference is the beliefs of the customer.

    Ok, that is not really the only difference because in some places, despite the baker doing the exact same thing for the exact same reason, it is not a crime when he declined a cake for the man but it is a crime for him to decline to make the cake for a gay couple. This is simply unfathomably absurd.

  89. John Donnelly

    Tom
    The days are coming when we may be underground like the Christians in Ancient Rome . Atheist secularists have their reward . Our King is coming and nothing will save the atheist secularist from His wrath . That’s why you atheists and secularists indeed all those not in Christ must repent now . Tom,You’ve done your job well and will continue in the face of opposition until you are not allowed . So be it . Until that day when all of the Body will face persecution ( tribulation) for its belief and religious freedom ceases I say we continue to point out the sin and proclaim it’s defeat in Christ the Saviour. Amen

  90. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Tom,

    “Note then that the logic of this does not pass through, “You must change your beliefs.” It says instead, “Keep your beliefs if you want, but we disagree, and we’re telling you not to act that way.” And remember, my specific complaint with Bruni’s logic is that it requires the government to rule a core Christian doctrine wrong. So there’s one difference between Bruni’s proposal and the other situations you brought up.”

    How is that different to, “You can think gay marriage is immoral, but we disagree, and we’re telling you to provide the same services you would to a heterosexual couple.”? That is the state regulating the actions, but not the beliefs. Specifically Bruni says,

    “I support the right of people to believe what they do and say what they wish—in their pews, homes and hearts.”

    Their heart being the place their beliefs can be held at all times, even when the state is regulating their actions.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  91. G. Rodrigues

    @DJC:

    Consider that everywhere we look in the public sphere now, the morality of care and fairness is explicitly or implicitly taught: preschools, schools, universities, businesses, even national parks. But purity, authority and tradition, not so much. Why? Because those latter moral values are basically meaningless without a specific religious doctrine to give them weight, and no religion is allowed to step up because “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”.

    So you are just replacing Christianity with your farcical joke of a secular religion. A confederacy of little wannabe Stalins is always a fascinating spectacle.

  92. Tom Gilson

    If “care and fairness” are the chief moral norms, then there are no moral norms. On their own, they are empty words. They depend on further definitions of the good, or of human flourishing. Those definitions depend on moral beliefs; or rather, on a certain way of looking at it, moral beliefs just are our beliefs about what constitutes the good for humans. What’s “caring” depends on what’s really good, which is impossible to separate from moral thinking on other topics.

    So then for example, what’s more caring–to encourage the free practice of sex or to encourage keeping sex in the bounds of marriage? That depends on whose moral position concerning sex comes closer to defining the good for humans.

    Morality is about the good, you see. We who hold to an ethic of sex-within-the-bounds-of-marriage do so because we think it is good for humans, better than other practices, more fulfilling, tending more toward human flourishing.

    So our sexual morality is a morality of caring.

    What’s “fairness”? Is it equality? I’ll wager you think you believe in marriage equality. I am certain that in reality you do not.

    So what is fairness, and can you define it in a way that doesn’t draw on other controversial ethical assumptions?

  93. Ray Ingles

    G. Rodrigues –

    A confederacy of little wannabe Stalins is always a fascinating spectacle.

    Well, it’s not worse in practice than a confederacy of little Torquemadas or Hitlers. (I’m pretty sure there’s some corollary of Godwin’s Law you just jumped to. I suppose JAD had already claimed the traditional one.)

    DJC seems to be referring to Moral Foundations Theory, and if you’re not familiar with it, a few minutes reading might be in order. If only to allow a more informed disagreement, perhaps.

  94. DJC

    G. Rodrigues,

    So you are just replacing Christianity with your farcical joke of a secular religion. A confederacy of little wannabe Stalins is always a fascinating spectacle.

    Not me, modern society.

  95. DJC

    Tom,

    Ray’s right that I’m referring to Jonathan Haidt’s work. See for example “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion” which argues that liberals and conservatives differ fundamentally in the priorities they put on moral foundations. Liberals prioritize two of the moral foundations, care/harm and fairness/cheating, while conservatives tend to put all six moral foundations on equal footing (adding loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation, liberty/oppression).

    This is reflected in the basic arguments for and against same-sex marriage. For: it’s only fair (fairness). Against: it degrades the institution of marriage (sanctity) which was set forth by God (authority, loyalty) as between a man and a woman.

    They depend on further definitions of the good, or of human flourishing.

    Moral reasoning may depend on this but not the basic moral intuitions or foundations that I’m referring to. Moral intuitions are our “gut reactions” that immediately give a moral coloring to social situations; only after that initial coloring do we then tend to look for rational justification. Haidt has done research on “moral dumbfounding” that demonstrates this.

    Morality is about the good, you see. We who hold to an ethic of sex-within-the-bounds-of-marriage do so because we think it is good for humans, better than other practices, more fulfilling, tending more toward human flourishing.

    I take it as beyond question that no matter one’s moral foundations, it is within the capacity of the human brain to make a good argument for the rationality of one’s moral foundations. But that’s not my point here.

  96. SteveK

    See for example “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion” which argues that liberals and conservatives differ fundamentally in the priorities they put on moral foundations.

    You need something that objectively prioritizes the different moral priorities that humans have, otherwise there is no rational way to prioritize any of them,

    …only after that initial coloring do we then tend to look for rational justification.

    Same statement as before. You need something real that can ground your rational justification that actual moral priorities exist such that one can say that liberal views align with factual moral priorities while conservative views do not. This is what you are claiming that you can do. What real thing grounds your justification?

    Without this real thing, everyone’s rational justification is firmly founded upon something like perceptions, feelings, intuitions, etc – or simple facts of biology and physical reality – none of which can prioritize anything. Liberal and conservative priorities are factually equal.

  97. DJC

    SteveK,

    Without this real thing, everyone’s rational justification is firmly founded upon something like perceptions, feelings, intuitions, etc – or simple facts of biology and physical reality – none of which can prioritize anything. Liberal and conservative priorities are factually equal.

    True, that’s why politics and religion divides people. If there was an easy objective way to solve the issue, we’d all be in agreement.

    However, I see that the particular structure of secular society that keeps religious doctrine out of government implicitly appears to favor liberal moral concerns (argued previously). Since this structure also seems to be highly conducive to economic growth and technological advance, that is a possible argument that liberal moral priorities lead to better societies. Combine that with the failure so far of theocracies and you have a possible counter argument against conservative/religious moral priorities. This approach would be using human flourishing as an objective guide to determining which moral intuitions should be cultivated and which should be suppressed.

  98. SteveK

    You agree with me about the grounding issue, and then you point me to a worldview (secularism) that lacks the grounding you need to justify your argument. Sorry, but that’s not going to fly. Because you lack the grounding that justifies your argument for higher/lower priorities, we are left with the conclusion that all priorities are equal.

  99. BillT

    Moral intuitions are our “gut reactions” that immediately give a moral coloring to social situations; only after that initial coloring do we then tend to look for rational justification. Haidt has done research on “moral dumbfounding” that demonstrates this.

    That doesn’t mean it’s the right way to approach this. That “only after that initial coloring do we then tend to look for rational justification.” may be what people do but that’s doesn’t mean it’s what people should do. (A genetic fallacy?) We believe that the full range of moral foundations should be taken into account. Is that not the most reasonable and rational approach.

  100. scblhrm

    SteveK, BillT,

    E. Feser discusses the assertion (similar to Ray and DJC and others here) that the Largest Portion of Man’s Intuitional Bell Curve Makes Right. Such a statistical basis for Naturalism’s “as-if” variety of morality housed in feelings and intuition fails for many reasons, many of which are touched on in the linked essay. Reason’s sought-after proper ends find Hume (rightly) granting none via such an epistemic appeal to “Human-Nature-Ism” – “‘Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. ‘Tis not contrary to reason for me to chuse my total ruin, to prevent the least uneasiness of an Indian or person wholly unknown to me. ‘Tis as little contrary to reason to prefer even my own acknowledg’d lesser good to my greater, and have a more ardent affection for the former than for the latter.” (Treatise of Human Nature 2.3.3.6). There’s far more available on such, but the link offers a good framework.

    As for me, well, my views on our motions (as Christians) within the homosexual arena (Etc.) are more liberal than many Christian’s would welcome. Or at least that’s been my experience so far. Of interest perhaps – a peculiarity which is (in part) defining in all of this is the uncaring, harmful, and anti-intellectual disenfranchisement of both the ex-gay as an inconvenient minority and of the ex-gay’s narrative by the institutionalized majority and their narrative. My 1500 or so words on that disquieting and peculiar aberration can wait. Dissecting all of these lines and throwing in moral grounding atop it all is, well, a bit much for my current schedule.

  101. G. Rodrigues

    @DJC:

    Not me, modern society.

    So you derive consolation from a joke, because it is shored by numbers (“Society”) and chronological snobbery (“modern”)? And you misread a constitutional principle as stopping religious doctrines to have their fair hearing in shaping up public policy? All the while your functional equivalent of a religion gets a free pass from such constitutional scruples (Constitution that as we all know, was handed down to us from the All-Mighty *it*self, its qualified interpreters being the priestcraft of SSM proponents)?

    A farcical joke indeed.

    @BillT:

    Is that not the most reasonable and rational approach.

    As DJC puts it, as a case of post-hoc rationalization, it is in fact a typical example of irrationality.

  102. DJC

    SteveK,

    You agree with me about the grounding issue, and then you point me to a worldview (secularism)

    I didn’t point you to a worldview, I just provided an answer to your question of how one could rationally prioritize moral intuitions. If one considers human flourishing a reasonable goal, one could use that to prioritize moral intuitions.

    BillT,

    That doesn’t mean it’s the right way to approach this. That “only after that initial coloring do we then tend to look for rational justification.” may be what people do but that’s doesn’t mean it’s what people should do. (A genetic fallacy?) We believe that the full range of moral foundations should be taken into account. Is that not the most reasonable and rational approach.

    My main point was that disagreements over same-sex marriage are sincere disagreements over what moral concerns should be weighted the most. Not, as JAD claimed, that promoting same-sex marriage is simply driven by contempt for religion.

    Yes, if you consider moral foundations as originating in God, you could weight them equally. However, I’m more of the view that moral foundations are from an evolutionary search for successful society and it is unfortunately true that the in-group/out-group moral intuitions can and have been used in a brutal “survival of the fittest” sense. So I’m wary of those.

    G. Rodrigues,

    So you derive consolation from a joke, because it is shored by numbers (“Society”) and chronological snobbery (“modern”)?

    That’s backwards; my comment was pointing out that modern society seems to be leaving behind certain conservative mores so the likely scenario a decade from now will be that holding-out against the moral permissibility of same-sex marriage will be even harder than it is today. Am I wrong? You think the tide will turn?

    And you misread a constitutional principle as stopping religious doctrines to have their fair hearing in shaping up public policy?

    Don’t you agree that that the establishment clause has favored liberal morality on the whole because liberal morality (“let’s play fair”, “let’s do no harm”) can be publicly taught without violation of the establishment clause? The liberalism of society seems inevitable to me yet you seem content to merely mutter about it.

  103. G. Rodrigues

    @DJC:

    Am I wrong? You think the tide will turn?

    Wrong about what? The current mores of society? No. Will the tide turn? Highly unlikely, at least not by purely human effort. You just missed my point — which I find not at all surprising.

    Don’t you agree that that the establishment clause has favored liberal morality on the whole because liberal morality (“let’s play fair”, “let’s do no harm”) can be publicly taught without violation of the establishment clause?

    I am not an American to agree or disagree with the establishment clause; but once again, you missed the point, or to be even more precise, you *make* the point for me with all the pristine clarity that I could ever ask.

  104. Shane Fletcher

    Hi DR84,

    “If a man asked a baker to simply make a copy of a cake that that baker had made for a wedding, and it came out that the man did not want it for a wedding at all, there would be no cries of discrimination if the baker declined on the grounds that he only makes that particular cake for weddings. At worst, people would just think the baker was odd and a poor businessman.”

    No I’m pretty sure at worst he could still be forced to bake the cake, and I think you have hit on the issue here. It is no business of the bakers what people want the cakes for, he just supplies them to the general public. If I want to serve it up at a morning tea with my friends, or smear it on a wall and call it art, the baker has no say in it. He sells wedding cakes to the public, and I want a wedding cake, for whatever reason.

    “The only difference between this scenario and an otherwise identical scenario except that its involves a gay couple is that the gay couple believes they are really having a wedding.”

    It has nothing to do with what the gay couple think, but rather that the State says they are really having a wedding and the baker doesn’t agree. Tom has been clear that his problem is that the state is telling him what he can think. But again, the baker can think what ever he likes, as long as he does his job. He can think, “It’s not a real wedding.” or “My cakes shouldn’t be eaten for morning tea.” but he still has to supply the cake.

    “In both scenarios, the actions of the baker are the same, his beliefs are the same, and his reason for declining to make the cake are the same.”

    Well … his beliefs are different. No-one would disagree that a Bar Mitzvah is not a wedding. But many people, and importantly the state, disagree with his belief that a gay wedding is not a wedding. He is welcome to disagree with them, of course, but he must do his job and provide the service that he agreed to when he opened his business to the public. And I’m pretty sure, he could be forced to make the wedding cake for the Bar Mitzvah as well. Anyone with specific legal knowledge like to weigh in?

    Cheers
    Shane

  105. G. Rodrigues

    @Shane Fletcher:

    But again, the baker can think what ever he likes, as long as he does his job.

    Such a fine sentiment and expressed so eloquently.

  106. DR84

    -Shane

    So the baker does not own and run a business. He has a job, and the government is his employer, and accordingly the government gets to tell him how to do his job, right? I think that is a fair summation of your point.

    I hope you can spot the problem with it. I hope this needs no explanation. I hope you change your understanding on this because it is wrong on every level and dangerously so.

    We are not all government employees. The government does not get to tell everyone what their job is and how to do it.

  107. SteveK

    It is no business of the bakers what people want the cakes for, he just supplies them to the general public.

    This is false. It is assumed that products will be used as they are intended to be used by the manufacturer. If word gets out that a customer will not be using it as the manufacturer intended, that knowledge is now something the manufacturer must handle in a responsible manner. It’s very much their business.

    If someone said to the baker that they wanted to buy a cake so that it will help them commit moral atrocities on society (no more specifics were given), would it be okay for the baker to decline? I think so. What exactly is a moral atrocity and why does the baker have this right? Ahh….now we’re getting somewhere.

  108. DJC

    G. Rodrigues,

    You just missed my point — which I find not at all surprising.

    you missed the point, or to be even more precise, you *make* the point for me with all the pristine clarity that I could ever ask.

    Glad to be of service. Sly esoteric sniping is all I can make of your contributions, but if it makes you happy…

  109. G. Rodrigues

    @DJC:

    Sly esoteric sniping is all I can make of your contributions, but if it makes you happy…

    Well, I will grant that you are better off than me, since there is nothing “sly” or “esoteric” about your contributions; they mirror quite well the observation of Mao Zedong in the 28th anniversary of the Communist party, that experience had taught them to “enforce the people’s democratic dictatorship, that is, to deprive the reactionaries of the right to speak and let the people alone have that right”.

  110. Shane Fletcher

    HI DR84,

    “So the baker does not own and run a business. He has a job, and the government is his employer, and accordingly the government gets to tell him how to do his job, right? I think that is a fair summation of your point.”

    No, the government is not his employer, he is self employed because it is his own business.

    “The government does not get to tell everyone what their job is and how to do it.”

    But if he sells to the general public he must abide with the rules and regulations the government has in place to protect its citizens. The health code, for example. Don’t you think that’s a reasonable thing?

    Cheers
    Shane

  111. Shane Fletcher

    Hi SteveK

    “This is false. It is assumed that products will be used as they are intended to be used by the manufacturer. If word gets out that a customer will not be using it as the manufacturer intended, that knowledge is now something the manufacturer must handle in a responsible manner. It’s very much their business.”

    Wedding cakes are manufactured to be eaten. If I wanted to eat one, though not at a wedding, would they have the right to not sell it to me?

    And more germane to this scenario, how can a baker of wedding cakes refuse to supply to a state recognised wedding?

    “If someone said to the baker that they wanted to buy a cake so that it will help them commit moral atrocities on society (no more specifics were given), would it be okay for the baker to decline? I think so.”

    More specifics are needed, I think, on how a cake could be used to commit moral atrocities on society. And also, is this a personal opinion on what a moral atrocity is, or is it referring to an illegal act. Without a law being broken (or threatened to be broken) I don’t believe the baker has the right to refuse. Again, happy to hear from someone with first hand knowledge.

    “What exactly is a moral atrocity and why does the baker have this right? Ahh….now we’re getting somewhere.”

    Assuming this is an indication that you are referring to homosexuality, the important thing is a question of law. Can a bed salesmen refuse to sell to a homosexual couple?

    Cheers
    Shane

  112. Shane Fletcher

    Hi G. Rodrigues,

    “But again, the baker can think what ever he likes, as long as he does his job.

    Such a fine sentiment and expressed so eloquently.”

    That particular comment is aimed at Tom’s apparently overriding point in the OP which is that the state is actually regulating on what you can think as a Christian, rather than just what duties you have to perform as a business man dealing with the public.

    Cheers
    Shane

  113. DJC

    G. Rodrigues,

    I will grant that you are better off than me, since there is nothing “sly” or “esoteric” about your contributions; they mirror quite well the observation of Mao Zedong in the 28th anniversary of the Communist party, that experience had taught them to “enforce the people’s democratic dictatorship, that is, to deprive the reactionaries of the right to speak and let the people alone have that right”.

    Nope. I haven’t expressed much of an opinion on a preferred form of government mainly because I don’t see that economic and social sciences are in good enough shape to offer a clear answer. The perfect governing structure will require a near-perfect science of mind and human behavior and that’s a ways off.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s not easy to reject obvious political failures and Maoism is certainly one. I see no reason at all to suppress reactionary ideas except from fear of weakness in one’s own position.

    No one is suppressing Christian “reactionary” vision for traditional marriage with any effectiveness, the idea as far as I can tell is just not keeping traction or interest in changing modern society. I offered one reason why the structure of secular society itself might be partly to blame for that; an almost unconscious depreciating of certain moral intuitions that have become inconvenient and troublesome in modern open societies. The result is that today’s 1st-world children in all probability actually feel visceral hurt at the denying of marriage rights to same-sex couples (their moral intuitions of fair and care are working overtime in other words) but hardly a qualm about dramatically undoing the traditional foundations of human sexual roles in marriage (reflecting weakened intuitions of loyalty to religion and tradition, respect for authority by virtue of its position, concern for sanctity and purity).

    While it may sound like taunting, and I do think this state of affairs is probably more good than bad on the whole, I’m still concerned about the unknown effects of this “moral engineering” over time. If you’ve read any of Haidt’s works you’d know what I mean.

  114. G. Rodrigues

    @DJC:

    I offered one reason why the structure of secular society itself might be partly to blame for that; an almost unconscious depreciating of certain moral intuitions that have become inconvenient and troublesome in modern open societies.

    No, that is not what you did, neither it was what I objected, neither my comparison, which both was and is exact and accurate, has the function you seem to attribute to it (e.g. it had nothing to do with “preferred form of government”). But you have a penchant for either not understanding the most elementary points, or feigning misunderstanding, and I really have no wish to quibble with closet Stalinists.

  115. G. Rodrigues

    @Shane Fletcher:

    That particular comment is aimed at Tom’s apparently overriding point in the OP which is that the state is actually regulating on what you can think as a Christian, rather than just what duties you have to perform as a business man dealing with the public.

    I really have no idea what you imagine you are clarifying here, but I understood you perfectly well the first time around.

  116. SteveK

    @Shane #120
    I kept my hypothetical scenario very non-descriptive and generic for a reason. The fact remains that you and everyone else in government accept the fact that it’s perfectly legitimate for an individual person to refuse service when it’s founded upon moral reasons that have some substance to them. So far, that freedom hasn’t been completely outlawed and I would think you’d want to keep it that way.

  117. DJC

    G. Rodrigues,

    In the face of such hostile derision, there’s not much I can say. I will state again for the record though that I’m doing my best to understand counter points of views, I never feign misunderstanding and I always argue honestly to the best of my ability. I believe my record speaks for itself.

  118. SteveK

    Shane,

    But your generic non descript scenario has no substance to its moral reasons because it’s generic and non descript.

    My moral reasons are the same reasons that have been considered substantive and valid for centuries so I don’t really need to go into detail.

    That is not the case for you. You owe the people an explanation as to why my reasons are suddenly invalid to the point where it’s your moral duty to revoke my freedoms. Have the purpose and value of humanity, society and of children changed recently – objectively so – such that my moral reasons are no longer valid?

  119. Ray Ingles

    SteveK – It’s a shame that article doesn’t allow comments. I don’t quite grasp why, from the perspective of the writer, gay marriage would result in worse outcomes than remarriage with step-parents.

    Let’s say Alice and Bob get divorced, and they have a child, Charlie. Later, Alice marries Doug. Doug becomes the step-father to Charlie. For almost all legal purposes, in almost all jurisdictions, he has no special rights or responsibilities to the child.

    Though he can have some rights and responsibilities granted by one or the other parent (just like a babysitter), and he can become the legal parent of Charlie with Bob’s consent. He can even become Charlie’s legal parent without Bob’s consent, if Doug is willing and a court judges it in the child’s best interest. Sometimes it can even happen without Doug’s consent.

    Now, what makes it worse if Alice marries Dora instead of Doug?

  120. Tom Gilson

    You’re thinking too granularly.

    What makes it worse if the definition of marriage changes such that it’s no longer regarded the norm for kids to be raised by their two biological parents?

    That norm has already been seriously undermined through failures of straight marriages. To bless gay “marriages” would be to bless the death of that norm.

    Sometimes I think you guys can’t see past the nose on your face, or maybe the gay couple down the street. This isn’t about this family or that, and it isn’t about this marriage or that. It’s about marriage. It’s about family. It’s about social systems that support other social systems. It’s about the myriad children growing up in a deeply flawed, undersupported family culture.

    And you keep asking, “how does this hurt Alice and Dora’s child?”

    Wake up and look around.

  121. SteveK

    Ray
    Broken families don’t harm children any more than intact families so we should consider them leqally equal to intact families thus giving them the same benefits and social status/value? As the letter points out, this is not true. If you cannot be an advocate for children in broken families, how can you be an advocate for children in SS families?

  122. Ray Ingles

    SteveK – Wow. It is daunting how much misunderstanding is packed into just your first sentence.

    I mean, (1) I didn’t claim that “Broken families don’t harm children any more than intact families”. I don’t think divorce and remarriage are the best thing for kids – although, it can definitely be better than a bad marriage. I think the perfect can be the enemy of the good, there.

    (2) And I specifically pointed out that step-parents aren’t “le[g]ally equal” to biological parents, except in certain clearly-delineated circumstances.

    (3) And “same [legal] benefits” does not equal same “social status/value”. What society legally permits need not be – and frequently isn’t – what is socially condoned or approved. The Supreme Court affirmed the right of Westboro “Baptist” to protest at funerals, but nobody approves or admires them for doing so.

    See, here’s the thing. Ideally, yeah, you’d want kids to be raised by their biological parents. Adoptive parents are (slightly) more likely to abuse kids, for example.

    But sometimes one or both of the biological parents aren’t suited to be parents, or aren’t even available. Sometimes both biological parents are suited to be parents, but not to live together with each other. In such cases, the ideal isn’t an option. So we have to come up with alternatives.

    Divorce is legally allowed. Even when there are kids. Having kids out of wedlock is legally allowed. And remarriage is legally allowed too. Spouses sometimes die. And things like sperm and egg donation are legally allowed. You can fervently wish that such situations didn’t come up, and you can work to make sure they happen as infrequently as possible – but they do happen. And when they do we have to protect the interest of the kids. We’ve come up with legal frameworks to do so – the fact that step-parents are not legal parents, unless particular active steps are taken, is one aspect of that.

    What does gay marriage change about any of those situations? I’m looking for specifics, here.

  123. Ray Ingles

    Tom –

    What makes it worse if the definition of marriage changes such that it’s no longer regarded the norm for kids to be raised by their two biological parents?

    The thing is, “The government is not generally in the business of mandating ideals. Rather it’s in the business of setting thresholds for what’s unacceptable.” Legal accommodation doesn’t have to mean – and very frequently isn’t – the same thing as social approval. See what I said just now to SteveK about Westboro Baptist.

    That norm has already been seriously undermined through failures of straight marriages. To bless gay “marriages” would be to bless the death of that norm.

    As I’ve said before, ” there were [state-level] constitutional amendments about SSM but I’ve never heard of a single effort to put an amendment about divorce on the ballot. Which problem affects more kids?”

    Same-sex marriage isn’t ever going to be a big thing, numerically. You want to tackle marriage in the legal arena, let’s see some concrete proposals. Want to make divorce harder? Want to make remarriage more difficult if there are kids involved? Want to ban some forms of assisted reproductive technologies? Tackling those would not just limit or even eliminate the harms to children you claim for same-sex marriage, but would in addition help the far larger group of kids involved in heterosexual pairings. I haven’t seen any large grassroots effort like that. In short, I am dubious about the motives of a lot of same-sex-marriage opponents, because their demonstrated priorities don’t seem to match up with their rhetoric.

    As I also said in that comment, “For example I’d be totally down with laws making divorce harder – e.g. a waiting period, counseling, etc. – when there are children involved, absent evidence of domestic abuse.” How come hardly anybody – certainly far fewer people than are even signing petitions about same-sex marriage – is agitating for that? (Serious question, there. I’m really curious to hear how you account for that.)

  124. SteveK

    Ray,

    See, here’s the thing. Ideally, yeah, you’d want kids to be raised by their biological parents.

    This is what the letter is arguing for. What you’re saying here is that SS families do not have the same *value* to a society because it’s not ideal. What follows from this is that we should expect society to live out this fact in the form of preferring the more-ideal biologically natural family when it’s appropriate to do that.

    Do you accept the validity of this value-based form of discrimination as a legitimate reason for society to prefer natural families? I think it’s entirely legitimate.

    Now, we cannot know which couples will actually have children or not because we cannot see the future. So society does what it can at the time the relationship is formed – it expresses a unilateral preference for the more-ideal relationship. After that, it deals with anomalies and abuses on a case-by-case basis.

    But sometimes one or both of the biological parents aren’t suited to be parents, or aren’t even available. Sometimes both biological parents are suited to be parents, but not to live together with each other. In such cases, the ideal isn’t an option. So we have to come up with alternatives.

    This is a red herring that has nothing to do with the point the letter is trying to make.

  125. Ray Ingles

    SteveK –

    What you’re saying here is that SS families do not have the same *value* to a society because it’s not ideal.

    By no means. The most you could say is that the average two-heterosexual-parent-married-once family has a somewhat higher “value to a society” than the average of other arrangements – including adoption, remarriage, single parenting, etc. We’re talking bell curves with different peaks and wide ranges with lots of overlap. My wife and I are married, only ever to each other, with four kids. On our block we’re friends with families that have no biological children, only adopted; families with biological and adopted children; divorced and separated parents with shared custody, etc. I could line up the children on our block, give you their “social science stats”… and you couldn’t accurately sort them as to their family life.

    What follows from this is that we should expect society to live out this fact in the form of preferring the more-ideal biologically natural family when it’s appropriate to do that.

    Ah, but when is it appropriate to do that?

    I figure tying parental rights and responsibilities – and especially benefits – to the people actually taking care of the kids makes sense. Conservatives usually want incentives to be tied to performance and all that. Unless you’re going to ban assisted reproductive technologies, or forcibly remove children born of adultery, etc., there are going to be plenty of such children. There already are, and the law deals with it.

    Literally none of that changes with same-sex marriage. The biological parents get rights, responsibilities, and benefits. The non-biologically-related spouse doesn’t, unless one biological parent consents to give up those rights and responsibilities, or a court assigns them for the benefit of the child. Exactly like heterosexual couples today.

    And don’t forget all the other things that have become tied to marriage that aren’t limited, or even directly related, to raising children. Hospital visitation, joint property, spousal privilege in testimony, health insurance, etc. What’s the case that a same-sex couple actually raising children shouldn’t have those?

  126. DR84

    #119 Shane

    Yes, the health code regulations are reasonable. What does that have to do with forcing bakers and others to participate in same sex “weddings”? An example of reasonable regulation does not mean that all regulation and all rules are reasonable. I believe the case has been made quite convincingly that laws that force this violate real human rights.

    #136 Ray

    I think you are fundamentally misunderstanding things. When it comes to having and raising children the man-woman union is not just the most ideal, it is the only game in town. There are no other possible relationship configurations in which children can be born and raised within. People involved in other kinds of relationships are not merely involved in less ideal relationships for this task, they are not even playing the game so to speak.

  127. Ray Ingles

    DR84 – Actually that’s not correct. For having children, a man and a woman have to be involved. (Unfortunately, the woman doesn’t even have to co-operate.)

    Raising children is a different story. That quite obviously is separable. Sometimes of necessity (orphans, abusive or neglectful parents, etc.) and sometimes by choice (divorce, separation, even legal emancipation, donor sperm and eggs, etc.). The law accommodates all of these already.

    On what consistent legal grounds do you outlaw the relationship between Alice and Dora, but not Alice and Doug from #130 above? Neither Dora nor Doug would have any special rights to Charlie, note.

  128. Tom Gilson

    Who’s “outlawing” a relationship here???

    We’re just saying it isn’t marriage, and/or it shouldn’t be called marriage by the state.

    Divorce, my friend, has been around a long time. You knew that, right? The law accommodates it because there is very little way to avoid the necessity.

    By what consistent standard do you support the idea that new structures should be invented by law, whose suboptimality the law would then have to be configured to accommodate?

  129. Ray Ingles

    Tom –

    We’re just saying it isn’t marriage, and/or it shouldn’t be called marriage by the state.

    And the justification that letter SteveK linked to gives is, essentially, ‘please think of the children!’ But… I’m asking for what special harm will come to children if such relationships are recognized by the state. I don’t see it.

    Katy Faust’s story would have been identical if her mother had divorced her father and taken up with another man. And we already allow that. She says that “[w]hen a child is placed in a same-sex-headed household, she will miss out on at least one critical parental relationship and a vital dual-gender influence. But she wasn’t deprived of her mother or father! She says she’s “grateful for a close relationship with them both”, in fact.

    If that’s the harm you wish to avoid, then you’re going to need to change the law way more than that. You’re going to have to outlaw divorce, or at least remarriage, or something. My point is that the law would not “have to be configured to accommodate” same-sex marriages – at least not with respect to child-rearing and custody and visitation and adoption and so forth. The law already has all the accommodations for that stuff.

  130. Tom Gilson

    Ray, you bring out the best in me. Here it comes.

    STOP BEING AN IDIOT!!!

    If we wanted to stop ALL harm, we’d have to outlaw divorce, remarriage, or something, and be successful in turning around millennia of inertia. That’s what you seem to be saying we need to do.

    If on the other hand we want to stop some new harm being introduced, we can simply say, “Let’s not introduce that new harm.” Why, pray tell, must we be obligated to campaign against ALL harm before we can take a stand against SOME harm?

    If we don’t want to say, “We endorse all that’s harmful to children in broken family situations,” then we can refrain from introducing new forms of broken family situations. That’s the granularity problem I spoke of earlier.

    NOW, WOULD YOU PLEASE STOP BEING SO STUPID?

    As for legal accommodation not being the same as social approval, do you realize how inane that sounds in this context? Legal accommodation for Westboro Baptist means one thing: we accept that there are crazies and we have to live with them. Legal accommodation for the child-rearing challenges presented by same-sex marriage means that we create a new problem called same-sex marriage and then accommodate it.

    Are you not smart enough to tell the difference? Are you really that blind? Are you even trying?

    Yes, actually, you can be very trying.

    STOP BEING SO FOOLISH!

  131. Tom Gilson

    I do not know how you’ll respond to that, Ray, but from my perspective just a few moments later, the thing I most regret about what I just wrote is this: I was acting as if I could tell you what to do (or stop doing), knowing that it won’t do any more good than anything else we’ve tried.

  132. Ray Ingles

    Tom –

    If on the other hand we want to stop some new harm being introduced, we can simply say, “Let’s not introduce that new harm.”

    What’s the new harm?

    That’s the question. There’s no special difference here. Katy Faust didn’t suffer any special harm because her mother had a relationship with a woman after her divorce. No “new forms of broken family situations” are being introduced. I know divorced and remarried women now.

    Indeed, by making it harder for such a couple, you make it harder for the kids. Money that could be spent on family vacations instead gets spent on extra health insurance. And lawyers arranging powers of attorney, and more complicated real-estate deals, and so on and so forth.

    What’s the argument? The lack of same-sex marriage didn’t keep her parents together before. Why would a continued lack of same-sex marriage have any different effect in the future? Why would it be better for kids?

  133. Tom Gilson

    New harm? ARE YOU BEING INTENTIONALLY DENSE?

    The new harm is the creation of a new brand of “marriage” that undermines the kind of marriage that’s best for kids.

  134. Tom Gilson

    Okay, I also regret not writing this more clearly:

    If we don’t want to say, “We endorse all that’s harmful to children in broken family situations,” then we can refrain from introducing new forms of broken family situations. That’s the granularity problem I spoke of earlier.

    I spoke earlier of a granularity problem. SSM endorses all that’s happened in the past 50-75 years to tear apart mom-dad-children families. That’s NOT GOOD, Ray.

    You wrote,

    As I’ve said before, ” there were [state-level] constitutional amendments about SSM but I’ve never heard of a single effort to put an amendment about divorce on the ballot. Which problem affects more kids?”

    Ray, STOP IT!!! You were on this thread where I explained the sensible answer to that. You were on this one. And this one.

    There’s such a thing as repeating yourself tiresomely when your questions have already been answered. Consider yourself a case in point.

  135. Tom Gilson

    I’m going to put myself in time out until I can see straight. Ray, I suggest you put yourself in time out until you can think straight.

  136. AdamHazzard

    Ray Ingles: Slightly off-topic, so I’ll keep this brief, but I wanted to say that I admire the patience and thoughtfulness you’ve so consistently displayed in these threads. It sets an example, especially for those of us who have occasionally yielded to less gracious impulses. Good work.

  137. Tom Gilson

    I do repent of my over-reaction, however, and I acknowledge that I yielded to unChristian impulses there. It was wrong, and I apologize, Ray.

    (I stand by #148.)

  138. Tom Gilson

    FWIW, I was in the emergency room at 1 am earlier this week for asthmatic bronchitis that hasn’t cleared up yet; the medicine for it makes me both wired and tired; and even though I don’t have much of a voice, I’m spending a fair amount of time on the phone with–yes–the insurance company, helping work through the icy-road accident in which our daughter totaled her car a couple nights ago. She is mostly fine, though far from completely so, and it hurts a dad to see her go through it.

    Still, I did not handle myself well with Ray today, and I regret it, despite the stresses behind it. I’m sorry, Ray.

  139. Bill L

    At the risk of sounding saccharine, I will say that I admire Tom for his apology just now, and I admire Ray for the very reasons that AdamHazzard pointed out in 147.

    Running a blog like this can’t be that easy – thanks Tom for fostering dialogue. Being consistently polite and patient with so many who attack and mock you is not something I can achieve – thanks Ray for setting that good example.

  140. JAD

    Patience is only a virtue when accompanied by good will. Personally I don’t see any good will on Ray’s part. Why is Ray here? What does he want to accomplish? I’ve asked him those questions in the past. So far he hasn’t given me a straight answer. Anyone else know why he is here?

    Personally I don’t trust people who are not up front about their motives. The new/ internet atheists typically are not up front about their motives.

    The “good news”, in a sense, is what their behaviour reveals. What I see is the utter bankruptcy of their mind-set. I see self-centeredness, anger and arrogance but absolutely no regard for their fellow man (except for like-minded atheist.)

    What do the new/internet atheists have to offer to mankind? Not much, at least as far as I can see. So they really have nothing to argue about.

    Christians need to realize that we hold have the winning hand. If I was playing poker and I was holding a royal flush, I would be holding hand that cannot be beat. If I lay my cards face up on the table my opponent knows that I cannot be beat (tied yes, beaten no.) It would be absurd for him to try to bluff. That’s exactly what interlocutors who show here are trying to do. It’s time we started calling their bluff. We need to let people like Ray know that, unless he has a real argument, he is wasting our time. Personally, I have better things to do than waste my time on someone who doesn’t want to have an honest conversation.

  141. Tom Gilson

    Thanks, Bill.

    JAD and Ray, for what it’s worth again, I wouldn’t want my comments in 149 and 150 to obscure the fact that I still see Ray being commendably patient in a less-than-commendable endeavor: to repeatedly press arguments that have already been refuted, and to sidestep rebuttals that are being offered. I find that sometimes vexing, always perplexing. That’s not to say that’s the only thing he does here, but it’s frequent enough to be an identifiable pattern.

    That does not excuse my behavior, or even explain it. It is what it is nevertheless.

  142. Ray Ingles

    Well, obviously I disagree about “already been refuted”. In JAD’s terms, ‘the hand laid down on the table would be a royal flush, but Jokers aren’t actually wild in this game’

    The apology is gracious, but not really necessary – and I offer an apology for any unintended extra stress I might have given you. My wife’s got a bad cold she’s hoping doesn’t turn into bronchitis, so I know how draining that can be. Hope your daughter’s recovery is swift and complete!

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