Tom Gilson

George Yancey: “Hostile Environment: Understanding and Responding to Anti-Christian Bias”

George Yancey bookBook Review

Some time ago I reviewed the book So Many Christians, So Few Lions, sociologist George Yancey’s academic report on anti-Christian hostility in the United States. Having had some social science training I found it fascinating. Since then Dr. Yancey has released a follow-up for the rest of us: Hostile Environment: Understanding and Responding to Anti-Christian Bias.

Plenty of books have been written about increasing anti-Christian hostility in the United States. Most are based in anecdotal information, lending themselves to guffaws of disbelief from skeptics claiming Christians are suffering little more than a long-deserved displacement from our position of cultural dominance. These books, being the product of careful and responsible sociological research, are different.

Is there anti-Christian bias in the United States? Yes, and it follows a revealing pattern. Yancey’s research methods did not allow him to estimate the proportion of Americans with anti-Christian bias, but they did permit him to discover that the demographic make-up of such bias is considerably more white, educated, wealthy, and male than America at large. The demographic profile of this bias is remarkably similar to the profile of America’s powerful elite.

In other words, anti-Christian bias may not be large in number but it still packs a punch.

This may come as little surprise to those of us who have observed bias in news and entertainment media, courts, and institutions of higher education (see also Yancey’s Compromising Scholarship: Religions and Political Bias in American Higher Education. Our anecdotal experiences may not be so far off base after all.

This bias is powerful in another way as well: it can be very powerfully venomous. Seeking to understand in just what ways anti-Christian hostility might be expressed, he asked persons identified with this hostility to respond to questionnaire items, and he explored blogs of known anti-Christians like members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Some samples of what he heard back from respondents or found on the Internet:

They are relentless, and I believe if we don’t stop them now, we will be living in another Nazi Germany.
Churches… should be absolutely forbidden to have any role in politics, including collecting money and espousing platforms. Churches should not be allowed to provide orphanages and adoption programs.

These comments display a distorted, ignorant view of Christians and our history of compassionate outreach. Perhaps that ignorance can be explained through comments such as:

Have never personally met a member of the Christian Right. All exposure to them in their beliefs has come from television, newspapers, magazines and the Internet. All my exposure to the Christian Right through the media only served to reinforce my negative views of them.
My experience with the Christian Writers through media and politics, actually very few personal encounters. Are run with a fairly liberal and well-educated crowd.
My personal encounters have been limited, fortunately. My exposure to the C[hristian] R[ight] has been in newspaper op-ed, on talk radio and on television.

They despise what they know not.

But Dr. Yancey did not write this book to support any sense of Christian paranoia. It’s about both understanding and responding to anti-Christian bias, and his response recommendations are even-tempered and wise:

  • Don’t equate it with racism, because it’s different
  • We must be willing to combat bigotry toward Christians
  • We have to understand what those with Christianophobia want
  • We must consider how we can be more unified as the body of Christ
  • We must be wise in our arguments, and finally (saving the best for last, I think)
  • We must love our enemies

Anti-Christian hostility is real. Understanding it accurately–not just anecdotally–is extremely helpful. That’s why I strongly recommend you read and digest this book (0r one or two of the others I’ve referred to here) — it’s the most thoughtfully accurate information you’ll find on the subject. It will sober you, it will lead you to prayer, and (I pray) it will lead you to find someone with anti-Christian bias to get to know and to love in the name of Christ.

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78 thoughts on “George Yancey: “Hostile Environment: Understanding and Responding to Anti-Christian Bias”

  1. What is anti-Christian hostility, in particular? You indicated bias in the media and in higher education, but what else?

    Are Christians being denied job opportunities because of their faith? If so, that’s illegal and you guys should sue to defend your rights. Are Christians imprisoned for speaking up about their faith in public? Are Christians and their churches being segregated into particular parts of town? Do Christians have trouble getting elected to public office due to their faith? Are there onerous conditions that make it hard for Christians in particular to vote? These would all be serious problems, if they happened.

    On the other hand, are you just talking about political differences? Hostility is something we take for granted in the political arena, to say nothing of the blogosphere. Surely you’re not letting Dawkins and PZ Myers get under your skin!

  2. @John Moore

    With the change of a few words, what you’ve written could be an argument that there is no bias toward homosexuals or transgender people in this country. If you are saying that there’s no such thing as bias until people are doing the things you list here, then you reject all of the most common arguments against the Christian right.

    Personally, I don’t consider myself part of the Christian Right, and you’ve seemed to have argued against the logic of any criticism of them that I’ve found valid.

    The article wasn’t arguing that there was legal, codified discrimination. It claimed that there is a group of people who have a bias and offered some suggestions as to how to engage with those people. That seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable response to the fact that one has unreasonable opponents. And the suggestions themselves are calm and fair-minded.

    If you want to call that “letting Dawkins and PZ Myers get under your skin!”, you’re allowed. But I’d call it “being the bigger person in response to people who’ve let the Christian Right get under their skin”.

  3. Recently, I watched the 25th anniversary rebroadcast of Ken Burns documentary THE CIVIL WAR on PBS. Even though I had seen the five part series several times before, something new jumped out at me: The Union army under the leadership of General George McClellan, one of the narrators pointed out, had several opportunities for a decisive battlefield victory early in the war, but time after time he squandered those opportunities. Had McClellan acted boldly and decisively, historians argue, it almost certainly would have brought an early end to the American Civil War.

    By analogy the modern 21st century church finds itself in the position it is because its leaders have repeatedly squandered opportunities and failed to act boldly and decisively. I see a lack of strategy, a lack of planning and action as well as a lack of faith and vision.

    For example, after the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision “legalizing” same sex marriage there was virtually no response from leading evangelicals. Why is that? They didn’t see it coming? Didn’t they understand the implications of the DOMA decision two years earlier? But maybe I’m missing it. Maybe there was a response. If there was, what was it? (Wimpy or anemic responses don’t count here.)

    I’m just a layman but I can think of a lot of things that could have been done and should have been done but weren’t done. Some of those things could still be done, but that door is quickly closing.

    For example, I have heard some evangelical leaders talk about civil disobedience. But civil disobedience by whom? The clergy? Lay people? Both? Is anyone writing any articles about civil disobedience? (Or holding seminars, doing workshops etc?) Is civil disobedience Biblical? When is, or isn’t it, appropriate? Aren’t those questions that need to be answered? Meanwhile we have laypeople being sued, taken to court and even imprisoned because they oppose SSM. Are we doing everything should to support these people?

    Other questions: If the church does begin encouraging civil disobedience, where is it all heading? What are we trying to achieve? What is the end game?

    My point here is that the reason we are noticing the heightened hostile anti-Christian bias (which has always been there) in the culture is because of the churches and the churches leadership weakness.

    How do we counter act this trend? I suggest we need to go back to the beginning– to the beginning of the Christian faith and understand what motivated the early disciples. When I read the gospels and the Book of Acts I see faith, boldness and decisiveness (as well as some civil disobedience.) That’s what we need. Isn’t it?

  4. “Meanwhile we have laypeople being sued, taken to court and even imprisoned because they oppose SSM.”

    Can you provide some examples of people being imprisoned due to their opposition to SSM? (Not saying there aren’t any, I just haven’t heard of any.)

  5. I thought Kim Davis was jailed because she failed to comply with a court order, not because she opposes SSM. If she were to start killing people with same-sex spouses because she opposes SSM, I don’t think anyone reasonable would object to her being imprisoned. I’m fairly certain there are clerks issuing SSM licenses who object to SSM and have made that public, but I don’t think any of them have been imprisoned due to their objection to SSM.

  6. I knew you were going to try to raise that objection. I don’t know how I knew but I knew.

    Look, no one meant that someone was going to get jailed for merely holding an opinion that same sex marriage is wrong. It’s understood that it would take some actual act done in opposition to SSM. That’s what everyone knew, or should have knows, this would be about. And that’s exactly what’s happened.

  7. Indeed, notice the context. I wrote:

    “Meanwhile we have laypeople being sued, taken to court and even imprisoned because they oppose SSM.”

    You don’t get sued or taken to court for beliefs or opinions (at least not yet.) What did Orwell call that? Thought crime?

  8. In the wake of this weeks shootings and mass murder in Roseburg, Ore., David French asks the following questions:

    “With Christians explicitly targeted for mass murder, are we now going to launch a round of anguished soul-searching about anti-Christian rhetoric?” Like we would if the gun man had been motivated by racist rhetoric and hate. “Will we cleanse political discourse of anti-Christian expression? Will militant, angry atheists be universally shamed into silence?

    Read more at:

    It appears to me that the answers are pretty self-evident—no, no and no. I believe that the dominant media culture has a double standard when it comes to Christians and Christianity, even when Christians are the victims of a tragic criminal act, like the one that occurred this week. Why is that?

  9. Instead of viewing contrary opinions on God and religion as anti-Christian why not view it at least as an honest disagreement? Maybe you should review how you and Christians treat non-believers. I mean you can’t be serious about complaining about anti-Christian viewpoints while your treatment of Christians and their flaws such as those with multiple divorces is inconsistent compared to people who are gay. Both are sins yet you don’t treat divorced people with the same disdain you treat gays. You want to marginalize gays and reduce their legal rights to jobs, housing, etc to zero. I know several Christian parents who, for example, have kicked out their child for being gay or atheist. Such stories are not rare and can be found by anyone who is really interested in how Christians treat non-believers.

  10. Patrick,

    That depends on what church you are talking about. Where I go, we won’t marry people who have had divorces, we won’t marry people who are having pre-martial sex. So, no inconsistencies there. It’s a lie and a slander that we want to “marginalize gays and reduce their legal rights to jobs, housing, etc to zero.” At the same time, we are reminded that the reason that there aren’t more people in church on Sunday mornings are the people that are already there.

  11. BillT, thank you for pointing that out.

    Let me re-emphasize: Patrick, what you’ve charged us with is a slanderous lie.

    Let me add as well: You really ought to be embarrassed for treating Christians as one homogeneous mass all fighting to discriminate against gays in every way possible. It’s not true; it’s stereotyping; it’s prejudiced; it’s bigoted.

    Find a real Christian and talk with him or her. Or try (just try!!!) to find one of us who’s said anything like that on this very blog!

    Don’t judge us based on your distant false impressions. Not unless you like being a stereotyping bigot, anyway.

  12. Instead of viewing contrary opinions on God and religion as anti-Christian why not view it at least as an honest disagreement?

    Not all contrary opinions are honest disagreements – but you know that already.

  13. Hello, Tom.

    What I wrote is not slander or slanderous. You really should check up on your legal terms for 2 reasons.

    One is that slander refers to the spoken word. Libel refers to the written word.

    Second, it has to refer to a particular person. If I wrote that Joe Smo (not a real person) was a child molester and I knew he wasn’t then that would be libel.

    You really ought to be embarrassed for treating Christians as one homogeneous mass all fighting to discriminate against gays in every way possible. It’s not true; it’s stereotyping; it’s prejudiced; it’s bigoted.

    I actually treat Christians very well, better than they treat gays and atheists. I’ve been friends with many Christians throughout my entire life. Liberal. Conservative. Catholic. Protestant. It didn’t matter to me. I have yet to see Christians fight for anti-gay discrimination in jobs and housing. Many Christian businesses refuse to serve gays. And a Christian employer can fire someone once the employer realizes that the person is gay or lesbian even if the business has nothing to do with their religion.

    Christians have killed gays in the past in the name of their God and religion and even today many pastors have called for the imprisonment or killing of gays.

    I realize you need to throw out this scare tactic just to suppress opinions that do not favor you or your religion or your religious views.

    I realize that you take any form of disagreement as being anti-Christian but we live in a society that is a mix of disagreeing opinion but the fact is that Christians do not like gays and have used the legal system to marginalize them as much as possible.

    Yet the discrimination of gays goes on.

  14. Tom,

    Do you ever actually talk to gay/lesbian/transgender people to see what their take on Christian love and charity really is? Do you ever try looking at Christians through their eyes?

  15. I retract the charge of slander. Thank you.

    It was not the only charge I made.

    I do talk with gays, yes, thank you. Do you ever talk with Christians? How many of them have indicated to you that they want to discriminate against gays in all the ways you said?

    Some Christians have done what you say. For you to generalize that to all Christians is no less stereotyping than if you were to say that all Blacks are lazy. It’s disgusting, wrong, and bigoted. If you have any integrity at all, you’ll retract, apologize, and commit never to make that kind of mistake again.

  16. I never said ‘all christians’ but there are a majority of Christians who feel that way. Some pastors advocate for the killing of gays and their congregation just sits there giving silent, tacit, approval. If a congregation of gays or atheists were to tacitly approve the killing of Christians I’m sure those selfsame Christians would be very disturbed by the idea and wonder why no honest gay or atheists speak out against such hate talk.

    While atheists and gays do not agree with Christians I have not heard of any who advocate for the death of Christians, nor should they.

    As I pointed out earlier, I’ve had many numerous Christian friends throughout my life.

    We live in a pluralistic society. This is a country where no group gets it way all the time. Don’t confuse not getting your way all the time with being anti-Christian.

  17. Patrick,

    You’re a liar and a bigot. That is all.

    And Tom, this kind of despicable behavior doesn’t belong on this blog.

  18. I cannot believe the ignorance and stereotyping going on here!!!

    This is nothing short of astonishing.

    No, Patrick, what you’re describing is not true of anything approaching a majority of Christians. Not even close.

    Even this is prejudiced:

    We live in a pluralistic society. This is a country where no group gets it way all the time. Don’t confuse not getting your way all the time with being anti-Christian.

    I’ve never said anything that suggests I’m suffering from that confusion. You’ve read it into what I’ve said. That’s bigoted, Patrick.

  19. Thank you for your comment, BillT. Could you be more specific regarding what I am lying about. I don’t want to convey false information and your input would help in this regard.

  20. Patrick, would you show us the data supporting your contentions? You’ve claimed there’s a majority holding a certain position. Certainly you know that because there’s polling data, or responsible scientific research, or some such thing supporting it, right? Then where is that study? Where’s the data?

    Do you believe in evidence-based conclusions, in other words? Or do you prefer to ignore niceties like knowing what one is talking about? That’s the kind of mistake some people think Christians typically make. You’re making it, Patrick, and the result is that you’re not just holding a prejudiced opinion, you’re holding an evidence-free, counter-scientific opinion. And I’ll bet that’s what you thought religious people did!

    The book reviewed in this OP would be a good example of responsible scientific research. I recommend you read it to find out how it’s done.

  21. Patrick, you don’t need BillT to answer the question you asked in #21. I’ve answered it. You’re not stupid enough to think we’re both not involved in this conversation, are you?

  22. Patrick, see the latter part of #19. I agree with BillT. I’m giving you opportunity to realize what you’re doing here. If you don’t want that opportunity, then please say so.

  23. Some pastors advocate for the killing of gays and their congregation just sits there giving silent, tacit, approval.

    I have no idea who these pastors are, but if they exist they are idiots and kooks. How much denouncing is required for idiots like this – seriously? Most people are sane and can easily spot insanity so we’d be preaching to the choir.

    If a congregation of gays or atheists were to tacitly approve the killing of Christians I’m sure those selfsame Christians would be very disturbed by the idea and wonder why no honest gay or atheists speak out against such hate talk.

    We don’t share the same view of morality so you’d expect some differences. I would be disturbed by the idea, but it wouldn’t surprise me if nobody said anything.

  24. You’ve read it into what I’ve said. That’s bigoted, Patrick.

    You haven’t really illustrated what you, personally, mean by anti-Christian behavior or attitude. You haven’t even shown that what I pointed out is false.

    You strive to prevent gays from being married but you do nothing to prevent divorced people from marrying new spouses. Your attitude and behavior to gays is inconsistent with your attitude and behavior to divorced people even though those are both sins in the eyes of God. The only reason you treat one class of sinners better than another class of sinners is because many of them are Christians while gays are mainly not Christians.

    It is your belief that there are anti-Christian groups out there that is really unsubstantiated and bigoted. I don’t know of any gays or atheists who wish harm to Christians. I know many Christians who wish harm to gays and atheists, though.

  25. You strive to prevent gays from being married but you do nothing to prevent divorced people from marrying new spouses.

    Another lie as I already explained and also not true in the Catholic Church.

  26. Again, I never said all Christians hate gays but thinking it over, I’ve come to realize that the more gay-friendly or gay-accepting churches have come from the ranks of the more liberal Christian churches.I’ve seen or read of many of them who will accept gays into their churches as is.

    The gay-hate speech comes from the more conservative, fundamental churches such as the one in Tempe, AZ, who advocated for the killing of gays.

  27. I haven’t shown that what you pointed out is false, Patrick. You’re right. I’ve shown that you’ve made a strong accusation without any reason to believe it’s true.

    My belief about anti-Christian groups is well substantiated. See the OP, for Pete’s sake!

    Good grief. It’s a report by a scientist on a scientifically conducted study showing what you say is “unsubstantiated.” Where’s your science, Patrick? Or don’t you believe in science?

    If you don’t quit with these OBVIOUSLY and easily demonstrably false accusations of bigotry, then you’ll need to find somewhere else to spew them.

  28. Last chance, Patrick. See the discussion policies.

    To think scientifically includes knowing that drawing generalizations from small, biased samples is unscientific and certain to lead to false, biased conclusions.

    Do you believe in thinking scientifically?

  29. Hello, BillT.

    Another lie as I already explained and also not true in the Catholic Church.

    In rereading your comment, you only mentioned your church, not the Catholic church.

    That depends on what church you are talking about. Where I go, we won’t marry people who have had divorces, we won’t marry people who are having pre-martial sex.

    Divorced Catholics do get remarried in the church. Madonna is one of the more famous examples. After divorcing Sean Penn she married Guy Richie in a Catholic church. Maybe in your particular parish this does not happen but it does happen in the Catholic church.

    Hope this helps clear up things.

  30. I think Patrick’s message is this:

    Everyone sins. Christian’s sin. Everyone who sins ought to repent.

  31. Only people who have had an annulment can get remarried in the Catholic Church, Patrick. You’re uninformed as well as being a liar and a bigot.

  32. I saw that already, Patrick. I wrote it.

    You’re evading my questions. Do you or do you not have data to support your opinions? Or will you try to convince us that the rules of this particular chess game make it so that people can draw sociological conclusions without sociological data?

    I said “last chance” last time, but I can’t help being curious how you’re going to try to answer that question, and all the questions leading up to it.

    It will either be enlightening (for you, as you realize you’re making that unscientific error) or instructive (for us, as we see how you try to maintain your position).

    So here’s one more chance for you. Do you consider scientific questions such as I’ve been asking to be irrelevant?

  33. BillT,

    When you read Jesus in the bible and his discourse on marriage and divorce he does not talk about annulments.

  34. Tom,

    Still wiggling that pawn after the king has been checkmated, eh?

    When you present scientific, objective, data regarding anti-christian hate speech and anti-christian hate groups and anti-christian hate crimes then we can talk about my scientific data.

  35. No answer.

    Patrick, you’re making sweeping generalizations about Christians based on a tiny, biased, unrepresentative sample. You know that the effect of those generalizations is to judge and condemn the people you’re interacting with here. You refuse to acknowledge the reality that I have done what you’ve requested–presenting the scientific data–in this very post. You claim that because I haven’t done that (even though actually I have), that gives you freedom not to answer questions about your own biased and unscientific judgment and condemnation.

    You’re in checkmate, Patrick, and you refuse to see it.

    It makes me sad whenever I see someone so blind that he won’t even apply his own purported scientific principles to his own beliefs.


  36. When you read Jesus in the bible and his discourse on marriage and divorce he does not talk about annulments.

    Which has absolutely nothing to do with what you said and doesn’t support what you said in any way. But just to humor you, the Bible does talk about infidelity as a grounds for divorce in Romans 7:2 so there are Biblical grounds for dissolution of a marriage.

  37. Patrick will probably not be replying, BillT. Last chance meant last chance this time. If he says something worth allowing through moderation I might let it post, otherwise he’s done here.

  38. Exchanges like this are weird to me.

    Here we have Patrick preaching the Christian message “repent all who have sinned” because he believes it to be true for EVERYONE – and yet he doesn’t act on that belief. Patrick knows what Christianity teaches, yet he fails to grasp what Christianity teaches.

    Like I said, weird.

  39. I gather Patrick woke up this morning and thought, “Hey, why don’t I post a bunch of bald assertions about how a majority Christians hate gays or want to marginalize them and reduce their legal rights to jobs, housing, etc to zero or want to kill them and see how that goes.” Seems reasonable.

  40. Hello, Tom.

    In previous discussions when we talked about the rabid gay hatred that some Christians have I presented a number of links which you refused to look at. Therefore, I see no reason now to present them again.

  41. There are 97 comments on this blog submitted using the email address you’re now using. I scrolled through them quickly, twice, and found none with the links you say you’ve presented. Please tell me which comment I’ve overlooked. In particular, please tell us all where you found legitimate sociological data to support your sociological conclusions. Please explain why you have repeatedly accused me of presenting conclusions without supporting data, ignoring the oft-mentioned fact that this a blog post that reviews a book on legitimate sociological research. Please explain how your approach here is even approximately legitimate, and I’ll admit I’m wrong and you’re right. In the meantime, though, unless you can accomplish all these impossible tasks (I use that word advisedly), your king is in checkmate, and I’m astonished that you’re pressing such an embarrassingly unscientific, prejudicial position.

    (Your answer was instructive. I wish it had displayed more enlightening on your part.)

  42. I presented a number of links which you refused to look at.

    There are 97 comments on this blog submitted using the email address you’re now using. I scrolled through them quickly and found none with the links you say you’ve presented.

    So, Patrick, who’s entire contribution today was a long list of unsupported and untrue allegations, concludes with another fiction. Really, you wouldn’t believe this if it wasn’t all here to read for yourself. What was the point Patrick? That people who want to convince others that Christians hate gays are willing to lie about it. We all knew that already.

  43. Hostility from individuals is one thing. If it’s from a state government it’s quite another. Here is an example of the latter:

    A judge in Washington state ruled this week that a 70-year-old florist who declined to make flower arrangements for a gay couple’s wedding violated the state’s anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws.

    Mrs. Stutzman has never refused service to gay customers because they were gay. (And she knew that several of her customers were.) She only declined participating in a same sex marriage ceremony because it violated her religious beliefs.

    The U.S. military extends conscientious objector status to certain individuals on religious grounds. Why can’t that state of Washington extend conscientious objector status to a 70 year old florist and grandmother? How is she a threat to society?

    Do gay rights activists really think that bullying, suing, demonizing, vilifying and marginalizing people like Barronelle Stutzman is going to win people like me over to their side? Well, maybe they don’t. Maybe this is really all about intimidating people sitting on the fence. You know– you better go along to get along, or else… That sounds more like fascism than what we would expect to find in a free and open democratic society. Do we really want to continue down that road?

    Regardless of whether or not their position is legal, I would argue that the Washington attorney general and the so called equal rights activists who are suing Barronelle are acting unethically. Most people, including atheists, think that the golden rule (Matthew 7:12) is a good guide for acting ethically. Would those suing Stutzman really want to be treated the way that they are treating her? I have a hard time believing that they would. Maybe it’s the golden rule with which they have a problem.

    However, if that’s the case, then maybe we’re in deeper trouble than I have thought.

  44. If Mrs. Stutzman declined to provide her business’ services for a mixed-race marriage because it violated her religious beliefs, would you support her decision? Why or why not?

  45. If I said I wouldn’t support her decision in that case, would you suggest that my answer had something to do with the case actually being discussed? Why or why not?

  46. Yes, because I would then ask why you would support her decision in one case and not the other, since in both cases she is declining to participate in something that violates her religious beliefs.

  47. Let’s make sure we’re making proper distinctions here.

    Would I support her decision in that hypothetical case? No. It would be unbiblical, unchristian, and wrong, unlike her actual decision not to support SSM.

    Would I support her right to make a wrong decision, if she made it on religious grounds? That’s a separate question, and it’s considerably more complicated, isn’t it? Religious freedom is guaranteed in the Constitution, but everyone agrees that it has limits, just like everyone agrees that marriage equality has limits.

    Personally I find what-if cases like the one you’ve posed here to be unhelpful. They manufacture problems, and call upon principles that are supported by virtually no religion. (Some religious persons have advanced those supposed principles, but they were and are clearly wrong to do so, based on any major religion I’m aware of.)

    So you’re suggesting that we draw conclusions from situation A, where no legitimate religious belief is involved, and apply it to situation B, where there are clear religious and natural-law principles of conscience involved.

    Before we follow you down the trail of debating the merits of this hypothetical decision by a hypothetical Mrs. Stutzmann, I’d say you owe us some reason to think that the two cases are sufficiently related to be worth talking about.

    In order to get there I think you’re going to have to think through the differences between principles of real religions versus made-up hypotheticals. You’re also going to need to think through the work done in legislation and case law to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate expressions of religious freedom.

    You could ask us to do that work, but I can’t think of any reason that onus should lie on anyone but you.

  48. Brap Gronk,

    The issue, I believe, for a SSM is that people like florists and bakers are more than just “arms length” vendors. These are people who have to be directly involved in the details of the ceremony and the people involved. It’s not like selling someone a gallon of milk or fixing their car. Vendors for weddings are, in a real sense, part of the wedding. What I don’t get is why would someone who is getting married want to force someone who doesn’t want to be involved in their wedding to be so. That must make for such a touching wedding story. “Hey, what we liked most about our wedding was when we forced the baker to make us a cake or go to jail.” Lovely.

  49. Tom – Would my hypothetical scenario have been so far-fetched around the time of Loving vs. Virginia?

  50. Back then there were no options. Today there are florists everywhere. That is one meaningful difference to consider.

  51. How ironic. Brap Gronk can’t give any reasons as to why Barronelle Stutzman was unjustified in the real actual case so he has to immediately make up a hypothetical—actually a very dissimilar hypothetical. The real scary thing is that this type of reasoning has gone mainstream. You’ll find some of it on CNN, a lot more of it on MSNBC. The NY Times? I don’t know. I haven’t read it for years. Anyone else have an opinion?

  52. BillT – I agree, there is a difference in vendor types. So can you answer my question?

    SteveK – Are there plenty of florists even in rural areas? If there had been plenty of lunch counters in the vicinity willing to serve people of color in the early 1960s would that have been justification for one of them not to?

    JAD – Let’s say I agree Mrs. Stutzman was justified to deny service to a same sex couple on religious grounds. (I hope that’s not too hypothetical for you.) I also think her mother was justified, on religious grounds, to deny service to an interracial couple 50 years ago. Am I wrong?

    I’m simply curious whether or not denial of service based on violation of religious beliefs is sufficient justification in both scenarios. As Tom said earlier, everyone agrees that religious freedom has its limits. Both scenarios deal with the legally recognized marriage of two individuals, and in both cases those marriages were at one time not legally recognized and those relationships were far from being accepted by the majority of the population. In both cases, religious reasons were used to argue against those marriages. (I was a little young to remember Loving vs. Virginia, but I don’t think something along the lines of “God intended for the races to be separate” was terribly uncommon.) I guess if there is something so dissimilar about these two scenarios that makes it an unreasonable comparison, someone will need to spell it out for me.

    If the (hypothetical) denial of service to the interracial couple on religious grounds was not justified because that is (or was) a minority religious viewpoint, then I’m curious how to determine when a minority viewpoint has enough support to justify denial of service based on religious grounds. (Conversely, when does a formerly majority viewpoint lose enough support such that it can no longer be used to justify denial of service on religious grounds?)

  53. Tom wrote the following this past June right after the SCOTUS decision:

    By the way, anti-miscegenation laws were an aberration in the history of marriage. It was never thought by anyone that persons of different sexes couldn’t get married. In fact, it was always understood that whites and blacks could marry each other. AM laws didn’t make it suddenly impossible, they made it suddenly a criminal act. SSM, on the other hand, is a case where the courts said that what was never before considered even remotely thinkable was in fact a basic human right, and that what we have always understood to be true about marriage has always been wrong. That’s an entirely, completely, totally different kind of pronouncement.

    I think he did a great job in pointing how SSM is dissimilar to the issues raised in Loving.

  54. Brap,
    I don’t want to force anyone to violate their good conscience, assuming it is sincere (even sincerely wrong) because I wouldn’t want that done to me. That’s the way I operate.

    There’s usually a workaround involving compromise if both parties are willing to do that, but it seems like today that option is never a real option. Why? Because everyone is into ME, ME, ME these days and the only acceptable option is: YOU. MUST. COMPLY. WITH. ME.

  55. SteveK-

    Speaking of compromises, I believe Baronelle Stutzman was willing to sell her friend the materials so that he could make his own “wedding” decorations out of them. She just was not going to create those decorations herself. It also seems to me bakers could make and sell basic, generic cakes that others could stack and decorate as they wish to make a wedding cake out of (or any other kind of cake). The cake at my wedding was actually assembled and the final decorating done by our planner because it was not logistically possible for the baker to do it.

    I suspect the issue with compromises for ss”m” advocates is that their goal is that so called ssm is treated by all just like marriage. If compromises are allowed then some can continue not treating ss”m” as if it were marriage. Their position simply does not lend itself to any compromises whatsoever.

  56. Brap,

    These may sound like odd questions but I hope you give them some thought and also consider how they relate to the questions you are asking:

    -Can a man and woman same sex marry each other?

    -Is interracial marriage a distinct type of relationship different than same race marriage, or is it just a marriage that happens to be between a couple that does not share the same racial background?

  57. I agree, there is a difference in vendor types. So can you answer my question?

    Brap Gronk,

    So there is a difference in vendor types resulting in what? Do they get to exercise their conscience and thus are legally allowed to not participate in the SSM? If so, then if there if there is an issue of conscience for your vendor then the same would apply.

  58. Here is the bottom line: Barronelle Stutzman denied no one their rights. Robert Ingersoll, whose “marriage” she refused to provide flowers for, was perfectly free to find another florist, pretend he was getting married etc. Nothing she did took away those rights. It is her first amendment constitutional rights, her freedom of conscience that is being violated by the State of Washington.

  59. Not only are Barronelle Stutzman’s constitutional rights of conscience and religion being violated, the State of Washington is violating The First Amendment’s establishment clause, which reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” Rightly or wrongly, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled (in numerous past rulings) that the establishment clause also applies to state and local governments. How is the State of Washington violating the establishment clause? While marriages and marriage licenses may legally be non-religious or “civil,” historically religions have viewed marriage as a religious institution. Wedding ceremonies are traditionally religious rites (r-i-t-e-s), which is why they are performed in churches, officiated by clergy, with prayer, a sermon and religious music.

    It’s obvious that Mrs. Stutzman views weddings this way. So when the state tries to force her to provide a service to a customer that would violate her deeply held religious convictions, it’s also ruling on the establishment of religion. The state should have no interest beyond the legal documentation of marriage licenses. In other words, you don’t need cakes, flowers or photograph’s to become legally married. All that is required is a license, a justice of the peace, a pen and a couple of signatures.

  60. I regularly interact with a person on another site who is employed at a public university in California. This person is very much pro so called gay rights and generally antagonistic to traditional/Christian views. In a recent discussion their schools employment policy was mentioned. This lead me asking if Ryan T Anderson or Sherif Girgis could be employed at that school. After some beating around the bush, the answer was that they probably could not be and that this is entirely reasonable because of their discriminatory views. (Although, this person did mention multiple times they should be and probably would be allowed to speak/lecture at the school).

  61. DR84,

    [T]his person did mention multiple times they [Anderson and Girgis] should be and probably would be allowed to speak/lecture at the school.

    You think? You’d better think again.

    An upcoming conference[spring 2014] on heterosexual marriage is being denounced as hate speech by the Stanford Graduate Student Council (GSC), which is seeking to quash the event. Last week, the council at the top-ranked California university voted ten to two to deny funding for the event “Communicating Values: Marriage, Family, and Media,” sponsored by the Stanford Anscombe Society.

    Read more at:

    And who were to be some of the speakers at this 2014 conference? Would you be surprised if I told you, Ryan Anderson and Sherif Girgis?–the-media-conference.html

    But was funding denied because of them?

    According to The Stanford Daily:

    SAS had sought $600 in honoraria funds from the GSC for conference speakers. However, members of GradQ, the queer graduate student organization, criticized the speaker list–which included Robert Lopez, Kellie Fiedorek and Ryan Anderson–as inappropriately controversial.

    Apparently Girgis was “acceptable.” The others were right up there with the infamous David Duke.

    Why don’t you ask your friend what he (or she) thinks about that?

    (Of course Stanford is technically not a “public” university. However, I do believe they accept taxpayer funding.)

  62. JAD-

    I am aware of that situation at Stanford and I dont expect it would be much different at a public institution in California. Regardless, suggesting that Anderson and Girgis should be free to speak at a (public) school yet because of their public views be barred from employment is hardly comforting. If they cannot be employed, neither can any (traditionally minded) Christian who has not kept their beliefs to themselves.

    I suspect those that have expressed hostile views about Christians or support laws/rules that would effectively bar open Christians from public employment would not consider themselves hostile at all. They probably think of themselves as right…righteous even. I am actually quite confident of this. I am also confident that they do not regard us as Christians but instead as “Christians”, and thus they can also claim they are welcoming of all regardless of their religion.

  63. Take a look at another quote from The Stanford Daily article:

    “This issue walks a very fine line between the freedom of speech and the discrimination of a minority, but no one has anything but the right intentions in mind,” González-Maldonado said of the GSC members’ votes.

    Notice the skewed view of tolerance. Let me unpack it for you:

    We only tolerate ideas with which we agree.

    America would not exist if historically that had been our view of tolerance. A free open and democratic society can only exist if it allows a diversity of beliefs, opinions and ideas and the free expression of those beliefs, opinions and ideas. The secular-progressive left hides behind the mirage of cultural diversity, especially using groups—“minorities”– that have been historically oppressed. They then use that pretense of toleration to deny the legitimate, constitutional rights of people espousing positions with which they disagree. But that’s not tolerance at all. We can only tolerate people with whom we disagree. That something students at Stanford apparently don’t understand, and that’s scary.

  64. JAD-

    Above in this thread Patrick used the Christian opposition to sexuality being protected in anti-discrimination employment (and in general) as an example of our supposed hatred of people that identify as homosexual. I wonder how many who share his view would think that our views on marriage and sexual morality should be protected by anti-discrimination laws? As in, that there should be such a law that forbids an employer from firing an employee because of that persons known views on marriage and sexual morality. Whether this is an all new law (like FADA) or simply explicitly understood to be protected by existing anti-discrimination law (which I doubt is the case post Obergefell).

    My hunch is not many would be, and they would probably find such protection both unconscionable and believe it to be unconstitutional.

    I think what you have pointed out about their understanding of tolerance would lead them to their opposition of such laws. Of course, they would also continue to accuse us of hatred against gays because of our opposition and yet insist they are not hateful for theirs. Out of tolerance.

  65. The secular progressive’s so-called tolerance is a façade that is so thin that only a complete fool cannot see through it. For example, what happens if you’re gay but come out for “so called” traditional family values?

    The fashion community and its celebrity devotees see themselves as free-thinking, liberal-minded individuals, but in fact, artistic types tend to cling to politically correct groupthink. So when one of their number goes against the grain on a particular issue, the others often unite in disproportionate outrage. [As fashion “designer icons Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana” found out.]

    If you read preceding article you’ll see that these so called liberals do not hesitate to turn on and consume their own— while not yet bloody or violent, it’s frightingly similar to the false utopian idealism that was behind the French revolution.

    As you can see, the secular progressive’s contempt goes far beyond Christianity and religion. They do not tolerate any kind of traditional value from any source, no matter how much it has been valued.

    Mourning the death of traditional family values seems silly when you actually sit down and work out what those values were: fulfilling defined gender roles that you may not have enjoyed or wanted; staying together in an unhappy marriage for the “sake of the children” (pah!); ostracising anyone who dares not to abide by these “values”. Gay men have actually been having children since year dot; it’s just that thanks to the all-pervading importance of “traditional family values” that they’ve felt the need to pretend to be in love with a woman to do it. It is preposterous to think that we were better off 30, 40 or 50 years ago than we are now, or that the country is populated by feral children who will grow in to dysfunctional adults simply because they happen to not have been produced in a marital bed by a man and a woman under the same roof. Yes, parenting might be easier if you happen to be part of a straight couple, but it certainly doesn’t make you any better at it…

    Perhaps the traditional family has had its day. But then perhaps it never really existed in the first place. And perhaps it is time that we celebrated that.

    People with that kind of conceit have not only a complete ignorance history as well as the present. I know a lot of people from good families. They’re doing well as are their families. In other words, for many, many people family values are alive and doing well. It seems to me that the PC left can’t even admit that. They can’t even tolerate peaceful coexistence. Traditional family values is something that has to be fought against and defeated… Why?

  66. Recently, during a lecture at Harvard Law School U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy responded to a student’s question about the Kim Davis case by invoking or violating or abusing Godwin’s law (depending, of course, on your perspective.)

    Referring to laws governing both marriage and abortion, the young man asked Kennedy, “Would you say that there are any state or federal officials with authority to act according to her own judgment of the truth of new insights or of the soundness of the court’s constitutional interpretation, or would it be illegal for any federal official or state official to enforce or to act according to the old understanding of life and the Constitution that she still judges to be the truth of the matter?”
    The justice responded by pointing out that only three judges resigned during Germany’s Third Reich — the government of Adolf Hitler — and said, “Great respect, it seems to me, has to be given to people who resign rather than do something they view as morally wrong, in order to make a point. However, the rule of law is that, as a public official, in performing your legal duties, you are bound to enforce the law.”

    Read more at:

    How ironic! As David French points out, Kennedy, “in his own analogy he’s playing the role of the Nazis… [Following that] reasoning. If he admires the three judges who resigned rather than comply with Nazi directives, how much more should he respect judges who actively resisted?”

    Is it too much of an exaggeration to call people who defend Kennedy’s Obergefell decision fascists?

    However, I agree we should stop talking about a slippery slope. It’s too late for that. We have already slid all the way to the bottom.

  67. Since I have renounced my Southern Baptist upbringing and membership and become a Quaker, I have noticed something I did not expect – a profound respect and even affection from the non-religious and atheists.

    Apparently Christians that truly think and act as Christ would, to the best of their ability, warm the hearts of non-believers.

  68. Probably the one interpretation you wouldn’t want us to take from it (I hope) is the one that goes along these lines: “Since I gave up my former judgmentalism and self-righteousness, and started thinking and acting like Christ — unlike all those Southern Baptists, who unlike me, really aren’t seeking to follow Christ to the best of their ability — I find that unbelievers and atheists like me better.”

    I don’t think you intended to say that, but I do think you might want to rewrite your comment, using other wording that wouldn’t have that particular potential interpretation so near to the surface.

  69. By the way, did Christ really come to warm the hearts of unbelievers? See Luke 19:1-10. Take special note of verse 10, but be aware the question doesn’t have a simple answer, so please take the whole passage into account.

  70. @#72 I wrote:

    “Is it too much of an exaggeration to call people who defend Kennedy’s Obergefell decision fascists?”

    I was expecting some pushback for being so provocative… two weeks later?

    I would say that all I hear is the chirping of crickets, but the November frost has killed them all. Of course, I mean that literally but it appears to have carried over metaphorically.

    Since then there have been some other examples of fascism cropping up on American university and college campuses. Are there parallels with 1930’s Germany? While, I don’t know if he agrees with me about Obergefell, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz seems to think so. Please watch the following interview.

  71. The secular-progressive agenda on college campuses claims to be promoting tolerance. However, the racial, gender, sexual diversity, inclusiveness and plurality it promotes, while having the pretense of tolerance, is not the same as ideological and cultural tolerance. It’s actually a kind of pseudo-tolerance. In other words, diversity, inclusiveness and plurality do not equal tolerance. Indeed if you don’t agree with the secular-progressive ideology and agenda then things like race and gender don’t matter. They only “tolerate” people who agree with them ideologically.

    Their ideological thought police have no qualms about discriminating against you, marginalizing and demonizing you or trying to destroy your life and career. The ethic of sensitivity that they preach so self-righteously quickly disappears along with the phony pretense of tolerance.

    Here is an example a black female college professor whose only crime was not having the right politically correct beliefs.

    If this isn’t an example of a double standard and hypocrisy on the part of the secular-progressive left, I don’t know what is.

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