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The hypocrisy of the religious right

Crommunist is back from vacation, but still slowly putting his life back together. I will be posting something every day, but don’t expect it to be up to my usual standard until next week.

So obviously this title will raise exactly zero eyebrows among those who have read my previous discussions of religion. I find so many aspects of religious expression hypocritical (accusing atheists of arrogance whilst insisting that the universe is created specifically for them, accusing others of immorality whilst maintaining a hideous behavioural track record), there is one form of hypocrisy that I find unique among the political right wing:

A florist in Riverview, N.B., is refusing to provide wedding flowers to a same-sex couple, according to the event’s planner. After agreeing to provide the flowers for a wedding, Kim Evans of Petals and Promises Wedding Flowers sent an email last month to the couple, saying she didn’t know it was a same-sex wedding and would have no part of the ceremony. “I am choosing to decline your business. As a born-again Christian, I must respect my conscience before God and have no part in this matter,” the email said.

The religious right has two gods: their own perverted vision of Yahweh as some kind of doting father cum eternally judgmental asshole, and free market capitalism. If one takes even a fleeting glance at the agenda of the Republican party of the United States (and anyone who thinks that Canadian Conservatives are functionally different from Republicans, or that the evangelical wing of the Christian faith is anything other than CPC boosters needs to pull her/his head firmly from her/his asshole and take a look around), one cannot help but be inundated by people who’ve never cracked Friedmann in their lives talking about “common sense economics” and the virtues of small government.

It is certainly defensible to hold these two positions in concert, although it should be fairly obvious that neither one is contingent upon the other. It does not follow, for example, that limited government is necessary because Yahweh deems it so. Conversely, being a laissez faire capitalist who believes in allowing the chips to fall as they may does not lead one down the path to accepting the supremacy of Jesus Christ. The conflation of the two non-overlapping positions is a carefully constructed marriage, match-made by the Republican party in an attempt to get a single-issue voting bloc.

Laissez-faire capitalism dictates that someone should attempt to make as much money from a potential customer as possible, provided that doing so does not break the law (well, strictly speaking it doesn’t, but I’ve never encountered a libertarian or conservative who believes that people should flout the law to make money). Considering that gay marriage is legal in Canada, Ms. Evans is behaving in a decidedly anti-capitalist way by refusing to provide a service to a law-abiding person.

Now I have no proof that Ms. Evans is a conservative. My suspicion in this matter stems from the fact that I have yet to meet any evangelical who does not also immediately grant the superiority of unregulated free markets. If she is not a conservative, she should be strongly condemned by conservatives for being anti-capitalist. However, the comments section overfloweth with supportive comments from her CPC brethren.

Dollars to donuts this is going to soon end up on a Christian website as a “prime example” of religious persecution against Christians.

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Comments

  1. CHADMAC says

    The conflation of the religious right and the conservative capitalist right has always seemed like a hypocritical ploy to suck in conservative voters.

    That’s probably why I have a print of the following artwork framed on my wall:

    http://www.pennerhowell.com/jlu.html

  2. says

    That’s cute. Thanks for the link and comment.

    The religious vote was once courted by the left, but as evangelical Christianity became more active, the bits about charity and helping the poor was overpowered by an anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-government platform that was expertly fielded by the right.

  3. grassrute says

    “If she is not a conservative, she should be strongly condemned by conservatives for being anti-capitalist.”
    It’s “Free Market” not “Compulsory Market” eh!
    From a Christian standpoint, civil disobedience isn’t permitted by the Bible unless the Christian is required to do what contradicts biblical teaching. In this case, participating in a gay-marriage ceremony falls into that category. You can be rest assured that Kim would have no difficulty conducting business with the couple in another setting.

  4. says

    Where does the Bible say anything about providing services to a wedding? It takes issue with gay sex, but that’s about it. By your logic, Christians shouldn’t be working in courthouses as clerks, since some judges will be presiding over gay marriages.

    Your point about it not being a compulsory market is a fair one though. The libertarian argument is that people should be allowed to discriminate, and that the market will punish those that do, once people become outraged about the discrimination and boycott the offending business. Of course evidence doesn’t bear that out, but that’s beside the point.

  5. grassrute says

    I’ve been short on time,hence the delay. “Where does the Bible say anything about providing services to a wedding?” Throughout church history there has always been a sharp contrast between the legalistic Pharisee type who follow the letter of the law and those who follow the spirit of the law. To participate in a ceremony that celebrates what the bible forbids would conflict with that spirit. My eyes tend to roll when I hear “it doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that I can’t do that” especially when coming off the lips of a Christian.
    I will say straight out that I believe Kim is being persecuted. It’s interesting that atheists/humanists don’t want religious values forced on them, when in contrast, atheists/humanists have no problem when their “values” being forced on the religious at the hands of the government. If big government is going to force all citizens into conformity, then I prefer the freedom and diversity that will be protected under small government.
    I fully support Kim’s right to conduct business with whoever she pleases. If she chose to decline the business because the groom had a crooked nose -although ridiculous- it’s her prerogative.

  6. says

    No problem, I’m just always glad you don’t get sick of me and quit :P

    My concern about the “spirit of the law” argument is that it’s highly subjective. I can understand judges making decisions based on the “spirit of the law”, but even then there is a series of appelate courts. When an individual decides to interpret the “law” as they see fit, it becomes incredibly problematic. That’s why the letter of the law must be clear – in this case it is not clear. Should Christians not provide any services to gay people, or is it only restricted to weddings? What about services that are ancillary to the wedding, like a Christian who owns a Moore’s – should she refuse to sell tuxedos to gay people in case they use them to get married? Should airline pilots refuse to fly gay people to Hawaii or Niagara Falls for a wedding? What is the law?

    There is a law that makes it illegal to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation. All Canadians that engage in commerce with the public are bound by that law, regardless of their religion. If Kim was an atheist who just doesn’t like gay people and refuses to serve them, she’d face the exact same penalties. That is not religious discrimination – surely you can see that. Discrimination would be if Christians are particularly targeted by a law, which is not the case here. Everyone is barred from such discrimination. Calling it ‘persecution of Christians’ undermines the real persecution of Christians that is happening in many places in the world.

    The “atheist values” you’re talking about are the law. You may not agree with the law, but it is the law. It’s written into the Charter. It’s the same Charter that protects Christians, Muslims, Jews, gays, straight people, women, men, transpeople (now)… all these groups are equal before the law. I’m sure you’re not opposed to equality before the law, just as I’m sure you don’t think that certain groups should be granted special exemptions based on religion. That’s the same law that keeps Sharia from ever becoming an issue here, and you and I can both thank our lucky stars for that. Unless that’s the “small government” you’re talking about, in which case I’m definitely not on the same page as you.

    We know from history that the kind of system that you’re proposing – where people are free to discriminate against people they don’t like – leads to widespread actual persecution of minority groups. That’s why we had to pass laws against it. Are you really in favour of a system that would permit businesses to refuse service to me because I’m black? Or a system that would make Jews de facto second-class citizens? Or a system that would make women unable to shop in certain places without their husbands? Because that’s what happens in the “it’s her prerogative” world. And if you think that society has “progressed” to the point where those kinds of things wouldn’t happen anymore, then a) thank the anti-discrimination laws, and b) you need to take a closer look at how minority groups get treated, even in today’s atheist secular utopia.

  7. grassrute says

    I can understand your concern. Even in Canadian law clarity may be difficult to achieve at times. Some citizens will stay as close to the line as they can without crossing while others don’t venture near the line.
    Whether or not Christians provide services to gay people is entirely up to the individual. While I may not agree with someone who refuses to provide a service to an individual who is gay, I don’t believe forcing the individual is the answer. I believe education and dialogue is a better method.
    What is the law? There is no law forbidding a Christian do conduct business with a gay person. Nor is there a law forbidding a Christian from doing business with non-Christians and/or those who engage in various forms of sinful behaviour. Doing business with gay people is not the same as promoting or the approval of homosexuality. The ceremony is a celebration of that lifestyle. I’d like to use polygamy as an example. In the past you have taken a stance against polygamy and made clear your opposition to legalizing it. Would you also support a law banning a man living with more than one woman? What if both women were to have children by this man? I am sure you wouldn’t support criminalizing such activity, yet you don’t support the man marrying both women. By having this position you make a clear distinction between permitting such “families” to reside in Canada and would even likely do business with them, while refusing to permit a marriage ceremony that recognizes both women as his wives. To permit the ceremony and to allow a marriage certificate to the man for both women is to endorse such behaviour. If I’m wrong about your position on this, feel free to correct me.
    You mention the law making it illegal to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation. I was opposed to the bill that added “sexual orientation” to the list of identifiable groups when they were passed, not because I support discriminating against gays, but because of cases like this one with Kim. In addition to this, aren’t there a large number of men who are oriented to desire more than one woman? I’m opposed to polygamy, but if being apposed to gay marriage is discrimination, so is being apposed to polygamy.
    Would I permit someone to discriminate against you because you’re black? Absolutely not! I do, however, question the wisdom of forcing a racist bigot to engage in business activities with blacks. Will you also force them to shop at stores that are owned by blacks? Where do you draw the line? For the record, I’m not a libertarian. I am still learning where government intervention should begin and personal responsibility end.

  8. says

    It’s really not a question of ‘near the line’ on this one – some things are illegal and some things aren’t. Discrimination on the basis of skin, sexual orientation, etc. is illegal. If you believe in the rule of law, then you can’t possibly think that Christians should be exempt from certain laws just because they’re Christian.

    You’ve given me a bunch of things that the law isn’t – what is the law?

    I will expand on my feelings about polygamy in a post next week, but if it was legal and I refused to provide whatever services I provide to the public based on my feelings about that kind of marriage, then I’d be in violation of the law. That’s not persecution. That’s consistency. I’m not required by law to LIKE it, I’m simply required to provide the same services to a polyamorous group as I would to a monogamous couple. That’s the ‘line’ I draw – obeying the law.

    The problem with your proposed solution is that it doesn’t work. All it does is lead to deeply-entrenched discrimination against unpopular groups. Hence the need to make anti-discrimination laws. We don’t need a law that says you’re not allowed to eat your own face – such a law is unnecessary since nobody wants to do that. People have discriminated and do discriminate against gay people, PoCs, women, transpeople, and the elderly. Those laws are necessary.

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