Overstock Executive Pushes Pointless Bill


Looks like we have another clueless rich guy willing to spend big money to peddle unjustified fear — the very definition of demagoguery — and unnecessary legislation. This time it’s Jonathan Johnson, executive vice chairman of Overstock.com, who is pushing a law in Utah to prevent churches from having to perform same-sex marriages.

“People may have said we don’t need this six months ago,” Johnson said. “I think with what the Supreme Court did earlier this summer people are less likely to say that now.”…

“Equal protection seems to be unbounded and, speaking politically, it feels like what’s fair always wins over what might be right,” he said. “But at end of day when equal protection and First Amendment free exercise of religion rights butt up against each other, then churches should be able to practice what they preach and believe.”

Anticipating such a constitutional collision, Johnson is crafting a proposed amendment that would prohibit requiring a religious organization to “solemnize, officiate in, or recognize any particular marriage or religious rite of marriage in violation of its beliefs,” according to a preliminary draft.

You mean you want to protect the rights that churches already have under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the ministerial exception and dozens of Supreme Court rulings? Yeah, we need yet another layer of protection. For crying out loud, is there anyone, even the most strident proponent of same-sex marriage, who thinks churches should be forced to perform such marriages? Not only are they demanding more protection against something that can’t happen under multiple laws and court rulings at every level of government, they want protection against something that no one actually proposes.

There are really only three options here: He’s either abysmally ignorant, paranoid to the point of being delusional, or he’s just a demagogue. Take your pick.

Comments

  1. John Pieret says

    it feels like what’s fair always wins over what might be right

    Because “fair” and “right” are such disparate concepts.

    I vote that he is an abysmally ignorant paranoid demagogue.

  2. says

    churches perform weddings. marriages are the legal contract you do in a government office. kind of different and too often conflated. churches don’t have to do the marriages as it is, they do the wedding and no movement for equal rights has been about weddings in churches, it’s been about a legal recognition of marriage. this should be pointed out every time this sort of discussion comes up.

  3. eric says

    is there anyone, even the most strident proponent of same-sex marriage, who thinks churches should be forced to perform such marriages?

    Well, if they rent their space to the public for other non-sectarian purposes, then yes, they should have to rent to gays for non-sectarian purposes without discrimination. You can reserve your church for church services and not rent it out at all. Or, you can rent your church space out to the local charities for bingo. But what you can’t do is decide that only the white charities get to rent your space for bingo. The same logic should be true for gay/straight, and for other rental uses.

  4. Artor says

    I’m with John above. Your last line suggest that we can pick only one of the options. My guess is all three.

  5. Robert B. says

    I thought the headline meant that having time to propose a pointless law meant that some mayor, governor, or president was surplus to requirements, and could be dismissed without harming the government.

  6. gshelley says

    Is it just same sex marriages they will be protected from performing, or will people be allowed to refuse mixed race marriages, marriages where the woman isn’t a virgin, divorced people or people who don’t attend their church?

  7. raven says

    California District Attorneys Sue Overstock.com for Defrauding …
    beforeitsnews .com/…/california-district-attorneys-sue-overstock-com-for…‎

    Nov 23, 2010 – Beginning on a date no later than January 1, 2006, Overstock routinely and systematically made untrue and misleading comparative …

    Overstock.com is a pretty slimey company.

    They’ve sued many people over the years for criticizing them and their business practices and mostly lost.

    Live by the lawsuit, die by the lawsuit. They are now being sued by California DA’s for fraud.

    I decided long ago to never buy anything from them or even visit their website.

  8. RickR says

    “Equal protection seems to be unbounded and, speaking politically, it feels like what’s fair always wins over what might be right,”

    Translation: “Please know that I’m an asshole.”

    Well, I guess I won’t be buying anything from Overstock again.

    I quit buying anything from them years ago. Another right wing business owner who would collect my money and use it to fight against my civil rights.

  9. says

    raven “I decided long ago to never buy anything from them or even visit their website.”
    I visit their website, and when the salesman comes around I say “I’m just looking”. Also, I have no idea how the internet works.

  10. Mr Ed says

    Raven never knew what I thought was incompetence was systematic. Tried buying a book and without any notice to me they cancelled the order, charged my card and gave me a store credit. When I complained the reversed the charges but in the very same breath asked if I wanted to buy some sheets. I wasn’t sure I was speaking to a human.

    I understand this religious homophobia but it is the height of stupidity to public out yourself as a homophobe to support a law that isn’t needed. You don’t need to give yourself bad press.

  11. Michael Heath says

    Obviously Jonathan Johnson’s argument is defective given a key false premise; however and it’s a biggie, his argument is far superior to the typical arguments predominately used by conservative Christians to promote legislative bigotry towards gays. At least Mr. Johnson’s implying that gays’ equal protection rights have been and in some cases continue to be compromised, which is why he’s imagining conservative Christian church members’ religious freedom rights are threatened.

    I think this is the very first conservative Christian argument I’ve encountered that didn’t avoid the reality what they want does in fact infringe upon gays’ equal protection rights. All the rest avoid or deny this reality (sound familiar?).

    So kudos to Mr. Johnson are in order, while continued condemnation of his primary argument is well-earned. I perceive that nearly all conservative Christians have faith they’re the sole protectors of American liberty while instead being the primary obstacle to individuals enjoying the equal protection of their respective liberty rights, with no close seconds. The obvious handful not subscribing here would be the relative handful of Christian reconstructionists who abhor the Constitution, where they’re an outlier group.

  12. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    For crying out loud, is there anyone, even the most strident proponent of same-sex marriage, who thinks churches should be forced to perform such marriages? Not only are they demanding more protection against something that can’t happen under multiple laws and court rulings at every level of government, they want protection against something that no one actually proposes.

    There is a legitimate fear I think conservative Christians should consider. And that’s the fact their churches are able to enjoy tax exempt status in spite of their misogyny along with their bigotry towards gays and their children. I for one hope some day that will be hasten the end to churches enjoying tax exemptions, where it’ll start with those churches that infringe upon the rights of females, gays, and the family member of gays.

    So yeah, I would love to see the Baptists debate what’s more important to them, maintaining their institutionalized hatred towards gays and females, or remaining tax exempt. Imagine how that would get acted out.

  13. vilstef says

    Ed wrote:

    There are really only three options here: He’s either abysmally ignorant, paranoid to the point of being delusional, or he’s just a demagogue. Take your pick.

    The crazy Christian Conservatives are a complicated lot . I’ll say he’s all three.

  14. leskimopie says

    Is this the same guy who thinks that a Sith lord is actively trying to destroy his business? Or was that a different leader at overstock.com?

  15. Chiroptera says

    Ed Brayton: For crying out loud, is there anyone, even the most strident proponent of same-sex marriage, who thinks churches should be forced to perform such marriages?

    Well, if the solemnizing of a marriage is a necessary step for it to be valid (and I think that it is in some states), and if a minister is allowed to do the solemnizing, then I think an argument can be made that the minister is acting as an agent of the state and should lose the privilege of choosing who she may or may not perform this important state duty.

    Then again, I’m a proponent of a marriage being valid the minute it’s signed in the county clerk’s office (or whoever the relevant agent is in the state) and the appropriate oath is taken by the clerk. Any ceremonial aspect with any third party should be entirely optional.

  16. eric says

    Well, if the solemnizing of a marriage is a necessary step for it to be valid (and I think that it is in some states), and if a minister is allowed to do the solemnizing, then I think an argument can be made that the minister is acting as an agent of the state and should lose the privilege of choosing who she may or may not perform this important state duty.

    That, however, does not necessarily involve the church as a building or an organization, and this particular complaint is about churches being forced to host gay marriages. I do in fact think that, if a church rents its location out to the public for straight marriage ceremonies of a different sect, then there is a strong argument to be made that they cannot arbitrarily decide not to rent it out for gay marriages of a different sect. But I don’t think a legal requirement for solemnization gives anyone the right to walk up to a random church and say “hey, you must host my wedding because the guy who works here performs solemnizations.” At the very very best (and I don’t even agree with this), your legal argument would lead to “the guy who works here must come out of his building and solemnize my wedding.”

  17. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    I think that a gay-friendly church should contact this chucklehead, say that they agree, and that they want to have a rider saying that they shouldn’t be force to perform straight weddings. That doesn’t mean that they won’t (I doubt that they’re bigoted in that way), but it might be fun to see his head explode.

    Or it would be fun to contact one of those KKK or aryan brotherhood churches (anonymously) inform them of this, and suggest they join forces and demand a bill saying that they not be required to perform mixed, non-white, Jewish, Moslem… etc. weddings either.

  18. greg1466 says

    There are really only three options here: He’s either abysmally ignorant, paranoid to the point of being delusional, or he’s just a demagogue.

    As usual in these situations, I choose “all of the above”.

  19. mjmiller says

    Well, if the solemnizing of a marriage is a necessary step for it to be valid (and I think that it is in some states)

    Chiroptera
    exactly so.
    Are there any states which require a “religious solemnization” (for lack of a better phrase) ceremony before ones marriage may be considered valid. I recognize that there are many officials licensed by the various states who may provide this “solemnization” as a non-secular ritual , including by the way bankruptcy judges, but are there states which require this to be performed by religious figure acting as an agent of the state?
    I’m thinking churches should be able to determine which “weddings” they sanctify in holy matrimony, whatever their bigoted views, but should get out of the “marriage” business altogether.

  20. thascius says

    @6-They’re already allowed to refuse to perform “mixed race marriages, marriages where the woman isn’t a virgin, divorced people or people who don’t attend their church” as well as same sex marriage. Either the guy proposing this really doesn’t have any idea of how such things actually work or the point is to get more anti-gay bigotry written into the law. Or both.

  21. freehand says

    John Pieret: I vote that he is an abysmally ignorant paranoid demagogue.
    .
    Wait – is this the Unitarian, or the Trinitarian position? I always get those mixed up.

  22. Erp says

    Perhaps he thinks Utah has an established church like England has? There for the established church (the Church of England) to marry same-sex couples would require Parliament to pass a law (this is because all church law for the established church right down to the approval of official hymnals and prayerbooks requires Parliament to approve it).

  23. Francisco Bacopa says

    mjmiller up at #22:

    I am pretty sure no state in the US requires religious solemnization. I think most states are similar to Texas in that you file the papers and sign them with an authorized County official as a witness and you are then married. Authority to perform marriages is also delegated most clergy, but their participation is in no way required.

    I think the French do it a better way. Clergy have no power whatsoever to perform marriages. There’s a scene near the beginning of the first episode of The Day the Universe Changed where a couple has two weddings. The families crowd into a local courthouse and have a civil ceremony, and them pile into a bunch of cars and drive out to a church in the countryside for a church wedding. That seems to be more in the spirit of separation of church and state.

    I’ve also been to a wedding between two men that was officiated by a minister of the Christian Church, DOC. Not legally binding, but taken very seriously by most of the participants, including me.

  24. abb3w says

    Guessing wildly from other insane positions I’ve seen in polling (like modern support for miscegenation laws), maybe you could find a needle-like 5% of gays in favor of requiring churches perform marriages if you took a large enough sample of the national population haystack to measure at that level of sensitivity — say, circa N=40000 or so to turn them up.

    A more interesting challenge would be finding two or more such organized into a formal advocacy group.

  25. Thumper; Atheist mate says

    it feels like what’s fair always wins over what might be right

    What’s fair is what’s right, you absolute fucking plank. How on Earth could anyone ever think otherwise?

    There are really only three options here: He’s either abysmally ignorant, paranoid to the point of being delusional, or he’s just a demagogue. Take your pick.

    I’m not sure the three are mutually exclusive, Ed. In fact, personal experience forces me to wonder whether the first two are prerequisites of the latter.

    Side note, this guy is not a politician, right? Do private citizens have the right to file legislation in the US? Or was this proposed by a politician and he’s just backing it with his cash? X-/

  26. eric says

    mjmiller up at #22:

    I am pretty sure no state in the US requires religious solemnization.

    In theory, yes, but in access, I bet there are a lot of county courthouses where the only nearby, state-sanctioned officiants are ministers. (Where we got married, that was the case, and it was in a cosmopolitan, urban county). In some sense this is a market-driven decision rather than a religious promotion one: an officiant that can (and is willing to) officiate civil AND some flavor of protestant ceremonies may get more business from the courthouse than one who can only officiate civil ceremonies. So all the civil celebrants go out and get some ministerial title, because it increases their potential business. I doubt there is much demand around courthouses for celebrants that are solely atheist or intentionally non-ministerial; most people showing up at a courthouse to get a same-day civil marriage probably don’t care if their officiant is a dual-hatted minister and civil celebrant, as long as their own ceremony is civil in nature.

    For most people this is a nonissue, since they plan their wedding ceremony and pick their celebrant ahead of time. But for the rare case of the atheist who wants to just go down to the courthouse to get married, and who objects to anyone with the title ‘minister’ officiating, they’re going to find that the state laws about civil celebrants may provide equality in theory, but not equality in access.

  27. freehand says

    Thumper, Atheist Mate it feels like what’s fair always wins over what might be right

    What’s fair is what’s right, you absolute fucking plank. How on Earth could anyone ever think otherwise?

    Remember that this person is the groveling minion of an (imaginary) capricious and cruel magical king. What’s right is, by definition, what the king says to do or not do; this clearly has little to do with what is fair.

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