Sunday, December 21, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Religious liberty or discrimination in Kansas?

By
From page A7 | February 21, 2014 |

The Kansas legislature last week found itself on the verge of passing a bill that would protect any worker – in a private business or in government – who refused service to individuals because of the worker’s religious opposition to gay marriage.

The bill’s backers said it protected religious freedom, while opponents said it enshrined discrimination in state law. After an outcry, legislative leaders halted the bill and promised to retool it in more palatable fashion.

Where is the line between religious liberty and discrimination? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the Red-Blue America columnists, debate the issue.

Joel Mathis

The first thing you should know is that most Kansans hate Fred Phelps, the notorious anti-gay preacher whose church has spent the last few decades obnoxiously protesting at the funerals of soldiers, politicians and other innocents in order to spread his homophobic views as widely as possible.

The second thing you should know is this: If a “religious freedom” bill passes, the Kansas legislature in any form similar to the one that nearly won approval last week – well, Kansas will be tied more tightly, and perhaps permanently, to the Phelps legacy than ever before. You don’t have to shout, “God hates fags” at the top of your lungs to put Phelps’ philosophy into action.

The third thing you should know is this: The only reason the bill exists is hysteria.

Yes, in Colorado, a gay couple sued a cake maker who refused his services for their wedding. But unlike Colorado, Kansas has no legal protections for gays and lesbians. They have no legal standing to sue anybody for any reason connected to their sexuality. So a bill protecting Christians from gay lawsuits accomplishes almost nothing but whip up emotions on all sides of the issue.

Except this: It sends a signal, loud and clear, to Kansans and the rest of the world, that there is one group – and one group only – that the state gives explicit permission to discriminate against: Gay and lesbian Kansans.

That’s a breathtaking achievement. And it is wrong.

The original bill even exempted government workers from serving, if they objected on religious principles. Can you imagine a police officer refusing to help a gay crime victim? A firefighter refusing to fight a fire at a gay-owned business or house?

There’s a reason Kansas’ conservative legislators are attempting to push a bill that makes second-class citizens out of the state’s gays and lesbians: They know they are losing the cultural battle. More than ever, they’re demonstrating why they should lose. But at least they’re making Fred Phelps proud.

Ben Boychuk

The question in Kansas and anywhere else good people are trying to make sense of a rapidly changing social landscape boils down to one thing and one thing only: coercion.

Will the state force a florist, a caterer, a photographer, or a baker – to name only a handful – to provide goods and services to anyone, contrary to their own consciences and religious beliefs? Kansas legislators are attempting to answer that question in the negative, and they’re right to do so.

Maybe the better question is how so many people have simply forgotten the old-fashioned idea of mutual consent.

Some ill-informed commentators have compared what’s happening in Kansas to the old Jim Crow laws that marred the South for much of the 20th century before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They forget that Jim Crow forced businesses to discriminate and segregate by race.

The Kansas bill, by contrast, would do nothing more than free private citizens from legal consequences if they choose not to do business associated with same-sex marriage.

Compulsion versus choice: see the difference?

It would be a different story if you could only choose from one baker or one photographer in your state, rather than simply take your business elsewhere.

And if the government only provided the bakers or photographers, we wouldn’t be having this argument. As it happens, one version of the Kansas bill unwisely included government employees under its protections. Government should never discriminate.

In all likelihood, however, the Kansas bill will come to nothing. When the U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled on the gay marriage cases, I wrote in this space: “If the law says there can be no ‘rational basis’ for treating the union between a man and a woman as something unique . . .  then it really doesn’t matter what your conscience tells you.”

Kansas lawmakers are fighting a valiant but doomed effort to preserve a shred of liberty rightly understood – liberty of conscience, liberty of contract, liberty of property, liberty of association. The courts and the culture have shifted. We have very few of those old liberties left. But, oh goodness, do we have coercion galore.

Ben Boychuk (bboychuk@city-journal.org) is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. Joel Mathis (joelmmathis@gmail.com) is associate editor for Philadelphia Magazine. Website: www.facebook.com/benandjoel

Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 3 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • The MisterFebruary 21, 2014 - 6:59 am

    Natural Law dictates that individuals have an unlimited right to contract... or to not contract. When the government forces an individual to contract against his will, the government is forcibly violating that man's rights. Yes, the government already violates many of our rights... but that doesn't mean they can violate even more. What it means is that individuals must begin standing up to the government and reclaim their rights.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • PornacFebruary 21, 2014 - 7:43 am

    Discrimination keeps them others down. Get a gun too!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • PornacFebruary 21, 2014 - 8:04 am

    Businesses that serve gays are assisting satan to destroy mankind.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Shining bright for all to see: Locals deck out yards, homes

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: C1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
The Salvation Army serves 1,000-plus across 2 days

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1, 7 Comments | Gallery

Blue Christmas service offers reflection, hope

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1

 
Time for annual Solano County quiz

By Brad Stanhope | From Page: A2

 
Bevy of holiday activities at Western Railway Museum

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
State Fair scholarship applications available

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Get tested, know your status

By Morgan Westfall | From Page: C4

 
 
New development fees start Jan. 1 in Vacaville

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

Free New Year’s celebration slated

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

 
A word of warning for Senator Warren

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: B7, 11 Comments

 
New technology chief will join McNaughton Newspapers

By Tanya Perez | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Fairfield police log: Dec. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Suisun City police log: Dec. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Sky-high price has VA rationing hep C drug

By Tom Philpott | From Page: B10

.

US / World

Air Force admits nuke flaws, but will fixes work?

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 1 Comment

 
 
Design of Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier OK’d

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

Officials: Missing dog was dyed to deceive

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Immigrants build document trails to remain in US

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

California officer kills teen after machete attack

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

 
4 teens die in fiery head-on crash in Pennsylvania

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

2 dozen injured in southern Indiana bus crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Texas ranchers seeking alternative incomes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7, 1 Comment

 
North Korea proposes joint probe over Sony hacking

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

2 car bombs rock southern Sweden’s city of Malmo

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Bombings kill 12 in Iraq

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

US sends 4 Afghans back home from Guantanamo

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Panama’s Noriega in prison 25 years post-invasion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Burying the dead after Pakistan’s school massacre

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
A chance to breach divide for young in Cuba and US

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

.

Opinion

Editorial Cartoon: Dec. 21, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

 
Season’s greetings from the Obamas

By Alexandra Petri | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

New school finance strategy lacks accountability

By Dan Walters | From Page: A8

 
Sound off for Dec. 21, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: Dec. 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: Dec. 21, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 4 Comments

Why celebrate Christmas?

By Noel Reese | From Page: C3, 3 Comments

 
Vatican offers olive branch to US nuns

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3, 1 Comment

Horoscopes: Dec. 21, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: C4

 
Should I ask grandson why we weren’t included in wedding photos?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: C4

.

Entertainment

Review: ‘Five’ by Ursula Archer is intriguing

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST-SELLERS

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

Publisher hopes to sell books through Twitter

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
Chris Colfer has multi-book deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

Jerry Lee Lewis: Sustained by brief blaze of glory

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

.

Sports

New Giants 3B McGehee eager to play back home

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Interim coaching jobs present challenges in bowls

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

49ers squander 21-point lead in 4th straight loss

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Eagles near elimination, fall 27-24 to Redskins

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Raiders place cornerback Brown on injured reserve

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
No. 11 Lady Vols trounce No. 7 Stanford 59-40

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Big moves bring big hope for Chicago baseball

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
US skier Nyman wins Gardena downhill for 3rd time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Vonn wins women’s World Cup downhill in France

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
This date in sports history for Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
.

Business

Your info has been hacked. Now what do you do?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
On the money: 4 ways to hold on to your cash when renting a car

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Recalls this week: Bean bag chairs, toy monkeys

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Scarecrows outnumber people in dying Japan town

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

.

Obituaries

Barbara Jean Bidstrup Braker

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Perry Michael Smetts

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Luzdivina B. Banks

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Arnold Howard Evans

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Anthony Hanson Elder

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Dominic C. Scolaro

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics