Contra Mozilla

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Natural and Legal Rights

The Arizona religious rights law has been vetoed by Governor Brewer (R). I mentioned my own initial thoughts about its passage already, including some misgivings about the law itself. I might have considered vetoing it, even though I agree with the law's intent of protecting religious liberties, which are increasingly risking becoming an endangered species of freedom, but with the caveat that something a little more specific be passed.

I've mentioned having some misgiving about the law, and in retrospect I think I can articulate them somewhat now. I'm not particularly worried that gays will be turned away from truly necessary services: the hospital, the emergency room, the supermarket, etc. Indeed, I suspect that few businesses would turn them away, meaning that if they happen upon one which would, the end result is a minor inconvenience for them as they must drive across town to find the business' competitor and do business there instead.

Actually, my main beef with this law is not with the law itself--it could easily be tailored against the "broad...unintended consequences" which Governor Brewer cited as her concerns. Nor do I think that most (perhaps even, many) businesses would be likely to turn away gays, even if the business is owned by a Christian who is so orthodox as to retain a sense of sin. Even some of the businesses which actually have been sued have knowingly served gays in instances not involving "gay marriage/wedding" ceremonies, so it is probably a rare and limited set of conditions under which a gay person would likely be "turned away."

My misgivings are about something which underlies this law and any other which is meant to "protect" our religious freedoms and rights of conscience. Call it an attitude. I am of the opinion that the Tenth Amendment should be more broadly interpreted:  "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

That which is not explicitly addressed by law is not a matter over which people ought to be prosecuted (or persecuted) under the law. The presumption should be that if there is not a law which explicitly require men to render their particular services to others, then the refusal of a service for any reason whatsoever is lawful. The particular application of this law is that unless the State of Arizona (or the US government) explicitly passes a law prohibiting that all businesses must render goods or service to gay people (or whomever), the presumption would be that a business refusing to render such goods or service is not to be held liable for failure to render the goods or services.

Unfortunately, the laws and the Courts have increasingly made the opposite presumption: namely, that which is not prohibited is compulsory. And we have by and large gone along with this interpretation, thereby necessitating various laws to protect particular exercises of conscience which were once taken for granted. We have given up freedom for "equality" and and order for "fraternity", but a false equality and a forced brotherhood (or comradeship).

We have bought into the lie that rights and freedoms come from the state, and only from the state. If a law doesn't explicitly guarantee a right, the presumption is increasingly that we do not have this right. There are two broad reason why freedom is slowly dying in the West:
  1. It has been divorced from order. Ordered liberty is true freedom, and ultimately that order is rooted in morality (which has become something of a boo word with a large segment of society).
  2. It has been viewed as a thing granted by the state rather than a thing which is limited where necessary by the state.
The second of these stems from the first. Part of the problem here is the presumption that the businesses only have this right if it is enshrined in law. Yes, the courts also make this presumption, probably making the laws necessary.

But this is why freedom is dying in the West: we take it for granted that laws give and take away freedom, rights, etc, rather than regulating it. Rather than a law stating that certain type of business (e.g. hospitals) cannot refuse service (because the right to life trumps whatever excuse may be offered), we assume that a law is needed to grant the right to refuse business.

Frankly, we ought to be able to refuse business to whom we please, conscience of otherwise. The Civil Rights Act did away with that. And, for what it is worth, I agree with the intended goal of the law (ending race-based discrimination, for example). However, I think that the racist business owner should ultimately be allowed to refuse service to blacks, even though I disagree that he should do so (and even though I know that the law right now says otherwise). If he did, I d not think he would remain in business for long.

Or, to hit this law a little closer: no one should be compelled to provide services wit which they disagree which do not  harm the society as a whole when withheld. Perhaps you are a florist who worships the demon Gaia [1], there is no reason why you should be compelled to provide flowers to a Christian wedding knowing that children will result from the union. And, in like manner, if you are a Christian who takes seriously the moral prescriptions and proscriptions of the Bible, there is no compelling reason why you should be forced to participate in or otherwise support a "marriage" between two gays. Will some gays (decreasingly) and some Christians (increasingly) be inconvenienced? Yes, but that is ultimately the price of freedom and pluralism.

[0] I don't really like the title, and it's not really a finished post, but I decided to publish (it is a blog, which rewards quantity over quality and timeliness over being well-thought-out).

[1] Forbidding marriage is a doctrine of demons, and Gaia worshipers would forbid "breeding" if they could...

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