“Scare-quoting” Religious Liberty

Mississippi passes controversial ‘religious freedom’ bill.

Mississippi Governor Signs ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill Into Law.

Mississippi Senate Passes Sweeping ‘Religious Liberty’ Bill.

All three of those headlines have two things in common. First, they all put scare quotes around the phrase ‘religious liberty,’ the ostensible purpose of which is to introduce doubt or skepticism that the law in question is really about religious freedom. Second, all of these headlines are from news dispatches, and not op-eds. In other words, what you’re looking at is reporting rather than editorializing.

Now, it could be that these publications feel they are sidestepping the debate over the legislation, and merely reporting the words used by one side and the accusations of the other. Those in favor of preventing the state from suing bakers and florists whose religion prohibits them from participating in a same-sex wedding say it’s all about religious freedom; those who want such coercion say “religious freedom” is code for discrimination. So why not just report what everyone thinks by using words in quotes?

The problem here, in my view, is a conflation between a point of order and a point of debate.

In parliamentary procedure, a member can raise a “point of order” at any time. Often a member seeking to do so will be recognized by the Speaker in the middle of a debate or other discussion. The point of order is by definition intrusive. A member raising it is telling the Speaker and the House that something needs to be fixed, not about what is being said but about the process itself.

The easiest way to get a scowl from a Speaker is to claim you have a point of order, but then, once recognized, to talk about a point of debate. For example: Imagine a governmental group you are part of is debating the merits of the income tax. A person next to you, not recognized heretofore by the Speaker, raises his hand and says “Point of Order!” The Speaker then turns to your neighbor and recognizes them to raise a point of order, an issue with the way the debate or the session is proceeding.

But then, after being recognized for a point of order, your neighbor says: “Yes, Mr. Speaker, I have a point of order. Mr. Jones is simply incorrect about the amount of revenue that can gained by the state through a progressive income tax. He’s not using the best numbers and the members of this House should be aware of that.” At this point, a Speaker who knows Parliamentary procedure would stop your neighbor and (gently, hopefully) rebuke him for raising a point of order when what he really had to say was a point of debate. It’s inappropriate–and more than a tad dishonest–to claim to have a point of order, and then raise a point of debate.

The scare-quoting of religious liberty is like this. For a newsroom to put religious liberty in scare-quotes in reporting is to raise a point of order when what really is being said is a point of debate. Regardless of whether you think the supporters of HB 1523 are honest people, the bill is written as a religious liberty bill; it calls itself a religious liberty bill; and it was signed by a governor who has said that a religious liberty bill is what he was signing. It is a religious liberty bill, as a matter of record. No argument as to the deceitfulness of its advocates can change that.

Now I do find interesting some of the arguments being raised to the contrary. It seems that many of the same people who have argued that same-sex marriage, by virtue of Obergefell, is now unfixable legal reality, are now saying that not even the passing of law by a legislature can do the same for HB 1523. In other words, the argument seems to only cut one way. It’s wrong, we are told, to say same-sex “marriage” in a post-Obergefell world, because, well, same-sex marriage became real and that’s that. For supporters of same-sex marriage, the force of law scrubs the quotation marks off of “marriage,” but not off of “religious liberty.”

That’s why I don’t think we should passively accept the scare-quoting of religious liberty. Whether or not you think that HB 1523 is about discrimination is a point of debate. But the law says religious liberty, the legislature that passed it says religious liberty, and the voters who elected the legislature say religious liberty. You might say they’re wrong, but that’s a point of debate, not a point of order. The public record is what it is, and the debates should be clearly demarcated from that. Putting quotes in the headlines obscures record from rhetoric, and that’s precisely the opposite of what we need from our journalists.

Gird Your Slander Like a Man

At the inglorious Slate.com, Mark Joseph Stern writes that Mets slugger Daniel Murphy cost his team the World Series–and that’s a good thing. You see, the problem with Murphy is that he’s a really, really bad person. Why? Because he still believes things that the Christian religion teaches! (Oh the humanity!)

You know where Stern is going with this already, don’t you? He decries Murphy as “perhaps the most explicitly and unabashedly anti-gay figure in major league sports today,” and here’s all the evidence you need for that claim:

Earlier this year, Murphy unloaded his thoughts about Billy Bean, an openly gay retired player and Major League Baseball’s Ambassador for Inclusion:

“I disagree with his lifestyle. I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual. That doesn’t mean I can’t still invest in him and get to know him. I don’t think the fact that someone is a homosexual should completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect. Getting to know him. That, I would say, you can still accept them but I do disagree with the lifestyle, 100 percent.”

Let’s stop right here and clarify something important. If you think that quotation from Daniel Murphy is an example of hate speech, then, by the rules of logic, you believe that Christianity is inherently hateful. Full stop. If what Murphy said in that quotation is bigotry, then Christianity itself is an act of bigotry. There’s no way around this.

What Murphy said isn’t just representative of the 2,000+ year testimony of the religion that he claims, it is such a basic, such a non-incisive commentary that it could have been spoken by the overwhelming majority of all religious people around the world. That leaves me with a simple question for Stern: When you go on, as you do in the article, to blame Murphy’s beliefs for the suicides and abuse of LGBT teenagers, why don’t you take ownership of your belief that religion itself causes gay teenagers to die? What is stopping you from finishing that thought? Is there really honor in suggesting that such a simple statement of religious conviction about sexuality is violence-fomenting hate speech, but not actually attacking the source of the hate? I don’t think so.

What you have in this piece is a classic example of shoot-then-run journalism. Stern is more than willing to implicate Murphy and people like him in the deaths of LGBT youths, but he’s not willing to give an intellectually cogent explanation as to why they’re implicated. He asks his readers to embrace the idea that Murphy is a bigot who has merited the wrath of the Sexual Revolution’s gods, but without the courage to articulate why that is. He has an explanation, of course–Christianity (and most religion) is hatefulness incarnate–but articulating that explanation would merely expose his own prejudice. There’s an appalling unwillingness here to own one’s own beliefs, to pursue a meaningful case against the very people in whose disappointments and sadness you openly rejoice.

If you’re going to accuse someone of hate, but you can’t bring yourself to implicate the greater worldview realities at work, then you’re not an advocate for justice or a warrior for equality. You’re just a coward.

We are Ryan Anderson

RTAndersonEvery person in America needs to know about what has been going on with Ryan T. Anderson and his grade-school alma mater, The Friends School. Put simply, the ironically named institution has declared it wants nothing to do with Anderson, his degree from Princeton, his Ph.D from Notre Dame, or his numerous fellowships and Ivy League speeches.

Why? Because Anderson is opposed to same-sex marriage.  Continue reading We are Ryan Anderson