A chicken in the sex class

By skepticlawyer

Apologies for the distinctly pomo headline, but it actually goes some way to highlighting the salient points in the latest gay rights stushie to engulf the United States. Yes, the chicken in the sex class stushie started simply enough… with (and in) a fast food chain.

Playing chicken

The fast food chain in question is Chick-fil-A, which has neither made its way across the pond to the UK nor, so far as I am aware, to Australia or New Zealand. Like better known US fast-food exports, it is Southern, its chicken is fried, and its owners are religious. Very religious.

Chick-fil-A has long adhered to a chain-wide ban on Sunday trading (common in the Highlands and Islands over here, but unusual in the 24/7 take-away culture of the USA) and has even gone so far as to enquire into its franchisees’ family arrangements: wanting to know if are they married, say, or if their children are all their own. The company is wholly in private hands, and not listed on the stock exchange. Its CEO (Dan Cathy) also has a long history of donating to various religious organisations, particularly those opposed to gay rights. These groups range from the benign to the appalling: the latter include bodies involved in promoting Uganda’s ‘kill the gays’ bill:

Opposition to gay marriage has become a matter of pride for the Georgia-based chain. Worse by far is the support, as IRS forms show, by the WinShape Foundation (Chick-fil-A’s charitable arm) for various anti-gay bodies including Exodus International, whose leaders talked up its gay “cure” in Uganda before the country introduced legislation that threatens gays with death or imprisonment — although Exodus now says that going to that anti-gay conference was a mistake.

The problem with Chick-fil-A goes beyond LBGT issues. A former worker recently filed a lawsuit against the parent company in which she claims that a franchise owner of a Chick-fil-A in Georgia fired her so she could be a stay-at-home mom. The corporate culture embraces an overt religiosity, from prayer meetings at business retreats to asking people who apply for an operator license to disclose their marital status and number of dependents.

[It is odd how much of this Western posturing involves Uganda; what did Uganda do, one wonders, to invite such prurient attention from Western crazies? What sets Uganda apart from other small African nations with similar social and economic problems – poverty, tribalism, weak institutions, localised conflict, etc?]

Hating on the gays… and the First Amendment

On July 16, Dan Cathy decided to be particularly ‘out-and-proud’ about his views when it comes to gays and lesbians, and, well, the internet exploded. Followed, of course, by the tinder-dry substratum of US public differences on this and related issues (abortion and contraception).

Progressive mayors and public officials threatened Chick-fil-A with zoning laws; to their credit, other progressive organisations (including the much maligned ACLU) swung into action, pointing out that, actually, no, that’s viewpoint discrimination and the US has an unusually well-drafted prophylactic against that sort of thing. It’s called the First Amendment. As James Peron points out, it became clear that the progressives who did want to get their hands on the levers of power and use them against people with whom they disagreed were a small (if powerful) minority, and that many conservatives (US definition) were engaging in rank hypocrisy:

A tiny handful of politicians went too far, however, threatening to use regulatory powers of local government to deny business, or zoning permits to the restaurant, in order to punish the owners, Don [sic] Cathy and his family, for their anti-gay views.

Such a move would be highly unconstitutional and a blatant assault on the First Amendment. If conservatives denied permits to businesses owned by individuals vocal in their support of marriage equality, there would be an outcry. So it was with this case.

Almost immediately, mainstream liberals started criticizing these threats. Conservatives, however, tended to look the other way and noticed only the minority position of these publicity-seeking office holders. Santorum huffed that the controversy shows “the absolute intolerance of the Left in America. There can be no dissent from what their position is.”

This comes from a man who wants government censorship of erotica, the Internet and video games — for a start. Over at the neo-con publication Commentary, Bethany Mandel claimed that liberal tolerance “only extends to those who agree with their worldview.”

Not in our city

Perhaps the most anguished response (albeit one still censorious) came from Speaker of the New York City Council, Christine Quinn. Quinn is lesbian and recently married her partner of many years (New York is one of the US states which has legislated for equal marriage). For the avoidance of any doubt, I wish to make it clear that I disagree with Quinn, even though constitutionally, she is on stronger ground. I do, however, want readers of this post to keep her arguments in mind:

Today, Council Speaker Christine Quinn took it a step further and wrote a letter to NYU President John Sexton asking him to sever ties with the chain, effectively kicking them out of the city. The only Chick-fil-A in New York is located on the NYU campus. She also asked that, should he kick them out, the employees from the Chick-fil-A be given new jobs with whatever restaurant they get to replace it. She also started a petition demanding Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy apologize and change his position on gay marriage.

Law professors have pointed out that denying [Chick-fil-A] the right to build within their city violates their First Amendment right, but Quinn’s request is different. NYU is a private university with a huge population of gay students. It might be easier (and legal) for them to get out of their contract, or simply not renew it once their current deal is up, than a government body not allowing them to build.

The pile on (or, to be more accurate, the bargain bucket)

From there, this could only get bigger. Conservative luminaries like Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee weighed in:

Today is National Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, at least according to Mike Huckabee. The evangelical minister and former presidential candidate — along with Rick SantorumSarah Palin and a host of other Christianist culture warriors — is mounting a counteroffensive after big-city mayors tried to shoo the Southern chicken chain from their borders, the Jim Henson Co. pulled its toys from Chick-fil-A’s kids’ meals, and the fast-food company has become a flash point for the whole LGBT community and all their sympathizers in the nonfundamentalist real world.

Next thing, of course, there was an anti Chick-fil-A day, with people proposing a consumer boycott. To the boycotters’ credit, there was no attempt to prevent third parties from trading with Chick-fil-A (a secondary boycott). Instead, it was a simple case of ‘don’t eat at this place, it supports toxic causes’. It has its counterparts in boycotts of Norwegian fish by environmental groups or — from the other side of the fence — the attempt by ‘One Million Moms’ to initiate a consumer boycott of US department store chain JCPenney (the US equivalent of Australia’s Target or the UK’s BHS) because it used gay comedienne Ellen DeGeneres in an advertising campaign.

Causes have consequences

In the process of watching the internet feathers fly, I’ve seen friendships come to grief and some of the most awful bigotry displayed. To my libertarian friends’ great credit (I am proud to count the HuffPo’s James Peron as one of those friends), they have tried to be consistent. Step away from the levers of power, everybody. Remember that if you wrest those levers from your enemies, they can wrest them from you. That’s the way democracy works. This is one issue where people are going to have to develop the maturity to agree to disagree.

I have also constantly been put in mind of Jonathan Rauch’s splendid essay for The Economist, ‘Majority Report‘. In it, Rauch argues that LGBT activists have to be very careful how they put their case as support for their cause moves from minority to majority in numbers. He observes:

In a messy world where rights often collide, we can’t avoid arguing about where legitimate dissent ends and intolerable discrimination begins. What we can do is avoid a trap the other side has set for us. Incidents of rage against “haters,” verbal abuse of opponents, boycotts of small-business owners, absolutist enforcement of antidiscrimination laws: Those and other “zero-tolerance” tactics play into the “homosexual bullies” narrative, which is why our adversaries publicize them so energetically. The other side, in short, is counting on us to hand them the victimhood weapon. Our task is to deny it to them. Two important strategic changes would go a long way toward doing that. First, accept legal exceptions that let religious organizations discriminate against gays whenever their doing so imposes a cost we can live with. Second, dial back the accusations of “bigot” and “hater.”

In the gay community, taking any kind of nonabsolutist attitude toward discrimination is controversial, to say the least—largely because we carry in our heads the paradigm of racial discrimination. In today’s America, though, the racial model is overkill for gays. Injustice persists, unquestionably, but the opposition is dying on its feet and discrimination is in decline. And, unlike white supremacism, disapproval of homosexuality is still intrinsic to orthodox doctrines of all three major religions. That will change and is already changing (younger evangelicals are much more accepting of same-sex relations than are their parents), but for now it is a fact we must live with.

Before we shrug and reply, “So what if it’s religious? It’s still bigotry, it’s still intolerable,” we need to remember that religious liberty is America’s founding principle. It is embedded in the country’s DNA, not to mention in the First Amendment. If we pick a fight with it or, worse, let ourselves be maneuvered into a fight with it, our task will become vastly harder.

Then there are the real-world, messy realities arising from both pro- and anti-Chick-fil-A ‘days’. Although rare, Chick-fil-A does have some gay employees. This young man was complimented by homophobic customers only to be abused on his way home (while no doubt dressed in identifiable Chick-fil-A clothing) as a bigot and hater:

Speaking to the Huffington Post, one employee described it as “hater appreciation day”, calling it a “very, very depressing” experience.

Another gay employee who has worked at the chain for seven years said he was confronted with homophobic attitudes from supportive customers but also abused by other members of the public who he believed supported the company’s position.

He said patrons would come into his outlet to support Chick-fil-A, and then “say something truly homophobic, e.g. ‘I’m so glad you don’t support the queers, I can eat in peace’.”

Conversely, he continued: “I was yelled at for being a god-loving, conservative, homophobic Christian while walking some food out to a guest in a mall dining room.

“It seems like very few people have stopped to think about who actually works for Chick-fil-A and what those people’s opinions are. They are putting us in a pot and coming to support us or hate us based on something they heard and assume we agree with.”

‘Rights talk

As most of my readers would know from reading this blog, I am deeply suspicious of entrenched rights. I don’t think people have inherent rights on the basis of their membership of the human race. I am suspicious (philosophical arguments aside) partly because Western states without entrenched bills of rights and with Westminster style parliamentary sovereignty have extended rights to minorities and the disadvantaged both more rapidly and with less rancour than states without parliamentary sovereignty and with entrenched bills of rights. Contrast Britain with the US, or Canada with Australia pre- and post- the enactment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Consider individual cases: abortion in the EU (which has followed the British model and enactment by Parliaments) as opposed to abortion in the US (judicial legislation via the SCOTUS).

Add sexual and racial discrimination to the mix. The Europeans, British and Australians have been much more successful with their parliaments making the laws. The Americans (and now, the Canadians – think of the endless wrangling over their hate speech laws) have huge and ugly fights over stuff that in terms of decisions one way or the other is properly in the hands of the people’s representatives. Yes, that means politicians. Yes, I know politicians are often woeful. So, however, are judges, and you can’t vote them out. It’s worth keeping that in mind.

This failure to think about what rights actually mean or what they do when entrenched means that large parts of them throughout the West now conflict with an important rule of law principle: to wit, treat like cases alike.

The ‘sex class’

While I have a great deal of respect and sympathy for Rauch’s position above, and have often cited him in argument on this blog, I think a statement of his with which I previously strongly agreed is theoretically wrong, and perhaps empirically wrong as well. When he says ‘accept legal exceptions that let religious organizations discriminate against gays whenever their doing so imposes a cost we can live with,’ he inadvertently reveals that religious organisations are allowed to discriminate against gays (and, by corollary, a much larger group, women) in ways that are flatly prohibited in other circumstances.

Religious organisations cannot engage in the same discrimination against people on the basis of race: if a black man wants to be a minister of religion in even the most conservative religious tradition, then provided he meets that body’s selection criteria, he cannot be refused entry. Change race to sex or sexuality, however, and the religious body can reject him or her on the basis of a characteristic over which he or she has no control – just like race is a characteristic over which an individual has no control.

You need to be aware that attempts by religious bodies to engage in racial discrimination in the same way that they engage in sexual and orientation discrimination were definitively ruled out (in the US) in Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983), a SCOTUS ruling that held that religious exemptions that allow churches to discriminate against women (gays were not, in 1983, even a twinkle in the SCOTUS’s eye) could not be extended to blacks:

[i]t would be wholly incompatible with the concepts underlying tax exemption to grant tax-exempt status to racially discriminatory private educational entities. Whatever may be the rationale for such private schools’ policies, racial discrimination in education is contrary to public policy. Racially discriminatory educational institutions cannot be viewed as conferring a public benefit within the above ‘charitable’ concept or within the congressional intent underlying 501(c)(3).

Parliaments and courts all over the West have come to the same conclusion as the SCOTUS in Bob Jones. Britain’s Equality Act 2010, for example, protects religious organisations from the heavy hand of human rights law when they discriminate against women and gays (in employment and elsewhere), but not when they discriminate against blacks and Asians. The discriminatory components of the Equality Act — at least with respect to LGBT people — are in the process of being beefed up even further in the wake of the Scottish Government decision to legalise same-sex marriage:

As indicated in the consultation, no religious body will be compelled to conduct same sex marriages – protection for religious bodies who do not wish to conduct same sex marriages already exists under UK equality law.

Where a body does decide to conduct same sex marriages, the Scottish Government also intends – again, in line with the view expressed in the consultation – to protect individual celebrants who consider such ceremonies to be contrary to their faith.

To give certainty around this protection, we consider that an amendment to the UK Equality Act will be required. We will work with the UK Government to secure agreement to such an amendment before the formal introduction of a Bill to the Scottish Parliament and with a view to it being in place before the Bill comes into force.

The relevant state-based laws in Australia are similar in intent and effect.

There is only one reasonable conclusion to be drawn from this: there are two different ‘rights’ classes lurking around in the mess of pottage that is human rights law. If you fall into the ‘sex class’ you get a smaller basket of rights than if you fall into the ‘race class’.

Bad luck, chicks and queers.

This ‘separate but equal’ caper means, often, there’s an undignified scramble to get one’s group into the ‘race class’: hence the persistent attempt by Muslim activists — in the UK and elsewhere — to conflate ‘religion’ with ‘race’ and make it an equally protected characteristic. Don’t want to be lumped in with the chicks and the queers, oh no. Might catch girl germs or gay germs.

Like cases alike

This represents a gross attack on the first principle of the rule of law, because like cases are clearly not being treated alike.

As I see it, there are only two ways to be consistent in this, but advocating either opens an almighty can of worms (and quite possibly an almighty can of whoop-ass) on the collective body politic.

1. End the artificial distinction between the ‘sex class’ and the ‘race class’ by stripping religious bodies of their capacity to discriminate on the basis of sex and sexuality, on pain of losing charitable status (as was done in Bob Jones with respect to race).

2. Accept that modern human rights law is an incoherent mess and do away with it altogether. Yes, Virginia, that means allowing private organisations to discriminate if they want to, on whatever basis.

I am a classical liberal, so I favour the latter, but not without enormous reservations. I hate being backed into an intellectual corner, but the global failure to think about the underlying problems in human rights law – going right back to the first attempt to universalise it in 1948 – mean that large parts of it simply no longer make any sense.  I also think that forcing people who do not like each other to associate has often had awful consequences. There is a reason why Equity did not, historically, attempt to enforce contracts of service. Because working with people who hate you is kind of sucky, and, you know, sometimes fatal.

Not without hating the queers

There is something else that the escaped chicken running around in the sex class has taught me in the last week, and it is this: it is impossible to separate monotheism from homophobia, but only difficult to separate it from misogyny.

Why is it impossible to separate monotheism from homophobia? For the simple reason that every monotheistic tradition hates on the queers, while very few polytheistic traditions do (it appears that the odd paganism out when it comes to queer-hatred is the Aztec religion, and I think it’s fair to say that the Aztecs are not a civilisation to which one ought to look for moral guidance).

By contrast, misogyny is present in many pagan traditions (think of Classical Athens, or Confucian China). It seems the effect of monotheism is simply to intensify it, as well as to engage in rights-stripping where women have previously enjoyed high status. This happened when Christians got their hands on the levers of power in the late Roman Empire.

Let me put it this way: imagine if slavery and misogyny had not existed in classical antiquity, only arising as a result of the emerging power of Christianity and, later, Islam. Women and blacks would no doubt feel entitled – if they then got their hands on the levers of power – to make life very difficult for Christians and Muslims. It would take preternatural levels of control on the part of the two groups in order to engage in liberal (UK definition) tolerance once they assumed authority (as opposed to recycling religious people as firelighters… oh, wait).

Of course, we all know that Christianity can do without slavery. Unfortunately, Islam may not be able to manage without slavery … it is more theologically awkward for Muslims to disavow it than Christians, because in Islam all law (including the law that sanctions slavery) is seen as divine, while Christian — or Canon law — has always been seen as a human creation, and mutable. No lesser figure than Aquinas cautioned against trying to know the mind of God.

Now, LGBT people are in the same position as blacks and women in my imaginary, Niall Fergusonish scenario above. Their position is only as it is because of monotheism. Had Athens/Rome emerged triumphant instead of Jerusalem (to adapt a phrase of Jason Soon’s), they would not be in this special, most-hated category. They would not be trailing in everyone else’s wake when it comes to what Steven Pinker calls ‘the rights revolutions’.

This reality is reflected in two anguished statements made by libertarian friends who also happen to be gay. One is from James Peron:

There are groups out there that hate blacks or Jews for instance. It is not socially acceptable. You can’t even get away with that sort of hate if you try to claim that God wants you to do it. People won’t accept it.

But, say the same, or worse, about gay people and suddenly you are “standing up for morality,” and “pro-family.”

Realize that when you tell me that a “lot of people agree with Don Cathy” it doesn’t help! Wow! I’m supposed to think that hate directed at me is tolerable simply because enough people believe it! No thanks.

I have been patient for decades. I’ve debated the haters, I’ve tried to reason with them, and I’ve tried my best to be a decent person. As I get older I run out patience. Thirty years ago I could think, “Hey, 20 years from now it will be so different.” Well, at some point you start to think you might not be around long enough to see those things.

This doesn’t mean I won’t try to change minds, but I won’t tolerate the obvious bigots. I won’t let them get away with their bigotry. I will call them on it and name it for what it is. It is not “morality,” but hate. It is not “godly,” but fully humane at the basest and most primitive level—it is not a view for civilized human beings.

Simply put, it you don’t think I should have exactly the same rights as you then go take a long walk off a short cliff—and know that I really wanted to say something a bit stronger there.

If you think I’m sinful, sick, immoral, anti-family, or whatever label you use to justify looking down on me, then just go away. I don’t want you in my life.

I put up with that sort of crap for my entire life and I simply won’t do it anymore. I won’t pretend that you are “well meaning.” I don’t care if you are or not, not when those comments or barbs apply to me, or to people I care about.

I heard hateful things from “friends” more times than I can count. Now, I don’t, because anyone who says those things, or holds those views, is no friend of mine. And, with Facebook, I can make it official. I wish life came with an “unfriend” button.

And this is from Tyler Johnson:

But when it comes down to it, I have freedom of speech too. I have the right to encourage people not to frequent the place. I have the right to air my grievances in a public manner. Nothing in constitutional law provides for a person to make a decision without there being consequences. A person cannot shout fire in a crowded theater without being responsible for the deaths of those that rush to get out. A person cannot shout “nigger” in front of a street gang and not expect to be beat to a pulp. Free discourse goes both ways, and no one side is to have free reign to say what they want to say without any voicing of disagreement.

Because discourse is a two-way street, there is no free-speech element that you are standing up for by showing your solidarity with Chick Fil-A or by joining the boycott. I don’t think any less or more of a person’s view on free speech by a person going to Chick Fil-A or by changing their profile pic to the official pic of the boycott. However, you are sending a message by joining in on the Chick Fil-A Appreciation Day.

By supporting the Chick Fil-A Appreciation Day, you are standing in solidarity with all of the donations, and with all that those donations stand for. In this case, you are standing in solidarity with the barring of any legal recognition of any loving same-sex relationships, including domestic partnerships and civil unions. You are supporting efforts to bring about the recriminalization of sexual relations between people of the same gender. You are standing in solidarity with the Ugandan government officials who sought to make it a crime worthy of the death penalty. If that is what you stand for, more power to you, and I will hope that you will choke on your chicken sandwich.

The Upshot?

There has been a great deal of debate in skeptic and atheist groups of late — both online and off — about unwarranted rudeness directed at religious people. Much of the concern is justified, for the simple reason — as my pupil-master taught me — one always catches more flies with honey than vinegar. However — and as much as I agree intellectually with Jonathan Rauch’s arguments (and do read his entire piece, it is excellent) — I think LGBT people have probably earned some slack. Every other kind of prejudiced horror on the planet — racism, misogyny, slavery, xenophobia — can and has existed entirely independently of monotheism. But hating on the queers? That only exists because one particular religious tradition has become globally dominant, especially in Western countries. When we ask LGBT people to be tolerant, we need to remember just how much we’re asking of them.

That’s worth keeping in mind, and not just when eating a chicken sandwich (of any sort).


  1. Posted August 5, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    I realise I should be responding to Marcellous’s thoughtful observations (sorry, Marcellous), but I am going to do my best to have a fair shake at responding to Mr/Ms Seymour. First, this:

    Truth kills arguments. Homosexuals are biologically incapable of benefiting the continuation of the human species. End of story. The truth is the anus is a human sewer. Anal sex is not sex and should be condemned alone with bestiality. You know this is the truth. So why are you afraid to speak the truth. Or do you support bestiality too.

    My response to this sort of argument is always simply to link to the definition of ‘squick’ in the urban dictionary. Please sort your squick from your disgust, and remember that no-one is forcing you to engage in acts you don’t like or find off-putting.

    Next, one can make the Bible say almost anything one likes, it is so contradictory. I realise that atheists and skeptics get a great deal of mileage out of quoting the worst bits of the Old Testament/Torah/Pentateuch, forgetting that even Orthodox Jews have interpreted its imprecations in such a way as to be unrecognisable. Christians were still forcing rape victims to marry their rapists in the Baroque period (this happened to Artemisia Gentileschi, as this piece details) based on laws in Deuteronomy, while Jews had abandoned the practice in the 1st century BC. Maimonides and other Jewish sages were horrified by the Christian and Muslim treatment of women, but had to be very careful not to get too mouthy or, as Borat says, it became a case of ‘throw the Jew down the well’.

    So, to be fair to Jews, we should perhaps focus on the New Testament. And the New Testament version of the passage from Deuteronomy that Lorenzo quotes goes thusly:

    If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. [Luke 14:26]

    An improvement, but only marginally. The Romans (and later, the Tokugawa period Japanese) were quite correct to consider Christianity an anti-family religion. I am mostly a libertarian, but I have some conservative touches. One of those is to be generally in favour of the family and filial piety (apart from anything else, it makes for a less expensive welfare state). This is one reason why I support same-sex marriage and dislike Christianity. The former is actually pro-family. The latter is not.

    Then, of course, it’s worth remembering that Jesus was the sort of entitled little scrote who thought it entirely legitimate to start a riot in a crowded area in the middle of a major religious festival, physically attacking people (with a weapon) and stampeding animals. I presume you have seen the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona? If someone did the same thing in the middle of Princes Street during Hogmanay he would be cooling his heels in Barlinnie for a great deal more than just ‘breach of the peace’ and for quite a decent stretch. And that’s in a developed, first-world, largely peaceful democracy. The Roman Empire at its best still only resembled what we would consider a ‘developing country’. And that is why he was executed. Not for claiming he was the messiah, which was entirely legal at the time. I point this out because the riot is in all four Gospels, which strongly suggests that it actually happened (the Gospels having a variety of different sources).

    Now, I don’t expect David Cameron or Ed Milliband to formulate public policy on the basis of opinions proffered by various London rioters (damn, that’ll be because I’m a libertarian with a few conservative touches again), and am quite at ease with them being made examples of for thinking that large parts of the capital were free for the trashing. My general suspicion of people who think they can make their point through violence and property damage extends to Jesus, I’m afraid. And then there were his policy ideas. In between a great deal of socialist, redistributionist piffle, there is a ban on divorce except for adultery. What about domestic violence? What about abandonment? What about sexual abuse of children? The Christian prohibition on divorce (which cannot, unlike many other nasties, be blamed on Paul) contributed not only to the immiseration of women and children but produced a spike in murder rates – especially spousal murder – worthy of other equally silly laws, like Prohibition. So someone who manages to combine misogyny with socialism. No, thanks.

    Finally, the standard fundamentalist response to this kind of argument is to fall back on ancient world homilies about pagans and skeptics laughing at you, all the while you have the truth. So I am going to suggest (probably pointlessly) that one ought not to despise clever people. Clever people – in science and commerce, both of which Christianity and Islam resented for inordinately long periods – brought you the vaccines that stop a third of your children dying before the age of five; the wonderfully varied foodstuffs you eat; the car you drive in comfort; the technology that amuses you; the excellent health and hygiene you enjoy; the peace, order, and good government that characterises politics if you live in a developed country. None of these things were conferred, and none of them came about through luck: luck may be involved if one happens to live in a country floating on oil, but then again, most of the world’s oil-rich nations are shitholes with hydrocarbons. So much for ‘luck’.

  2. Mel
    Posted August 5, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Permalink


    I glad you mention Maimonides.

    As I understand it, Maimonides settled in Egypt and benefited from the patronage of the Muslim Sultan Saladin, who was relatively tolerant for that era, with there being numerous anecdotes about his kindly treatment of women, signing amicable agreements with Christian Churchs etc , not slaughtering civilians or prisoners etc.. in spite of the hideous behaviour that often accompanied the Crusades.

    Once again, I find your contention that there is no historical legacy outside the western world that could’ve kindled the flames of human rights talk utterly incredulous.

  3. kvd
    Posted August 6, 2012 at 4:03 am | Permalink

    Well I was going to take SL’s reasoned approach in response to [email protected] but then I realised that anyone who bases their beliefs on

    The truth is. The Bible states God says come and reason with me.

    is probably incapable of accepting the possibility of any differing opinion, however politely phrased.

    I mean, to take that as some sort of faith affirmation you have to ignore that the words quoted are attributed to ‘visions’ said to be had by Isaiah, and follow directly after a description of the Israelites as lying, fornicating, horse thieves who are bound for eternal damnation unless they change their ways. But then God says “come reason with me”?

    Talk about assuming the high ground; what’s to reason about?

    I accept that it is a grave character flaw, but when faced with such a nonsensical ‘truth’ being used as the basis of a person’s absolute faith, I always turn to comedy. So when LE mentioned Rowan Atkinson, it reminded me of his student roll call sketch. A very poor connection to the topic, I will admit, but what is one to do when far better thinkers than me have and continue to waste far too much intellectual time on dissecting such ill-founded and dangerously absolutist belief systems?

  4. kvd
    Posted August 6, 2012 at 4:26 am | Permalink

    And don’t misunderstand me. I think the Bible is a wonderful selection (selection, not collection) of man’s rumination on the human condition, mixed with a bit of quasi-history. And whatever gives comfort to anyone should not be denied them. But to present such as absolute bald truth, and to enforce such belief upon anyone else, is a step too far imo.

  5. Posted August 6, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    It’s nice to see a well written post and some (mostly) sensible discussion on this issue.

    I do have one quibble with the post though. I don’t think it’s a good idea to lump in the ‘sex’ and ‘race’ classes into one group as if they are alike. There are important differences between the two that shouldn’t be glossed over; differences that might impact how we ought to deal with the different classes of discrimination.

    If you look at a single incident of discrimination things will seem alike: there is an individual being unreasonably* discriminated against on the basis of an attribute that they cannot control. This seems unfair because the individual is being ‘punished’ for something they have no control over.
    Yet this doesn’t explain why we consider discrimination based on race or gender as more serious than discrimination based on the shape of someone’s chin, or whether a person needs to wear glasses. From a libertarian/individualist perspective it would seem to be an unacceptable intrusion on our freedoms to require everyone to be able to rationally justify every decision we make in order to defend against every possible claim of unreasonable discrimination.

    It’s not until you consider the systemic nature of a particular class of discrimination that the ‘important’ ones become distinguishable. An individual facing discrimination from a small number of others throughout society is likely to be able to avoid or endure the discrimination without facing a significant impact on their lives. However an individual facing systematic discrimination in many areas of their lives will be impacted to a far greater extent. Minimisation of this increased harm may (depending on one’s values) be sufficient to justify restriction of freedom for certain dimension discrimination but not in others.

    The ‘race’ and ‘sex’ can be distinguished by the fact that race is an inherited trait. There are significant intergenerational racially homogeneous communities in ways there are not for either gender or sexuality. The ‘sex’ classes tend to be far more diffuse within society than the ‘race’ classes. If discrimination is compounded through systematic discrimination against an individual throughout their lifetime, it is compounded again as it accumulates over the generations and is suffered pervasively throughout the community.** This means that governing racial discrimination is as much about governing the interaction between racial communities as it is about governing interaction between individuals. This factor may (again, depending on values) mean it is appropriate to have different rules governing ‘race’ based discrimination from those governing ‘sex’ based discrimination.

    * or whatever word suitably distinguishes arguments based on acceptable/practical reasons (e.g. the gender of an officer conducting a body search, racial considerations in casting for a role in a historical movie, etc) from arguments that are just a cacophony of nonsense (such as those exhibited by I Seymour).

    ** of course the more insidious aspect of sex discrimination is that it is often done by those closest to those being wronged.

  6. Posted August 6, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    I suppose one has to engage in a level a verbal masturbation that ostensibly masquerades as food for thought when seeking some fuel for the fire. But then we don’t believe in judgment; Mitigation maybe, but not judgment.

    But, then, I note many judgments have been made by various posters, even the one professing to be a libertarian.

    As Mel said, “Life is sweet.”

    Tragically, life that ceases is not life at all.
    The problem you have, like everyone has, is death. It will get you in the end, unless you find the truth about life, because true life never ends.

    My position is you can do what you like, as long as it does not infringe the rights of another.

    However, the truth is death infringes my rights to life. I only wish you people were clever enough to solve the problem. Then you would truly be wise. Otherwise it is back to the sophistry of the clever..mmm…. Not sure I have a predilection for that word “squish”. s..t! I meant “squick”. Disgusting.

    Still. Death reigns. Judgment wins. There is no mitigation in the end.

    Morality: leave that for the libertines to work out. Live and let live. There is no God. Why worry?

    But, just suppose there is a Creator God, who just happens to be a little more ominscient than those polymaths among us conceited enough to fancy they might be likewise. We would all be fools to neglect to call HIM into account for creating this mess on Earth.

    Forget this making friends with the judge, just in case there is such a thing as morality and an ensuring accountablity after death in this life. Forget about being a libertarian who advocates personal rights concerning exercising one’s volition.

    Why reason or attempt to reason with the Creator of Life. Life doesn’t exist. The Creator doesn’t exist. Reproduction of the species is a farce. Everything, if it is real, is futile. Fundamentally, it is the same for us all. Life is in vain.

    Mankind has become so technologically advanced that the clever are still trying to figure out how the ancients in various locations around the planet quarried and moved massive blocks of stone weighing up to fifty tonnes and used them to build edifices. Nothing like being clever. Nothing like a little self-eroticism of the modern man. Apologies for any lack of PC. Woman and man are the same sex, I am reliably informed by the magistrate.

    At least Team GB is getting a better share of the gold–or is it god, kvd? Maybe, it might help the Exchequer. China will claim it all though, they don’t believe in liberty. But then, would you believe it? There are more fundamentalist Christians in China than any other country–some three hundred million. Could be a problem there for us libertines–sorry, us libertarians. Maybe they will allow Chick-fil-A to set up its franchise. There just might be a cacophony in the chook house then. Squick! Abhorrent thought Desipis.

    Faith is the basis of everything we do. Every night you go to sleep, you do so in good faith, you will wake up to …a better world?… or? kvd.

    Some of us live in books. Some of us hope to write a book. All of us have a book of acts kept by the Ominscient Mind.

    As a person who practiced homosexuality for a brief period, but decided that there had to be something more fulfilling in life than being a hedonistic bisexual. I speak from experience and observation. Truly, I am someone who is a true libertarian, but who was once a libertine. Let me suggest to you that there is more to this existence than being born just to die. But I am not going to force my beliefs on you. I am merely suggesting that if you consider yourself to be truly wise, and you worry about rights, why don’t you call the Creator into account? Make an ultimatum for HIM to reveal Himself to you. BUT you must be absolutely genuine! Evidently, He doesn’t suffer hypocrites!! Nor fools!!!

    The decision is yours. You choose. Evidently, the Creator, the Lord God Almighty is more libertarian than you give HIM credit for. If you want to be a homosexual, that is your choice. If you want to infringe the rights of another person that is your choice. If you want to impose your beliefs, that is the right to seduce minors, groom the innocent towards a particular form of immorality (whatever you perceive it to be) that is your choice. However, you also have the right to prevent another person or other people perverting your belief system.

    Personally, I think all homophobes should be allowed to live together, without the intrusion of people who think otherwise. Let each live in their own communities and adopt their social mores without mixing with the other. Solves the problem. Let thieves live with thieves. Let murders congregate together, forever. Get my point. Eventually, they will all die out. You know this is true.

  7. Posted August 6, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    I could make a joke about false consciousness here, but I won’t…

  8. Nigel Davies
    Posted August 7, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    Dear Seymour 55, very amusing, (and amusing the huff it provoked too).

    Peersonally I am amazed at the self righteousness of some people claiming that they are trying to get others ‘rights’.

    It suprises me too that a lot of this is over the word ‘marriage’. I am all in favor of queers having legal rights to partnerships with consenting adults or bicycles or whatever else fits their needs, just as I am to ignorant peasants having the right to be offended by same, as long as neither tries to get legal veto rights over the other…

    But I am bemused that the hardlineers won’t accept ‘legal union’ while making a play for ‘marriage’. Are they really after legal equality, or really trying to force others to play their game?

    Marriage is a funny thing anyway. The church didn’t get involved until quite late, and the state even later. As a social institution its vast history is related to things that no ‘side’ is really accepting, but the foundation is in fact a partnership to raise a family of genetic inheritance. (And I sopeak as a married person with no intention of ever having children…) IN fact the foundation of most (it is so tempting to say every) civilisation is inherited property rights… (Offering a good target there!)

    Fighting over a word when the legal issues can be largely solved by avoiding the word is deeply stupid. (Yes Lorenzo that’s your repression article I am talking about.)

    Meanwhile a quick comment on SL 50’s claim that Christains and Muslims repressed science, and that presumably only the liberation from them saved it? I will leave Lorenzo or someone else to give you a history and philosophy of science lesson, but basically modern science, and its defiinition, is a construct of the Christian church. (Can’t resist another enormous oversimplification just to stay in the spirit of most of the rest of these comments….)

  9. Mel
    Posted August 7, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    ND @58:

    “But I am bemused that the hardlineers won’t accept ‘legal union’ while making a play for ‘marriage’. Are they really after legal equality, or really trying to force others to play their game?”

    What game would that be, Nigel? C’mon old swan, don’t keep us in the dark.

  10. Posted August 8, 2012 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    Nigel @58 Yes -“the foundation of most … civilisation is inherited property rights…”

    ie MONEY. everything is about money when the trail is followed to the source. This week Tasmania realises gay people had full wallets when they stepped out of hiding and they want a bit of it. The hypocrisy of it is irritating to me, since I recall the state giving (gay) Dennis Altman a very very bad time years ago.

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