What’s Wrong with the World

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Keeping 'em honest

I have never been a great fan of non-discrimination laws, particularly public accommodation laws. We have certainly seen their egregious abuse in the cases of the bakers, the florist, and the photographer. Even if one says (correctly) that "sexual orientation and gender identity" are bizarre items to add to such specially protected lists, and even if they were taken back off, I still tend to think that such laws do more harm than good, involving government in micromanaging every aspect of hiring or accepting a contract, attempting to delve into hidden motives, and in the end more or less requiring affirmative action in hiring so as to avoid costly lawsuits.

But despite my libertarian-ish leanings in that regard, I have also always said (as far as I know, consistently ever since I have been blogging) that it is completely appropriate for Christians and other non-PC groups to demand that such laws be applied to them consistently, otherwise we get the worst of both worlds: The baker is forced to bake the sodomy-celebrating cake, but the Christian employee can be harassed and fired for his un-PC, "bigoted" beliefs. That, of course, is what we often get anyway, and that status of ideological dhimmitude for us "bad guys" is exactly what the left wants. The left revels in double standards while usually not quite admitting doing so.

Hence I never blame Christians who have been obvious victims of discrimination for pointing this out and even engaging a lawyer. Craig James is entirely within his rights to do so, for example.

The latest case of this kind, cum happy ending, comes from a customer denied service in Illinois.

Office Depot refused initially to print an order of fliers that criticized Planned Parenthood and that included a prayer that God would bring an end to abortion. What was (to my mind) even more disturbing than the refusal was the reason given. Office Depot has a policy that it refuses to take print orders for material that "advocates any form of racial or religious discrimination or the persecution of certain groups of people." The corporate representative claimed that this flier "contained material that advocates the persecution of people who support abortion rights."

Think about that for a minute. If the fliers had talked about Wal-Mart's allegedly cut-throat business practices and contained a prayer calling for the end of overseas sweatshops, would the material ipso facto be advocating "persecution" of Wal-Mart executives, employees, or those who defend the company? By this standard, any criticism of anybody is an advocacy of "persecution" of those who disagree.

The worrisome thing about this defense of the refusal is that it blatantly takes an allegedly content-neutral rule and applies it in a way that is clearly politically biased. Moreover, it tries to give the passive-aggressive impression that Office Depot, by its policy, is attempting to protect poor little victims rather than, in fact, being a large corporate entity trying to make it more difficult for a pro-life message to be heard. While in a more libertarian-ish economic climate they would have the legal right to do that, in plain honesty Office Depot's policy makers should give up the cant that the flier violates a policy against "advocating persecution or discrimination" (or kicking puppies) and just admit, "We [heart] abortion. Abortion is wooonderful! Planned Parenthood is full of heroes. We refuse to cooperate in any way in criticizing abortion or Planned Parenthood."

And since the fact is that we don't live in a remotely libertarian-ish economic situation, there are indeed public accommodation laws that apply even more obviously to the printing of this flier than to using one's artistic abilities to celebrate a homosexual ceremony.

So Maria Goldstein, the customer, got in touch with Thomas More Society, and they sent a letter to the offices of Office Depot.

What do you know? Shortly thereafter, Office Depot reversed course:

In a statement emailed from Karen Denning, a spokeswoman for Office Depot’s headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida, she said the company “has contacted Ms. Goldstein’s representative to explain that the store associate’s decision to decline a print order was in no way based on religious beliefs, but on the fact that it contained certain words and phrases that could be construed as graphic or advocates the persecution of groups of people, which is a violation of the company’s copy and print policy.”

She said, “Office Depot has long maintained a policy of not allowing associates to print items that violate copyright laws, advocate persecution of any group or contain graphic material.”

However, she said, “Upon a more detailed review, we have determined that the content of Ms. Goldstein’s flyer is not a clear violation of the company’s policy.”

The statement included an invitation from company CEO Roland Smith to Maria Goldstein to return to have her work completed.

Cough, cough. I note that Karen Denning was the same representative who previously said that the flier did violate company policy. Interesting how her vision has improved upon receiving a letter from a law firm. One wonders how hard it would have been to undertake the "more detailed review" when the story first broke, before making her first statement. I note that Denning did not originally say, "Well, I haven't read the flier, so I'm merely going on the basis of what the employees at the store told me, but it sounded like they judged that..." Not at all. She implied that it was a cut-and-dried case of Being Mean In Print, meaning that the kind-hearted folks at Office Depot couldn't possibly cooperate.

The volte-face is pretty obviously the result of the fact that Goldstein didn't take things lying down. It's a small thing, but I applaud it. This sort of thing is going to become more and more common: Non-discrimination enforcement of the most jack-booted sort against Christian and other businessmen who aren't on-board with the leftist agenda coupled with increasingly blatant, and illegal, discrimination against Christians and other ideological minorities in all the usual areas--employment, school admissions, and public accommodations.

Even just a little bit of pushback that shows that we are not going to accept that kind of faux-neutral nonsense is worth doing. Kudos to Maria Goldstein and the Thomas More Society for one small victory.

Comments (11)

I still see plenty of Christians claiming that taking advantage of these laws is "sinking to their level" or that we are not victims and shouldn't play into the culture of victimhood. These people really just don't get it. There's nothing intrinsically immoral about these laws. There's nothing wrong with us disliking them, but using them to our advantage, especially when the goal is to not let them be used as a cudgel to beat us.

This sorta reminds me of a response I gave to someone who accused me of violating the Golden Rule by being more confrontational, and I said that if I were abusing someone, I would expect them to feel free to stand up to me and kick my ass (verbally or physically, depending on the situation).

I bet the Christians who say that are hyper-libertarians, maybe the sort who think it would be intrinsically wrong to be employed by a state university or something like that. So maybe they _do_ think the laws are intrinsically immoral.

Even just a little bit of pushback that shows that we are not going to accept that kind of faux-neutral nonsense is worth doing.

Bullies and cowards seeking pliant prey. Stand your ground and they quail like a band of orcs in sunlight.

Would that it were always so. I'm afraid others are finding the orcs attack yet more fiercely. But in this case, yes. Chiefly, probably, because their lawyers told them the case could go against them.

Wonderful article - I'm sending it to my friends.

Wonder of wonders; as soon as they saw a lawyer and the potential loss of money and publicity, their review of the case changed. 'Bullies' seems like an apt descriptor for these folks.

Amazing how the zeitgeist, the worldview narrated by the culture-formers: media, TV, music, education, gov't and other formers of official group-think (including much of the business world), seems to be clinging to the horror of the Planned Parenthood abattoir as some sort of sacred temple. Thank God the barbaric reality of the recent PP videos has hit home to some, those who still possess a modicum of compassion and a heart that can be moved.
In these discussions I exchange 'Planned Parenthood' for "Nazi extermination camp" whenever I see PP discussed. At least those who were killed in the camps had some chance to live, and a few escaped, etc. The babies killed at PP extermination centers have not had even the chance to live - these, the most innocent, weak, and vulnerable, are snuffed out of existence. If they were older, at least they could fight.

If we do not, in 50 years, look back on these days as equivalent to or worse than any genocidal regime in history, then we will have become inhuman. I am all too aware of the reality of evil, but we have lost all perspective and a lot of us have an awful lot of blood on our hands. We deny judgement at our own risk.

Sorry for the tangent, but the mention of PP and how it is such an accepted atrocity always makes me indignant.

I believe it is fair play for us to attempt to use anti-discrimination laws against those who would and do use them against us. I do have two problems with it, however. First I think we will have less success using this as a weapon against our enemies than have had using it as a weapon against us. This is because the judges who hear these cases and the lawyers who argue them are all inclined to think of discrimination as a one-way street, something whites do to blacks and other non-whites, something males do to females, something heterosexuals do to homosexuals, something Christians do to non-Christians or at any rate those who violate Christian ethics, and think of anti-discrimination laws as something put in place to correct these "injustices", protecting nonwhites, women, homosexuals, and non-Christians rather than the other way around. It is almost like a weapon that has touch recognition and can only be fired by its owner.

My second problem with it is that by using these laws ourselves against our persecutors we give, at the very least, our tacit approval to these laws, which will make it harder to get rid of them. This ought to be a goal.

Mike says there is nothing intrinsically immoral about these laws. I disagree. There is a difference between non-discrimination policy and anti-discrimination laws. The former, in which the civil authorities agree, as much as is humanly possible, not to discriminate racially, ethnically, etc. in the administration of law and dispensing of justice, is arguably implicit within the very concept of justice. Anti-discrimination laws, however, tell you and me, that in our private affairs, we are not allowed to discriminate in who we hire and promote, fire and demote, or sell and rent to.

This is not just and it is not moral, because it is discrimination that is not intrinsically immoral and unjust, and sometimes discrimination is the right and necessary thing to do. To use the classic example, the cab driver who is sent into a sketchy neighbourhood, knows that if he picks up the elderly, frail, white grandmother he stands an astronomically smaller chance of being robbed and murdered, than if he picks up one or more of the large, young, muscular black people, who are dressed like thugs, with the attitude to boot. If he acts on that information, it is an act of discrimination, which could even be unfair on an individual basis to the young men in question because, of course, not everyone who looks and acts like that is a robber and murdered, but it is one that is entirely justified as he has his life, his job, and his family to think about. It is unjust and immoral for the law to tell him he cannot discriminate in this fashion or to penalize him for doing so, for his right to look out for his own well-being and that of the family that depends on him is more important than preventing the kind of inconvenience that young, black, men experience because of discrimination of that kind.

Unfortunately, the option of getting rid of these unjust anti-discrimination laws may not be practically available to us because of the changes to our societies that these laws have helped to bring about, in which case we need to do more than just attempt to use the laws against our persecutors. It has become an arms race and we need to develop stronger and better legal weapons, to counter those of our enemies. Laws, for example, that, rather than just declaring a "religious exemption" to anti-discrimination laws, and protect a vague "religious freedom", penalize people, for attempting to use anti-disrimination laws to force religions and religious people to change their traditional beliefs.

Laws, for example, that, ... penalize people, for attempting to use anti-disrimination laws to force religions and religious people to change their traditional beliefs.

Yeah, but is that going to happen? In this age? In the current order?

This nation has become mostly secular: even people who declare that they have a religion largely don't actually practice it. (I don't know about Protestants in general, but among Catholics only 25% go to church every Sunday, and that's just a base-line minimal test.) The ranks of those who profess to believe in some god or other but not in "a religion" have swelled. And the decision makers, the class of highly educated from whom are drawn the executive civil service, and the successful political class, and (especially) the judges, are considerably more secular, a-religious than the general population: they are with a considerable majority explicitly opposed to religion, or (at least) explicitly opposed to religion having a place in the public square. Mario Cuomo's "opposed to abortion but I 'can't' impose that on anyone" position is just one example. Given the demographics, what prospect is there to enact a law that penalizes seculars for attempting to constrain religious people to an ever narrower field of action?

I believe it is fair play for us to attempt to use anti-discrimination laws against those who would and do use them against us. I do have two problems with it, however. First I think we will have less success using this as a weapon against our enemies than have had using it as a weapon against us.

I don't think we have to match them or exceed them to win. In general, they're not accustomed to losing, and they don't have the stomach for it. The goal is to use a non-violent form of 4GW tactics on them. Hit them when they don't expect it. Hit them when they're weak. Hit them when they're feeling good. Hit them when they're feeling bad. Hit them relentlessly. Hit their supporters and supply lines (especially employment since that's one of their preferred tactics now)

I doubt y'all follow the Sad/Rabid Puppies/GamerGate stuff at all, but one of the reasons why you see doxing being less of a thing now for the left on Twitter is because those two groups hit back twice as hard. In fact, one of their big opponents may be going to prison because he/she got investigated by Breitbart and some others and a number of felony offenses were uncovered. Milo Yiannopoulos is actually an expert at handling these people. I would strongly suggest reading his column from time to time on Breitbart because the man, as a journalist, is a stone cold SJW killer with his pen.

Gerry Neal introduces the interesting question: What do we mean when we say something is a "bad law"? If I say that non-discrimination ordinances are "bad law," why does this not translate into their being intrinsically immoral? I certainly think there are levels of foolishness so great that a well-informed legislator would be doing something *wrong* to vote for the law. Extremely high taxes, regulations that will stifle business and cause severe economic damage, and so forth. Rules that are simply absurd and pointless busy-bodying. But even when that is the case, would it be wrong to use a regulation for good purposes later if it could be so used? Gerry Neal seems to agree with the rest of us that that would not always be wrong, even though he uses the phrase "intrinsically immoral" for non-discrimination laws.

There is then the practical question: Do we teach people incorrect beliefs about public policy by making use of non-discrimination laws when we are the ones discriminated against? I think this is a serious question. I suspect that there are a fair number of Christians who have vaguely adopted the notion that "discrimination is wrong." That, after all, is what has made them susceptible to pro-homosexual arguments. I think that any such slogan embodies woolly thinking, for reasons that pretty much everyone in this blog thread agrees on. (What is discrimination? Actually, some "discrimination" is rational and necessary. It is not possible to make reasonable decisions without making distinctions, which is "discrimination." Even discrimination on the basis of the taboo class groupings can sometimes be rational and prudent, as in Gerry Neal's example of the taxi driver. And so forth.) Do we encourage such woolly thinking among those on our own side by lawsuits such as the one I highlight in the main post?

It is certainly one plausible outcome. That is why when I write about these matters I always include a long introduction, like the one in the main post.

I think that it is possible to weigh up those dangers and to decide that it is more important to fight back against bullying tactics like those of Office Depot or Fox (who fired the announcer for having previously expressed opposition to homosexual "marriage").

As for trying to get "more" than religious accommodations: My biggest worry about religious accommodations is that they leave people out in the cold who have legitimate _conscientious_ objections but do not connect this directly to theology. That, however, is fairly easily solved by long-standing precedent that make conscientious objections similar in law to religious objections and giving them the same status.

I have been rather worried by some statements from Ryan T. Anderson recently apropos of the Kim Davis case. Anderson is normally very sensible, and he does support Davis. However, he keeps using this phrase "win-win situation" which makes me grate my teeth. He's describing what would be the case if Kim Davis were to be given a reasonable religious accommodation. That is of course more reasonable policy than throwing her in jail! But it is _not_ a win-win situation! The state is still celebrating homosexual unions in that case, because some other clerks are found who have no problem with signing off on the celebrations. This has all the bad effects in policy that Anderson himself has so eloquently explained in arguing against such recognition! So it's not a win-win situation. He's just using that phrase to try to sound upbeat about religious accommodation, because that's what he's hoping to get.

Well, I'm all in favor of getting whatever we can get. Let's push everywhere and see what gives. But let's not pretend all is lovely and beautiful when our society as a whole is treating sodomite unions as equivalent to matrimony!

This practice of making the enemy live up to his own rules is called (as I understand it) Black-Knighting, and I heartily approve. A great tactical manual for situations like this just came out: SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police

Highly Recommended.

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