Friday, August 23, 2013


"My freedom ends where yours begins."  While my politics aren't quite as libertarian as they once were (the Tea Party drove the final nail in my idealism's coffin), I still regard that principle as a good starting point for evaluating public policy.  In an ideal society I should be as free as possible to conduct my life as I see fit, but that cannot include the freedom to impinge on your freedom.  Viewed another way, it's a corollary to the Golden Rule.

It's never quite that simple in real life, of course; the boundary between my freedom and yours is a hazy line at best.  But simply stated principles can still act as beacons to help us navigate through that haze.  Applying this principle we can, for example, quickly see through the flimsy claims of discrimination that religious right groups have begun hurling around in the wake of victories for LGBT rights.  Allegedly, by treating LGBT individuals as equals, society is infringing on the right of conservative Christians to treat them as inferiors.  It's a shallow claim that fools nobody, in part because we instinctively understand that principle.

But freedom does extend in both directions, which is why I get uncomfortable when I hear about cases like that of the New Mexico photographer who was sued for refusing to photograph a gay couple's commitment ceremony.  I say that not because I personally approve of the photographer's inhospitality, but because it raises issues surrounding freedom of association.

I do recognize the need for non-discrimination laws; the government (and its employees) must, in the name of justice, treat all citizens equally and apply the law without bias against disfavored groups.  Likewise, in matters of employment, housing and health care (and other essentials), denial of service on the basis of personal prejudice can cause undue hardship.

And I can see where, in some cases, a gay customer in a socially conservative region might find him- or herself unable to find any photographer (or baker, or electrician, or pet-sitter, etc.) who wouldn't discriminate.  For that reason I lean toward agreeing with the opinions of those courts that have ruled against the photographer and similar defendants, even though I'm not entirely comfortable doing so.

But it does still beg the question: are we willing to accept this interpretation of the law when the shoe is on the other foot?  Should a gay-supportive photographer be forced to accept the business of a fundamentalist pastor known for his fiery anti-gay sermons?  Should a bakery that celebrates diversity be legally obligated to bake a cake for a church that believes in white supremacy?

These questions are hypothetical, but I pose them as a reminder that anti-discrimination laws cut in all directions, and that each of us may one day find ourselves in the position of having to provide our services to someone that we find morally objectionable.  For the most part that's simply the price of living in a free society - but it behooves us to be certain now that we're setting that price at an amount that we ourselves are willing to pay.

Monday, August 12, 2013


Lately I've been coming across a lot of good reading material at Unfundamentalist Christians (which I keep up with through their Facebook page.  Here are a few of those items of interest:

1. A post with a few thoughts on the doctrine of "Biblical" Inerrancy.  A watershed moment in my own journey was coming to the realization that this doctrine was neither biblical nor helpful.

2. This is the second time I've come across the blog Sacred Tension.  This post on the tragically high cost of forcing celibacy on gay people nails the problem on the head, through individual stories that deserve to be given a fair hearing by those who make that demand.  One of these days I hope to get around to writing about the compartmentalization I did in (and prior to) my ex-gay days and the ways that continues to impact my own life.

3. Finally, a quote:
For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men indeed as well as most sects in Religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so far error…
- Benjamin Franklin, Speech before the Constitutional Convention, Sept. 17, 1787, recorded by James Madison

Saturday, August 03, 2013


There are always those who take it upon themselves to defend God, as if Ultimate Reality, as if the sustaining frame of existence, were something weak and helpless.  These people walk by a widow deformed by leprosy begging for a few paise, walk by children dressed in rags living in the street, and they think, "Business as usual."  But if they perceive a slight against God, it is a different story.  Their faces go red, their chests heave mightily, they sputter angry words.  The degree of their indignation is astonishing.  Their resolve is frightening.

These people fail to realize that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside,  They should direct their anger at themselves.  For evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out.  The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart.  Meanwhile, the lot of widows and homeless children is very hard, and it is to their defence, not God's, that the self-righteous should rush.
-Yann Martel, Life of Pi