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Keeping Tabs on the New Decentralized Religious Right
June 26, 2014 7:43 AM   Subscribe

Frederick Clarkson describes a shift in organization among the Christian Right from the prominent national organizations of Falwell and Dobson to a decentralized constellation of ministers and commentators far less well known to the mainstream. “Rumblings of Theocratic Violence” provides a detailed rundown of their activities and explains why they merit close attention:
Taken singly, the views of any of the Christian Right leaders described here would not necessarily signal a trend. But taken together, the commonalities of their views take the edge off of their many differences and reveal distinct, overlapping factions of a dynamic movement towards the ideas of nullification and secession—and the possibility of violence and revolution.

One does not have to believe that secession or revolution of any kind would be successful, or that widespread violence is likely anytime soon, to recognize that the political tensions preceding any major matters of nullification, and moves towards secession by any state, would likely beget violence of many kinds. Which is why ignoring Lane, Leithart, McCloskey, Whitney, and their like—or assuming that they are anything less than deadly serious—could be an error of historic significance.
posted by audi alteram partem (71 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Advocating a civil war like it's still 1860 and a war against the federal government could be fought with hunting rifles and on horseback seems to gloss over a couple centuries of military developments.

Sure, the Right could start a insurgent campaign of IEDs in blue states. Go ahead and advocate for that, I'm sure it'll play well in purple state statewide elections.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:07 AM on June 26


I am vividly reminded of this article about DHS analyst Darryl Johnson. You can Johnson's report here (PDF).


We’ve been in 15 states now, largely under the radar, and we’ve had 10,000 pastors plus spouses that we’ve put up overnight and fed three meals. The purpose is to get the pastors—the shepherds in America—to engage the culture through better registration and get out the vote.”

I can't help but wonder how many of those pastors were non-white....
posted by magstheaxe at 8:11 AM on June 26


Sure, the Right could start a insurgent campaign of IEDs in blue states. Go ahead and advocate for that, I'm sure it'll play well in purple state statewide elections.

NB: Please do not advocate for that, I would like for people not to get blowed up.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:18 AM on June 26 [4 favorites]


Well, I'm sure that if we have a campaign of violence by Christian extremists in the US, that each and every one of them will be considered an independent isolated act by a mentally unbalanced individual.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:19 AM on June 26 [42 favorites]


Sure, the Right could start a insurgent campaign of IEDs in blue states. Go ahead and advocate for that, I'm sure it'll play well in purple state statewide elections.

If it does come to another civil war, even though it will be a modern insurgency type of civil war and not something with cavalry charges, control of the purple states will not be decided through the ballot box.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 8:20 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]


If there were to be a holy war between evangelicals v everyone, we're at a direct disadvantage. Evangelicals have no shortage of foot soldiers willing to die for an easy in to the kingdom of heaven while those of us who love life for the short time we have don't want to die for such a stupid reason.
posted by Talez at 8:23 AM on June 26 [3 favorites]


If there are any Civil War scholars on Mefi, I sure would love to hear some analysis on whether or not conditions in the country today are indeed similar to what they were leading up to that war.
posted by jbickers at 8:24 AM on June 26 [5 favorites]


I'm less worried about the 10,000 pastors than the 30,000 current and former military and law enforcement officials that are not only very inclined to agree with them, but seem to be preparing for violence in the name of nullification if not outright secession.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:26 AM on June 26 [13 favorites]


In a sermon in March 2014, Whitney called for imprecatory prayer against the White House staff (presumably including President Obama), apparently because of the Affordable Care Act. “There are many enemies that we could pray against them that God would do unto them what they are seeking to do unto us,” he told his congregation. “There are those, including those in the White House, through their death panels, who intend to kill us. May God do to them what they intend to do to us.”

Wow. It's like a giant middle finger to everything Jesus spoke of.
posted by Talez at 8:27 AM on June 26 [21 favorites]


I'm not a Civil War scholar by any stretch but I'd think it'd be hard to make a direct comparison because there's no Mason-Dixon Line & its fraught compromises, there's not really any regionalism tied to the opposing ideologies (other than the really-not-very-solid distinction between 'Red States' and 'Blue States').
posted by shakespeherian at 8:28 AM on June 26


From the article:


"[Douglas] Wilson and [Stephen] Wilkins are notorious for a booklet they published that claimed that slavery was not so bad."

Welp. I withdraw my earlier inquiry.

Also, I had never heard of the Manhattan Declaration until now. Yeeeesh. Some of the biggest guns in the religious right didn't sign it, but I'm not sure that's much comfort.

I have every expectation that these nitwits will be rightfully consigned to the dustbin of history. But it sound like they're certainly going to fight being put there.

I'm less worried about the 10,000 pastors than the 30,000 current and former military and law enforcement officials that are not only very inclined to agree with them, but seem to be preparing for violence in the name of nullification if not outright secession.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:26 AM on June 26


I'm trying to imagine a Venn diagram of those guys, plus anti-gay-anything guys, plus MRAs, and I keep coming up with concentric circles.....
posted by magstheaxe at 8:29 AM on June 26 [4 favorites]


The federal government is TYRANNY, America has always been a Christian nation, non-Christians are irrelevant and have no rights, violence against the state and those who stand for it is justified, abortion is murder, the South Shall Rise Again, the Confederacy was the moral side of the Civil War, Christians are called to slay evil lest God slay everyone, modern America is completely corrupted and must be overthrown, homosexuals are inherently evil, homeschooling is preferable, nullification of federal law is both possible and desirable, secession is inevitable as Washington is actively promoting evil and oppressing Real Patriotic Christians.

Are there any unticked boxes left? Maybe we can throw in a redesigned Cardinal hat that's a tricorn.

The two comforts here are that:

1) The vast majority of religious Americans look at these people like the fucking nuts they are.
2) The vast majority of people sick enough to want to be terrorists in the name of [whatever] are sick enough to be too stupid to pull it off successfully.

But it only takes one nutjob to cause a real tragedy with real victims.
posted by delfin at 8:31 AM on June 26 [5 favorites]


somethingsomething, fascism, bible, flag...
posted by Thorzdad at 8:31 AM on June 26 [4 favorites]


Comparisons to the American Civil War are less likely to be predictive of future conflict than comparisons to other, more modern, civil wars generally -- it's better to ask 'do these present conditions match any other prior conditions that led to violence?' than to ask 'do they match one specific set of circumstances?'
posted by cjelli at 8:32 AM on June 26 [6 favorites]


I'm actually a bit less concerned about the Oath Keepers now- if Cliven Bundy is their big "put up or shut up moment," they've done a terrible job of it. They seem to spend most of their time out there posing on horseback with flags, and I imagine they're going to start getting pretty hungry soon. The Feds are actually doing a pretty good job of keeping them bottled up and letting them stew.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:37 AM on June 26


If it does come to another civil war, even though it will be a modern insurgency type of civil war and not something with cavalry charges, control of the purple states will not be decided through the ballot box.

Im assuming electoral control would still be relevant long before actual bombs in the streets. The extreme violent rhetoric on the Right is still largely unseen in the broader national consiousness, but advocating actual violence in the open would presumably (hopefully?) quickly turn currently disinterested citizens who have no desire for any kind of rebellion or civil war again would-be Dominionist uprisings, which could then be cut off by democratic process, rather than say sending tanks into the Houston suburbs.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:39 AM on June 26


I personally don't know anyone out there (I hope) that would actively pursue violence to further the religious right's power and influence, but I know plenty of people who would support them. Most are within my extended family and the churches they attend. What are the actual odds of something like this happening? Do I need to update my bug-out bag with passports in case we need to leave refugee style?

And as far as modern comparisons go, wouldn't more sectarian style conflicts (Isreal/Palestine, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, etc) be a bit closer? I mean, I know the other side of the sectarian divide is moderate to liberal politics (uh, and increasingly the center-right), but doesn't that fit a little better than the American Civil War?
posted by furnace.heart at 8:44 AM on June 26


The rhetoric they quote in this article is in equal measures both alarming and profoundly pathetic.
posted by pziemba at 8:46 AM on June 26


Christ, what assholes. But I don't see what's substantially new here. I suppose any description of what the Freak Right is up to is inherently disturbing, but I don't think this article presents evidence of any new type of threat. The first example he gives comes from Iowa, which is not a state that will go down the road into apocalyptic bible terrorism any time soon.
posted by univac at 8:49 AM on June 26


This is a pretty ludicrous attempt at bootstrapping ONE GUY into a violent movement. It's an article that goes on and on and on, yet only manages to find one guy who talks about carrying out violence.
posted by Jahaza at 8:50 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]


The thought of pastors preaching politics. Well that's going to be a massive legal shitfight that will take years if not decades to resolve fully.
posted by Talez at 8:54 AM on June 26


And he's totally misunderstanding people like Leithart, whose point in articles like "A Call to Martyrdom" is basically the opposite of what he thinks it is. It's about the Christian power of weakness through persecution and martyrdom. It's about acknowledging the long-term failure of the Christian right's attempts at political action. He doesn't advocate violence, he's advocates that those who "are insulted and marginalized" "yield [their] back[s] to the smiters and [their] face[s] to those who spit on [them]".
posted by Jahaza at 8:56 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]


And he's totally misunderstanding people like Leithart, whose point in articles like "A Call to Martyrdom" is basically the opposite of what he thinks it is.

I dunno. That blog post has this in it:
President Obama quickly reassured us that religious liberty will not be infringed. And he’s technically right. Nearly every state that has passed same-sex marriage legislation has made exceptions claiming that no pastor will be required to perform same-sex marriages. But as Robert George has pointed out, the protections are thin indeed. Tax exemption will be challenged, and so will accreditation for Christian colleges and schools that hold to traditional views of marriage. Once opposition to same-sex marriage is judged discriminatory, no institution that opposes it will be unaffected. If you want to see what the future looks like, consider what Paula Deen has been through the past few weeks.
This is part of what frustrates and annoys me about the Religious Right -- their idea of martyrdom consists of being held accountable for their words and actions and potentially denied access to benefits of a society which they constantly attack. It's a level of privilege so entrenched that being presented with alternatives feels a brutal slight, any disagreement is persecution. This excessive and unreflective privilege seems to be is the root of the deep dissatisfaction that drives the more violent end of the Christian Right.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:26 AM on June 26 [26 favorites]


I'm actually a bit less concerned about the Oath Keepers now- if Cliven Bundy is their big "put up or shut up moment," they've done a terrible job of it

There was actually a schism between the OK and the Bundy people, exacerbated by his racist rant.

And here's the thing about the OK and their ilk - they talk a lot of smack about violent revolution and whatnot, but they totally lack the cojones. They don't want to be martyrs, they want to be victors and an armed confrontation with the government is a good way to get dead.

The conservative movement is dominated by crybabies. The movement has more in common with a tantrum throwing toddler and is best understood to have the same cause - not getting their way for reasons they can't comprehend.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:31 AM on June 26 [12 favorites]


And he's totally misunderstanding people like Leithart, whose point in articles like "A Call to Martyrdom" is basically the opposite of what he thinks it is. It's about the Christian power of weakness through persecution and martyrdom. It's about acknowledging the long-term failure of the Christian right's attempts at political action. He doesn't advocate violence, he's advocates that those who "are insulted and marginalized" "yield [their] back[s] to the smiters and [their] face[s] to those who spit on [them]".


We feel for that one when people were spouting the same shit on anti-abortion doctors. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
posted by Talez at 9:32 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]


Advocating a civil war like it's still 1860 and a war against the federal government could be fought with hunting rifles and on horseback seems to gloss over a couple centuries of military developments.

I don't think a real civil war is at all likely, but if one were to happen, it's not like the you can assume the current federal government would inherit all of its assets and personnel, and the rebels would only be equipped with what they have at home. In the Civil War, many of the rebels* were from the US military and they also captured its equipment**.

* "[Robert. E. Lee was a] top graduate of the United States Military Academy, ... [and] an exceptional officer and combat engineer in the United States Army for 32 years. During this time, he served throughout the United States, distinguished himself during the Mexican-American War, served as Superintendent of the United States Military Academy..."

** "...the seven seceding states [that] had formed the Confederate States of America.... seized federal property, including nearly all federal forts, within their borders."

posted by cosmic.osmo at 9:34 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]


By Lane’s analysis, about half of eligible evangelical voters are either not registered or do not vote—and he believes pastors are the key to changing this...
Does anyone know of an actual study that would back up this assertion? The article only links to an interview from the Glen Beck show, and I'm not watching that.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:42 AM on June 26


If there are any Civil War scholars on Mefi, I sure would love to hear some analysis on whether or not conditions in the country today are indeed similar to what they were leading up to that war.

In Charles Dickens's notes on his trip across America in the late 1840's, he mentions several times how shocked he is at the level of political partisanship and divisiveness among the American he meets.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:44 AM on June 26


If there are any Civil War scholars on Mefi, I sure would love to hear some analysis on whether or not conditions in the country today are indeed similar to what they were leading up to that war.

I know a bit about that topic.

Simply put, the conditions are very different. The South held fast to the socio-political-economic model of slavery (and its attendant ideologies of privilege, normative attitudes about informal society and government regulation, etc) for many reasons, but one of the most significant was economic. Wealthy Southern land-owners and agricultural producers simply refused to give up the incredible wealth that slavery entailed, and to hell with the human consequences.

Today, the South has nothing like that to secede or revolt over. Arguably, energy companies, coal producers and oil refiners and other fossil-fuel interests, have as much to lose by proper environmental regulation as Southerners did by potentially losing their slaves, but the differences are more immense than the similarities.

Perhaps more to the point, a theocratic revolution in contemporary America seems very unlikely. There have never been any theocratic political revolutions in developed, Western societies, and the only typical cause of revolution relevant in the US right now (financial crisis and persistently bad economic conditions) doesn't seem to favor the kind of angry, confused, entitled people implicated in the post here.
posted by clockzero at 9:47 AM on June 26 [4 favorites]


Nearly every state that has passed same-sex marriage legislation has made exceptions claiming that no pastor will be required to perform same-sex marriages.

This is the part that always gets me about the problem so many Christian opponents had with same-sex marriage being legal. Of course no pastor will be required to perform same-sex marriages - under the law, no pastor is required to perform any marriages at all. The state allows them to perform marriages if they want (they subcontract it, or franchise it, if you will). You don't want to perform marriages? Don't perform marriages! Nobody forces Catholic priests to marry divorcés, do they?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:51 AM on June 26 [13 favorites]


scary stories from the hinterlands for the 10%
posted by ennui.bz at 10:04 AM on June 26


What's ironic about this far right Christian movement is that the historical Jesus was all about bringing down the corrupt Jewish regime of the Temple priests. Just now reading Zealot, by Reza Aslan. Much of what Aslan brings forward about Jesus, the Jewish revolutionary resonates with what I hear from far right Christian ideologues - including the disruption and/or destruction of the ruling order.
posted by Vibrissae at 10:08 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]


somethingsomething, fascism, bible, flag...

And that quote seems to have originated in the 1930s (though its attribution to Sinclair Lewis might be dubious), but Jonah Goldberg wrote a book called Liberal Fascism, so neener neener and nothing to see here.
posted by Gelatin at 10:25 AM on June 26


Now I'm imagining a show depicting the long-awaited post-apocalyptic Civil War mk. II scenario. Imagine it was Walking Dead meets True Detective without the supernatural elements of either but all of the human conflicts. It could be like Brian Wood's DMZ, except set in the areas where the civil war between the U.S. and the militia movement-driven Free States actually happens (New Jersey!) instead of hoary ol' Big Apple.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:58 AM on June 26


“There are many enemies that we could pray against them that God would do unto them what they are seeking to do unto us,” he told his congregation.
He wants God to make sure his enemies have health insurance?
posted by Flunkie at 10:59 AM on June 26 [21 favorites]


What's ironic about this far right Christian movement is that the historical Jesus was all about bringing down the corrupt Jewish regime of the Temple priests.



Eh, most of that was actually Barabbas fanfic. That Jesus character? Total Marty Stu.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:03 PM on June 26


Probably the closest we've come was actually in 2000, with Bush/Gore.

The situation we could have slid into is one I call the "Avignon Presidency". You have a disputed election, both candidates say they won, different states recognize different Presidents, and each group of states insists that it's the legitimate one and that the other group are the "seceders".

That's different from the situation in this article, though.
posted by gimonca at 12:15 PM on June 26


any time i try to take a measured approach to calmly and fairly understanding the mindset of these folks, i encounter so much fucking hypocrisy almost immediately, that i just end up throwing my hands in the air time after time. it's lunacy.
posted by rude.boy at 12:33 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


The Evangelical Right had a chance to remake themselves in 2008 by shifting to economic populism. Alas, Huckabee was hot air and Santorum is too (not to mention a Catholic, to boot). The social traditionalist, economic populist configuration present in much of the world in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East does not have a home in America, and the Evangelical Right remains wedded to the altar of Mammon.

If they rebranded themselves as champions of not only the faith of Main Street but also the class of Main Street, they could outmaneuver anything the increasingly corporate-entrenched Democrats could, short of Elizabeth Warren. But they won't, so these efforts are utterly doomed to fail. And the Democrats will remain happily milquetoast on economic stances, because their little crumb of progressivism is better than all alternatives.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:41 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


The closest you're going to find in the right of economic populism (producerism) would be Pat... what's his fuckface.... Buchanan, that guy.

Would we really want him to have much voice? Any sort of economic populism in the US from the right will end up being very anti-immigrant, unfortunately.
posted by symbioid at 12:47 PM on June 26


That's the thing, though- unlike other nations, the U.S. does not have a centrist-ish Christian Democratic party that can be traditional minded while not being bonkers. Pat Buchanan's wasn't just hard-right social conservative in the GOP way, he was also a nativist to boot, as you pointed out. The only other example I can think of is Lou Dobbs, who is pretty much as toxic. Similarly, unlike in European countries, the U.S. lacks a Liberal Party that's about lack of government interference in both economics and social matters, not to mention civil liberties, as opposed to becoming acolytes of Ayn Rand. So instead you have lolbertarians and Objectivists running around both in the GOP and as independents.

Seems like things would be better if there were big tent parties for all four corners of the political compass, so the fanatics of each stripes get sidelined.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:55 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


“There are many enemies that we could pray against them that God would do unto them what they are seeking to do unto us,” he told his congregation.

He wants God to make sure his enemies have health insurance?


Well, right. He doesn't appreciate how benign his prayer actually is.

But given that this befrocked troglodyte is talking about "death panels" here, even his own tendentious world-view implies that he's praying for God to make sure that his enemies' fate is decided by pointy-headed government bureaucrats. So, through a totally credulous reading, he's asking God to do something that is now, according to him, going to happen to everyone anyway.

I try and try, but I cannot understand how people whose identity is so invested in the importance of God to our lives can have such utterly banal and impoverished ideas about what God actually is and does, and why.
posted by clockzero at 12:56 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


To get back to the subject of the article, it's very fascinating and well-researched, but I can't help but to think that it's in the same vein as pieces on Rushdoony and the Dominionists were back in the mid-00's. You get these fringe characters with big visions from nefarious-sounding groups and find all sorts of networks to them and figures on the right. But at the end of the day, how much policy do they really affect? For all of their spoooooky rhetoric, how much of that is actually taken seriously? How much does the Evangelical rank-and-file really care for these guys' notions on the future of America, or have even heard of neo-Confederate movements? Fringe movements are always interesting to follow, but I don't think they will become a political- or military- force of concern anytime soon. This seems like a bogeyman for progressives more than anything.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:50 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


GenjiandProust: their idea of martyrdom consists of being held accountable for their words and actions and potentially denied access to benefits of a society which they constantly attack. It's a level of privilege so entrenched that being presented with alternatives feels a brutal slight, any disagreement is persecution. This excessive and unreflective privilege

I'm almost finished reading Lundy Bancroft's Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. Substitute "victim" for "society" (and perhaps add "shit on" along with "attack") and your words perfectly encapsulate what Bancroft says about the mindset that creates abusive relationships.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:25 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]


Of course no pastor will be required to perform same-sex marriages - under the law, no pastor is required to perform any marriages at all.

Pastors are freer than cake makers? That's interesting. What about a pastor who also makes wedding cakes? Honest musing.
posted by codswallop at 2:56 PM on June 26


What about a pastor who also makes wedding cakes? Honest musing.

Bakers are forced to make wedding cakes?
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:23 PM on June 26


To clarify before you wave Fox News at me -- bakers can't select who they sell to (except, one assumes by price). The actions of any given (or any) clergyperson is unnecessary for a legal marriage. Totally different issues.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:27 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


As soon as I read about them paying dues the whole thing came into focus. Some shrewdy has found another way to separate the stoopid from their meager wealth.
posted by notreally at 3:36 PM on June 26


The actions of any given (or any) clergyperson is unnecessary for a legal marriage.

Well, the actions of a cake maker aren't necessary either. And wedding officiants get paid!

Oh, and screw your Fox News stuff, don't have cable, don't watch it.
posted by codswallop at 3:45 PM on June 26


Under the first amendment, religious organizations have the power to regulate their own sacraments, liturgical practices, conditions to membership both as lay and clergy, &c. The Federal and state governments cannot, for instance, require a priest to perform a Catholic marriage. Under the law, though, plenty of people are married who have never gotten a Catholic marriage.

The creation and sale of a wedding cake is not protected in this way, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone.
posted by gauche at 4:03 PM on June 26 [5 favorites]


Well, the actions of a cake maker aren't necessary either. And wedding officiants get paid!

The cake maker is a business defined by selling cakes. If you want to buy a cake, you need to go to a cake maker. They can't discriminate by age, sex, sexual preference, race, religion, etc because that is limiting access to cakes. Marriage is a civil and legal arrangement that does not require the participation of anyone outside of civil officials (who also cannot discriminate by age, sex, etc..). Since clerical participation of any stripe is essentially window dressing as far as the legal institution is concerned, religious organizations can discriminate by whatever criteria they like (religion is a popular one), because that discrimination doesn't interfere with the participant's right to obtain the marriage. This is not a complicated or subtle distinction.

Oh, and screw your Fox News stuff, don't have cable, don't watch it.

The majority of reporting on this was from Fox links. I don't have cable.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:04 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


Well, the actions of a cake maker aren't necessary either. And wedding officiants get paid!

I'm not sure I understand the complaint. Should people be legally compelled to participate in religious ceremonies against their will? In any particular capacity or in general?

The answer is Always Absolutely Not. FYI
posted by timfinnie at 4:26 PM on June 26


I can't help but to think that it's in the same vein as pieces on Rushdoony and the Dominionists were back in the mid-00's

Yeah, it is from the same people who wrote all that stuff on Daily Kos in the mid-'00s about the looming Christian theocracy, about how Bush was moments away from turning everything into the world from Escape From L.A. It's all sort of interesting now and then. But you are right that it has similarities to the industry of people on the Right who dig up stuff from the left-wing fringes, then try to leave the impression it is about to spill over into the mainstream world: "Oh my God, Hillary Clinton is directly influenced by the views of Saul Alinsky!"

The flip side is articles that will come out now and then about how the Religious Right is over forever. Nothing really changes.
posted by johngoren at 4:28 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


The Religious Right has extensive support in the security services and cell-like organizations in the military. That's the difference, johngoren. Capabilities.

Oh and they've successfully eliminated abortion access in lots of states via terrorism-- killing doctors.
posted by wuwei at 5:19 PM on June 26


leave the impression it is about to spill over into the mainstream world

Clarkson's work and that of his colleagues at Talk To Action and at Political Research Associates has never suggested that a theocratic revolution is imminent. Their scholarship has always focused on what they acknowledge are fringe elements. They track these elements not to sell some catastrophic narrative but because the fringe ideology has from time to time led to actual violence, as we saw recently with the militia-related shootings in Las Vegas and because fringe elements sometimes have relationships with more mainstream political actors worth disclosing to the public (for example, though Talk To Action's website is down right now so I can't link: tracking the relationship between American extremists and anti-gay legislation in Uganda).
posted by audi alteram partem at 5:41 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure I understand the complaint. Should people be legally compelled to participate in religious ceremonies against their will? In any particular capacity or in general?

I sure as hell don't think so and I don't think people should be forced into financial transactions, either. I think people should be free to assemble (or not, as the case may be) peaceably.
posted by codswallop at 7:10 PM on June 26


The people arent being forced to make a cake - The cake business is.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:25 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]


From the OP, every time I hear the expression "Judeo-Christian", I know a christian is talking. Christian religious reactionaries do not have my Jewish ethics or well-being in mind; if they did, they wouldn't be picketing my synagogue or calling our heterosexual, married, mother-of-twin-girls rabbi an abortionist lesbian slut (yes, she was called this). I get along much better with most Sharia-following fellow Abrahamic Monotheists, who at least are mindful of trigger words and hate speech, AKA "leshon hara", evil speech.
posted by Dreidl at 10:10 PM on June 26 [6 favorites]


I sure as hell don't think so and I don't think people should be forced into financial transactions, either. I think people should be free to assemble (or not, as the case may be) peaceably.

Being barred from discriminating against people for bad reasons isn't the same as being forced to do business with them. And even if you think there's no effective difference, it's not like taking someone's money for a good or service you're already providing in exactly the same way to plenty of others is a burden.
posted by clockzero at 6:50 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]


I sure as hell don't think so and I don't think people should be forced into financial transactions, either.

But, in the United States, since the Civil Rights era, people who voluntarily hold themselves out as willing to conduct business in public cannot withdraw their business from potential customers on the basis of things like race, sex, national origin, and (now) sexual orientation. You may consider, for instance, a racist diner owner to have been "forced" to serve food to black people, but the law's been "forcing" this behavior for a while now.

And, frankly, I think it's a misunderstanding of the term "forced" to say that somebody is being forced to sell a cake to a particular individual when they have voluntarily held themselves out as being willing to sell a cake at that price to the general public.
posted by gauche at 8:46 AM on June 27 [4 favorites]


Just FYI for those like me who were wondering: Frederick Clarkson, the author of this piece, is not MeFi favorite Fred Clark of the Slacktivist progressive Christian blog.
posted by Monochrome at 10:46 AM on June 27


The people arent being forced to make a cake - The cake business is.

And if they're a sole proprietorship?
posted by Jahaza at 12:25 PM on June 27


Just FYI for those like me who were wondering: Frederick Clarkson, the author of this piece, is not MeFi favorite Fred Clark of the Slacktivist progressive Christian blog.

What about Fredson Clarkerick?
posted by shakespeherian at 12:46 PM on June 27


And if they're a sole proprietorship?

Then, like I said a few hours ago, they cannot revoke their offer to conduct business just because of the customer's race, sex, national origin, &c., (including sexual orientation.) The law will not allow you to revoke your willingness to transact business for any of those reasons. This is well-traveled ground.

Businesspersons whose consciences will not allow them to serve, let's say, Catholic immigrants from Italy (e.g., my great-grandparents, who did experience such discrimination), are free to close up shop; to the extent that they wish to remain open, they cannot under the law refuse to serve certain customers on the basis of protected civil rights classes. That's just the way it is in America thanks to the Civil Rights Act and the state equivalents.

Nobody is forced to be in business, but if you're in business, you don't get to go against the law.
posted by gauche at 12:53 PM on June 27 [3 favorites]


Nobody is forced to be in business, but if you're in business, you don't get to go against the law.

So what about musicians? If they get paid for singing must they accept all offers of paid employment to sing at wedding ceremonies without choosing based on the religion? All offers of employment to sing at religious ceremonies of all kinds?

That's going to bump up against the forcing people to participate in religious ceremonies that people were against up thread... Not to mention the religious freedom and freedom of expression guarantees of the constitution. Because even if cake making isn't, singing is a form of expression even though it is also a business.

What about photographers? Is photography not artistic expression?
posted by Jahaza at 1:33 PM on June 27


I haven't specifically looked into whether a singer or a photographer is exempt from the civil rights laws, but I'm not sure they should be.

You seem to think that they should be and I'd be interested to hear your argument as to why.
posted by gauche at 1:41 PM on June 27


From the Cato, Volokh, Carpenter amicus brief (pdf) in Elane Photography v. Willock:
Consider for instance the very sort of public accommodations antidiscrimination law involved in this case. As interpreted by the state court, the law applies not just to photographers but also to other contractors, such as freelance writers, singers, and painters. And it would apply not just to weddings, but also to political and religious events.

Thus, for instance, a freelance writer who thinks Scientology is a fraud would be violating New Mexico law (which bans religious as well as sexual orientation discrimination) if he refused to write a press release announcing a Scientologist event. An actor would be violating the law if he refused to perform in a commercial for a religious organization of which he disapproves. And since the same rule would apply to state statutes that ban discrimination based on “political affiliation,” e.g., D.C. Code § 2-1411.02 (2001); V.I. Code tit. 10, § 64(3) (2006); Seattle, Wash. Mun. Code §§ 14.06.020(L), .030(B), a Democratic freelance writer in a jurisdiction that had such a statute would have to accept commissions to write press releases for Republicans (so long as he writes
them for Democrats).

Yet all such requirements would unacceptably force the speakers to “becom[e] the courier[s] for . . . message[s]” with which they disagree,” Wooley, 430 U.S. at 717. All would interfere with creators’ “right to decline to foster . . . concepts” that they disapprove of. Id. at 714; see also Id. at 715 (recognizing people’s right to “refuse to foster . . . an idea they find morally objectionable”). And all would interfere with the “individual freedom of mind,” Id. at 714, by forcing writers, actors, painters, singers, and photographers to express sentiments that they see as wrong.
posted by Jahaza at 1:52 PM on June 27


And, not to double-tap, but I'm not sure I find the "personal/artistic expression" argument especially persuasive, myself.

My dad was a carpenter and he absolutely expressed himself building houses and porches and all kinds of beautiful things out of wood, but I don't believe that carpenters should be able to refuse service to people because of, e.g., their race.

I've done high-end sales, and I think sales at the level I was doing it is a deeply personal line of work, built on trust and human connection, and I don't think that a salesperson should be allowed, at law, to refuse to deal with people because of, e.g., their national origin.

I've also worked in some very nice kitchens, and, again, I find that there is a great deal of personal and artistic expression in food preparation and service, but, again, I don't believe that restaurants should have the right to refuse to serve people on the basis of, e.g., their religion.

So, I'm very interested to know what your reasons are for saying, as I think you are, that photographers and singers should be exempt from civil rights laws. If that's not what you're saying I hope you'll correct my misapprehension.
posted by gauche at 1:53 PM on June 27


Sorry, we cross-posted. I'm going to think about that selection from Cato. In the mean time I welcome your further response.
posted by gauche at 1:56 PM on June 27


"...called for imprecatory prayer against the White House staff..."

Isn't this a political side-taking that would render the church's tax-exempt status null and void?

Why isn't this 'a thing'?
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 12:13 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]


Jahaza, I've been confused all weekend by your line of questioning in this thread leading up to that Cato et al amicus brief. We were talking about bakeries not being allowed to withhold their business and you raised the question of whether photographers and musicians would be allowed to withhold their business as well. Fine and good.

The concern around creating exceptions to a civil rights law is that those exceptions have to be construed carefully -- create an exception for creative expression and then the diner owner is claiming that his work cooking is creative expression and thus he's allowed to discriminate in just the way the civil rights act is meant to prevent. I think there's an argument to be made in good faith that cooking and serving food are, or can be, speech acts, and even at times protected speech acts. But to the extent that construing such activity as a speech act hollows out other important rights and creates manifest injustice (by, in our example, hollowing out the civil rights laws) the law must balance these different and legitimate concerns in a way that increases justice and goodwill and peaceable human flourishing to the extent possible.

So I was looking, in reading that brief, for a limiting principle by which the exercise of free speech could be balanced against the protection of civil rights to use public accommodations. I am pleased to see that the brief articulates such a limiting principle in Section VI, as between expressive and non-expressive speech, but I confess that I do not, myself, see the line between those two forms of speech to be as clear as the authors of that brief seem to do.

Does this seem like an appropriate limiting principle to you? And if so, did you not just answer your own earlier question about whether and how civil rights laws should apply to photographers and musicians? That is to say, I'm not sure that the writers of the Cato brief have any disagreement with my admittedly rather broad articulation of the civil rights protections in-thread above, so I'm not sure why you raised the question of photographers and musicians in the first place. I'm not trying to be confrontational; I am both a little confused and interested in this topic, so I welcome your response.
posted by gauche at 4:41 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]


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