There has been a lot of rancorous debate in the past few days over the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” recently signed into law by Indiana governor Mike Pence. Critics of the law have argued that it essentially legalizes discrimination against the LGBT community. That argument is affirmed by the fact that lobbyists who are openly hostile to marriage equality and other gay rights were among those present at the signing of the bill.
Supporters of the bill insist that there is no intent to discriminate against anyone, however, they are unable explain the purpose of the bill as anything other than a legal defense for discriminating. The twisted justifications they deploy have become more absurd as the controversy continues. And yesterday on Fox News, Tucker Carlson went farther than any of his fellow bigots by deeming the law’s opponents to be “nauseating” and adding that…
“We’ve always made exceptions for religious minorities. Quakers can become conscientious objectors. So you have a country where religious minorities get to choose which wars they fight in, but not whether to serve cupcakes at a wedding that would violate their religious principles? That’s insane.”
Analogizing this to conscientious objectors stretches the bounds of reason. When someone declines to participate in war due to prohibition by his religion he is not imposing his beliefs on anyone or denying anyone the equal protection of the law. He is merely seeking an accommodation for himself. The businesses that want to deny service to people because they don’t approve of them are inherently discriminatory and their behavior directly impacts the targets of their prejudice. But Carlson wasn’t through being insulting and ignorant. He continued to make this appalling declaration:
“These are absolutists, these are jihadis, people who want to make you obey, that don’t brook any opposition to their world view at all. They will crush you.”
So now if you are advocating for your civil rights you are, in Carlson’s view, in the same league as terrorists who murder their foes. While that assertion is unforgivably offensive, it is also
painfully illogical. Carlson has evoked a role reversal in the debate in that those seeking equality are not the ones demanding ideological obedience. It is the law’s supporters who are forcing their beliefs on anyone who does not conform to their principles. Providing a service that is available to the public does not require one to accept the principles of the customer. However, by denying that service you are putting the customer in a second-class status. It was not that long ago that bigots used the same religious arguments to deny service to African-Americans, Jews, Latinos, etc.
Gov. Pence was widely ridiculed, even by conservatives, for his inability to answer a simple question as to whether his bill would make discrimination possible. And subsequent to that outing, he now says that the whole affair is a media smear job, even as he seeks to have the law “clarified” by new language that has yet to be disclosed. But the debate on Fox News has already descended to depths that have not been seen since the days when a Southern governor blocked the doors of a public school to black students.
In those days there were also lynchings and bombings of churches in the name of religion. But today it is the civil rights activists who are being maligned as terrorists for merely standing up for their rights. And it isn’t just some whacked-out fringe assembly of bigots making these assertions. It’s the most-watched cable news network in the country. Thank you Fox News, for revealing the true nature of yourselves, your audience and the bigotry you all embrace.
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