Monastic vs. Pragmatic Doctrines and Practices

There is a distinction I often hear people make between pragmatic and monastic doctrines and practices. I was introduced to the distinction by a frequent commenter on this site, and I have seen it elsewhere since.

The Distinction

Pragmatic doctrines and practices are those that we think we ought to believe and enact in civil affairs and community traditions, as well as our private worship. Example: most of us would see honesty as a pragmatic doctrine. Our government, community traditions, and civil affairs should be guided and informed by basic principles of honesty. We think this holds true regardless of the religious persuasion of all participants. We are genuinely bothered when our neighbors lie or deceive others, regardless of religious differences. This makes honesty a pragmatic doctrine.

Monastic doctrines and practices are those that we personally believe and adhere to, but make no pretension of holding others to. Some of us see the Word of Wisdom as a monastic doctrine. While society generally sees social drinking, coffee, tea, etc., as acceptable behaviors, we don’t. But few Latter-day Saints today would ever insist that community traditions mold themselves to these values — we see living the Word of Wisdom as a private decision based on personal and unique religious beliefs. We hardly raise an eyebrow when we see our neighbor drinking coffee on their front porch. This makes the Word of Wisdom (or, at lest, parts of it) a monastic doctrine. “Live and let live” is the de facto motto of monastic religious practices. We choose our own way, and can sincerely believe in it, but we aren’t bothered when the traditions of the community we live in differ from our beliefs.

I think many people are wanting to make our doctrines and practices on the family, marriage, and sexuality entirely monastic rather than pragmatic affairs — things that we are committed to living, but we don’t begrudge anyone else for living differently (just as we don’t really care if our neighbors drink coffee or tea). This might work for some things, like coffee, but the truth is some other practices and doctrines just cannot endure becoming entirely monastic without losing some elements of those practices. Some practices and doctrines require a sturdy traditions in the broader community at large to support them.

An Example

I believe that meticulous Sabbath worship, for example, requires more than just a monastic belief — it requires the participation of and support of entire communities (even those beyond our religious borders). Once upon a time, this was the standard state of affairs. Businesses would readily allow their employees to remain home and worship on the Sabbath, acknowledging that unless their business was an essential service, the religious beliefs and practices of their employees should be honored and cultivated. While they recognized that not everyone shared those beliefs, they were willing to accommodate them. (Now, it is true that many places of employment offer a weekday work schedule, but many, if not most, places of lower-income employment do not.) Public servants would be meticulous to schedule event and celebrations around the Sabbath, acknowledging that swathes of community members wished to prioritized Sabbath observance. Robust, sturdy community traditions, in this way, scaffolded Sabbath worship and allowed people the freedom to worship as they pleased.

Why are these community traditions necessary? Because otherwise, we simply can’t always live the Sabbath without great sacrifice and alienating our community. But we’ve monastitized (new word!) Sabbath Worship to the realm of private belief, and have dismantled the civic and community traditions that supported the practice. Try telling your average boss today that you just won’t work on Sunday, and he’ll often just fire you and hire someone else who does. Important community events (such as sports games, high school graduation ceremonies, holiday celebrations) are routinely held on the Sabbath. We’ve given Sabbath worship over to the monastic domain, and we’ve lost the ability to live it completely without, at times, alienating our community and removing ourselves from certain public practices.

Now, I’m not advocating that Sabbath observance be encoded into law. I personally believe that businesses should be free to offer services on Sunday without legal reprisal. I’m talking about robust community traditions, where business owners and public servants readily respect the religious practice and accommodate it. I’m talking about those who disagree with the tradition respecting and honoring the wishes of those who do agree, recognizing that being part of a community means participating in its traditions (or, at least, allowing people to). Now, here’s the important part: <i>in order for this to happen</i>, a large part of the community must acknowledge the practice of observing the Sabbath day as a worthy endeavor. If, for example, 85% of the community doesn’t observe the Sabbath day, and thinks the other 15% are religious bigots for wishing to observe the Sabbath day, we are going to see some conflict, and those who observe the Sabbath day are going to do so at the cost of alienating their neighbors and community.

So it is concerning when the majority of the community begins to lose respect for a religious practice, because it does threaten the ability of others to live that practice and still maintain a strong public voice in the community. This is why I think that Sabbath observance should be a pragmatic doctrine — by which I mean that we should invite all of our friends, neighbors, and community leaders to acknowledge and respect the practice, even if they do not hold the religious viewpoint we do. By making it a purely monastic doctrine, by allowing the community at large to ignore and disrespect the practice, we have less wiggle room to practice it without social reprisal.

Doctrines on the Family

I believe — and I think it is clear that the LDS Church believes — that the sanctity of the family can be and should be a pragmatic doctrine, rather than a monastic doctrine. We want people of all religious persuasions to acknowledge the sanctity of the family — or, least, acknowledge that a large swathe of the community believes in the sanctity of the family. We want the community at large to recognize that children are entitled to a mother and a father, and because legal traditions are informed by and inform community tradition and belief, the Church has supported encoding the sanctity of the family into our legal and civic traditions. We want the majority of the community to believe these doctrines, because that is what will help preserve space to practice them freely.

Why? I think this is because by allowing our beliefs in the sanctity of the family to slip into the solely monastic realm — occupying the same space that coffee and Sabbath worship currently occupy — we will lose the ability to publicly express and practice those doctrines. Just as it is much more difficult to keep the Sabbath day without alienating the community and suffering social reprisal, we will find it difficult to practice and preach the doctrines of the family without experience the same. We have seen this already — adoption clinics have lost funding because they believed that children should have a father and a mother. Photographers and florists and bakers have been fined for not celebrating same-sex marriages using their art and craft. Those who believe in the Proclamation on the Family have been forced from their employment for those beliefs (e.g., Orson Scott Card). We see already a steady string of reprisals through social, community, legal, and civic mechanisms against those who believe and practice the doctrines on the family.

By “monastitizing” the doctrine of the family, we are losing the space to live and express those doctrines freely. And, I believe, the only way to preserve that space is to either (1) persuade a majority of community members to believe as we do on these issues, and by so doing preserve a robust community tradition, even if members of the community differ religiously, or (2) encode specific protections into law that accommodate our religious preferences on these regards. And as long as we fail at #1, no matter how much we succeed #2, we will always be at risk. So we simply cannot give up the public fight to preserve the family, as some would wish us to. These are doctrines that we are going to advertise as applicable to citizens of all religious persuasions. We should never conclude, as we have done with coffee, that this is merely something that we believe, but that no one else should ever feel obligated to believe unless they are members of our Church. (I’m not saying coffee should be a pragmatic doctrine, just that the doctrines on the family are different and cannot endure becoming a purely monastic affair.)

149 thoughts on “Monastic vs. Pragmatic Doctrines and Practices

  1. From a logic perspective I completely “get” your post. But from a theological/development perspective I think the idea of sacrificing our comfort, in the form of enduring a bit of “social reprisal,” may be a useful thing from a testimony development stand point.

    I think if we review our history we find that since WWII it has been very easy to be a member of the LDS Church (as contrasted with many of the decades prior to that); it is only recently that society at large has started to *again* view us as being weird or different. I think we (as an institution) slipped into the idea of being accepted and mainstream and found it to be pretty comfortable. Our missionaries switched from calling people to repentance in street or town meetings, to inviting interested individuals (hopefully referrals) to learn more. Our Church PR department grew to epic proportions and the level of cooperation with other churches, governments, and private organizations expanded dramatically. I think all of that was to the good; obviously it allowed the Church to expand throughout the world, and it was directed by God’s servants here on Earth.

    But as has been pointed out a lot in the past few years we are going to become more and more of the outliers again. The Church absolutely supports trying to get some of these basic ideas enacted into law, but I don’t think the leadership expects to win many of those battles long term. If we do lose a lot of those battles we may need to focus more on learning how to endure some of those “social reprisals,” and endure them well. In the eternal analysis people need to obey the commandments because they believe in God, not because some law is on the books.

  2. John Harvey,

    No real disagreement here. I suspect we will have to endure quite a bit of social reprisal, and that this is part and parcel with learning how to be Latter-day Saints. But I don’t fully agree that it is inevitable that we face severe social consequences on this issue. The collective action of millions of Latter-day Saints can, indeed, have a dramatic impact on community belief and tradition. And we’re not alone in this fight. Most Christian churches have a stake in this, and have something to lose by conceding these battles.

    Many people want us to believe the battle is lost — that public opinion does now or at least will see us as it currently views racists of centuries past. The civil rights metaphor has done a remarkable job of framing the discussion in a way that makes both sides feel that the victory of same-sex marriage in the US is inevitable and unstoppable.

    But there are other precedents that could lead to different scenarios. Abortion was once debated as vigorously as SSM is today. And abortionists won the day. US law was molded to an abortionist viewpoint, and it seemed for a while as if those who opposed were consigned to the “wrong side of history,” and that they must silently accept defeat and teach their doctrines more monastically to their own kind, rather than proselyte them in the public sphere.

    But now the pendulum has swung back. The abortion debate is as loud as ever. States are pushing back against Roe v. Wade. Societal norms are acknowledging robust arguments against abortion. We haven’t won politically, but the fight is far, far from over. And I think that we will do ourselves a disfavor by throwing in the towel when it comes to the public sphere and same-sex marriage. We don’t need to. Many are silent only because they accept inevitable defeat. The more we speak up, the less inevitable that defeat will seem, and the more others will speak up. Neal A. Maxwell taught:

    Before the ultimate victory of the forces of righteousness, some skirmishes will be lost. Even in these, however, let us leave a record so that the choices are clear, letting others do as they will in the face of prophetic counsel. There will also be times, happily, when a minor defeat seems probable, but others will step forward, having been rallied to rightness by what we do. We will know the joy, on occasion, of having awakened a slumbering majority of the decent people of all races and creeds which was, till then, unconscious of itself. Jesus said that when the fig trees put forth their leaves, “summer is nigh” (Matt. 24:32). Thus warned that summer is upon us, let us not then complain of the heat!

  3. First of all, well written post. Second of all, I’m not sure this is viable:

    “(2) encode specific protections into law that accommodate our religious preferences on these regards. ”

    We already have encoded religious protections, except in one regard, religion doesn’t trump civil liberties. And like it or not, the same sex marriage debate has become one of civil liberties. People are increasingly willing to accept LGBT folk as a suspect class, which means they have certain guaranteed rights. Among these are that businesses are not allowed to discriminate against them based on their class-status. So when a photographer refuses to offer services to a gay couple, we’re not talking about the downfall of religion, we’re talking about the flip side of a coin that we’ve all agreed is better for society than not. And frankly, I think it’s a small price to pay to live in a peaceful society where people aren’t objectively discriminated against based on traits not in their control.

  4. In other words, DavidF, you disagree with religious freedom.

    I mean it. That’s what it comes down to. If a photographer if forced through public accommodation laws to lend her craft to celebrate and memorialize a same-sex wedding that she believes is wrong, then she does not have freedom of conscience. To say that people must, by force of law, lend their craft to celebrate certain behaviors (same sex marriage) they find morally reprehensible is simply wrong. I personally feel that no Latter-day Saint who truly believes their doctrine will make that claim.

    This belief system — the idea that religious freedom is less important than forcing public approbation of previously forbidden practices — are dangerous to religious believers everywhere. It elevates and protects the *choices* (same-sex marriage is a choice, not a gene) of some individuals from legal scrutiny and disapproval — that is, it claims that people cannot scrutinize or conscientiously dissent from (or refrain from lending material aid and craft in support of) those practices without legal reprisal. That is not religious liberty.

  5. “And frankly, I think it’s a small price to pay to live in a peaceful society where people aren’t objectively discriminated against based on traits not in their control.”

    This miscasts the entire problem. Marriage is not a trait beyond control — same-sex attraction is. That photographer was not discriminating against a trait beyond their control — she would certainly have photographed a graduation ceremony for a same-sex attracted individual. She simply objected to the content of the event — a wedding she believed was wrong and in violation of God’s laws. She objected to the *choices* (and getting married is a choice).

    The florist in question, also, had for a long time provided services to the gay couple — having regular sold flowers for a variety of purposes to one of the individuals in question, fully knowing the individual’s sexual orientation. But she objected to the wedding ceremony, not the same-sex attraction of the individual. She objected to the *choices* (and getting married is a choice).

    And I think it is a monstrous price to pay. It is saying that certain religious opinions (such as, for example, the belief that we should not lend support to or celebrate same-sex marriages) are not just unworthy — they are so unworthy that they should be banned from being acted upon by force of law. Only someone with a complete disdain for these religious perspectives would support suppressing them by law in this manner.

    As your brother in the Church, I invite you not to fight against the beliefs of your fellow members by advocating and supporting these violations of religious conscience. As your brother in the Church, I invite you to support religious freedom, which means offering those with a religious conscience the ability to enact their beliefs in the public sphere, that is, the ability to conscientiously object without legal reprisals to practices they feel are harmful to the moral fabric of the communities in which they live — even if you personally disagree with them.

    Further, we have not come to a consensus on this. Judges and courts, so far, have been the primary engine of these social changes — at times against the protests of religious majorities. I invite you to object as well. There are millions upon millions of voices who want the space to enact their beliefs, and you belong to a religion that is a part of that group. Join us in that fight to protect our religious liberties.

  6. One more thought: This is exactly the battle we are fighting right now, as described in my post. We want the space to live our beliefs, and express and act upon them in the public sphere, without social or legal reprisal. That is the society we are hoping and trying to engineer.

    You are supporting the exact opposite: You want a society in which those who want to marry members of the same sex can do so without social reprisal — which, to you, means that we can and should legally punish religiously-motivated citizens who withhold aid and support to those ceremonies for religious reason. You are trying to support a public tradition that protects and celebrates same-sex marriage by socially punishing those that refuse to participate in public approbation.

    And in that, you are squarely on the opposite side of this fight from the Lord’s servants and spokesmen, who have repeatedly in recent years invited us to (1) support traditions of heterosexual marriage and discourage traditions of same-sex marriage, and (2) support religious freedom. You are supporting violations of #2 in a way that works in the opposite of #1. I’m all for tolerating the choices of those with whom we disagree, but I nonetheless fully support the right to conscientiously object to practices with which I disagree by withholding my approbation or material aid.

    Please ponder and consider living the counsel offered to us lovingly by God’s chosen servants on earth. They can see afar off. They have revelatory insights that we may not always be privy to. And I believe that they are right on these matters.

  7. Of course I believe in religious freedom, but I don’t believe in unrestricted religious freedom. Neither do you, I suspect. I believe that for a society to function well, it needs to protect the civil liberties of groups whose freedom to practice their civil liberties is in question. So do you, I suspect.

    I believe it is wrong for a society to allow businesses to refuse services to people based on their skin color, or, to make the analogy even clearer, to refuse services to an interracial couple simply because they chose to get married. I suspect you feel the same way (maybe you don’t). For the good of society, we ought not allow people, in the name of freedom of expression, choose to harmfully deny services to people because they were born with different traits. That’s bad for society. We came to this conclusion through a difficult and highly contested civil rights process mid-century.

    The problem wasn’t the photographer’s opinion, but that she was willing to deny services to a group of people. Marriage may be a choice, but it’s also a right. She wouldn’t be allowed to refuse to photograph a black couple because they’re black, because in denying them services that go along with a right, she’s discriminated against their right, and therefore the class itself (i.e. black people).

    There’s a reason the law is the way it is. It’s not to confine religion. It’s because a. we more or less recognize that the LGBT community is a suspect class, and b. because we believe that marriage is a right. No religion, no political entity, no business, no club may discriminate solely on the basis of a person belonging to a suspect class to provide them services.* And as far as I can tell, that’s an important foundation for a good society.

    *There are certain exceptions. The Klan doesn’t have to admit racially diverse people. And that’s partly why I reject the argument some people make: “They demand weddings now, and then they’re going to demand sealings in our temples.”

  8. I believe, on this issue, you find yourself on the wrong side of God.

    Again, I exhort you to listen to God’s spokesmen on earth, and recognize the real and present dangers of crafting a civic tradition that penalizes the withholding of approbation to practices that we find immoral.

    Again, you misunderstand — the photographer did NOT withhold business from a certain group of people. She would certainly have photographed a birthday party or a graduation ceremony or a high school pictures for a same-sex attracted individual. Rather, she withheld approbation of and material support to a specific practice she found immoral, and she has the GOD-GIVEN RIGHT to do so.

    Anything less is not freedom of religion.

  9. I blows my mind that members of the LDS Church can find dissent on this issue. (1) It’s non-trivial, with tremendous implications for future religious practice. (2) Prophets have spoken thoroughly. (3) It’s encoded into our Articles of Faith. (4) It’s a no-brainer.

    It’s sad to me to see how the adversary has so completely clouded our minds to such an extent that we are willing to relinquish treasured religious freedoms that have, for so long, been a foundation of our society.

    Do I believe in complete lawlessness? No. But I do believe that religious perspectives should have a protected status — meaning that the law cannot curtail a person’s religious freedom unless they are posing a clear and present danger to the physical welfare of others.

  10. Strangely enough, I actually think I am on the right side of this debate (who knew!).

    On a civil liberties issue, the photographer was clearly in the wrong. Think of a vendor refusing to sell Pepsi to African Americans, “I will sell anything in my store to African Americans, but I don’t think they should drink Pepsi, so I won’t sell them that.” It just doesn’t work that way. And if we want to have a good and stable society, we can’t let it be that way.

    I trust my leaders on a great many topics. Perhaps they’re right about this topic. By analogy, our earlier leaders felt that plural marriage should trump civil law, but times changed and ultimately it became more important to obey the law of the land than it was to challenge it. There was, perhaps, once a fight worth having about same sex marriage, but since even our leaders have long since abandoned that fight in the political arena, I don’t think I’m off kilter for also accepting the direction that America has taken. Should I frown and be more angry about it? Would that make me a better Mormon?

  11. ldsphilosopher, like I said, even you would recognize that freedom of religion has its restraints. Imagine if someone started a religion that allowed them not to pay taxes. What should our government do? Respect their right to not pay taxes? No matter who you are, you draw the line on religious freedom somewhere. I follow the legal majority and draw it at civil liberties, and I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that, considering how religion was at one point a tool to discriminate against African Americans in heinous ways. We’re better than that, and I think that if we, as Mormons, are going to play the game (accept civil liberties), we need to play by the rules, even when they aren’t stacked in our favor.

  12. First, I’m no saying anyone should violate the rules. What I’m saying is that we should speak up to make sure the rules don’t punish us for acting on our beliefs, or that the rules don’t force us to violate them. Advocating against the existence of certain laws is not the same thing as advocating violating them.

    Second, you said: “There was, perhaps, once a fight worth having about same sex marriage, but since even our leaders have long since abandoned that fight in the political arena.”

    That is absolutely false. Only someone who is deaf would fail to hear their constant invitation — even up this very last General Conference, to statements from their public affairs, to their support of Proposition 8 in the Supreme Court, to the efforts of the Church currently in Hawaii — to oppose same-sex marriage and to support traditions that incentivize traditional marriage. This statement is absolutely, ridiculously false on the face of it. No Church leader will tell you they have abandoned the fight.

    And even if they have, they would tell you that they have replaced that fight with #2 — a fight to preserve exemptions for those with religious conscience. That, I believe, is why they have developed a whole new topic page for the purpose of defending the very sort of religious liberty that you think should be sacrificed at the altar of invented civil rights. So even if they have given up the fight (they have not), they have replaced it with a fight for the space to religiously dissent to those practices.

    “By analogy, our earlier leaders felt that plural marriage should trump civil law, but times changed and ultimately it became more important to obey the law of the land than it was to challenge it.”

    Sure, but if a Mormon in 1870 were vocally supporting laws against polygamy, they were still on the wrong side of God. A hypothetical future change in policy does not justify present disobedience to God’s servants. In fact, a person in 1880 who was vocally trying to criminalize their own Church leadership by advocating for laws against polygamy were fighting against their own Church and its beliefs. The Church deserves more loyalty than that.

    Being on the right side of history is not the same thing as being on the right side of God. The LDS man in the 1870′s fighting to criminalize and punish polygamy was just as much on the wrong side of God as he was on the right side of history. Your metric for “being on the right side” seems to be, “the right side is what the nation’s majority will eventually accept and encode into law.” That is not a reliable metric. You are taking your marching orders from sources other than God and His revelatory channels.

    “Think of a vendor refusing to sell Pepsi to African Americans, “I will sell anything in my store to African Americans, but I don’t think they should drink Pepsi, so I won’t sell them that.””

    I think you and I both know this analogy is entirely inadequate. It betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of marriage and its purposes. Oh, and yes, if the store owner honestly believed that it was wrong for people to drink Pepsi, he should have every right not to sell it.

    You seem to think that same-sex marriage and heterosexual marriage are the same thing done by two different groups. We, as a Church, disagree. We think that same-sex marriage is something fundamentally different. A better comparison would be this: Suppose someone believed that carrots were good for people, but that cigarettes were bad for people. So they offered to sell carrots to everyone who wanted them, but refused to even carry cigarettes in their store. That’s a better comparison. A photographer might say, “I believe heterosexual marriage is good, but that same-sex marriage is bad, so I will offer to support anyone who wants the former, but no one who wants the latter.”

    By arguing that this is like selling Pepsi to whites but not the blacks makes the claim that same-sex marriage and heterosexual marriage are, in all essences, the same thing. But they are not. Certain judges have declared them to be in some states. But our argument is that they are not the same. And we shouldn’t be forced to treat them as the same, because that is a violation of our religious liberty. And yes, we’ll obey the law of the land, whatever it is — but we should speak out and try to change that law when it penalizes our religious perspective.

  13. Maybe I’m mistaken, but you would seem to be saying we should still be practicing polygamy. We don’t because the government would have completely shut down the LDS Church otherwise. Only then was something added to the D&C stating that polygamy was no longer an option.

    What if the US Government hadn’t made an issue of polygamy? Do you believe God would have eventually ended it anyway, or would it be something still practiced? It seems to me that the ending of polygamy was just as big a “line in the sand” kind of thing back then that same-sex marriage is today.

    As is commonly stated, the Lord works in mysterious ways. Maybe God wants polygamy brought back, and same-sex marriage is the legal door through which it becomes possible again.

  14. Mark, I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying we should take our marching orders from God’s servants. If we are fighting against God’s servants, we are on the wrong side — even if the instruction from God’s servants changes a decade later. That doesn’t mean we were “always on the right side after all.”

    I don’t know what would have happened if the U.S. government hadn’t been involved. All I know is that we should align ourselves with the teachings of God’s contemporary servants. And if we use a hypothetical change in policy/doctrine (one that I think is entirely unlikely at this point) as a reason to fight on the opposing team, I think we are still fighting on the opposing team.

  15. DavidF, I have to say I am a bit surprised to see you defending laws that *force* people to do something they do not want to do, ie photograph a wedding when they don’t want to. I find that line of reasoning highly problematic. You are saying that, in effect, the photographer is a slave to the customer and that the photographer *must provide services even if he/she does not want to.* Would you extend this logic to every business enterprise? Must a lawyer take every case from every person who comes knocking, regardless of whether the lawyer thinks he can win? Must a foot doctor take patients who want colonoscopies? The logical extension of such thought processes is quite alarming.

    So, let’s say the photographer is forced to photograph a wedding he/she does not want to photograph. Will the quality be good, and then what happens if the quality is not good because the photographer does not want to be there in the first place? Can the wedding partners sue because the photographer didn’t do his best work?

    It is really a very short step from forcing photographers to shoot weddings they don’t want to to forcing LDS bishops to perform weddings they do not want to. I hope you can see that the road you are heading down is a very, very dangerous one with some potentially disastrous results.

    Best to allow willing buyers to buy from willing sellers. I am sure there are plenty of photographers who would be willing to shoot a same-sex marriage. Let them do it.

  16. I think the analogies to interracial marriage are interesting. At one point, many churches in the U.S. forbade interracial marriage, or at least marriage between a black individual and a white individual. Even our church frowned on it not that long ago. It was seen by many as a moral issue.

    So if a person still holds on to the belief–a religious belief–that interracial marriage is immoral, do they have the right to, say, forbid interracial couples from staying in their hotels for their honeymoon, or refuse to take their wedding pictures because they’re an interracial couple?

    By the way, the LDS church itself has support anti-discrimination laws in Salt Lake that, for example, prohibit a landlord from discriminating against gay people–including gay people who are married or who are living together. That means the church itself supports forcing landlords to accept gay couples, at least in Salt Lake. Even newly-married gay couples.

  17. Tim, I’m not unaware of this. The Church is working closely with committees to ensure, however, that drafted legislation provides robust protections for those who object due to religious conscience. Michael Purdy, a spokesman for the Church, said: “The church is on the record supporting non-discrimination protections for gay and lesbian citizens related to housing and employment. … We also believe that any legislation should protect these rights while also preserving the rights of religious conscience — to act in accordance with deeply held religious beliefs — for individuals and organizations.”

    Some potential iterations of the legislation were rejected by the Church because it did not include language that exempted individuals and organizations who, for religious reasons, object. They want to provide exemptions for the purposes of religious conscience of — here’s the thing — both religious organizations and individuals.

    I also assume (but I don’t know for sure) that the Church would fully support legislation that protects discrimination against individual with same-sex attraction, but would allow landlords to (within reason) express their dissent regarding same-sex conduct. Comparable, for example, to BYU’s inclusion of individuals with same-sex attraction in university housing, but prohibition of same-sex conduct on Church property. That is, a renter might not be able to refuse to let a same-sex attracted individual live in his basement, but he or she should certainly be allowed to prohibit same-sex activity in their basement (in the same way they might prohibit smoking, or pets). Again, on this case, I don’t know — but given the important distinction between orientation and behavior, and given the kinds of policies that the Church has for Church facilities, I can certainly see them pressing for just this kind of language.

    Again, it is one thing to discriminate based on a trait that many believe to be unchangeable — it is quote another to express beliefs about the appropriateness of certain behaviors.

  18. Two points:
    1. Legally (in states where the legislatures or courts have made it so) heterosexual and homosexual marriage are the same thing.
    2. Legally Temple Sealings and civil marriages are not the same thing.

    The Church could easily do in the US what it does in several countries already (where either homosexual marriage is allowed or non-religious civil marriages are required) and that is separate the sealing ordinance from the legal marriage ceremony. LDS couples get married legally and then go across the street to the temple and get sealed.

    With respect to the wedding photographer the key point is that it was *commercial* activity, not private or religious activity. Our society has figured out that discrimination of whatever type doesn’t work well, and has outlawed it were it can. That is in two primary spheres. First, in the government’s dealings with its citizens, and second in commerce. Private individuals can be racists, bigots, sexists, homophobes, Mormonphobes, or any kind of “phobe” – but our society has said if you are a business offering service to the public generally you simply can’t act on any of those privately held beliefs by refusing to do business just because you don’t like or you disagree with what a person is or what they do (if the group or activity is a protected one). That is the price we pay to avoid the most dangerous types of civil strife.

    If the photographer in question wants to do weddings on her own dime. Meaning as a donation to people who are acting in ways she approves of then she is free to discriminate as much as she likes. But as soon as she engages in commercial activity, then the US Constitution, the State Constitution of the state she resides in, and the applicable laws all apply to her activity. Those laws clearly state that once you offer a service to the public generally you can’t arbitrarily withhold it from a subset of the public you disapprove of (if they are a protected class).

    LDS Philosopher said: “We want the space to live our beliefs, and express and act upon them in the public sphere, without social or legal reprisal. That is the society we are hoping and trying to engineer.”
    I agree with the first 18 words (and so does the law), it is the next ones: “. . . without social or legal reprisal” that I find problematic. If an individual engages in behavior which the general society finds objectionable nothing the law does is going to protect that individual from social reprisal. If that same individual also does something which is clearly illegal (as our photographer in question) the force of the law may well be brought to bear.
    As as an example take the LDS members who contributed to and worked hard to pass Prop 8. Eventually many of these people were publicly identified through freedom of information requests, and many had their businesses boycotted. They were, and still are, free to engage in public debate, the government did not try to stifle their activities; but, others were also free to engage in social reprisals for activities they found objectionable. No one gets free pass in a democratic republic, they can say whatever outlandish things they want, but others are free to respond on any legal way, which can include a lot of public reprisals. To the extent some of the bent the law’s definitions to extend help in illegal ways they will likely also face legal reprisals.
    If we are doing illegal things because our prophet commands us to do so, the price we will pay for being obedient is legal sanction. There just isn’t anyway around that.
    What seems to be the case however, is that since God and Christ know the intent of our hearts, and what constraints we face, changes are adopted that allow the Church to thrive and spread – thereby bringing more people to a knowledge of the Gospel in this life. Currently we have millions and millions of active church members living in the majority of countries around the world. Think for a moment what would have happened to the Church if it had not “bent” on polygamy. We would likely not even exist; and if we did we would be a tiny fringe sect, living with persecution and we would likely be universally reviled. Parents would routinely be hauled into court on child abuse charges and other legal violations. If we had even a few hundred thousand members it would be a miracle. So God said, given the circumstances this is no longer required, you have more important work to do.
    In the same sex marriage case we (the Church) are not even being asked to give anything up. Rather we are being asked to simply stop any illegal persecution of homosexuals. Since the Church proper does not engage in any illegal discrimination (hat I know of anyway) it really isn’t being asked to change anything from a doctrinal or practice perspective.
    We can certainly advocate for laws we like, but we also have to function in the legal framework of the societies we live in.

  19. With respect to the wedding photographer the key point is that it was *commercial* activity, not private or religious activity.

    John, you’ve missed the entire point of my article, and the entire point of “religious freedom” as the Church currently defines it, which is that this distinction you make between “commercial” and “private, religious” activity should not exist. I should be able to express my religious beliefs in my commercial activities. Religious beliefs and practices should not be constrained to the confines of my home. I should be able to enact my beliefs in my public, commercial, and civic choices. Anything less is not religious freedom.

    The freedom to privately believe, but not be able to act on that belief, is not really freedom at all. To say that I cannot accept money for any photography without photographing every sort of event that I am asked to by prospective clients is ludicrous and just plain wrong. It is shocking to me that people — especially those of religious persuasion — believe that people don’t (or shouldn’t) have such religious freedom.

    My dad is a graphic designer. Sometimes he is asked to design material that he finds morally questionable (such as, for example, a pornographic advertisement). He has said no to that, because he does not want to lend his craft to support practices and art he finds distasteful for religious reasons. That is religious liberty. To tell him he cannot make moral distinctions when accepting clients and jobs is to deprive him of religious liberty. The same is true of the photographer. Would you force her to photograph a nude wedding? Or a boudoir shot that includes pre-marital intimacy? People have the god-given right to make moral distinctions in the workplace.

    The distinction you make between “commercial/public” activity and “private/religious” activity erodes religious freedom itself, and is just plain wrong. If you are a member of this Church, please support the rights of its members to public enact their beliefs. Otherwise, you are working against God’s servants and against God’s kingdom. It is as simple as that.

    Yes, we function within the legal framework. But we have every right to strive to change that legal framework when it penalizes acting on our beliefs. You seem to think that being a law-abiding citizen means bowing to every societal whim that seeks to punish our unique perspective. That is wrong. We have a duty to stand up and say, “NO!” We have a duty to strive to create a legal space for us to publicly act on our moral beliefs.

    To say that the moment you accept money for a service, you lose the ability to make any moral distinctions when accepting jobs and clients is to deprive people of core religious liberty. I see no wiggle room on this issue. On this issue, either you are with the Kingdom of God, or you serve Mammon. Graphic designers should have every right to refuse business to clients who want them to print pornography. Therapists should have every right to refuse to help patients feel comfortable about their sex addictions. Photographers should have every right to refuse to lend material aid to celebrating an event that she finds a mockery of sacred beliefs. Adoption agencies should have every right to enact their beliefs that children are entitled to a father and a mother. To strip individuals and organizations of the right to exercise moral discernment in their business affairs is to strip individuals of religious liberty in any meaningful way.

    Do all legal systems recognize these rights? No — but they are still there, because they are a God-given right to religious liberty, and we are under obligation to help craft our legal systems to create space for this religious freedom.

    The Church will obey all the laws of the nation. But it has every prerogative to seek to amend laws to preserve religious freedom.

  20. According to the LDS Church:

    But while these private and inward activities are vital parts of religious freedom, they do not encompass the whole of it. Religious freedom is actually much broader and deeper than this description suggests. More fundamentally, religious freedom — akin to “freedom of conscience” — is the human right to think and believe and also to express and act upon what one deeply believes according to the dictates of his or her moral conscience. This freedom applies to those who adhere to religious beliefs and those who do not.

    The full picture of religious freedom reveals a deep liberty that goes much further than the right to believe as one chooses and that extends well beyond the right to private devotion in one’s place of worship or home. Indeed, religious freedom is not merely interior and private, to be enjoyed internally in our minds and in the privacy of personal life. It also incorporates the right to act according to one’s moral beliefs and convictions. And more than the freedom to worship privately, it is the right to to live one’s faith freely and in public.

    Beliefs lead to actions, and freedom to believe, without the ability to act on that belief within the bounds of law, is no freedom at all. Most will agree that moral and religious beliefs don’t mean much if they don’t influence the way we live. In other words, we expect religious beliefs to influence the way that people behave, how they raise families and how they treat others. And indeed, religious freedom protects the right of individuals to act in line with their religious beliefs and moral convictions. Religious freedom does not merely enable us to contemplate our convictions; it enables us to execute them.

    Because of this, religion cannot be confined to the sphere of private life. Certainly religious freedom protects the rights of individuals to observe their religion within the walls of private spaces. But religious and moral speech is also protected in the free air of the public domain. Whether in the town hall, in the newspaper column, on the Internet or elsewhere in the public sphere, people with moral convictions are entitled by their religious freedom to share those convictions, to reason and persuade, and to advocate their vision for society.

  21. I think a lot of commenters are completely missing the point that there is a huge difference between discrimination just because you are a bigot who hates XXX group and discrimination because of deeply held religious beliefs. The law is quite clear in supporting the latter and murkier regarding the former, especially in commercial transactions.

    The 1964 civil rights act has specific provisions protecting religious freedom. Almost all of the gay marriage laws that have passed in different states protect religious freedom. To use an already cited example, there is a long history, based on the first amendment, of allowing special exemptions for people with deeply held religious beliefs. The Amish cannot be drafted to fight wars and they get many exemptions from federal laws *precisely because of their religion.*

    Such exemptions are absolutely essential for the Church in these days of any-sex marriage. There are already cases in Europe where pastors have been *forced* to perform same-sex marriages, even if they object religiously. If pastors can be forced to perform same-sex marriages, then temples can be forced to perform same-sex temple marriages (or be closed down by the Church rather than do this). Proceed with caution, folks.

  22. Thanks Lds philosopher and Geoff for the great discussion. It also baffles me how members of the church can be on the wrong side of this argument. Clearly religious freedom without the possibility of acting on your beliefs on all spheres of daily life is not freedom at all. It seems that many members are confused on this matter and it saddens me. It’s like those sisters who are now trying to have women ordained to the priesthood, complete different subject, but it comes to mind when I see this trend of people trying to accommodate our deeply held doctrine to the worldly beliefs of the times. Sad indeed.

  23. I’m coming in way late to the conversation, but I do have one thought:

    “By “monastitizing” the doctrine of the family, we are losing the space to live and express those doctrines freely.”

    I think for many Mormons on the liberal side of these doctrines, this is a feature, not a bug. They push for “monastitizing” these doctrines, but really – in the end – they hope the church will just change the doctrine.

  24. Adam, touche, and very true. I believe that some in this thread wish to subject a God-endorsed, absolutely essential civil right (religious freedom) to a judge-invented civil right (the supposed right to service from any and every place of business, even if they are morally opposed to the task you wish them to do). In what rational universe is the latter more important than the former?

  25. Ivan, yes. I think they are simply enemies of the Church and its beliefs. By wishing and hoping the Church will change, they are allying with those who wish to use government pressure to make it harder for members to live and enact their beliefs in the public sphere. What else is that but fighting against the Church of God?

  26. Look, there is no question that religious freedom is limited and limitable. Sure Amish don’t pay Social Security, but their legal exemption comes from the fact that there is reasonable evidence to show that they take care of their elderly without the tax. And they DO have to pay SS if they work for non-Amish employers. The point is, there might be some religious exemptions, but religious freedom is not a valid excuse to be exempt from all kinds of laws. It’s not an unlimited right.

    Should we allow a person, for religious reasons, the right to refuse to photograph an engaged interracial couple? What about, for religious reasons, for a person to refuse to sell a Hispanic couple groceries? Because if you think that kind of discrimination is wrong, then it’s pretty hard to argue that discriminating against a gay couple, simply because they have same sex attraction and want to exercise their right to marry, is morally right.

    Then again, a lot of the folk on here are libertarians, so maybe my argument has no sway here.

  27. David, yes, I think that if someone honestly believes that interracial marriages are morally objectionable, they should not be forced by law to lend material aid to the couple’s union. I do think that. I think such cases would likely be rare. I would disagree with them on that. But yes, I think they should have the freedom to decline, because I want to claim that same freedom. To protect my religious freedom, I need to be willing to protect the religious freedom of others with whom I disagree.

    I take personal offense that you think I have no right to make moral distinctions in business affairs. I take personal umbrage that you think that I should be forced to celebrate and provide material aid to unions that are a mockery of sacred things, as a price of engaging in commerce with others. That is too-high a price tag, and I consider no one a friend of mine, the Church, or God who supports forcing people to violate their deeply held religious beliefs in the name of a supposed judge-invented right to make others celebrate acts they find morally reprehensible.

    There is no “civil right” to force others to celebrate your same-sex union, provide material aid to your union, or participate in your same-sex ceremony in any way. That is a violation of religious liberty, plain and simple. Period. If you disagree, and if you advocate and support these violations of religious conscience, I really honestly think you are in open rebellion against God and His church.

  28. And even then, we’ve already established that the racial metaphor is a poor one. Same-sex marriage is something wholly different than heterosexual marriage. It is not the same product offered to different races, it is an entirely different product.

    So it is not the same thing as “offering groceries to whites but not to blacks.” It’s perhaps “offering groceries to anyone and cigarettes to no one.” It’s a different product altogether. The fact that you think they are essentially the same thing illustrates that you simply reject the Church’s teachings on marriage altogether.

    Riddle me this: should a photographer be forced to photograph a nude wedding, if she finds that morally objectionable? Should a Jewish photographer be forced to photograph a Nazi rally if they wanted to hire his services? At what point do you think people should have the freedom to object to the tasks their clients ask of them?

    I see it as plain offensive to reason, offensive to religious sensibilities everywhere that people like you think that their religious conscience should have no bearing whatsoever in how they run their business and the tasks they decide to do for their clients. That is offensive.

  29. You’re missing the point, DavidF. Refusing to service a wedding is not the same thing as refusing to service a person. Your analogies of the hotel and the groceries fall short. You are offering a product that they are buying. That is passive participating. But performing a service is active participation. You should have the right to not actively participate in something you don’t agree with.

    The thing that baffles me is why anyone would want them to, when there are plenty of people out there who would be happy to participate actively. Forcing someone to perform an act they are morally opposed to is known as reprehensible in any other circumstance. The only thing that gives it a pass in this case, is that people morally agree with the forcers and not the victims. They think, in their heart of hearts, that the victims deserve what they get because they are morally deficient.

  30. Let’s say I’m a web designer. I advertise my services online.

    Let’s say someone emails me and asks if I would design their website, which is an anti-Mormon website. Should I have the right to decline the task?

    Let’s say someone emails me and asks if I would design a webpage that supports abortion and rallies against pending legislation designed to limit abortion. Should I have the right to decline the task?

    Let’s say someone emails me and asks if I would design a webpage that celebrates their same-sex union, arranging text and pictures with the intent to demonstrate that they are a happy couple and that those who oppose their union were therefore wrong. Should I have the right to decline the task?

    In other words, cannot my religious and moral beliefs play a role in which customers I do business with, and the kinds of tasks I do for them?

    And if not, WHY NOT?

    If you think that I cannot make such moral distinctions in my workplace, then you are essentially saying that my religious beliefs can only have bearing on my actions within the walls of my own home, or within the walls of my Church. You are essentially sterilizing commercial, public, and civic activity of religious perspectives, forcing them to privatize their religious beliefs. You are participating in a cultural trend that forces people to engage in activity they find morally reprehensible as the price of leaving their homes each morning and making a living. And that is simply wrong in every way imaginable.

  31. To illustrate the difference:

    If I, as an artist, take a bunch of photos and sell them on the street corner, but refuse to sell them to someone because they belong to the KKK, that is bigotry. But if I am required by law to personally go to a KKK meeting and take photos of it, listening to their rhetoric and associating with them even though I’m opposed to everything the KKK stands for, that is not only a morally reprehensible law, but a completely foolish one.

  32. Should caterers be forced to provide food and service (and therefore be present at) a swinger’s party, or a sex party?

    Should a movie actor be forced to participate in a film that requires her to be nude?

    Should a movie editor be forced (by law) to participate in editing a salacious film? (If they are fired, or lose business, that’s different — we’re talking about force of law.)

    If your answers to these is no, and if your answers to my above questions about web design are yes (in that I do have such a right), why in the world should a photographer not have the right to decline to participate in a same-sex wedding?

    The only reason I can think of is if you have a personal disdain towards the photographer’s beliefs about marriage, and you want her to be penalized for acting on them. And I don’t think that’s very Latter-day Saint-like, personally.

  33. “I think that if someone honestly believes that interracial marriages are morally objectionable, they should not be forced by law to lend material aid to the couple’s union.”

    I appreciate the honest answer here to my earlier question.

    A couple of points:

    Providing business needs (photography, flowers, hotel suite) to a marrying couple is entirely different than providing religious needs (the actual marriage). It doesn’t violate my religious beliefs to provide flowers for a gay wedding. It would violate my religious beliefs, however, if the gay couple wanted to be married in my church or temple. The First Amendment protects the second situation. It doesn’t protect the first.

    I’m not sure it’s useful to compare this example to situations where there is no protected class. I realize that there’s some question as to how protected gays are–I think it’s safe to say that our Supreme Court affords them some protection, albeit not as much protection as some other minorities. But you can’t really compare that to, say, an anti-Mormon group that receives, under our Supreme Court, no protection.

    Also, I think the line between bigotry and discrimination due to religious beliefs is sometimes very unclear. Certainly they’re very often confused for one another, and certainly one often leads to the other. Discrimination due to religious belief can certainly be real and valid, but it’s also often the excuse used by bigots to excuse their behavior. Tread carefully.

    By the way, I do believe the church should continue to discriminate due to religious reasons on the issue of homosexual marriage within the church. Heterosexual marriage is very much part of our religious identity, and I believe it should stay that way. It shouldn’t, however, be used as an excuse for bigotry.

  34. Yes, I agree that the line between valid moral distinctions and religious bigotry can sometimes be blurred. But I don’t think that declining to participate in or lend material aid to a practice I find morally objectionable is itself religious bigotry, particularly if doing so requires me to be present and to participate.

    And I guess I assume that it’s obvious that photographers provide more than a business need — photography is an art. A good photographer will make the occasion look pleasing, beautiful, joyous. A good photographer is memorializing the occasion using his or her craft. No one, in their right mind, should support forcing photographers to lend their craft to memorialize, advertise, or make look pleasing an occasion they find morally objectionable.

    Please people, support religious freedom. You say that I shouldn’t compare protected classes with non-protected classes. But if, as a designer, I can turn down designing a porn magazine, why can I not turn down designing an invitation to a same-sex marriage ceremony? I object to both for religious reasons. Why is one freedom available, but the other not? Why does this particular subject matter deserve such a unique status that it trumps even more basic religious rights? It’s plain bizarre to me.

  35. Providing business needs (photography, flowers, hotel suite) to a marrying couple is entirely different than providing religious needs (the actual marriage).

    I disagree. I think that this distinction defines religious freedom far too narrowly.

    It doesn’t violate my religious beliefs to provide flowers for a gay wedding.

    Maybe not yours, but some people do have a problem with that. Just because you are fine with it doesn’t mean that everybody else is. Let others have freedom to act on their beliefs, even if you disagree with them.

  36. Well LDSPhilosopher, you know what they say about taking offense. ;)

    So I can go through and easily answer the numerous hypotheticals you and SilverRain raise. The law is, and my position follows the law, that you can refuse service for all kinds of things you find morally objectionable, with one major exception. If what you find morally objectionable is the exercise of a right by a class of citizens, you still have to provide service unless you’ve got some other reason to deny it. Obviously, the gay couple wouldn’t want that photographer to take their pictures, but it would be unlawful for her to deny her service based on that consideration alone. So you can make all kinds of commercial decisions based on your religious beliefs, but when your religious beliefs in some way harm a protected class, you’ve crossed the line. That’s the law, anyway, and I agree with it.

    As far as I can tell, and forgive me if I’m assuming too much, you seem fine with a hypothetical, parallel 1962 America where businesses could legally discriminate against racial minorities simply because their skin color is different IF they could make a religious claim to support their discrimination. I think that’s the grounds for a horrible society. And that’s all I think I can add to this discussion.

  37. (1) I do not believe that the photographer harmed the couple in question by declining service, as there were certainly others who would do the job.

    (2) I do not think anyone should be compelled to attend or participate in a same-sex ceremony, and any assertions to the contrary are asinine.

    (3) If you agree with the law on that regards, you believe that the photographer should be forced by law to participate in, attend, and memorialize an event she found morally objectionable for deeply religious reasons, and I think that position is plainly satanic.

  38. Just to add a thought: there is a question as to whether people with same sex attraction should be a protected class. I’m not an expert on the topic, but as far as I understand, that’s still up in the air, and the general consensus is that states should make that decision for themselves. So something that I’m clearly biased about is that I think that people with same sex attraction SHOULD be a protected class everywhere.

    But for the record, no one has argued that the photographer should be legally required to participate in and attend the wedding. There’s no law stipulating that. Beware of straw men.

  39. Name calling etc. notwithstanding, I do think this is one of the best conversations M* has had for a long time. Lots of stuff to chew on.

    I’m struggling with the issue particularly because I’m a huge fan of religious rights (while still being a big fan of separation of church and state), and yet I also firmly believe minorities need serious protecting.

    This may have to remain one of the many things I remain unsure about. Not because I’m uninformed, but because, to me, there really is no good answer.

  40. “So you can make all kinds of commercial decisions based on your religious beliefs, but when your religious beliefs in some way harm a protected class, you’ve crossed the line. That’s the law, anyway, and I agree with it.”

    It is far from clear that this is the law, and laws will vary from state to state in even the most extreme scenario. I predict that these types of issues will continue to be contested for many years, and the law will remain in flux. There are two contradictory forces at work here: the right to religious belief (clearly protected in the Constitution) and the created right to force other people to sell you stuff or perform services when they do not want to and when it offends their religious beliefs. In a sane world, the first right would clearly supersede the second right. I refuse to believe that we want to live in a world where Orthodox Jews are forced to open their stores on the Sabbath day so that gay couples can buy wedding rings, or where graphic designers must accept business from pornographers whether they want to or not, or where LDS bishops will be forced to perform gay weddings. So, I do not accept that “it’s the law,” and I believe that such use of force will be overturned by other courts.

  41. “This may have to remain one of the many things I remain unsure about. Not because I’m uninformed, but because, to me, there really is no good answer.”

    Tim, I appreciate a person trying to struggle through tough issues. That is a very, very good thing.

    I guess I would make two important points:

    1)The Church has launched a religious liberty information campaign at this time for a reason. I truly feel the Church is worried that religious liberty will be at risk as society becomes more and more accepting of any-sex marriage. In my opinion, this is why the Brethren were inspired to issue the Proclamation and to take a stand in California: they wanted to slow down a train that seemed to be getting out of control. It is one thing to have half the states in the country (or even all of them) accept same-sex marriages. It is quite another to have a world where bishops are *forced* to perform same-sex marriages and where temples are forced to perform same-sex ceremonies. The issue of government force is really an alarming development, and I don’t think people commenting have thought through the possible consequences.

    2)I am completely unconvinced that gay couples need protecting from photographers who will not take pictures at their wedding or flower shops that will not provide flowers. There are probably dozens of other photographers or flower shops that would happily provide the service. I can see the argument for non-discrimination laws in employment, for example, but the argument for forcing a photographer or a florist to do something they don’t want to do is simply nonexistent. I am pretty sure that the gay couple involved doesn’t want some homophobes taking pictures at their wedding — this movement is about forcing other people to accept things they don’t want to accept, and frankly that is a bit obnoxious.

  42. Tim, I want you to notice that I’ve tried my best not to label people, but positions. I didn’t (or, at least, tried not to) call DavidF satanic. But I did call his position satanic, and I think that’s different. I think it’s possible to call ideas apostate, satanic, asinine, etc., without calling people the same names.

    I’m using harsh words because I think this is an important issue. I do think those who object to important religious freedoms should feel a strong pushback — they should be made to feel ashamed of those positions by fellow members of the Church, because working against religious freedom, more than any other issue, really is working against the Church’s long-term interests. Being against religious liberty is one position that, I think, should not really be tolerated.

  43. But for the record, no one has argued that the photographer should be legally required to participate in and attend the wedding.

    What… ? That is (very clearly, I thought) precisely what you have been arguing.

  44. Geoff:

    It is quite another to have a world where bishops are *forced* to perform same-sex marriages and where temples are forced to perform same-sex ceremonies.

    I want to add to this. The Church, in its materials, is very specific that they are not just protecting the rights of ecclesiastical leaders and Church franchises — they are trying to protect the rights of individual members to enact their beliefs in the public sphere. I actually don’t think that U.S. law will ever compel the Church to marry same-sex couples. That’s not my fear. My fear is that my personal religious conscience will eventually be consigned to my own household, and that it will become illegal for me to enact that conscience in my affairs with my fellow men. That is my fear, and this is far more to do with individual religious freedom than the freedom of Church franchises to set policies for their buildings and their ecclesiastical leaders.

  45. OK, LDSP. Good point. I still worry about bishops and the temple, but I understand that this post is not really about that.

    I would point out that political correctness has made it nearly impossible these days to discuss opposition to any-sex marriage in any kind of open public forum (including even among a group of non-LDS friends). So LDSP’s concerns are valid.

    (M* is not an “open” public forum because we have specific rules of behavior and the blog is a private one. FWIW).

  46. I think there are several aspects of this that are getting muddled. For one, there is a difference between those who differentiate between same-sex marriage and opposite-sex marriage. If you believe (or the law defines them) as the same, the question comes back to refusing to provide service to someone because of who they are. If you believe them different, it is refusing to provide service based on the action being taken. The photographer not wanting to take serve the gay wedding was not objecting to the people, just the action they were taking. It’s the difference between not wanting to provide a hotel room to someone who is black or not wanting to provide a hotel room because they wanted to wander the grounds without any clothes.

    If the vendor had provided services to gay couples in the past for other things besies marriage, then I think the court was wrong in punishing them, as the vendor obviously had no problem working with them for who they are, but for the action they were taking. And yes, I would apply this if it were for interracial marriage as well. The only problem would be when there was no other option within a reasonable distance (e.g. if the florist were the only one in the county, or if none in the county would provide service). For gay marriage, this has never yet been the case, and I would hope when it does the exceptional circumstance is mentioned in the ruling.

  47. I think it’s worth noting that making it illegal to refuse services for religious reasons will eventually just lead to people lying about why they can or can’t do specific jobs.

    “I’m sorry, I can’t photograph your wedding.”
    “Is that because we’re gay!”
    “No, I just have other commitments at this time. Goodbye.”

    “I’m sorry, I can’t design your porn site.”
    “Why, is it because you’re Christian?”
    “No, I just have another job that came in higher priority. Goodbye.”

    And eventually you won’t dare to even offer half excuses for fear of lawsuit.

    “I’m sorry. I can’t do that at this time.”
    “Is that because..”
    “Goodbye.”

  48. There’s really nothing I can say to those who think that businesses ought to be able to discriminate against interracial couples out of religious conviction.

    For anyone who feels that way, what limits would you place on religious freedom? At what point am I no longer allowed do to something, even though I have a religious conviction that require that I ought to do that thing? I imagine most here would draw the line at murder. But what about marrying brothers and sisters? Using heroine in worship services? Smuggling adherents from Mexico across the border? Spitting on the shoes of African Americans (especially if the simple act of spitting on someone else’s shoes isn’t illegal)?

    As for JSG’s point, we already see this sort of thing in practice. If you say, “I’m firing you because you’re a bad employee,” you’re okay, but if you say, “I’m firing you because you’re black” then you’re definitely not okay. The law doesn’t always reflect the intent of lawmakers, but that’s the best we can do.

  49. “Providing business needs (photography, flowers, hotel suite) to a marrying couple is entirely different than providing religious needs (the actual marriage). It doesn’t violate my religious beliefs to provide flowers for a gay wedding.”

    Apparently there are some here who believe that God will punish those who hold such beliefs but still are willing to provide the flowers.

    Maybe everyone involved in the entire chain of production of flowers needs to get out of the business, given the possibility that flowers that have passed through their hands at some point in the process long before the flowers eventually show up in some chapel somewhere for use by a gay couple may possibly eventually do so.

    Maybe I should stop using cash to pay for purchases for fear that as it circulates through the economy, it will eventually be used by actual gay people to make a purchase of some kind. Why in heaven’s name would I want to contribute to that situation?

    If only the parable of the Good Samaritan had stated that the guy beset by robbers had or hadn’t been gay. Maybe we would have been taught that he actually WAS gay and the parable would have ended with him dying in the gutter because God clearly doesn’t want us to do anything that would be seen as benefitting the LGBT crowd.

  50. “Another good point JSG. In a litigious society, people will continue to discriminate — they will just lie about why they are doing it.”

    Fortunately, good Mormons who are honest in their dealings with all men will not be tempted to lie, but will explain exactly why they’re declining the business.

  51. Apparently there are some here who believe that God will punish those who hold such beliefs but still are willing to provide the flowers.

    Nope. I doubt that anyone in this thread believes this. But we want to allow freedom to those who do believe that to decline to do so.

    Also, you are making a huge conflation of ideas. Nobody here is talking about not selling things to gay people. I think it’s wrong not to sell things to gay people because they are gay. I think we should treat those with same-sex attraction with consideration and respect, and allow them to participate in commerce with us.

    But I think that I have the prerogative to decline to participate in, attend, or lend my skills to assist a same-sex wedding ceremony. That’s different. That’s not discriminating because of sexual orientation, that is making a moral judgment about a specific practice, which I have every right to make.

    And yes, I believe that if I were a doctor, I am as obligated to care for a same-sex attracted person as anyone else. Same-sex attracted people are people and deserve respect and accommodation. But that does not mean that should have to participate, endorse, and lend our craft to celebrate same-sex weddings and unions.

    Please acknowledge that distinction. I don’t want to have to participate and celebrate things that I find reprehensible. I find same-sex unions morally reprehensible. I’ll sell groceries to same-sex attracted people. I’ll perform heart surgeries on same-sex attracted people. I’ll sell flowers to same-sex attracted people. Why not? They’re people. But I find the practice of same-sex marriage morally obnoxious, and I will refuse to participate in that practice. And I should have every right to.

  52. “Maybe not yours, but some people do have a problem with that. Just because you are fine with it doesn’t mean that everybody else is. Let others have freedom to act on their beliefs, even if you disagree with them.”

    What a stupid belief.

    Please note that I have labeled the belief as being stupid, and not the belief-holder.

  53. You seem to compare our argument to “not wanting to sell groceries to gay people.” That’s a horrible comparison, and nobody here is suggesting it. I think a better comparison is, “not wanting to be forced to personally fund an abortion.” Those who participate in abortion are people too. They might be found by the Good Samaritan on the highway, and as Good Samaritans, we should be respectful of their human dignity. But that doesn’t mean we should fund their abortions.

    In the same way, we can treat same-sex attracted people with respect and dignity, but not want to participate in or lend substantial material aid to celebrate their union. I see nothing unChristian about that.

  54. What a stupid belief.

    I guess religious freedom is stupid, then? Because that is the very essence of religious freedom. Religious freedom is allowing others the space to act on their religious conscience in the public sphere, even if we disagree with their choices.

  55. ” I think we should treat those with same-sex attraction with consideration and respect, and allow them to participate in commerce with us.”

    Mighty big of you.

    “And yes, I believe that if I were a doctor, I am as obligated to care for a same-sex attracted person as anyone else. Same-sex attracted people are people and deserve respect and accommodation. But that does not mean that should have to participate, endorse, and lend our craft to celebrate same-sex weddings and unions.”

    And I don’t suppose you can imagine that there may actually be people out there who feel that they don’t deserve respect and accomodation. Are those people wrong, or are they merely acting out of religious belief? Just where do you draw the line?

  56. I think that we should allow people freedom of conscience on these regards, even if we disagree.

    But if we have to make a distinction — that is, if we really must have public accommodation laws — we could simply say that we should not deny services to same-sex attracted people, while still preserving the right to decline to participate in, endorse, celebrate, or provide material aid to same-sex practices (such as, for example, marriage).

    In other words, if a same-sex attracted person wants to buy groceries, we should sell them groceries. I agree that anything less is obnoxious and unChristian. I don’t think the law should compel this, but if it were, I would not personally feel threatened, because I have no intention of deny goods and services to people merely because of their sexual orientation.

    But if a same-sex attracted individuals wants to hire me to participate in, celebrate, or lend material aid to a practice (such as a same-sex wedding) that I find morally reprehensible, I can then decline and say no. Because if the law does not allow me to do that, then I have lost the ability to express my moral beliefs through my actions in the marketplace.

    Is that distinction so hard to make? Really, is it that hard to make?

  57. “I guess religious freedom is stupid, then? Because that is the very essence of religious freedom. Religious freedom is allowing others the space to act on their religious conscience in the public sphere, even if we disagree with their choices.”

    Then I can only assume that you’re completely in favor of bringing back polygamy.

  58. I think polygamy should be *legal*, sure. The LDS Church was wronged when the U.S. government violated its religious freedoms. That is pure and simple. But I have no doctrinal stake in whether or not the Church adopts it. But to jail the Church’s leaders for living their religious conscience was, I believe, unconscionable and a violation of the religious freedoms promised by the U.S. Constitution.

  59. “… we could simply say that we should not deny services to same-sex attracted people, while still preserving the right to decline to participate in, endorse, celebrate, or provide material aid to same-sex practices (such as, for example, marriage).”

    You have no idea just how wide a net you’re casting here. A photographer at a same-sex wedding is not participating in, endorsing or celebrating anything. He, or she, is merely doing a job. Just as the person working at the grocery checkout counter and who is enabling those married same-sex people who buy food at his or her store is just doing a job. Or should the checkout counter person be allowed to go to his or her employer and say, I’m sorry, but I will not sell food to married gay people because I see it as an endorsement of their marital status.

    Draw the line for me as to why the photographer is correct to deny his or her services to the gay couple while the checkout counter person is not.

  60. Simple, Mark: the photographer is being asked to lend her art to memorialize and celebrate a practice she finds reprehensible, the cashier is not.

    A photographer at a same-sex wedding is not participating in, endorsing or celebrating anything.

    Yes, she is. Photography is art. Art communicates, endorses, celebrates. Look at any set of wedding pictures, and try to claim those photographs were not a means of memorializing and celebrating the occasion. Photographers at the wedding ARE participating. Ask nearly any wedding photographer, and they will tell you that they consider themselves participants in the wedding, and that they celebrate the unions they photograph. It’s what allows them to do their art.

    Unless you think the camera man at a porn shoot isn’t actually participating the production of pornography?

  61. “Draw the line for me as to why the photographer is correct to deny his or her services to the gay couple while the checkout counter person is not.”

    Mark N, I can only assume that you have never actually spoken or known a wedding photographer. Any wedding photographer worth his or her salt does not just sit there and snap pictures. They are intimately involved with the entire ceremony. They *are* an integral part of the entire ceremony. They spend hours before the event planning where they will be and what pictures will be taken. They have a tremendous amount of emotional investment in the success of the wedding and the pictures. It is basic common sense that if you are opposed to the event itself taking place that it will create problems for you in your work. If the event is not something that you feel you can celebrate, you will not be able to put any of your usual emotion into the work. It is entirely a different thing than ringing up a box of Cocoa Pebbles for a guy who comes by your register for 30 seconds.

  62. A camera man at a porn shoot is “just doing his job.” So there is no sin in that, right? There’s no strong religious reason why any camera man would object to helping film a pornography film, because it’s just part of the job, right? They’re not participating in the sex, they’re not endorsing the film, or celebrating the act — they are only capturing it for the audience. That’s their job, and no one will every be held morally accountable for just doing their job, right?

  63. I know plenty of people who are generally considered “good Mormons” who sell their crop to a major beer company, who work for various MLM schemes, and who are divorce attorneys or, as part of their law practice, do divorces.

    A local grocery store chain is owned by a Mormon, and the chain sells a substantial amount of alcohol, and features prominent pictures of alcohol in its weekly ads.

    For that matter, the summer after high school I worked as a cashier at a grocery store, and as part of that job I sold alcohol and cigarettes.

    Do I need to repent because I worked as a cashier and sold people alcohol and tobacco? Really?

  64. Tim, is anybody saying that?

    All we’re saying is that people should be legally allowed to decline attending, participating in, and lending material support to practices they find reprehensible.

    Does that mean those that don’t decline are sinners? Not at all. But religious freedom means respecting the consciences of those who do want to decline.

    Here’s the thing: to protect religious freedom, we don’t have to determine what anybody should or shouldn’t do. All we have to do is allow them to decide.

  65. Further, Tim, I don’t really have a huge problem with a Mormon selling part of their crop to a beer company. But I would throw a fit if the government told him he had to, even if he didn’t want to. That’s the kind of problem we are addressing here.

    In a similar fashion, I don’t think LDS photographers who photograph same-sex weddings are bad Mormons, or that they need to repent. All I’m saying is that they should be allowed to decline the job, and that there is some strong rationale for doing so. And, I’m saying that those who wish to strip them of their rights to decline do need to repent, because stripping people of their right to decline to participate in practices they disagree with is just a plain cruel thing to do to people.

  66. For the record, I don’t object to the idea of being able to exercise their religious beliefs while performing a secular function such as working as a wedding photographer or grocery checkout counter person. And we agree that the government had no business in attempting to shut down the LDS Church because of its doctrinal position on polygamy.

    What I find difficult to comprehend is how you draw a line saying everyone should be OK with serving gay people in certain situations, but not in certain other situations. If you’re going to open the door saying refusal is good over here, then everyone should be allowed to do the same, no matter how innocuous the involvement by people who object to gay marriage may be in any given situation.

    Surely if you object to gay marriage ceremonies, then you must object to the status those ceremonies and secular (or maybe even religious, depending on the church) authorities confer as a result of performing said ceremonies. So why, once the status has been conferred, would you not have a continuing problem with providing any services to the couples on which the status has been conferred? Everything you’ve said above just seems to make it clear that there’s a completely arbitrary line in the sand that you’re drawing, but that you disagree with where others can draw that line. Photographers draw good lines, checkout counter people can’t (or, at least shouldn’t) draw that same line. Why not? It’s a service; who cares what the nature or details of that service may be?

    Are there certain types of knots I can’t untie for gay people on the Sabbath that I can untie any other day of the week?

    Of course, I suppose it’s possible to find porn photographers who will object to filming gay scenes while being perfectly willing to film hetero scenes, but I tend to doubt it. Let’s face it: their level of discernment is pretty suspect already. I’m certainly not claiming that any and all photographers should be forced into the porn business simply because they can aim a camera. I imagine there are plenty of non-believing photographers in the world who, despite not holding any deep religious beliefs, would still find the idea of doing a porn shoot morally objectionable.

    Geoff, please point out to me where I’m not being polite. Yes, I’m a visitor here, but aren’t we all? I believe Brother ldsphilosopher has thrown open the doors here because he’s interested in doing more than just preaching to the choir. All I’m trying to do is to come to an understanding of how he manages to decide where to draw a line when it comes to providing a service to married gay people.

  67. Mark N.,

    Here’s the thing: I didn’t say, “everyone should be OK with serving gay people in certain situations, but not in certain other situations.” All I said was that if a public accommodation law made exemptions that protected my ability to decline to participate or lend aid to practices I disagree with, *I* wouldn’t feel threatened. *I* would be able to still act on my religious conscience. You asked me to draw a line. I said I didn’t think we should draw that line, but that *if we had to draw it*, this is where I would put it.

    I personally think that we should acknowledge the religious freedom of those who draw the line more broadly. But if there is not other option that would appease your sensibilities than to draft a public accommodation law, I ask that we at the very least agree to allow people to decline to participate in practices such as same-sex weddings.

    I find your style of conversation annoying. Here’s why: You insisted I draw a line, and now you come back at me as if I’m the bad guy for drawing said line — a line that I myself object to, but only drew as an absolute minimum that I could personally concede without feeling personally threatened by the law. But now you make it sound like you’re the champion of religious rights and I’m not, because I drew a possible hypothetical line that you insisted I draw.

  68. If your point was that lines are difficult to draw, I agree with that point — at some point, people are going to feel left out at the margins, no matter where we draw the line. But I think that in order for religious freedoms to be meaningful at all, any line we draw must at the very least allow people to decline to attend, celebrate, or lend substantial material aid to a practice (such as a same-sex wedding) that they find morally reprehensible. Anything less than that, and I believe we cease to have meaningful religious freedom. Could we have more? I actually think our society could handle the line being drawn much more generously. But the line I describe is the absolute minimum, I think.

  69. “… we should not deny services to same-sex attracted people, while still preserving the right to decline to participate in, endorse, celebrate, or provide material aid to same-sex practices…”

    Since same-sex married people need to eat, I therefore believe same-sex grocery shoping is a same-sex practice.

    I guess the bottom line for me is that my religious viewpoint is that God doesn’t wan’t us labeling each other. “If ye are not one, ye are not mine.” Which is the whole point of my having brought up the Good Samaritan. The reason the parable was given to us is that there is no difference between the Samaritan and the non-Samaritan in God’s eyes. We have no business labeling someone as having a same-sex attraction affliction. We should be labeling them as being human. We believe in doing good to all men, and that isn’t dependent on what that other man’s views of honesty, truthfulness, chastity, benevolence or virtue may be.

  70. Eh, frankly I think the cashier example is closer to the gay wedding photographer example than the porn shoot example is…

    When we’re talking about people “just doing their job,” there’s plenty of gray area in between “selling crop to a beer company” and “shooting a porno.” Some of that gray area is people “just doing their job.” Some of it’s not.

    I will say, however, that my gay friends would be appalled at the comparison of the porno business to taking pictures at a gay wedding.

  71. Mark N., I think you are willfully trying to misunderstand.

    A same-sex attracted individual eating is inherently no different from opposite-sex attracted individual eating. I don’t think labels matter on this regards.

    But a same-sex marriage IS fundamentally different from a heterosexual marriages. The distinction matters in God’s eyes. How do I know? Because His servants have said so. So while we probably ought not make moral distinctions between feeding people from each group (since all are alike unto God in these ways), we probably can and should make distinctions about matters of marriage (since God has, in fact, asked us to in at least some ways).

    Also, you are trying to paint me a bigot for simply wanting to allow space for people to decline to participate in practices they disagree with. I believe in doing good to all men. I believe same-sex marriage is morally wrong and forbidden by God. The two beliefs are not incompatible. To try to make me seem like a bigot because I want to create space for people of dissenting views to express and enact those views is unacceptable.

    All further comments from you will be deleted.

  72. Also, Tim, looking back at my comment, I wasn’t even comparing same-sex weddings with pornography. I was responding to Mark N.’s implication that the content of a photoshoot should never bother photographer’s conscience because he’s just doing his job. I was using an example to show that, on the contrary, photographers ought to be concerned about the subject matter of their art, and that any claim to the contrary is silly. It was a reducto ad absurdum argument, which is not at all the same thing as a direct comparison.

  73. This is an interesting discussion, but it confuses me.

    How is “religious freedom” NOT considered to be a civil liberty, at least on a par with any other?

    How does it happen that something explicitly refered to in the Bill of Rights no longer merits consideration, but wishful thinking about “same-sex marriage” now seems to be the greatest civil rights priority of all time?

    I don’t understand what drives this rationale. What homosexuals claim to want or need is one thing. They represent a minority community in our society. Not to diminish such interests, but religious beliefs concern a far greater proportion of members of this society, and religious freedom should rightly be a much greater point of emphasis as civil rights.

  74. Yo, that was me who first noted the monastic/pragmatic paradigm here at millennial star!

    Thanks for giving it some life LDSP, although I don’t think there has been much relevant discussion here so far on its implications.

    I think the implications regarding homosexuality and other hot-button cultural issues are interesting, but ultimately superficial. Monasticism is a state of heart. It embraces the mystery of God’s ways. It is a state of faith which does not insist on having a pragmatic reason for everything. It is following a commandment like: “come follow me, don’t bury your father, let the dead bury the dead.” It makes no sense, but you still follow. If everything were self evident and practical, there would be no need for faith. It’s following Jesus even after he preaches canibalism: “you must eat my flesh and drink my blood. Oh, does this offend you? Will you also go away? To whom shall we go?”

    Monasticism is a state of surrender and humility. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” “Why do you offer sacrifice? Because The Lord commanded me.”

    Pragmatism is the milk before the meat. It is a way of “selling” our doctrine as good stuff to the Gentiles and those weak in faith. See, it works! You get blessings! We’re all selfishly motivated, so it’s important to have pragmatic reasons for things.

    You are aware I am sure that I hate the crusade-nature of some of LDS culture, insisting that our morality is pragmatically superior to that of the Gentiles, and seeking to use political pressure to increase its influence. I don’t believe that is the way of the Savior. Rather, it is: “come follow me,” an invitation. Sure, we can believe the way is pragmatically superior, but on some level, we must recognize that God did not make it self-evident. A lot of smart and honest people disagree that it is the best way. When something is not self-evident, it’s monastic qualities are what will lead people to embrace it.

    But whether or not it is the best way is beside the point! The point is not pragmatic efficiency! The point is surrender to God, whatever He might ask you, however ridiculous it might seem.

  75. Jim, the problem is that you’ve got one amendment squared away against another. Freedom of religion v. the 14th amendment, which protects certain minorities from discrimination. The founders wanted religious expression protected, but the Federalists were also gravely concerned with “tyranny of the majority,” which the 14th helps avoid. So when you impede someone from accessing a privilege that they would have otherwise enjoyed had they not been born a certain way, we’ve decided that you are harming them. But we limit it to commercial activities, or related matters (admittance to school, etc.).

  76. I’m not constitutional scholar, but it seems to me that the 14th amendment is designed only to protect people from government discrimination in the forms of laws. It doesn’t have much to do with how individuals choose to interact with each other.

    Government tries to write a law saying that a racial minority can’t vote? 14th amendment problem. Bob the photographer, event planner or web designer decides he doesn’t feel comfortable working with a specific client? Not a 14th amendment problem. Government tries to write a law forcing Bob to work with clients he doesn’t feel comfortable with for religions reasons? 1st amendment problem, still not a 14th amendment problem.

  77. That may have been the original idea (I don’t know), but the Civil Rights Act helped expand the 14th amendment to include private businesses. You can’t have a “Whites Only” bathroom or section of a restaurant anymore. It’s illegal on Constitutional grounds.

    On a separate note, no one entertained my questions about the limits of religious freedom. Just sayin’

  78. Once again, I’m no lawyer. But it’s my understanding that the various civil rights laws didn’t expand the 14th amendment, they exist separate from it. As such, they do not have the same force as a constitutional amendment and can only exist so long as they don’t conflict with any actual portion of the constitution.

    So if it came down to a fight between Federal Civil Rights Laws and the 1st Amendment, it is my understanding that the 1st amendment would be considered the superior law of the land.

    As for limits on religious rights, a lot of it would have to be decided on a case by case basis. But my general thought is that a man should never be forced to act against his religion and should only be prohibited from acting on behalf of his religion when it is something widely agreed to be harmful to innocents outside of the individual believer. In other words, even if we feel like someone can’t legally practice their full religion at the very least we should let them sit in the corner and do nothing instead of compelling them to actively work against their beliefs.

    A few examples of being forced to act against your religion that shouldn’t happen: Legally compelling a Christian to work on the Sabbath or provide services that directly enable a practice he disagrees with. Forcing a Muslim or Jew to eat pork or else be arrested. Forcing the Amish to go to war under pain of death. These are all things that ought not happen.

    A few examples of prohibiting one to act on behalf of his religion: Telling a Christian he can’t wear a cross at work (probably a bad law), making it illegal to donate to religious organizations (probably a bad law), making it illegal to do illegal drugs during a religious ceremony (probably reasonable), making it illegal to murder other people in the name of your religion (definitely reasonable).

  79. DavidF, we’ve discussed in this thread a number of places to potentially “draw the line.” And there are a number of different ways to draw that line. There are plenty of grey areas, plenty of room for discussion on marginal cases.

    But there is no version of religious freedom that is actually religious freedom of any meaningful sort that will compel a photographer to use her art to memorialize a same-sex wedding that she finds morally reprehensible. That is not a grey area. That is not a marginal case.

    Are there limits to religious freedom? Sure. But if those limits include the above, then it is simply not religious freedom. Period. Disagree? Then be gone. Your position is intolerable. Friends don’t force friends to participate in same-sex weddings they find morally reprehensible. They simply don’t. It is inarguably a horrible thing to do to someone. It is, for some, on par with forcing Jews to eat pork, or Muslims to drink alcohol. You may not feel that way, but they do. Respect that, please.

    If you can’t respect that, then seriously, be gone. I believe in tolerance, to a limit. That position, however, deserves no tolerance whatsoever.

  80. When you suggest forcing people to participate in activities that violate their religious conscience, that’s what you get. It really is an intolerable and intolerant position.

    Communities can endure widely different points of view. Communities can endure pluralism in ideology and perspective. But communities cannot endure those who wish to compel others to participate in practices that violate their deepest religious sentiments. Communities of diverging worldviews can only maintain themselves so long as people are given the space to live their beliefs and not force them on others (or, at the very least, the ability to “opt out” of practices that violate their deepest religious sentiments). That is the only way we can build thriving communities that tolerate diverging perspectives.

    Communities ought to expel those who attempt to compel others to participate in practices they find morally wrong, for they are a threat to the cohesiveness of the community. They are attempting to destabilize the robust religious pluralism we enjoy by not allowing differing views to peacefully coexist. So while we can be tolerant of diverging worldviews, that is one worldview we cannot tolerate, for it brings an end to our ability to tolerate diverging worldviews and coexist peacefully with each other.

  81. DavidF, I would state things a bit differently than LDSP, but I think he is trying to reach you to drive home a very important point: you are stating that it is morally correct to *force other people to accept your beliefs whether they want to or not.* You justify this by saying to yourself that “discrimination is bad,” and you look at the history of the United States, with significant discrimination primarily regarding race, and you say that the solution is to *force others to change.* I simply don’t believe that. One of the primary messages from Heavenly Father is that it is by changing peoples’ hearts through long-suffering and persuasion that you get people to change. Force backfires and causes resentment. The progress on race relations that has taken place in the last 50 years or so is primarily because of persuasion. The ugly scenes of white people screaming and peaceful black people trying to ride busses or go to school is what caused people to change. The reason that MLK’s message still resonates with almost everybody is that it emphasized appealing to the good side of all people to reject the hateful feelings of racism in favor of love of all people.

    You have stated that we should force a religious person to take pictures of a wedding, completely ignoring the person’s religious objections. The key word here is *force.* You see the person as a bigot and would force them to change and become the type of person you want them to be. This is problematic for two reasons: 1)it will not work and will make the person even more resentful and 2)it ignores the Gospel lesson of long-suffering and persuasion and uses the government boot to enforce a certain vision of morality. If you truly have charity for this person, leave them alone. Let them learn the lesson on their own, in their own way and in their own time.

    The Gospel teaches us that we should love all people. This includes people with same-sex attraction. We should welcome them and make them feel comfortable and loved. It does not teach us — ever — to force our will on other human beings. That is the lesson you are missing, and LDSP is right to call you out on it.

  82. And what baffles me most of all is this: Who was wronged the most? The person who has to dial up a different photographer who is better situated for the job, or the person who is compelled to memorialize a wedding she thinks is immoral? Is the former wrong so horrendous that we are willing to commit the latter?

  83. The problem is we probably gave up the foundation to win this “fight” a long time ago. If the state can authorize you to run a business, the state can tell you what you must do in order to legally run a business in that state.

    No one can force you to photograph a wedding you don’t agree to. But the state will just tell you, “in that case, you’re no longer legally authorized to do business in this state.”

    On a side note, all this talk about work permits for illegal immigrants is sowing the seeds for more difficulty further down the line. Once we permit the state to decide who can and cannot work, for reason XYZ, we also lay the foundation for the state to decide who can and cannot work for reason ABC. Of course, we’ve already done that, but we haven’t given the state an effective enforcement mechanism.

    In fact, if you ask me, our modern government is heavily geared toward absolute oppression and tyranny (let’s just hope it doesn’t extend toward the shedding of blood), but the issue is the govt. lacks the appropriate enforcement/cohesive mechanisms to really implement it. NSA programs, Obamacare, National IDs cards, work permits, etc. move the state one step closer to actually efficiently enforcing unjust programs onto the backs of the citizens of this country.

    Just give it another generation or two… God bless America?

  84. I loved reading the discussion here – it has expressed many of my own thoughts that hadn’t made it from the abstract comprehension to the literal expression. It has also shown what I tried to explain in my own response to the photography case. I have yet to see, though, anyone else recognizing that this same scenario is addressed in Romans 14 by Paul. He said what the ultimate conclusion in these comments have been. but I wonder why no one has been referencing the chapter? What more do you need than it to be plainly stated in the New Testament? Or by the living prophets? And when you have both, where is the confusion?

    “another generation or two”
    I do not disagree, I just hope Christ comes before then. It wouldn’t even take that long for things to get really ugly…

  85. The citizens of many cities and states have decided that “sexual orientation” is a protected class when it comes to public accommodations, which includes service providers like wedding photographers and cake bakers. Bottom line: In these places gay people are protected exactly the same way racial minorities are.

    My state:
    California law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in the areas of employment (public and private), housing, and public accommodations. Cal Gov Code § 12920 (2001); Cal Civ Code § 51 (2001); see also AB 14, Civil Rights Act of 2007.

    It’s just the law. There are no religious exemptions. If an Orthodox Jew runs a grocery store, he has to sell to Muslims. If a Mormon runs a bakery that makes wedding cakes, he has to sell to a gay couple. If a person who opposes interracial marriage owns an apartment building, he still must rent to interracial couples. The whole point of these laws is to prevent discrimination against these groups of people. The comparisons to web designers being forced to work for pornographers, etc, are completely inaccurate. Society has not deemed pornographers a protected class.

    There really isn’t any ambiguity here at all. If citizens want religious exemptions, they need to repeal or amend these laws.

  86. As these laws (and how they are interpreted) lead to egregious violations of religious liberty, that is exactly what should be done.

    That said, the Constitution of the United State privileges religious freedom, and so I believe these laws are unconstitutional.

  87. And, Mike, you MISS THE ENTIRE POINT. I doubt most individuals in question have any desire to discriminate against same-sex attracted people. They would, for example, sell birthday cakes to homosexuals all day. They just wish to be excused from participating in practices they find reprehensible, such as a same-sex marriage.

    That is a real, valid distinction. They aren’t saying, “I don’t want to serve class of people,” they are saying, “I don’t want to make cakes for type of events. class of people can do business with me, so long as it is not for type of event.” Please acknowledge that distinction. It’s at the heart of the issue, and everybody keeps glossing it over.

  88. Mike, do you see the difference between selling a candy bar to a person who may or may not be gay (based on appearance) and a photographer actively participating for many hours in a wedding, taking pictures, promoting the event, etc? I am wondering if that distinction has completely passed you by.

  89. I would also point out that the absolutely worst way to get people to change their attitudes towards homosexuality is to force people, through the government boot, to do things they don’t want to do. There is a reason that the Church emphasizes gentle persuasion and long-suffering and not force (and this applies to all areas of life, not just to conversion). The civil rights movement for blacks was most successful when it showed the ugly side of racism by contrasting peaceful blacks with hateful whites. There is a lot to learn there.

  90. Not at all, I see the distinction you are trying to make. I’m just saying that it’s incorrect and ultimately indefensible. You’re either operating a business that is open to the public, or you are not. It’s no different than a religious hotel owner refusing to rent a room to an unmarried couple. A photographer is not “participating” in a wedding any more than the catering company is. Should caterers be allowed to discriminate?

    BTW: There has been a case of a Christian baker who refused to sell a cake to a gay couple who were getting married.

    http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2013/June/Baker-Sued-for-Refusing-Gay-Couple-Wedding-Cake/

  91. It’s no different than a religious hotel owner refusing to rent a room to an unmarried couple.

    I think religious hotel owners should have this right. Why not? It’s their property, why can’t they set the conditions of service?

    I know full well about the baker. They were exercising their constitutionally guaranteed right to practice their religion and make moral discernments about the type of events they wish to sponsor with their craft.

    A photographer is not “participating” in a wedding any more than the catering company is.

    Bull****. Pure and utter bull****. And I think that both are participating, but the photographer certainly more so. And both should have the right to decline.

    To say that a photographer does not participate in a wedding is drivel and asinine. Nobody with an ounce of honesty or a brain would make such a claim. And I mean that. Either you are lying through your teeth, or you are just plain dumb.

  92. I’m honestly scared for the future, if this is the type of nonsense we’re going to have to put up with someday.

    “Oh, we’re not asking you to participate in the pornshoot, we’re just asking you to photograph it and make it look memorable and pretty for posterity.”
    “Oh, we’re not asking you to participate in pornshoot, we’re just asking you to be present and provide the food.”

    I’m not saying that same-sex weddings = porn, I’m not saying that at all. But the *logic structure* of the above sentences would be the same. And perhaps it might offend you, but some people just don’t want to be present at same-sex weddings, period. And if you think that means they shouldn’t be allowed to do business at all, then you are the bigger jerk. They simply don’t want to be at a single event that they have religious reasons to find objectionable, while you want to push them out of business altogether for feeling that way.

    I’m already anticipating the response: “But pornographers are not protected classes under the law, so no such comparison is valid.” Ok. Sure. But: (1) the comparison is made to illustrate the ludicrousness of saying that photographers are not “participating.” (2) The U.S. Constitution privileges religious freedom as a fundamental civil right — and I see no where in the Constitution that makes an exception in instances where a protected class faces the tragic inconvenience of calling a different photographer.

  93. Mark, I’ve already answered that several times. I don’t think it is. But does it matter? Some people feel uncomfortable doing it. That is there religious right to feel that way.

    The question at hand has nothing whatsoever to do with whether the photographer is right to decline. The question at hand whether they have a right to, and the answer is YES. And those who disagree can go to hell.

    There is wide room for disagreement on many matters, except those who want to force people to violate their religious conscience on something as petty as this. We’re not asking to let religious people murder in the name of their god. We’re simply asking to let religious people decline to attend events they find morally objectionable. That’s like asking to let Jew abstain from pork, and to let Muslims abstain from alcohol. To refuse to let people decline to attend for religious reasons is asinine and beyond the pale. Only those with the highest disdain for religious belief would dare such a thing.

    Imagine this conversation:

    Person A: “We should not force Jews to eat pork. It violates their religious conscience.”
    Person B: “But is it really a sin to eat pork?”

    That’s how your comment seems to me — a non sequester, and entirely non-relevant.

    That a Latter-day Saint would suggest that we forbid this exercise of religious conscience is a betrayal of the deepest kind.

  94. Because religious freedom matters.

    I don’t think it’s a sin to eat pork. But if, for that reason, I’m unwilling to lift a finger defend the right of Jews to decline to eat it, then I have a very shriveled, ugly soul.

    And, even though I don’t think it is a sin, I sympathize strongly and understand the sentiments of those who do.

    And, every instrument of coercion that I allow to be used against others can, in turn, be used against me. By not defending the religious freedom of others, I jeopardize my own.

    And, finally, those who wish to force photographers to violate their religious conscience do so out of disdain for religious belief everywhere. It is motivated by hate, not by love. And I stand against hate in all its forms.

  95. Also, your question strikes me as being comparable to the question, “If you aren’t the victim (that is, if your conscience isn’t bothered), then why should it matter to you?”

    Anyone with an ounce of compassion for their fellow human beings can see what is wrong with that question.

  96. For me the question is, “If it’s not a sin, and therefore no punishment is involved, then why do you insist on imposing a punishment on others because of your discomfort?”

    What’s interesting about this is I have a gay friend who I think would be on your side in this discussion. He thinks that it’s possible that my view may be the more principled one, but he’s not entirely sure. And that’s fine, because I’m not 100% sure either. But if this were a high school debate club, and I had to be randomly assigned which side to argue for, I know which one that, for me at least, would be easier to argue for.

    And if people were rational, then a photographer who was uncomfortable with doing a photoshoot at a gay wedding would simply be able to explain his discomfort, and the couple wanting to hire a photographer would simply say, OK, that’s cool, and go find somebody else to do the job. But over a century ago, the government had to go and involve itself in deciding what was right and what was wrong, marriage-wise, for the Mormons, and it’s all been downhill ever since.

  97. “Either you are lying through your teeth, or you are just plain dumb.”
    What about deluded? Maybe I’m just deluded.

    Anyway, just one hypothetical for you ldsphilosopher:

    There is a catering company owned by people who have a religious belief that interracial marriage is a serious sin. An engaged black man and white woman ask them to cater their wedding reception. There are no other catering companies in town.

    Should the owner have the right to refuse?

    Society has been struggling with these questions for a century. We have come to a consensus in regards to race, and this is rapidly happening with regards to sexual orientation as well. Cries of religious persecution are the frustrations of people on the losing side of the debate. If you don’t want to make wedding cakes for gay or interracial couples, don’t open a bakery in a place where discrimination is illegal.

    Non-discrimination laws came into being because religious people (mostly Christians in the South) justified discrimination on religious grounds. Millions of the faithful believed race-mixing was a grievous sin, and millions of Black people suffered as a result. Society decided this had to stop. Society is rapidly concluding that gay couples are no different than interracial couples. I can imagine this is frustrating for you, but please stop claiming that the right to practice your religion is being restricted. It is not.

  98. Mike, in your first question, you are asking about a hypothetical, nonexistent, marginal case that has no bearing on the cases in question. I know of no plausible scenario in modern-day USA when a single catering company or a single photographer is the only feasible option available, and in which the absence of their services would substantially harm a same-sex couple.

    We’re not talking about grey areas, or marginal cases here. We’re talking about the cases where religious rights of the provider clearly and persuasively trump the supposed rights of the same-sex couple.

    I can imagine this is frustrating for you, but please stop claiming that the right to practice your religion is being restricted. It is not.

    Mine might not be. But that photographer’s was. And if you disagree, then you are wrong. Not only wrong, but insidiously wrong. Wrong in an wholly intolerable sort of way. To me, making that photographer attend that wedding would be exactly comparable to making a Jew eat pork. Who in their right mind thinks that’s ok?

    Cries of religious persecution are the frustrations of people on the losing side of the debate.

    In your opinion, might makes right. Tough luck for you on judgment day.

  99. Mark,

    And if people were rational, then a photographer who was uncomfortable with doing a photoshoot at a gay wedding would simply be able to explain his discomfort, and the couple wanting to hire a photographer would simply say, OK, that’s cool, and go find somebody else to do the job. But over a century ago, the government had to go and involve itself in deciding what was right and what was wrong, marriage-wise, for the Mormons, and it’s all been downhill ever since.

    Wow. I agree with this paragraph of yours. And yet, bizarrely and inexplicably, you seem to be championing and cheering the ongoing irrationality. Why??

  100. You won’t answer my question, though: Should the photographer have the right to refuse to photograph an interracial wedding if he objects to it on religious grounds?

    As for judgment day, I am wholly reliant on the atonement of Christ. I might be deluded on this topic, but hopefully not deluded in my belief that Heavenly Father loves me and knows my heart.

  101. Yes, I do, if that person finds the occasion offensive to their religious sensibilities.

    Why? Because between the injustice of having to dial up another photographer, and the injustice of having to violate one’s religious belief system, I find the second injustice much, much greater.

    As per scenarios where there is no provider willing to offer their services, there we find marginal cases. In such a scenario, providers of non-essential services (such as photography) should still certainly have the right to decline. In such a scenario, and in the case of providers of essential services (like groceries or medical care), we find some grey and that is where I am more flexible. Why? Because, again, I use as my metric comparative injustices.

  102. “Wow. I agree with this paragraph of yours. And yet, bizarrely and inexplicably, you seem to be championing and cheering the ongoing irrationality. Why??”

    I guess pretty much for the same reasons the LDS gave in to the government way back when: we figured that you can’t fight city hall (or the SCOTUS, for that matter).

    And then there’s always D&C 124:49, which acknowledges that sometimes, you just have to give it up, even if you think that this non-participation is required of you.

  103. Mark,

    In this case, we haven’t got there yet. The U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t ruled, for example, that people can be compelled to attend weddings they don’t agree with as a price of doing business. The Arizona Supreme Court did, but even that can be changed with some legislative action. We’re on round #1 of this particular fight. We are very early in the game of this new round of encroachments on religious freedom. A sturdy majority of our nation, for example, currently side with the Arizona photographer in question. We see incidents like this popping up in the news, but currently they are the exception rather than the rule. They are an alarming portent of things to come, which is why they grab our attention, but they are not yet the status quo.

    Further, prophets and apostles have invited us to step up and fight this fight. They are inviting, asking, and pleading with us to step up and defend religious freedom, as recently as last week.

    And you’re already throwing in the towel. In war, we’d call that cowardry and desertion. And considering that you are also defending the irrationally, we’d call it aiding the enemy, or perhaps even treason.

    Elder Hales, this last General Conference, said: “As bearers of the priesthood, we have the responsibility to stand strong with a shield of faith against the fiery darts of the adversary. We are role models to the world, protecting God-given, inalienable rights and freedoms.” Based on this conversation, at least on the matter of “protecting God-given, inalienable rights and freedoms,” he does not seem to be describing you. We are all enlisted ’till the conflict is o’er, and you seem to be fleeing to the enemy, calling defeat, and encouraging/championing the violations of religious liberty our Priesthood leaders — that is, the generals and captains in the Lord’s army — have asked us to fight.

    I can see no reason to throw in the towel at this stage in the fight, unless you want the irrationality to win.

  104. The way the photographer, the cake baker and the florist are pitching this to the courts is that they are happy to serve gay individuals, but not as couples expressing any intimacy or relationship such as a marriage or formal commitment. That is the line no one wants to cross and the distinction expressed in this thread.

    But let’s think about that for a minute. “We’ll serve you if you are gay, just as long as you don’t act gay or do gay things. In that case, we would be, in effect, saying that it is OK to be gay, and that goes against our deeply held beliefs.”

    Yet these are things that gay people do. Gay people are human and bond with other humans and form families. It is part of being human and same-sex relationships are part of being gay.

    Yes, there are choices involved. But consider this hypothetical:

    The Mormon couple lives in a primarily non-Mormon community. The Mormon couple plans to marry in the temple. It is a choice, but it is what Mormons do. Mormons marry in the temple. The problem is that none of the wedding services in the community, from the caterers, invite printers, bakers, photographers, florists or clothiers are willing to participate in the temple wedding because they consider Mormonism to be a cult from the pit of Hell. It is a deeply-held religious belief. And in addition, they consider the temple to be secretive and suspect.

    So to say that you will serve Mormons, as long as it doesn’t have to do with a temple marriage, is still religious based discrimination, because Mormons marry in temples. It is part of being a Mormon. And to say that you’ll serve gay people, just as long as they don’t have gay relationships, is similarly discrimination based on sexual orientation. Because that is what gay people do.

  105. Because that is what gay people do.

    As Latter-day Saints, we don’t see any of those as inevitabilities. In fact, central to our doctrine is that gay people can live a thriving life without engaging in any of those behaviors. Core to our very religious belief is that idea that we can separate the ideas of same-sex attraction and same-sex lifestyle.

    To tell us that we cannot make those distinctions under the law is to tell us that we cannot believe and live our religion.

  106. In the end, I believe that the command “Love one another” trumps any desire we might have to find excuses not to serve each other. It just seems petty to me that a photographer would be so fearful that serving the gay couple would be seen by others as some kind of ringing endorsement of their view of marriage. I can’t think of a single teaching by Jesus that could be interpreted as being in favor of withdrawing from any opportunity to serve one’s fellow men and women. We’re taught that to become exalted we must first be abased. I think that includes doing things we don’t necessarily want to do. If you see this as an affliction of some kind, then remember that “despising others” (Alma 4:12) is seen as being prideful, and that the faithful members of the church suffer “all manner of afflictions, for Christ’s sake”.

    What’s the higher law here?

  107. Yes, we should serve our fellow man. But by your logic, if I’m a filmographer, and a satanic cult wants me to film their next seance, I have a Christian obligation to attend and film it, in the name of serving my fellow man. I agree that we should love and serve others, but I don’t think that service needs to always be done on their terms.

    Also, if a pornographer wants to hire my services, I should say no. Why? Because his trade is morally offensive, and I believe that I am duty bound to decline to participate in it. It is not unloving or unChristlike for me to say, “I’m sorry, but I do not wish to participate in or contribute to your trade.” In fact, it would be unChristlike for me TO participate.

    Now, I do not think that photographers have the same duty to decline to attend same-sex weddings — but some people do, and I can understand that. Because for some people, it is very comparable. Can you at least see why some people might feel duty-bound to decline? Can you see room in Christian beliefs systems for saying, “I respect your choices and wish you the best, but I do not wish to attend or participate”?

    To force a photographer who believes that way to participate is the epitome of unloving and unChristlike behavior. You may think this is being “loving” to the same-sex couple, but it is very unloving and disrespectful to the photographer and his beliefs. And to invoke “higher law” to condone such force is to make a mockery of Christ and His teachings.

    Finally, we are not talking about what the photographer should do. We are talking about what the photographer should be allowed to do. I’ve repeated that over and over, and yet you willfully ignore that distinction.

    To condone forcing people to violate their cherished religious beliefs — beliefs that, even if you disagree with them, are at least reasonable within certain widespread understandings of Christian thought — is a threat to the stability of religious pluralism everywhere. A plurality of religious beliefs systems can only thrive so long as their is mutual respect and space to coexist. You say that same-sex couples should have space to coexist. Great. You refuse to allow the same space for the photographer. Not great.

    You advocate respecting the beliefs and practices of same-sex couples, and I’m all for that. You advocate for complete and total disrespect towards those who don’t wish to participate. That is hypocritical, unChristlike, and wrong.

    Do not bother commenting on this post again. Your views are unwelcome here. You advocate for unloving, intolerant, unChristlike behavior towards Christian photographers. That you can’t see the hypocrisy in that is stunning.

  108. faithful members of the church suffer “all manner of afflictions, for Christ’s sake”.

    And it seems to me that you are championing yoking the church of Christ to Ceasar, in the name of making us “better Christians” for our afflictions. Your attitude leads me to believe, however, that you are not a fellow sufferer in our afflictions, but rather one of the afflictors masquarading as a saint.

    I consider no one a fellow Saint who willfully gives up religious freedom, and champions those who seek to take religious freedom away, especially when in direct contradiction to the immediate and present pleadings of God’s prophets and apostles. I consider your position treasonous to the Church of God.

  109. “if I’m a filmographer, and a satanic cult wants me to film their next seance, I have a Christian obligation to attend and film it, in the name of serving my fellow man. I agree that we should love and serve others, but I don’t think that service needs to always be done on their terms.”

    And of course, the satanic cult would be considered a religion and protected by non-discrimination statutes.

    So what you are arguing for are broad religious exemptions for anything related to marriage, which you consider sacred and society in general holds to be special, therefore warranting a pragmatic approach. And I’ve tried to suggest that one man’s only-true-religion is another man’s satanic cult. So from a practical and civic standpoint, we end up with a lot of brides being disappointed at what should be one of the happiest days of their lives, whether it be a true-believing Mormon in Kentucky or a lesbian in New Mexico.

    Rather than campaign for religious exemptions to solve the conflict between free expression and civil rights, we should work to build a society where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. Regardless of how we personally believe they should live their lives.

  110. I wonder if we haven’t gotten a bit sidetracked by the religious aspect of this question and missed an even more basic question. Should the government be allowed to force a professional to do a job he doesn’t want to do?

    Suppose you’re a catering company or an electrician or a writer. Someone calls you up with a job offer. You consider the job and decide you don’t want to do it. You decline. It shouldn’t matter why you declined. Maybe you have a religious reason, or maybe you’re trying to cut back at work to leave more time for family or maybe the job just strikes you as really boring and you’re finally successful enough that you can afford to not do boring work.

    As a non-slave you are free to labor or not labor as you see fit. It doesn’t matter how bad the declined customer feels or how much they suspect you were motivated by ungood thoughts or potential bigotry. A client is not a slave owner and can not use government force to get his way or to punish you for deciding you don’t feel like lending doing his particular job at this particular moment.

    I believe our current Civil Rights laws actually support this view. They make it illegal for a business run as a truly public service to discriminate against individual customers but have nothing to say about how private, custom businesses choose their clients.

    So a bakery with a bunch of generic cakes on display has to sell those cakes to all reasonable customers. But if someone wants to order a specific, custom made wedding cake that same bakery is within their rights to refuse that custom job for any reason. Similarly McDonalds can’t refuse food to any reasonably non-disruptive customer but a catering company is free to accept or turn down jobs on a case by case business.

    And honestly that seems like a pretty good compromise between protecting the rights of everyone to have access to basic life sustaining services while also ensuring men the basic right to not become slaves to every customer that decides to make a big deal over a failed bid for services.

  111. “They make it illegal for a business run as a truly public service to discriminate against individual customers but have nothing to say about how private, custom businesses choose their clients.”

    Can any lawyers in here speak to this? I don’t think that’s correct. The example of doctors and patients comes to mind, because it’s another example of a small, private, custom business in many cases.

    From the Harvard Law blog:

    “Existing case law conveys the well-established default rule that initiation of the doctor-patient relationship is voluntary for both parties. But there is a catch – physicians are only free to refuse to accept a prospective patient if their reason for doing so is not prohibited by contract or by law. And there are several laws at the state and federal level that prohibit certain types of discrimination in the context of offering public accommodations – including discrimination against patients.

    Some states also have laws and licensing requirements applicable to the medical context that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, or medical condition.”

    I’m pretty sure the case law around all this is well-established and long-ago passed SCOTUS review. It’s hard to imagine that other kinds of licensed businesses (bakery, photographer, etc) would fall into a different category from a doctor in private practice.

  112. I will admit that I am very fuzzy on what counts as a “public accommodations” and is thus covered by the various Civil Rights laws. I too would love to have an actual lawyer clear the issue up.

    My best uneducated guess is that doctors, despite being a private one-on-one service, are still considered public accommodation because they are arguably a necessity of life. And it meshes well with the Hypocratic Oath anyways.

    In any case, this does little to change the moral point that we should think long and hard before legally enslaving a worker to an unwanted customer. In maters of life and death such as medicine and food supply it *might* be *barely* ethical to force a professional to deal with a customer against his will. But it seems hard to justify the same sort of pseudo-slavery for non-rare, non-urgent luxury goods such as photography, deserts, programming services and so on.

  113. Mike, you should truly think a bit about the idea that businesspeople should be slaves to their customers and forced to perform services for them that they don’t want to. On the most practical level, this guarantees bad service to the customers and creates a lot of unnecessary ill will. There are plenty of willing photographers and bakers around.

    I could see an argument for absolutely essential services being provided (food, water, transportation), but to argue that a baker MUST bake a cake for somebody he does not want to and a photographer MUST take pictures of a wedding he does not want to creates a world of slavery. Are you in favor of slavery?

    In addition, I would point out that there are different types of businesses, and the law recognizes this. Stores are not the same as speciality bakers, where are not the same as photography studios, which are not the same as lawyers or doctors. Each business has its own traditions and is treated differently within the law.

    I think most of us can agree that a store clerk who refuses to sell a candy bar to a person who may or may not be gay is a completely different situation than a photographer who does not want to be an integral part of a wedding to which he or she objects.

    It is only a matter of time until the government forcing people to carry out business functions backfires on the people doing the forcing today. Will a gay lawyer be *forced* by the government to defend a known homophobe? How about a black lawyer being *forced* by the government to defend a member of the KKK? (I am not talking about public defenders — I am talking about private lawyers who today can choose not to take clients).

    I am against the government forcing either side, and I think all people should agree there are many possible unforeseen consequences of using the government boot to force people to do things they do not want to do.

  114. Steven B: “So from a practical and civic standpoint, we end up with a lot of brides being disappointed at what should be one of the happiest days of their lives, whether it be a true-believing Mormon in Kentucky or a lesbian in New Mexico.”

    Really? Do you really think we have a lot of brides unable to find a photographer for their wedding? And do you really think that having to call a second photographer sullies the “happiest day of their life”? I mean, brides have to call multiple photographers all the time, if for no other reason than their first pick had other engagements on that day.

    To imply that letting those with religious conscience decline to attend will spoil the wedding day of swathes of brides across the nations is pretty ludicrous on the face of it.

    And let’s actually imagine you’re right — thousands of brides will be disappointed on their wedding days. That’s a small price to pay for religious freedom. After all, our forefathers laid down their very lives to give us that right. To relinquish it to protect the injured sensibilities of brides is the epitome of ingratitude to them. If you can look one of the men who gave their lives to give us religious freedom in the eye and say, “Thanks, but no thanks, I’d rather ensure that the occasional bride doesn’t have to make a second phone call,” then all the more power to you. I hope you never cross paths with those men in the afterlife. But then again, maybe I do.

    I’m all for treating everyone with dignity and respect. That’s all I’m advocating here — treat those with religious conscience with dignity and respect, and let them decline. And I don’t think it violates principles of dignity and respect to decline.

  115. I’m pretty much ignoring the robust discussion that has occurred so far to comment only on the original post.

    But although there aren’t many examples to see a pattern, it seems to me that pragmatic doctrines/practices are broad and more principles-based (e.g., “honesty”), while monastic doctrines/practices are more specific and particularized (e.g., “the Word of Wisdom”) — and confusing the two is a hairy matter.

    Because of this distinction, the extension of certain beliefs/practices as being pragmatic doesn’t make sense to me. For example, LDSPhilosopher says:

    I believe that meticulous Sabbath worship, for example, requires more than just a monastic belief — it requires the participation of and support of entire communities (even those beyond our religious borders). Once upon a time, this was the standard state of affairs. Businesses would readily allow their employees to remain home and worship on the Sabbath, acknowledging that unless their business was an essential service, the religious beliefs and practices of their employees should be honored and cultivated. While they recognized that not everyone shared those beliefs, they were willing to accommodate them.

    To be clear, it doesn’t seem that “meticulous Sabbath worship” is the pragmatic belief. Meticulous Sabbath worship isn’t what requires the participation of and support of entire communities even beyond our religious borders. We don’t expect the communities beyond our religious borders to worship with us (in the same way we don’t expect non-Mormons to adhere to the Word of Wisdom.)

    Really, the pragmatic belief/practice here is accommodationalism, religious tolerance, or something like that. In other words, even if we don’t practice x religion, we tolerate or accommodate the practices of those who adhere to that religion. If their Sabbath is on Saturday…they get Saturday. For those on Sunday, it’s on Sunday.

    (I think this becomes clearer when ldsp says this:

    This is why I think that Sabbath observance should be a pragmatic doctrine — by which I mean that we should invite all of our friends, neighbors, and community leaders to acknowledge and respect the practice, even if they do not hold the religious viewpoint we do.

    We are not inviting our friends, neighbors, and community leaders to observe the Sabbath…but to “acknowledge and respect” the practice.)

    However, even this as a pragmatic belief/practice doesn’t go a full distance. We make limitations — not every religious group has its holidays recognized; not every group gets its unique sabbath day observances recognized or accommodated.

    so, the particulars of Sabbath worship are still monastic…it’s the generic principle of tolerance or accommodation (which isn’t even universal) that is pragmatic.

    (And even throughout this, one can still alienate the greater community.)

    Pragmatic values/beliefs/practices can be at odds with each other, or with the monastic ones. This is something that LDSP actually alludes to, when he says:

    “Now, I’m not advocating that Sabbath observance be encoded into law. I personally believe that businesses should be free to offer services on Sunday without legal reprisal. I’m talking about robust community traditions, where business owners and public servants readily respect the religious practice and accommodate it. I’m talking about those who disagree with the tradition respecting and honoring the wishes of those who do agree, recognizing that being part of a community means participating in its traditions (or, at least, allowing people to). “

    Here, what I think he’s actually doing when he talks about his personal beliefs is he is talking about another pragmatic value — something about the value of free enterprise. But free enterprise can easily be at tension with religion accommodation. The pragmatic value of free enterprise would be for a company firing someone who won’t work on the weekends. If you had to put it in scriptural terms, it’s really a matter of whether one serves God or Mammon which value one will support over the other…

    Moving to a different, but also point, LDSP says:

    Now, here’s the important part: in order for this to happen, a large part of the community must acknowledge the practice of observing the Sabbath day as a worthy endeavor. If, for example, 85% of the community doesn’t observe the Sabbath day, and thinks the other 15% are religious bigots for wishing to observe the Sabbath day, we are going to see some conflict, and those who observe the Sabbath day are going to do so at the cost of alienating their neighbors and community.

    If keeping the Sabbath day is the pragmatic value, this is how it looks. But if religious accommodation is the pragmatic value, then things can look different. One might not observe the Sabbath day, but if they hold religious accommodation as a pragmatic value, things would still be OK for the minority of religious folks.

    This is typically why pragmatic values should be broad and inclusive…because this allows for the possibility that even when you are not the majority, your *particular* values will be protected underneath broader pragmatic values.

    Otherwise, you basically do have the issue where if you are a minority, you’re hosed. Or where you have an essential conflict between majority and minority.

    When this moves into specifics about the sanctity of the family, then, there are two ways this could go. 1) Should society make as pragmatic value the specific, particular idealization of the sanctity of the family that the LDS church (or other churches) hold or 2) should society make as a pragmatic value *the respect and accommodation* of specific/particular idealizations of the sanctity of the family that the LDS church (or other churches) hold?

    If you go with 1, then you have a problem: you have to convince the majority of folks that that particular idealization is the one we should go with. Otherwise, you end up with the 85%/15% problem that LDSP described, where it REALLY stinks if you’re part of the 15%.

    If you go with 2, you have a problem, in that you really don’t want your particular beliefs to be monastic. Really, the reason why it’s OK for the Word of Wisdom to be monastic is because you really *don’t* care if others drink coffee or tea. The reason why you have some reservations on Sabbath Day observance is because you think that your own practice of the Sabbath will be hindered if others don’t accept it (or, as I have revised, respect it).

    But for the family situation, I don’t see this as a case where Mormons will not be allowed to marry heteronormatively and monogamously — so it’s not quite like the Sabbath Day observance scenario. And it’s also not like the Word of Wisdom analogy in a critical way — the reason why you want this to be pragmatic is because you think there are effects of not privileging the LDS view of the sanctity of the family for *everyone*, regardless of whether or not one is LDS or not. Would you not state that it’s fair to say, for example, that the LDS position is that a child deserves a mother and father, *regardless* of whether one is LDS or believes that?

    When I see the examples of what it means for folks to lose the ability to “practice and preach the doctrines of the family,” it strikes me that this relates to LDS (or other religious folks) ability to fail to recognize others’ views about families. In other words, it’s not a matter of whether LDS or other religious folks will be able to themselves participate in families as they wish (which is the case with the Sabbath), but more about whether LDS or other religious folks will be able to reject others’ views about families.

    But we would have to make another analogy for this. Suppose we return to the Sabbath Day Observance analogy (where observing the Sabbath is the pragmatic value, not just “tolerance” or “accommodation”). It would be as if we said that the value in question is that others — regardless of religious persuasion — should observe the Sabbath as we particularize it. For example, this might look like making a law that Sunday must be observed as Sacred — and then rejecting those for whom the Sabbath is on Saturday, and rejecting the ability of those who do not celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday to practice freely (e.g., “free enterprise”).

    To be fair, I think this does happen in places. And as LDSP mentions, you need a majority to make it work. If you have 85% evangelical Baptists, you can get those sorts of laws passed. But if you are 15% of everything else, things kinda suck.

    So, is that the sort of world we want to live in…especially if we are members or potential members of a minority class?

  116. “Are you in favor of slavery?” No, but I am in favor of obeying non-discriminations laws.

    “Will a gay lawyer be *forced* by the government to defend a known homophobe? How about a black lawyer being *forced* by the government to defend a member of the KKK?”

    “There are different types of businesses, and the law recognizes this. Stores are not the same as specialty bakers….each business has its own traditions and is treated differently within the law.” I am pretty sure that’s not true. The only question is whether of not a business constitutes a public accommodation (vs. say a private organization like a church or club, which can discriminate however they want). Once it has been determined that the bakery is a public accommodation, the law applies.

    Anyway, we’re talking past each other here. Let me try to clarify: Homophobes and KKK members are not protected classes as defined by our non-discrimination laws. Blacks, Mormons, and gays (along with veterans, the disabled, et. al.) ARE in protected classes as defined by these laws. Can you see the distinction?

    Have you considered the possibility that you just disagree with including sexual orientation in these laws in the first place? While I would disagree with you, at least I could follow your logic.

    It strikes me as ironic when a member of an oft-persecuted religious minority rails against non-discrimination laws, though.

  117. “It’s not a matter of whether LDS or other religious folks will be able to themselves participate in families as they wish (which is the case with the Sabbath), but more about whether LDS or other religious folks will be able to reject others’ views about families.”

    That is absolutely correct, Andrew. Thanks for a very well-written comment.

    BTW: Mormons are members of a legally-protected minority class. If a Christian-owned bakery tells an LDS couple they will not sell them a wedding cake for their temple marriage, they are breaking the law.

  118. If being a protected minority class means people can get in legal trouble for not selling me cake I’m not sure I want to be a protected minority class anymore.

  119. Mike, the problem is that you are not seeing that the logic you are using (government force to achieve things you are in favor of) can easily be turned against you in ways that could and should horrify you.

    I would encourage you to consider the Golden Rule. People should not use force to steal from you and to force you into slavery — why would you force other people to be your slave?

  120. If a Muslim (over evangelical or whatever) did not sell me cake because I was Mormon, I would happily take my business elsewhere, content to know that I was not giving money to such a bigot. Cake is a nonessential — there are plenty of other places I can go buy cake, and I live in the countryside where my choices are limited.

  121. MikeinWeHo, trying one more time to reach you on this issue.

    What you are trying to do is solve something that is sometimes bad (discrimination) with something that is always bad and is always much worse with unforeseen consequences (force and slavery).

    We can agree that in the case of absolute necessities denying somebody an essential based on sexual orientation is bad. Water during a drought, etc. We can agree that somebody who refuses to sell a common item to somebody based on sexual orientation is a bigot. Being a bigot is bad, rude and hateful (but the issue is — should it always be illegal?).

    Where we part company is: what to do with nonessential services (wedding photography, bakeries, legal services, account services, etc)?

    If we say that all people must provide these services to “protected classes” all the time we are heading down a road where frankly no thinking person should want to go. When I lived in Miami as an Anglo (white guy), I was clearly in the minority. Anglos make up less than 10 percent of the population and are always discriminated against (it is impossible to get service at a restaurant, store, etc if you do not speak Spanish, for example). Should I be a “protected class?” Can I force a Spanish-speaking lawyer to represent me (as a protected class) when he doesn’t even speak English?

    So, nobody really thinks protected classes should be able to get all services all the time. The reality is that most people believe some people should be protected some of the time. I draw the line at essential services for people who truly suffer from discrimination that is harmful to their life, liberty or property.

    It is simply nonsensical and a violation of basic concepts of liberty and polite society to force a photographer who does not want to to take pictures of a gay wedding. There are plenty of other photographers who may want to, and using this particular photographer is not an essential item. The quality of work would be suspect. The photographer involved is not the personal slave of the people who want to carry out the wedding, and thinking he should be shows a basic disdain for liberty. When you add in the issue of religious liberty, it is simply a no-brainer that we should just leave the photographer alone. The government has no business getting involved.

    The alternative — where people can force others to do work against their will whenever they claim they are a protected class — is opening a door to chaos. Believe me, this is not a road you want to go down. And I would reemphasize the point that it is dealing with a relatively minor problem through totalitarian means.

  122. Geoff B,

    I have’t been paying a whole lot of attention to the discussion, but just from the last few comments (which I’ve gotten thanks to my email subscription), there’s something I’m not quite getting about your counterarguments to MikeinWeHo:

    If we say that all people must provide these services to “protected classes” all the time we are heading down a road where frankly no thinking person should want to go. When I lived in Miami as an Anglo (white guy), I was clearly in the minority. Anglos make up less than 10 percent of the population and are always discriminated against (it is impossible to get service at a restaurant, store, etc if you do not speak Spanish, for example). Should I be a “protected class?” Can I force a Spanish-speaking lawyer to represent me (as a protected class) when he doesn’t even speak English?

    I don’t think the argument is that all people must provide services to protected classes all the time. Rather, it’s that the reason for refusing to provide services cannot be because of the protected class.

    For example, living in Miami, if national origin is the protected class per anti-discrimination statutes (which I believe is where language would come into play — this might be a state-by-state or court determination though), then refusing service based on national origin would not be legal. (staying waaaay out of the legal vs. moral or whatever arguments). I’m wondering to what extent your statement about it being impossible to get service in a restaurant, store, etc., if you don’t speak Spanish is really a matter of them refusing to serve you, or simply a matter of the language barrier. (e.g., if you could understand each other, they would serve you.) In Houston, I have definitely waded through Spanish-only restaurants without translators and pointed/gestured/etc., to figure things out. It’s often frustrating, and typically, I’d prefer to go some place where the language barrier isn’t there, but I am not rejected.

    A quick google gets a Fair Housing Council of Origin page on national original as a protected class, which has this to say:

    Can a Housing Provider Discriminate Against People Who Do Not Speak English?

    No. However, there is no legal requirement for landlords to provide translation for their tenants. If a tenant does not speak English, it is up to the housing consumer to find someone to help him/her communicate with a landlord. In order to be clear on what their rights and responsibilities are, tenants who do not speak fluent English should get help reading their rental agreement from a trusted family member or friend before they sign it. It is also good to prepare a list of names and phone numbers of translators to give to the landlord.

    I don’t know how Florida’s statutes differ from Oregon’s (or how the statutes for *legal services* differs from *housing*), but I wouldn’t be surprised if this were fairly common. Notice how in this case, even *accommodations* aren’t mandated (e.g., the landlord is NOT required to provide translation, so it’s the housing consumer’s/prospective tenant’s responsibility to ensure that he or she can properly communicate. These days, when I go to a Latino part of Houston, I bring my Spanish-speaking roommate, lol.)

    It’s not a matter of force, btw. It’s just that, for whatever reason that the service provider would like to reject a customer, it can’t run afoul of those protected classes.

    Based on other things about your comments, it seems that you just have a fundamental disagreement with how anti-discrimination law has developed…so that you are making an argument more about how things should be, rather than how things are. (E.g., your “essential services” vs “non-essential services” seems to be an example of this…anti-discrimination laws as they have currently developed don’t really work based on this, but more on public accommodations vs private club vs religion — this is why you have flower shops and bakeries even though those seem to provide “non-essential” goods.)

    I don’t have much to say to this point (as I mentioned, staying way out of the positive vs normative argument on that point.)

  123. “I don’t think the argument is that all people must provide services to protected classes all the time. Rather, it’s that the reason for refusing to provide services cannot be because of the protected class.”

    Andrew S, that is precisely the point. It is a very short step, and one that Mike and others who have commented here are apparently willing to understand, from “you cannot refuse me” to “you must serve me.” This is where the slavery issue comes in. It is slavery to force somebody to perform a service that he or she does not want to do for you.

    Should there be exceptions? In my opinion, very few, but yes. As I said, essential services and common practices that do not cause you to go out of your way. But in general I favor a world of willing buyers and willing sellers, and I oppose a world where people are *forced* to associate or perform commerce with other people for any reason a world. As I say above, the Golden Rule is a very good guide.

    The Supremes will be grappling with this issue more and more in the coming years. Whites will be a minority in many communities. I do not favor a world where a white person is a “protected class,” but that is where we are headed because of the left’s obsession with race and anti-discrimination laws. As they say, what goes around comes around. I predict you will not like where such anti-discrimination laws take us as a society in the years to come.

  124. Geoff B,

    I guess my point must not have been really clear. When you focus on the distinction of “you cannot refuse me” vs “you must serve me,” I think you’re missing why that distinction exists. It’s because the former statement is not: “you cannot refuse me.” It’s “You cannot refuse me because of my [protected class].” You can refuse me for a wide range of other reasons.

    Because of that, this doesn’t translate to “You must serve me” or even “You must serve me because of my protected class.” After all, there could be all sorts of legal discriminatory reasons why the person doesn’t have to serve the other — it’s just that said reason cannot be because of the person’s protected class.

    Your use of the term slavery seems pretty idiosyncratic to me, considering that 1) there is still compensation involved, 2) the person can still refuse service [simply not for the reason that the person is a member of a protected class], 3) the person can choose to organize in a form that is not a public accommodation [private club or religion] to the extend they do want to refuse folks because they are members of protected class, and so on.

    But let me ask another question:

    When you say that there are some exceptions that you would agree with (such as “essential services”), are you saying that these folks *can* be “enslaved”? Would providing medical care be an essential service? If so, would the fact that the medical care provider must provide service even if he or she doesn’t want to mean that he or she is a slave?

    (To me, it sounds very strange to refer to them as a slave in any case…but I suppose if you answer “yes,” that would at least be consistent. It just seems to be an idiosyncratic and relatively tone-deaf use of the term, especially given America’s history.)

    But in general I favor a world of willing buyers and willing sellers, and I oppose a world where people are *forced* to associate or perform commerce with other people for any reason a world.

    As I wrote briefly in my original comment, this seems to be an instance where someone’s pragmatic belief in free enterprise supersedes other beliefs, such as a beliefs against racist, sexist, etc., discrimination. In general I favor a world of willing buyers and willing sellers, BUT I don’t oppose a world a world where people are *forced* to associate or perform commerce with other people for any reason (and neither do you!) It’s just that you don’t oppose it when it’s “essentials”. I don’t oppose it when it’s about protected classes.

    I recognize as well that “willingness” is not a pure, tabula rasa, individual-only concept. Rather, willingness has social aspects. If someone is not a willing seller because of my race, then that’s when my general favoring of such a world of willing buyers and willing sellers hits against my other values.

    As I say above, the Golden Rule is a very good guide.

    I think one flaw in the golden rule (especially relevant in the discussion of pragmatic values/virtues/beliefs that can and often are in conflict with one another) is that with different values, it doesn’t really work so well. Typically, the counter-response to this is to make the golden rule general enough to account for different tastes (“I would want others to recognize my values when dealing with me, so…”). Although it’s from wikipedia, I find it particularly telling that this is an example in the “response to criticism” section:

    It is possible, then, that the golden rule can itself guide us in identifying which differences of situation are morally relevant. We would often want other people to ignore any prejudice against our race or nationality when deciding how to act towards us, but would also want them to not ignore our differing preferences in food, desire for aggressiveness, and so on.

    And I can agree with this: Personally, I would want people to serve me regardless of what they thought about my race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., so….I will serve others regardless of what I think about their race, gender, sexual orientation.

    The Supremes will be grappling with this issue more and more in the coming years. Whites will be a minority in many communities. I do not favor a world where a white person is a “protected class,” but that is where we are headed because of the left’s obsession with race and anti-discrimination laws. As they say, what goes around comes around. I predict you will not like where such anti-discrimination laws take us as a society in the years to come.

    I think you have a misunderstanding here… when race is described as a protected class, that applies to ALL races. In other words, it’s not “where we are headed.” It’s where we are right now.

    So, let me be blunt. If you were actually saying that you were deprived service at restaurants because you did not speak Spanish, then assuming that Miami’s anti-discrimination laws aren’t a lot weaker or more strict than I would expect, then let me be clear — you have a case NOW. Not in some future. Not as a freaky unintended side consequence. Not as a liberal worst nightmare. Today.

    Could you explain why I would not like where such laws would take us (or where they already have taken us?)

  125. “What you are trying to do is solve something that is sometimes bad (discrimination) with something that is always bad and is always much worse with unforeseen consequences (force and slavery).”

    Geoff B: I hear you, I just profoundly disagree. Non-discrimination laws do not equate to “force and slavery.” They are basic rules of society, and they are good. Am I enslaved because state law requires me not to discriminate if I want to keep my job? Ah, no. You clearly don’t like these laws when it comes to sexual orientation, but rather than make unsupportable claims of religious persecution you might be better off working to change the law. Just as a reminder, it’s still perfectly legal to refuse services to gay couples in huge portions of the country. The photographer and baker got into hot water because they live in states where sexual orientation has been added to non-discrimination laws.

    From my perspective there is something truly frightening about your vision for society, virtually free from government and where white Christians in the South can refuse to serve black customers at their lunch counters, interracial couples can be refused wedding cakes, and Mormons can be fired from their jobs simply for being Mormon.

  126. Andrew S and MikeinWeHo, I am not really interested in continuing this discussion. I have probably left 20 comments and I am simply repeating the same points. In my mind, you are not really raising any interesting or different arguments that I have not seen a thousand times before. If you cannot see that your version of society (forcing people to “be good”) is profoundly immoral and evil, then there really isn’t much more to discuss. So I will bow out. Have a good evening.

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