Monday, January 8, 2018

No Cake for the Gays and the Libertarian + White Catholic + White Evangelical Erosion of Civil Rights for All Minorities: Truth-Telling about Having Your Cake and Eating It, Too

All these pieces fit together: 

With LGBTQ rights under open attack by the Trump administration — witness the recent summary firing of the entire HIV/AIDS advisory council — many are counting on the Supreme Court to stand against the backlash and preserve recent gains. But if the recent sharply divided oral argument in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case is any indication, a majority of the Court may be ready to screw up civil rights law to forestall full LGBTQ equality. 
How else to interpret the agonized wrestling with what ought to be an easy case? Colorado's public accommodation law bars sexual orientation discrimination on the same basis as race, creed, color, sex, and other suspect classifications. That means if you own a store open to the general public, you cannot refuse to sell goods to anyone based on their membership in a protected group. Period. At least it should be period. 
If Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips had professed a sincere religious belief that God intended people to marry only within their own race – and therefore refused to let an interracial couple order a custom wedding cake – his claimed exemption from Colorado’s civil rights law would have been laughed out of court. 
Mr. Phillips' lawyer, Kristen Waggoner, admitted as much under tough questioning by Justices Sotomayor and Kagan. She didn't have much choice, because the Supreme Court rejected as frivolous nearly 50 years ago a claimed religiously based right to exclude African Americans from lunch counters. 
But, Ms. Waggoner, argued, "race is different." How so? Well, if Mr. Phillips turned away an interracial couple "we know that that objection would be based on who the person is, rather than what the message is."
Huh? It's pretty clear that Charlie Craig and David Mullins were turned away from Masterpiece Cakeshop precisely because of who they were – a gay couple trying to buy a wedding cake. There is no indication that Mr. Phillips refuses to bake cakes for Jews, interfaith couples, atheists, or anybody else whose marriages don’t fit his religious model – just same-sex couples. 
Half the Court (Justice Kennedy always being a toss-up) seemed to recognize that this is the essence of discrimination. Any "message" that Mr. Phillips wishes to send about his religious objection to same-sex couples marrying is trumped by his basic civic obligation – having opened a public bakery – to sell the same products to all. And that was the result reached just this week by an Oregon state court in a very similar case. 
If we would "know" this more instinctively in a race case, that's only because of an arduously built social consensus that remains more fragile for LGBTQ rights. As Justice Sotomayor pointed out, "America's reaction to mixed marriage and to race didn't change on its own. It changed because we had public accommodation laws that forced people to do things that many claimed were against their expressive rights and against their religious rights." . . .  
Either the courts apply the precedent to start recognizing "good faith" free speech and religious objections to serving other minority groups (basically gutting civil rights enforcement), or they limit the exception to LGBTQ discrimination (thereby formalizing second-class status for LGBTQ people even under fully inclusive statutes).

Conservatives eager to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people highlight "religious freedom" as one of their primary arguments. If a business owner like Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshops, whose case is before the Supreme Court, doesn't want to sell a wedding cake to same-sex couples because of his religious beliefs, they argue, he shouldn't have to. But a new study from researchers at Indiana University, Bloomington found that concern for "religious freedom" actually has very little to do with why people support such discrimination. 
According to the study, published this week in Science Advances, when people are okay with refusing service to a customer because of their identity, it has very little to do with whether the refusal was motivated by religious beliefs. Instead, the individual’s own prejudices and the nature of the business doing the discriminating were more important factors. How the researchers figured this out is fascinating in and of itself. . . .
According to the results, respondents were far more likely to be okay with discrimination against the same-sex couple (53 percent) than the interracial couple (39 percent). But whether the refusal was based on religious beliefs (47 percent) or not (45 percent) didn't really change whether they approved of the discrimination. Whether the photographer was self-employed (61 percent) or part of a corporate chain (31 percent) played a far bigger role. 
The survey also asked respondents about their own beliefs regarding the kind of marriage to which they were responding, with 61 percent expressing support for same-sex marriage and 90 percent expressing support for interracial marriage. Unsurprisingly, those who opposed marriage for the kind of couple they heard about were more likely to approve of discrimination against them. 
In other words, the reason tolerance for anti-gay discrimination is so high is because support for same-sex marriage is still so relatively low, even at 61 percent. The researchers even suggested that "if support for same-sex marriage were as high as that for interracial marriage, then Americans' views on service refusal would not vary by couple type."

Listen to Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains, talk with Jon Wiener about "the historical connection between the Koch brothers' anti-government politics, the white South's massive resistance to desegregation, and a Nobel Prize–winning Virginia economist [i.e., James McGill Buchanan]." Of particular importance is the dialogue that begins on the top audio file at about 27.15:

Jon Wiener says to Nancy MacLean,

The South is a fascinating key to this whole story. . . . You show that the South has been the key historically to the rise of the right and that this libertarian movement is deeply connected to opposition to the Civil Rights movement. Let's use the word racism here.

And then he concludes: "Today we have Southern domination of our politics to a surprising extent."

To which MacLean responds, "You've summarized it beautifully." As she goes on to states, Milton Friedman and James McGill Buchanan, the founding fathers of the libertarianism that now buttresses the Koch brothers' agenda for the nation — the libertarianism that is the official policy of the Republican party as it's now configured — claimed to disdain racism. 

But as she also notes, what they did that's "almost more chilling" is that they saw, and were willing to use and support, Southern resistance to civil rights movements as an opportunity to move the libertarian cause forward and undermine government institutions and government safeguards against the exploitation of the vulnerable by corporations and the wealthy. As she also ponts out, Barry Goldwater, the first explicitly libertarian presidential candidate, and libertarians in generally have consistently opposed civil rights initiatives. She reminds her listeners that the only states Goldwater won in addition to his home state of Arizona were the states of the Deep South. 

Ultimately, any reporting about the "white working class" that does not explore the racism, nativism and white supremacy that drove that group's support of Trump is both inaccurate and irresponsible. . . . 
When they hear "Make America Great Again," Trump's supporters correctly decode it as making America white again. If a person's most valuable possession is their whiteness, that becomes a great and enduring motivation to support Donald Trump. Until the mainstream corporate media accepts that basic fact, it will continue to be blindsided by the forces unleashed and nurtured by Donald Trump and the Republican Party. But at least they will always have bizarre stories to tell about the strange denizens of TrumpLandia.

In a recent essay entitled, "Look for the church to stand up to money, politics in 2018," Michael Sean Winters points readers to an article by Mollie Worthen that, as he maintains, "details the historic links between evangelical Christianity and libertarian economic and political ideology." And then he states, 

It is repulsive that the president is unwilling to challenge the white supremacists who support him. It is equally repulsive to charge all of his evangelical supporters with the sin of racism.

1. But, as Nancy MacLean's historical testimony clearly shows, the libertarian movement in the U.S. and Southern resistance to civil rights are joined at the hip. You cannot be true to the historical record and talk about the libertarian strands in white evangelical politics today while turning a blind eye to the white-supremacist strands in white evangelical politics.

2. The same historical record shows white Southern evangelicals as the backbone of the movement of resistance to civil rights for people of color (and now, LGBTQ people) in the 20th century.

3. You cannot claim to be interested in the historical record about the libertarian links to white evangelicals while you also discount the clear, patent links of both white evangelicals and libertarianism to white supremacist racism.

4. You cannot, in other words, pretend historical ignorance as you close your eyes to what the alliance of anti-abortion, anti-gay-marriage Catholics with white Southern evangelicals means about the patent, clear racism underlying Catholic support for culture-war shibboleths.

5. You cannot claim that, in attacking the civil rights of LGBTQ couples by supporting Jack Phillips' "religious freedom" to deny goods and services to those couples, you are not also attacking the civil rights of people of color.

6. Catholic intellectuals and the bishops they follow like lemmings into the culture-war battles against abortion and same-sex marriage cannot claim to be on the side of the angels when it comes to supporting the rights of people of color (as these folks pretend that their alliance with overtly racist white Southern evangelicals does not implicate them in racism), while those same bishops and intellectuals attack the civil rights of LGBTQ people, claiming "religious freedom" as their warrant to do so.

7. The leaders of the Catholic church in the U.S. have not been on the side of the angels for some time now, as they have elevated the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage to the level of an all-consuming shibboleth that defines the very identity of Christianity at this point in history — energizing some of the most repressive and hate-oriented movements in our society as a result. In Barack Obama's two campaigns for the presidency, all of us could see with our own eyes the bitter fruit that this kind of politics has borne, as people masqueraded in gorilla masks at anti-Obama rallies in heavily Catholic communities, screaming, "Baby killers!," at journalists and Obama supporters.

8. As the leaders of the Catholic church participate in a crusade to block the civil rights of LGBTQ human beings, they cannot pretend that they are not simultaneously chipping away at the civil rights of people of color, and participating in a right-wing crusade to erode government protections for all minority groups that was born in out and out filthy racism.

9. There's a reason some six in ten white Catholics voted along with eight in ten white evangelicals to place the current moral monstrosity in the White House.

10. That reason is abundantly clear in the thinking of people like Michael Sean Winters and in "middle-of-the-road" Catholic journals like National Catholic Reporter. To change this situation would require that the intellectual leaders of the U.S. Catholic church start listening to the voices of women (whom Winters constantly disdains, with NCR giving him column space to do so), to people of color, to Latinos, to LGBTQ people — to people to whose rights Catholic intellectuals in the U.S. love to give lip-service, as long as they think they can use some of these minority groups as wedges against the pro-choice and pro-same-sex-marriage planks in the Democratic platform. But when those wedges stop being useful tools in the hand of Catholic centrist intellectuals who pretend to stand in the middle between the left and the right, the voices of these groups stop counting in the conversation that defines the identify of American Catholicism — and the moral monstrosity in the White House is the outcome of this immoral, anti-catholic, eminently unpastoral behavior.

The photo: my brother Simpson and I enjoying birthday cake in June 1952.

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