There are some arguments that people espouse that need to have a response, whether or not anyone ever hears or understands that response. The article that Mike Judge wrote for the Huffington Post is just such an article.
He paints a masterful picture of a small, defenseless elderly woman, who runs a B&B. She has graciously opened her home to travelers. And now, she is getting picked on by Big Government. They are enforcing discriminatory laws that should not apply to her, he claims. She is a Christian, a consistent one. He argues that she should have the right to refuse service to whomever she wants; it is her home. Her home is the very place she should be protected to live out the value system to which she adheres. The government; however, made her allow an unmarried couple stay there, wherein they shared the same bed. To make matters worse, this unmarried couple was homosexual.
Are we concerned yet about the inappropriate government intrusion? The ‘liberal agenda’ is now being forced on the elderly and unsuspecting. We cannot even avoid it in our own homes, our Garden of Gethsemane. How can the government force the public to go against their deeply held religious beliefs and ‘sanction’ such clearly anti-Christian behavior?
His article and the justifications for why he supports the owner of the B&B are so disconcerting for our country and our political discourse that we should all be concerned. This is not a small and isolated incident. This ‘case’ has the potential for lasting consequences and the path dependency of civil rights in America.
The actions of this elderly woman are not innocuous. The creatively articulated narrative by Mr. Judge is pathologically deceptive and presumptuous. This case is not about an individual’s decision to adhere to her religious belief, but rather a decision to contribute to the solidification of discrimination policy or the destruction of progress. We encountered a similar situation during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
Some business owners in the South maintained that they were able to refuse access to the services they provided for whatever reasons they chose. They argued that their private establishments were not subject to government intrusion or regulation. This approach allowed for a drastic and systematic discrimination and dehumanization of many African-Americans.
Congress purposefully and deliberately corrected this potential for discrimination. They justified their action by the Constitutional clause that enabled them to regulate commerce. Congress has the power and authority to force a small business owner to allow specific people to frequent their establishment.
The Supreme Court confirmed this regulation and approach to ending discrimination by unanimous decision. They outlined the law in the case of Heart of Atlanta Motel v. U.S. This case, under the umbrella of the ‘Commerce Clause,’ established the promise of civil rights to potentially marginalized American citizens. This is why that lower court required that the elderly woman provide the homosexual couple access to her B&B. The current law and U.S. policy force those to act more civilly when they inappropriately and unjustifiably use their prejudices to discriminate against others. This action is not a mechanism of government intrusion but rather an instrument of equality with regard to our citizenry. The civil rights of the LGBT community are at stake. If this women was allowed to refuse service to this couple, it would set a dangerous precedent for how this group is treated.
Without such action, one has to ask where the discrimination ends? Can we justify nearly everything and anything as religious expression? Are we able to frame our most disgusting and vile xenophobias as religious virtues and hope that the Court will find a First Amendment justification for our actions?
Thankfully, the State has successfully argued that it has a right to regulate religion and religious expression if it has a compelling interest in doing so, particularly when that expression is harmful to the civil rights of other citizens or if that expression is some action that the government would usually regulate (Employment Division v. Smith). Moreover, and most importantly, the Court has argued that the government is able to make a differentiation between the ‘belief’ of a religion and the ‘action’ of the religion. This women is Constitutionally protected in her belief that two unmarried person should not share a bed. However, she is not permitted to act on that belief and take away their civil rights.
The minority rights of the LGBT community must be protected if we are to exemplify, in society, the principles our Constitution embodies. We cannot let the offensive and anti-Biblical religious views of some dictate the policies for the entire country. The U.S. Government does not have a vested interest in discriminating against the LGBT community. It does, however, have a vested interest in maintaining equality, despite the demands of the majority.
Image taken from Wikimedia Commons, a “media file repository making available public domain and freely-licensed educational media content.” The image is of Romeo and Juliet’s Beadstead.
The link to this image can be found at: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Romeo_and_Juliet_Beadstead.jpg