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Aug 1 2012

Chic-fil-A and Government Power

C.M. Phippen

For many of us, the days of the cold war have been long forgotten and the lessons of the Soviet Union as a precautionary tale have been lost. We don’t quite grasp the machinations of such a government, and we certainly don’t understand how it gains such a hold over the people.

When I lived in Czechoslovakia in the early nineties as a missionary for my church, I spent a lot of time talking to all kinds of people.

I have been struck over this past week as I’ve watched the uproar over the comments of Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy regarding gay marriage.

We generally tend to think that the power over speech of oppressive government regimes is exercised by throwing citizens in jail when they speak out against such governments. Sometimes that is the case. Other times as in the former Soviet Union, China, and much of the Middle East, the power of the government to control speech is used much more subtly.

The people under such oppressive regimes understand that the initial step is often simply to strip them of their livelihood, their home, or their child’s ability to get an education. In order to quickly shut down speech that violates state dogma, and before taking the more extreme step of imprisonment, an all-powerful government just needs to make it impossible for those whose speech doesn’t conform to the official party line to continue supporting their families. Imprisonment generally doesn’t happen until after they refuse to sit down and shut up with the more run-of-the mill intimidation.

I spoke with mothers who told me that under Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, not only were their children forced into mandated preschool programs by the age of two or three, but there they were taught that government was the answer to all problems. Rather subtle, in fact. They were taught that government was their master and that, as children, it was their duty to inform on family members, including parents, if they spoke or acted against government philosophies.

The result was a forty-year period where children were not taught the beliefs of their parents during their formative years; they were taught, in public schools, the prevailing government dogmas. Religion was virtually done away with because speech was so tightly controlled that parents were afraid to speak truth to their children. Children were also taught in those same government-run schools to never question the authority or “beliefs” of the state, enabling a virtual monopoly of uniform thoughts and ideas.

But how to explain the amazing technological progress and innovative thinking that came out of the Soviet empire?! Oh no, that would be us . . .

Back to the US, 2012, Chick-fil-A. President Dan Cathy offers his opinion regarding gay marriage. I’ve written about the way the free-thinkers and espousers of tolerance among us are quick to steamroll over the rights of individuals to live and speak according to their own beliefs, be they religious or otherwise, whenever they come into conflict with the beliefs of the enforcers of speech code.

Now we have liberals taking this one step further: we have attempts at Communist-dictator/fascist-style oppression. Like it or not, the tactics are the same. In the US today, apparently using the power of government to destroy the livelihood of those whose speech doesn’t conform to the official party dogma is now coming into vogue by the left. After eruptions of alarm across this country, some of these government officials have backed down, for now, while the issue is in the public eye; others have not.

When supporters of religious liberty and free speech refuse to bow to the powers of the almighty state, the next step in a dictatorial regime would be imprisonment. Certainly we’d never go there . . . not unless we could just institute some kind of hate speech statute that would make it illegal to disseminate ideas that don’t agree with the official government dogma . . .

But really, little plebes, you just keep eating your bread and watching those circuses (provided, of course, by benevolent government officials) and it’ll all be just fine.


May 12 2012

The One-Way Street of (In)Tolerance

C.M. Phippen

The furor over the legal definition of marriage as between one man and one woman has escalated this week with the passage of a constitutional amendment to that effect in North Carolina, even as our President came out in support of states being allowed to define it as such or not, while personally supporting such a change in the historical definition. Huh?

I just have one question: Just when is tolerance and acceptance going to become a two-way street?

One of the primary drivers of resistance to changing the definition of marriage, and therefore offering government endorsement of any variation on marriage a person may prefer, is that under federal civil rights legislation, the rest of us have already become obligated to change our behavior and speech in order to suit the whims of those who reject societal norms. At what point will our freedoms be protected – freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom to live our religion without government interference?

I find it fascinating that when a state passes civil rights protection legislation based on sexual orientation, there must be exemptions put into these laws for churches. Without such exemptions, churches could (and most definitely would) be sued for refusing to perform same-sex marriages or unions. Oh no, already happened, even with those legislature-granted exemptions.

Based on President Obama’s recent pronouncement declaring that religious organizations must provide contraceptive coverage in their insurance plans, despite the fact that religious exemptions were promised during the passage of the Obama healthcare law (seriously, you believed a politician?), the maxim that what government has the power to give, government certainly has the power to take away could not have been proven more true. Our founders declared that those rights came from God. And no, Barack, they didn’t mean you.

So if a law must have exemptions for churches written into it, doesn’t that tell us that the law itself is probably already overstepping its bounds with regard to our individual freedoms? While “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” probably has to do with the operation of the churches themselves, the part about “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” certainly applies to us as individuals exercising our own rights to apply the principles of our religion in our daily lives as we see fit.

That personal application of religion could include, for some, not being willing to participate in activities or ceremonies that they find offensive or blasphemous. Who could balk at that in this great nation of diversity? Oh, the same people pushing for you to accept and celebrate everything about their lives while at the same time attempting to undermine and disparage anything they don’t agree with or like about yours.

A few cases in point:

EHarmony was sued for not providing gay dating services. According to a settlement, EHarmony will need to “do more to welcome gays and lesbians to its site.” Just makes you feel so good, doesn’t it? An entirely new company was formed under the settlement, just to accomodate gays.

Ever think of starting your own company if the businesses out there aren’t meeting your needs or desires? That’s what many of the rest of us would do, but no, not the open-minded, non-judgmental crowd. According to them, you not only have to accomodate whatever they want, but you ought to be required by law to provide it personally, and on a silver platter, thank you very much. Oh, and by the way, $500,000 was set aside in the settlement for those who were harmed by EHarmony not providing this service prior to the settlement. I’m wondering if I can sue because they weren’t providing services at all before I was married, and I wasted a lot of time dating and getting to know people on my own!

A Methodist church that refused to allow same-sex weddings in its religious buildings (they had offered use of their property, just not buildings where religious meetings were held), lost its case when a lesbian couple sued them and lost their tax exempt status on the building in question. All because this couple wanted use of these privately-owned facilities and it mattered not to them what the owners of the facility wanted. Yeah, it’s all about compromise. (Is legal coercion while one side stomps its feet and throws a fit, then gets its way thanks to nanny-state courts, the same as compromise? If so, then yes, this is compromise.)

A photographer was sued by a lesbian couple whose wedding she didn’t want to shoot. The photographer was found to have violated the Human Rights Act and fined $7,000. One of the women who sued her was actually an EEO Compliance Representative with the Office of Equal Opportunity and a member of the Diversity Committee at the University of New Mexico. Apparently diversity means that you accept me and my feelings while I reject you and yours.

As a Mormon, I wouldn’t really want an anti-Mormon who didn’t have respect for the sanctity of my marriage taking pictures at my wedding; just might affect the quality. Do you think they really wanted this photographer that badly, or they just wanted to “re-educate” her? Hmmm, I could swear I’ve seen this somewhere before . . . maybe somewhere where “freedom” wasn’t much of a priority?

A Christian baker who politely informed a lesbian couple she wouldn’t feel comfortable making their wedding cake is not only facing a boycott and harassment, but could potentially be facing a civil rights suit.

So hey, I’m all for you doing your thing, just wondering when you all are going to come out in support of me doing mine?