Can We Agree to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable?

Today #HB1523 is trending on Twitter. Reactions range from “this is legalized discrimination” to “thanks for standing up for the First Amendment”. Of course, this is just another battle in a misguided war. I gave a quick treatment to this topic a couple of years ago. The argument hasn’t changed much, but that’s never stopped me from talking.

There is a key point, which opponents of HB1523 don’t seem to grasp: there can be no absence of discrimination in this debate. Opponents are quick to point out that Christians are discriminating against the LGBT community by refusing to bake cakes for them; however, they aren’t as quick to acknowledge that to force the Christian to bake a cake is also a form of discrimination. Gay couples are purposely targeting Christians in order to force them to provide services against their conscience. While you can argue all day long about the finer points of this dilemma, the argument is unnecessary because the Bill of Rights states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Or so you thought…

By this point it seems clear that the LGBT community found a loophole that the Founders did not anticipate. The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law…” because they didn’t anticipate that the time would come when the Executive and Judicial branches of government would be writing the laws. Pretty sneaky, Sis!

As I mentioned in my previous treatment of this topic, the LGBT cause is a religion. This is what Merriam-Webster gives as the definition of “religion”:

  • the belief in a god or in a group of gods

  • an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods

  • an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group

The LGBT Movement fits well under any definition of the word. Their god is the LGBT cause. By forcing others to make cakes, take pictures, etc. they are forcing their beliefs on others. In this sense, they are committing the greater sin. The Christian businesses simply declined to provide a service, but they never forced their beliefs on the customer.

The cake is a red herring, though. The real concern is about churches being forced to perform gay marriages. If a Christian can be forced to bake a cake for a gay wedding then why can’t a church be forced to perform a marriage ceremony for a gay couple? The answer is obvious: there is no reason. It’s all part of the same argument.

The Mississippi law frustrates me because it feels like an acknowledgement that the First Amendment doesn’t actually provide these protections, which is, of course, false. On the other hand, what choice do states have when the courts have run amok? The courts clearly feel they have the right to deny civil rights to one group in the name of securing rights for another. It becomes all the more frustrating because there are plenty of bakeries and photographers that would be happy to provide services for gay weddings. The LGBT community has decided to target Christian businesses for no reason other than to force their religion on them.

Many of the people screaming on Twitter are outraged by the hate surrounding HB1523. While I’ll agree that the hate is unhinged, I’ll disagree with where it’s coming from. I’ll include just a couple of messages from the top of the list. You can look it up yourself if you want more:

C'mon, guys, what do you expect.These inbred #Mississippi retards haven't even changed their racist flag yet.#HB1523

— imfabulous (@imfabulous13) April 5, 2016

If you can't remember how to spell Mississippi, remember it's:
D-U-M-B-A-S-S-H-O-L-E-S #HB1523

— Benjamin Siemon (@BenjaminJS) April 5, 2016

The solution is obvious, but is certainly unpopular in today’s climate. First, the Constitution guarantees religious liberty. It does not guarantee cakes or wedding photography. The Bill of Rights places restrictions on the government, but does not guarantee services. Phrases such as “shall make no law”, “shall not be infringed” and “shall not be violated” indicate that the Founders intended for limitations to be placed on government, not the people.

There is another side to this coin, though. Gay couples, Constitutionally speaking, should have the right to be married. As should any other combination or quantity of adults. Churches can teach against it and they can refuse to perform these marriages, but people can leave and go find another church that will perform the marriage (there are plenty).

There is no scenario where at least some form of discrimination does not exist. This does not mean hate. It does not mean bigotry. It just means people with different ideas will choose not to do business with each other. If we acknowledge this we can have a peaceful, loving world. By constantly suing and destroying the businesses of those with whom the LGBT community disagrees, they are only perpetuating and exacerbating the problem. They are creating wedges and division and fostering the kind of world they claim to deride.

For the Record: Why I Voted for Cruz

It’s easy to trash Trump and his supporters. It feels pretty good, too. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do any good.

I’m going on record to say why I voted for Ted Cruz in the Nevada Caucus.

The most important issue for me is integrity. I know that Trump has a “Lyin’ Ted Cruz” narrative going, but I just don’t see anything to base that on. It started when some Cruz people said that Carson dropped out of the race after seeing a story about it on CNN. Ben Carson’s actions were odd, so he shares some blame for getting this fire started. The move for Carson to leave the campaign trail at such a critical time seemed odd, so when CNN kept saying it was “unusual” it was easy to make an incorrect assumption. Still, Cruz apologized for the misunderstanding even though he had done nothing wrong. Cruz took personal responsibility for something that was out of his control, which speaks for his integrity. Instead of accepting the undeserved apology and moving on, Carson and Trump used it as a political wedge to further their own campaigns.

Another thing Trump likes to bring up about “Lyin’ Ted” is the misreporting of campaign finances. Trump likes to paint this as a donation from Goldman Sachs that Cruz was trying to hide. This is not true. It was a loan from Cruz’s own investment account, which was included in one filing and omitted (accidentally) in another. I believe that Cruz’s explanation best fits the facts. Trump is clearly being dishonest in order to convince people that Cruz is bought and paid for by Wall Street while he is personally “self-funded”. Cruz gets money from Goldman Sachs, but this is not why Trump is attacking him. It’s about “Lyin’ Ted’s” misreporting. Trump is clearly in the wrong on this. (** More on this at the end.)

Division and enmity are some of the greatest challenges that our country faces. Democrats and Republicans. Trump and NeverTrump. Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter. 99% and 1%. Everything about our culture is meant to pit people against each other. Often overlooked in this campaign is the relationship between Ted Cruz and Glenn Beck. Evangelicals like Cruz are supposed to hate Mormons like Beck. Yet Beck has been campaigning with Cruz for several weeks. The message they share together is this: the Constitution was inspired by God and our country can only be repaired by returning to the founding principles. That should be a unifying message for almost everyone. Even if you don’t believe in God, you likely believe that the Constitution is special and worth preserving. While Trump is driving wedges, Cruz is sharing a unifying message through both his words and actions. It doesn’t seem like much because Cruz and Beck make it seem natural, but when you consider that Romney was hated by evangelicals in 2012 you can begin to appreciate the Cruz/Beck relationship. (Google these four names for a reminder of the 2012 mess: Romney, Perry, Huckabee and Jeffress.)

As someone who loves the Constitution, Cruz is the best one to help save it. Trump only mentions the Constitution to talk about how he’s going to change it. I believe strongly that Cruz can be trusted to pick good nominees for the Supreme Court. He’s never done anything that makes me think he will weaken the already fragile life left in the Constitution. It doesn’t mean I agree with everything Cruz says or does, but I believe he recognizes that there is a Higher Standard that we our all beholden to. The Constitution is the best representation we have of that Higher Standard.

Finally, Cruz has shown that he will do what he promises even if it’s unpopular. Trump likes to say that Cruz is the most hated man in Washington. Good. I want the man who is willing to stand up by himself to do what’s right. I’m tired of people sacrificing their personal values for money and/or power.

Cruz’s opponents look like a bunch of confused octopi reaching for anything they can find to hurt Cruz. There are basically three types of attacks Cruz gets. First, ad hominem attacks like “everyone hates Ted” or “Ted is really unlikable”. Second, attacks based on lies. Third, attacks on Cruz SuperPACs. Personally, I’m not voting for a personality. I want someone who is honest and will treat the Office of President with dignity and respect. If someone hates the President because he won’t compromise his values then good. If people have to make stuff up when attacking Cruz then his core character must be pretty good. Finally, I don’t like some of the SuperPAC ads, but Cruz has nothing to do with those ads. There are legal restrictions about what involvement a candidate can have with a SuperPAC. If you have proof that Ted Cruz is violating campaign law then please make said proof available.

In a nutshell, that’s why I like Cruz. I can vote for a good man with whom I disagree sooner than I can vote for a dishonest man who says what I want to hear. Fortunately, I don’t have to make that choice with Cruz. He’s a good man with whom I agree on many – if not most – things.

** The Goldman Sachs issue tends to be the one that Trump supporters have latched on to. Even Ron Paul made disparaging remarks about Ted Cruz by saying that “[Cruz is] owned by Goldman Sachs.” I’m not aware of Cruz sacrificing his principles in order to help Goldman Sachs. If you have examples please let me know. Most importantly, why should this matter to the beacon of pure libertarianism, Ron Paul? Shouldn’t a private business be able to donate what they want to whomever they want? If Cruz votes to use taxpayer money to prop-up a failing business (TARP) then we can talk. As it stands, I see nothing improprietous in Cruz’s actions.