An official hierarchy of conscience

In response to Have YOU Actually Read the Arizona ‘Gay’ Bill?:

This all seems like the sort of legal wrangling that will never really end, because the driving force is to discard general freedom in favor of a hierarchy of conscience.  The State will decide if your beliefs are serious enough to merit respect.  Very clearly, the message is being sent that reluctance to embrace same-sex marriage is no longer acceptable.  You will be forced to participate in it.  Any religious objections you might have are irrelevant; such concerns have been judged trivial and insincere.  We might have a bit of excitement the first time a Muslim business is forced to participate in a gay wedding, or perhaps to cater a pork barbecue, but the Judeo-Christian frontier is closed.

Of course, certain other forms of conscience are still officially respected… such as the refusal to do business with a company, or even an entire state, because of resistance to same-sex marriage.  If the NFL pulls out of Arizona, they should be sued and compelled to perform there, under exactly the same principle that forces a devout Christian baker to cater a gay wedding.  The only meaningful difference between the two situations is that our Ruling Class thinks the conscience of same-sex marriage supporters is valid, while the conscience of opponents is not.  That principle extends far beyond the marriage issue, as an celibate nun forced to pay for birth control under ObamaCare could tell you.

On Twitter, I wondered if the first gay baker forced to cater a Westboro Baptist Church event will comply with a happy smile and top-quality food.  It didn’t take long for them to affirm that they plan to put the new “compulsory participation” to the test.  (If you mention them on Twitter, they notice pretty quickly, much the way saying the Candyman’s name five times causes him to explode out of your mirror.)  Then I heard from several gay people who said they’d put spit, poison, or other undesirable fluids in any food they were forced to cook for the WBC.  It’s not a pleasant conversation to spectate upon, but it proves my point.  

Compulsory participation stops being fun when you find yourself on the wrong end of it.  It only works on a political level because some people are serenely confident that the Ruling Class will rank their beliefs high in the official hierarchy of conscience, protecting them from the force they would deploy against others.  It’s important to study the wording of the laws in question, as you have done, but in another way it seems almost quaint.  We’re far beyond the point where the Ruling Class feels obliged to respect laws it finds inconvenient.  There’s no absolute principle behind compulsory participation – it’s a political matter, more than a legal one.  I can’t imagine any religious-freedom law at this point which does not, explicitly or implicitly, leave a political entity with the power to decide what constitutes “conscience,” thereby nullifying most of the fine print.

Personally, I’ve got grave misgivings about the redefinition of marriage, but if I were a baker, I wouldn’t turn down a request for a gay-wedding cake that met my normal standards for decorum, because (a) I would consider such refusal rude, and (b) I’d want their money.  But I think it’s important to respect the right of bakers who come to different conclusions, because a bit of rude treatment, and a five-minute search for another baker, are very small prices to pay for avoiding the avalanche of political power tumbling down on our heads.


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