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August 1, 2012

Discrimination Against Personal Values

For a long time, we were told that personal values and convictions did not belong in the public sphere. That demand was grating, but at the same time, it contained an implicit promise and compromise that was valuable and reasonable. It promised that we would still get to hold our values and convictions privately, and that we would still be able to live in an America where the government would not punish us for holding those viewpoints privately.

Now that implicit pledge has been broken, and we are left holding the shards of bad faith. Today we've seen in three cases that people are no longer even allowed to hold private viewpoints without being bullied by the media and trampled on by the government. The first case is Chik-Fil-A, one of whose officers expressed the personal, deeply held views of himself and other officers, without expressing any sort of hatred or intolerance of the opposing viewpoint. For this, he and the whole business have been tarred as hatemongers, and in the land of the free, mayors and aldermen have threatened to prevent Chik-Fil-A from opening new locations. It seems incredible that in America any government should have the power to stop a business from opening, but that is the claim of officials from several different regions of our country. Further, in the name of tolerance and respect and dialogue, Chik-Fil-A and the people who work there are being shown intolerance, disrespect, and people are refusing to have them in their communities, much less dialogue with them. The fact that these communities will be less diverse in terms of their points of view seems sadly to not be an issue to many.

In the second case, a church which met in a public school building in Florida's Miami-Dade County found itself targeted because of its teaching, which represents a point of view different from many other points of view. This viewpoint was expressed without any incitement to violence. Nevertheless, the superintendent of the school district publicly announced that he would review the church's legal and financial agreements to use the school property, because he was so opposed to what was taught. Even though the government is supposed to be of the people and by the people and for the people, this government official was prepared to act against some people because of a religious teaching protected under the First Amendment. The superintendent was going to deny to one class of people, based on their religion, the right to use the building that belongs to everybody. Almost certainly many of the churchgoers helped pay for the building, but they would not get to use it as they wished, even though they live in a land of representative government and freedom of religion, which respects minority rights.Whether or not any given citizen agrees or disagrees with the church's teachings, we should desire that they still have the right to teach without interference from the government, because that is the same protection we receive from the First Amendment. If that protection is weakened for one privately held viewpoint, it can be weakened for any privately held viewpoint.

In the third case, ObamaCare continues to make unreasonable mandates upon all of us, one of which is that businesses must provide health insurance coverage for items that many employers cannot buy because of their religious beliefs. The government is prohibiting the free exercise of their religion, clearly a violation of the First Amendment. Despite this being a privately held view, and thus seemingly covered under the implicit promise that privately held views would be respected in today's America, this view is instead being run over roughshod by the government.

I want to protect the freedom of speech and religion for everyone, those who agree with me as well as those who disagree with me. Since the implicit promise that any personal values and convictions kept out of the public sphere would be allowed to remain in the private sphere has been broken, I think it's time that we explained in the public sphere that true tolerance means that we allow people to live, speak, and do business in our communities, even when we disagree with them. We should also, peacefully and constitutionally, and bipartisanly and overwhelmingly, remove from office any government official who does otherwise, because he or she is not representing true diversity when he or she discriminates against and shuns one point of view. These intolerant government officials are also setting a dangerous and undemocratic precedent - that they alone have the power to decide what society will and will not allow, instead of waiting for duly passed laws made by the peoples' legislatures. If they tar and feather and run out of town Chik-Fil-A today, who's to say that they won't imprison any of us a few years down the road, simply because we have a privately held view that is different from theirs?

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