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John on the Kentucky Print Shop Case

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At Slate, John explains why a recent case involving a Kentucky shop that refused to print an LGBT Pride t-shirt was rightly decided. From the piece:

[T]he legal boundaries that produce such implications are the very same ones that protect the baker who declines to write “Homosexuality is a detestable sin”; the print shop owner who declines to make “White Pride” T-shirts; the billboard designer who declines to erect an “Abortion is murder” display, and so on. Free speech includes the freedom to express wrong and even morally repugnant beliefs; it also includes the freedom for the rest of us not to assist with such expression.

Read the full piece here.

On President Trump’s Religious Liberty Executive Order

John Minchillo/AP Photo

John Minchillo/AP Photo

At the Detroit Free Press, John explains why the President’s recent Executive Order on religious liberty was a big nothingburger. From the piece:

Here’s why all of this is good news: Religious conservatives have lately been using the mantle of “religious liberty” to advocate for special rights for themselves: legal exemptions that would allow them to discriminate against LGBT people, unwed mothers, and other vulnerable citizens with impunity. . . . Many feared that Thursday’s order would repeat this mistake. Thankfully, it didn’t. In fact, aside from providing a nice photo-op, it didn’t do much of anything.

Read the full article here.

Reflections on the Orlando Massacre

In a Detroit Free Press op-ed, John calls for nuance in reactions to the Orlando shooting:

In Mateen’s case, there’s less evidence of religious extremism inciting murder than of a violent individual reaching for the nearest violent ideology to justify his violent tendencies — tendencies that arose from various causes, both religious and secular . . . . These details matter in formulating a smart response.

Read the full article here.

Applied Philosophy Out of the Closet

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At The Philosophers’ Magazine, as part of an issue on “50 New Ideas In Philosophy,” John discusses the emergence and future of LGBTQ philosophy as “applied” philosophy. An excerpt:

[M]uch of what occurs under the mantle of applied ethics is neither applied nor ethics. The word “applied” suggests taking a developed theory and then drawing out its lessons for a particular topic; yet “applied ethics” often invites us to revise theoretical commitments. Moreover, much interesting work in applied philosophy comprises metaphysics and epistemology, as has long been the case.

Read the full post here.

Why Marco Rubio Needs Philosophy

Photo by Scott Olson

Photo by Scott Olson

At the Detroit Free Press, I give a brief lesson on the pursuit of wisdom. From the op-ed:

By mocking philosophy, and the humanities more generally, Rubio devalues the pursuit of wisdom: the critical scrutiny of our fundamental beliefs and convictions; the quest to understand the world and our place in it, the exploration of great ideas about reality, knowledge, and value. Judging from our current political scene, we need more of that pursuit, not less.

Read the full article here.

What’s Wrong with Religious Arbitration?

At CU-Boulder’s What’s Wrong? blog, my colleague Katherine Kim and I consider some of the pros and cons of religious arbitration. From the essay:

An important feature of liberal (i.e. free) states is to protect citizens’ moral agency, allowing them to align their actions with their moral convictions. Many citizens base their moral convictions on their religious beliefs. For these citizens, religious arbitration may provide an important opportunity to resolve disputes in accordance with shared values.

Read the full essay here.

“Bake Me a Cake”: Three Paths for Balancing Liberty and Equality

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At the CU-Boulder “What’s Wrong?” blog, I respond to religious conservatives who claim that anti-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation strip them of their liberty. From the essay:

It’s worth emphasizing, however, that this concern is not unique to same-sex marriage. Oregon prohibits discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or age . . .” If Ron and Nancy want a wedding cake, the Kleins may not refuse them on the grounds that one of them is previously divorced. If Rebecca and Mohammed want a wedding cake, the Kleins may not refuse them on the grounds that they have an interfaith relationship. If Richard and Mildred want a wedding cake, the Kleins may not refuse them on the grounds that they’re of different races—and so on.

Notice that virtually no one would frame these cases as “forcing” the Kleins to be “complicit” in the resulting marriages. That’s partly because there’s greater moral consensus on these other issues. But it’s also because people recognize that baking a wedding cake is not tantamount to participating in a marriage: If it were, there would be a lot of polygamous bakers in the world.

Read the full essay here.

Rejoinder to Dan Johnson

In response to Dan Johnson, who critiques my New York Times piece “Gay Rights and the Race Analogy,” I offer a rejoinder at The Partially Examined Life. An excerpt:

I actually support antidiscrimination laws that cover sexual orientation and gender identity. But I think we need a better argument for them than “because … segregated lunch counters.” In the original post I make a plea for nuance and fine distinctions; that plea is lost on Johnson.

Read the full rejoinder here.

Davis Defenders No Better at Interpreting Bible than Interpreting Constitution

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Yesterday at the Detroit Free Press I argued that supporting Kim Davis’s religious liberty doesn’t mean tolerating her refusal to do her job as county clerk. “Religious liberty does not entitle the bearer to line-item vetoes for essential job functions,” I wrote.

In passing I mentioned that she has been divorced multiple times, which shows how inconsistent she is in enforcing Biblical law. Others have made the point more sharply, noting that she became pregnant with twins from husband number three while married to husband number one, in Maury-Povich-worthy twists. Husband number two, who adopted the twins, is also her current, fourth husband.

In response to revelations about her marital history, her Liberty Counsel attorneys have rushed to her defense. According to U.S. News and World Report:

[Attorney Mat] Staver says “it’s not really relevant, it’s something that happened in her past” and that her conversion to Christianity about four years ago wiped her slate clean. “It’s something that’s not relevant to the issue at hand,” he says. “She was 180 degrees changed.”

Her colleague Casey Davis makes a similar point:

Casey County Clerk Casey Davis, who is not related to Kim Davis, tells U.S. News he believes there’s a difference between getting a divorce and then repenting and living in a same-sex relationship.

“I don’t have any problem with that whatever, how she was before. If the Lord can forgive her, surely I can,” he says. “That’s something that’s forgivable just like any other sin, but if you continue in it and live in it, there’s a grave danger in that.”

Apparently these people are no better at interpreting the Bible than they are at interpreting the Constitution. For Jesus himself says quite clearly:

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10: 11-12).

Notice that, in Jesus’ words, divorced and remarried people are not people who did sin (past tense) and then had their slate wiped clean. They are people who are sinning, as persistent and unrepentant adulterers. Why isn’t there “grave danger in that”?

I recognize of course that divorce is sometimes the best option for those in a bad marriage. On the other hand, unlike these folks, I don’t go around trying to substitute “God’s law”–or my own self-serving interpretation of it–for the laws of the state.

Read my full Freep piece here.

Gay Rights and the Race Analogy

Tucker Nichols for The New York Times

Tucker Nichols for The New York Times

At The New York Times, I urge caution on use of the race analogy and argue that the issues are more complex than they’re typically treated:

The present debate is too often dominated by hasty generalizations and false inferences, on both sides. The left slides too easily from “similar” to “the same.” The right correctly counters “No, not the same,” but then jumps to the false conclusion “Not at all similar.” Where both sides go wrong is in treating analogies as if they were identities. If we want to apply the lessons of history to the current controversy — as we should — we need to take seriously both the similarities and the differences.

Read the full article here.

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