Jesurgislac’s Journal

November 2, 2008

Yes to freedom of belief: no to Proposition 8

I’ve just had an interesting conversation about freedom of belief with Mark at A Deo Lumen. Mark is responding here to Thomas Sowell’s Conflict of Visions. He asked me: Don’t we all want our own preferences and convictions enshrined as the law for all to obey?

Well, yes and no. I have a whole bunch of personal preferences and convictions, which I do not especially want “all to obey” however much I think they’re good. I’m vegetarian, lesbian, atheist, etc – I do not want the government to make other people copy me!

But I do have some wider preferences and convictions that I do believe are something that should be enshrined as law: I believe in religious freedom, liberty of the mind – the right of everyone to believe – or not believe – what they choose. (I’ve just been discussing on another blog (to John at Have I Told You Lately?) why I think everyone in California who supports religious freedom ought to oppose Proposition 8, regardless of their personal views on same-sex marriage, because this is an attempt to get religious discrimination into the state constitution.)

I wrote to Mark “I don’t want ‘everybody to be an atheist’ – I want my right to be an atheist respected as much as your right to be a Christian. And I would fight for your right to practice your faith without infringing on other’s liberties, regardless of whether you felt the need to fight for mine. Because that is a conviction of mine that yes, I do think should be enshrined in law – because if it is, in countries where it is, such law maximises freedom of belief.”

I don’t believe that you can simply say “Well, I believe in freedom of belief, but my opponent believes that one religion should be imposed on all people, so we must be tolerant of each other’s beliefs”. “My opponent” in such a case is arguing for “tolerance” of their belief only because it suits their end – and their end is absolute intolerance of all beliefs but their own.

And that, I think, is the classic problem of the Sowell doctrine (which I may be misunderstanding completely, of course: I haven’t read his book): in a free society, in order to safeguard that freedom, there are some things that must not be tolerated: and any attempt to enforce religion on others by law is one of those things.

A religious blogger recently and with admirable sincerity responded to the query: “Why oppose same-sex marriage?” – “Because God says so!” I think too many people whose first instinctive response was “God says so!” have been unwilling to take the obvious next step – “Because I believe God opposes same-sex marriage is exactly why my opposition to same-sex marriage ought not to become law.”

(A couple of rather good anti-Prop8 videos follow under the cut.)

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15 Comments »

  1. this really isn’t about religious discrimination. i’m voting ys on prop 8 because i think children have a right to a mom and a dad. i believe that the state should do everything it can to encourage this situation. prop 8 works towards this goal.

    while homosexual couples may make lovely parents–by their definition one gender is being marginalized. kids need both a mom and a dad.

    i just did a post about gender and parenting on my blog. i would love any comments or stories about what you learned from your dad or your mom, or any related experiences.

    prop 8 is really about making our families stronger. children have a right to a mom and a dad.

    http://prop8discussion.wordpress.com/2008/11/03/gender-matters-children-have-a-right-to-a-mom-and-a-dad-day-7/
    [Edit: All comments to what is falsely called “prop8discussion” are censored: the owner of the blog doesn’t permit discussion by people who disagree with her. If you’re looking for real discussion, don’t go there…]

    Comment by prop8discussion — November 3, 2008 @ 7:18 am | Reply

  2. this really isn’t about religious discrimination. i’m voting ys on prop 8 because i think children have a right to a mom and a dad.

    Really? I think children have a right to loving, caring parents. You just care about getting the gender “right”?

    i believe that the state should do everything it can to encourage this situation. prop 8 works towards this goal.

    No, it doesn’t. It just ensures that children who have two moms or two dads won’t be allowed to have married parents.

    i just did a post about gender and parenting on my blog. i would love any comments or stories about what you learned from your dad or your mom, or any related experiences.

    I don’t think you’d be interested. Among the things I learned from my mum and dad is that it’s wrong to discriminate, it’s wrong to allow others to suffer because of your prejudices, and that it’s wrong to impose your religious beliefs on others. I also learned that what children most need is unstinting love and care. None of those are things you evidently care anything about.

    prop 8 is really about making our families stronger.

    No, it’s about attacking families. Denying couples marriage does not make families stronger.

    children have a right to a mom and a dad.

    It’s a mystery to me how many people say this and move smoothly to “so we’re going to attack children’s families where they don’t have a mom and a dad”. Evidently you don’t give a damn about those children – they’re contaminated by the wrong sort of parents and you think they should suffer legal discrimination. Ugh.

    Comment by jesurgislac — November 3, 2008 @ 7:39 am | Reply

  3. Christians! Don’t be fooled by a Mormon LDS trick! Save Christianity and vote NO on proposition 8! See http://Batyzim.com/ for the real, Christian, story.

    BTW: The Mormons have been instructed by their leaders to deface and vandalize their own signs to make themselves look like victims. It’s an old trick, and a shame the Media fell for it.

    Comment by Cain Hamm — November 3, 2008 @ 7:48 pm | Reply

  4. Several times you’ve asked when I chose to be heterosexual. I don’t think the question has relevance to the consideration of Prop8 and thus did not mention it throughout discussion of same-sex marriage at Anita’s blog.

    FWIW, I recall the precise moment when I consciously decided that homosexuality wasn’t for me: location, time, individuals present, activites underway, etc. Maybe my experiene is unique for a heterosexual to have, or to admit; maybe not. I don’t know. But it was definitely a decision on my part.

    Comment by Husband John — November 3, 2008 @ 8:41 pm | Reply

  5. Several times you’ve asked when I chose to be heterosexual. I don’t think the question has relevance to the consideration of Prop8

    I think only once, actually, and with reference to the claim that people “choose” their sexual orientation, which is nonsense.

    Maybe my experience is unique for a heterosexual to have

    Well, if you mean that you were having sex with men without being sexually attracted to men, no, not at all: in every city, sexual outreach workers who provide condoms/safe-sex advice to men who have sex with men report that many of those men who have sex with other men do not identify as gay or even bisexual, but are simply aware of the places where a man can go to have another man give him sexual relief (I am attempting to be inexplicit). This is perfectly normal: it is perhaps less normal for a man to decide to be faithful to his wife. 😉 It does not, of course, have much to do with homosexuality, and nothing at all with the commitment involved between two men who marry.

    If you mean something else, for example that you’re one of these kind of people, well… that’s somewhat different.

    Comment by jesurgislac — November 4, 2008 @ 1:25 am | Reply

  6. Well, first off, let me copy/paste something I think relevant to your posting that rather anti-Mormon commercial.
    “The (LDS) Church has joined a broad-based coalition in defense of traditional marriage. While we feel this is important to all of society, we have always emphasized that respect be given to those who feel differently on this issue. It is unfortunate that some who oppose this proposition have not given the Church this same courtesy.”

    Making a commercial about missionaries barging in, ransacking a home, etc, certainly makes a statement… Though not a very friendly one to any member or friend of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s sad to me to find that people would actually make a commercial like that. We didn’t make one about a lesbian couple barging in on a family devotional, or a Sunday School lesson… (shrug)

    That said, um, I’d be remiss if I didn’t clarify something. John meant to state that he does indeed recall a specific time where he chose not to be gay. You had asked something like, “When did you decide to be heterosexual?” and someone else had asked a similar question on a different thread. (Sorry he misquoted you. You did only ask once.) John actually can pick out a moment where he made that decision. Perhaps knowing it would be slightly misinterpretted, he would’ve kept it to himself. He really didn’t mean to imply that he was or ever had engaged in homosexual behavior, and that that experience was the catalyst for said decision – since that experience never happened.

    At any rate, we both got a chuckle out of your take on it. Bottom line, as you said, it doesn’t have much to do with homosexuality, and nothing at all with the current Prop8 debate.

    And as a side… It strikes me as profoundly sad that it could be said by anyone that bisexual experimentation is “perfectly normal” but fidelity to one’s spouse may be “less normal.” At least you said “perhaps.” I appreciate that. 🙂

    Comment by Anita — November 4, 2008 @ 4:43 am | Reply

  7. j–

    if you want to be published on my blog you have present an argument which is more than just emotional. if you look at the dissenting comments they are all polite and generally seeking understanding.

    a. i do care about gender. maybe you didn’t read my post. but having a mom and a dad matters to childrens’ healthy development.

    b. i can’t help other people’s choices to adopt children with a same-gender partner. i’m not saying they can’t or shouldn’t do it–but i am saying it is wise for the government to do everything it can to promote and encourage relationships that provide a child with a mom and a dad committed to their well being.

    c. same-gender couples have all the same rights as marriage under california law. i consider a same-gender couple the “parents” of any children they adopt. i just think agian, that it is wise for the state to promote kids having both a mom and a dad.

    d. by voting yes on prop 8 i am not being discriminatory or prejudiced. i am not imposing my beliefs on any one any more than you are imposing your beliefs on me. this is why we vote–so as a society we can decide what we think is wise for the greater good.

    i think it is wise for children to have a mom and a dad.
    it really has nothing to do with the morality question on homosexuality.

    i would love to have a conversation on my blog if you can present some good/solid/interesting arguments

    Comment by prop8discussion — November 4, 2008 @ 5:41 am | Reply

  8. also, the first two videos you posted are pretty much the definition of prejudice and discrimination.

    I can understand that you’re intimidated by the over 770,000 Mormons in CA, but many people I’ve talked to who are yes on 8 are not Mormons. Here’s a list of all the churches who are yes on 8
    http://www.protectmarriage.com/endorsements/churches-endorsing

    Comment by prop8discussion — November 4, 2008 @ 5:47 am | Reply

  9. if you want to be published on my blog you have to

    The chief difference between you and me, then:

    I’ll let everyone have their say, providing they’re a real human being and not a spambot, and not abusive.

    Even when what they have to say is something I profoundly disagree with, or think is really stupid, or just disgusting – so long as it’s phrased without actual abuse. I’m secure in my own views, I’m even okay with letting bigots like you post links to their own hate sites. (Though I will add a note to your link warning people that comments are censored.)

    Because I believe in freedom of speech and freedom of information – and you believe in quelling views that make you feel uncomfortable.

    And that’s the chief difference between people who support proposition 8 and people who oppose it, too, out in the real world: You hate freedom of religion and freedom of speech and want to use the legislature and the power of majority of opinion to stop you feeling uncomfortable.

    We believe in freedom, and you don’t.

    Comment by jesurgislac — November 4, 2008 @ 8:38 am | Reply

  10. Anita, first of all, just to counter that “Prop8Discussion” person above – I really do appreciate your letting me post my lengthy comments on your family blog about this issue. You are a clear example that some supporters of Proposition8 are willing to support freedom of belief in areas like private blogs – now if only you were willing to support it in the real world!

    Making a commercial about missionaries barging in, ransacking a home, etc, certainly makes a statement… Though not a very friendly one to any member or friend of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    No. But then, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has been, since June, running an unfriendly campaign against the civil liberties of Californians. Rather than going “oh you don’t like us!” you might perhaps consider that this advert represents, in visual form, what the LDS have been doing in California: invading people’s private lives to take their marriage certificate away and rip it up. Of course it’s an uncomfortable ad to any friend of the church who hasn’t thought about what the church has been doing.

    We didn’t make one about a lesbian couple barging in on a family devotional, or a Sunday School lesson…

    Would hardly have been as effective, would it? That would not have been a visual depiction of what the freedom for same-sex couples to marry represents. No invasion of “family devotional” or a “Sunday school lesson” is involved in same-sex civil marriage.

    I don’t feel I should discuss your husband’s sexual orientation with you.

    And as a side… It strikes me as profoundly sad that it could be said by anyone that bisexual experimentation is “perfectly normal” but fidelity to one’s spouse may be “less normal.” At least you said “perhaps.” I appreciate that. 🙂

    I was making a joke. But: Normal human sexual orientation of course includes bisexuality. That’s just a fact. Your finding it “sad” is to me rather strange and childish. It’s as if you said “It’s sad that God makes it rain.” It’s well within the realms of human capability for two people to pledge faithfulness to their spouse and keep that vow: I find it sad that you disrespect and disregard people who do so.

    Comment by jesurgislac — November 4, 2008 @ 8:59 am | Reply

  11. Actually, the video is a misrepresentation of law. An act that occurs before something is illegal remains valid even if said act is afterward made illegal. In context, if Prop8 passes, any same-sex marriages performed in the interim –from the time Prop22 was overruled until Prop8 takes effect– remain valid.

    It’s thus both inconceivable and a gross misrepresentation to imply that anyone’s valid marriage certifiates would be destroyed. While it’s arguable there’s thematic appeal to Prop8 opponents, it’s clearly an illogical and factually misleading tactic.

    Re: “Normal human sexual orientation of course includes bisexuality. That’s just a fact.” Hardly factual. Normality, by definition, means “conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural” or when used as a noun, “the average or mean.” For any behavior to be “normal” it must satisfy the definition of normality– bisexuality fails to satisfy.

    Let’s use human anatomy as an illustration. What’s normal? Normal anatomy includes two eyes, two arms, two legs, and ten toes. Why is that normal? Because the preponderance of individuals have two eyes, two arms, two legs, and ten toes. Are there exceptions? Certainly! Such exceptions even occur naturally. However, the existence of exceptions does not alter normal human anatomy; exceptions are by definition abnormal. In potentially every other respect an individual may be normal (i.e. IQ, height/weight ration, income, et al), and yet in this regard the individual is abnormal.

    I think the parallel is clear, but I’ve been misunderstood in the past so I’ll try to be precise. Unless the preponderance of a given sample/population (CA residents, US citizens, global humans, or other), engage in bisexual behavior, then bisexuality is by definition abnormal.

    Thus it may be normal in some localized places (communities, or parts of a city, for instance). As pertains to your relationships, location, and persons with whom you associate it may in fact be normal, because the percentage of bisexual people in that sample is high. However, when the sample/population is randomized and expanded to sufficient “r” value, then bisexual behavior becomes abnormal.

    Note, this has nothing to do with judgment of the behavior – merely factual definition of what is normal.

    Comment by Husband John — November 4, 2008 @ 6:10 pm | Reply

  12. In context, if Prop8 passes, any same-sex marriages performed in the interim –from the time Prop22 was overruled until Prop8 takes effect– remain valid.

    That’s all you got? That the LDS, right now, is just attacking the freedom to marry and freedom of religion and invading people’s private lives, but is not literally – at least not right now – trying to legally invalidate the 18,000 marriages performed between June and November?

    Re: “Normal human sexual orientation of course includes bisexuality. That’s just a fact.” Hardly factual. Normality, by definition, means “conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural” or when used as a noun, “the average or mean.”

    Exactly. And normal human sexual orientation is on a range from heterosexual through bisexuality to homosexual. Just as normal human handedness is on a range from wholly right-handed to wholly left-handed. Just as normal human skin colour ranges from melanin-high to melanin-low.

    Defining something as typically human as attraction to the same gender as “abnormal” is what bigots do.

    Comment by jesurgislac — November 4, 2008 @ 8:35 pm | Reply

  13. Hahaha, OK, Jes. Good luck.

    Comment by Husband John — November 4, 2008 @ 10:58 pm | Reply

  14. Can I referee here for a second? I comment here mostly because it’s unlikely John will attempt again to clarify what he meant.

    Obviously we’re dealing with two different words here, spelled the same way.

    By “normal” you mean “nothing wrong with it, natural” — just like no one will argue with you today that being left handed is “wrong.” Everybody knows that’s a “normal” thing for someone to be.

    By “abnormal” John simply means, “not as common” or, in the minority, just like there are far more people right-handed than there are left — which would not be meant as a bigotted judgement call against the left-handed.

    Usually when people use the word “abnormal” they mean defective, weird, or any other number of fear/hate implying adjectives. John wasn’t trying to name call there. But I don’t mean to make light of the injuries you’ve suffered at the hands of ill-meaning people, who have probably used that exact word as a weapon. (To say nothing also of unnintentional injuries made by well-meaning people who disagree with you. I see what you’re doing online as an attempt to open the well-meaning eyes to the pain inflicted & the injustice suffered — and I think you’re presenting your case very well.)

    It’s no surprise this is a sensitive spot.

    Comment by Anita — November 5, 2008 @ 2:42 am | Reply

  15. Usually when people use the word “abnormal” they mean defective, weird, or any other number of fear/hate implying adjectives. John wasn’t trying to name call there

    Given John’s consistent name-calling and displays of bigotry, I’m not particularly convinced, though appreciating your efforts as peacemaker.

    You have an abnormal name, Anita. Statistically, John has the normal name. LDS is an abnormal religion. Statistically, worldwide, Mormons are much more of a tiny little minority than LGBT people. Bigots bring up “statistical normality” not to make a stupid numbers point, as you assert (though John’s unthinking acceptance of any bigotry masquerading as “research” suggests that where his bigotries are concerned he allows hatred to make him stupid) but because they think it proves something to say they’re in the majority. Well, in that case, it’s way more normal to be gay than to be Mormon.

    Oh, and ironically, given the apparently-successful efforts the LDS made to remove civil rights from Californians? Given Obama says he wants to repeal DOMA, Utah could have to have legal recognition of same-sex marriage before the proposition to repeal the ban on same-sex marriage is voted on in California next time.

    Wouldn’t that be sweet.

    Comment by jesurgislac — November 5, 2008 @ 8:13 am | Reply


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