Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Right to Discriminate is About Contract, Not Religion

In a NJ Star-Ledger column, Liberal position on same-sex marriage takes the cake, Conservative/Libertarian Paul Mulshine wrote:

    Every time [the issue of same-sex marriage] arises, we conservatives are asked the same question: You claim to believe in individual liberty, so why do you oppose the right of homosexuals to marry?
    It is a fair question. A marriage is simply a contract between two people. The state certainly has no business telling two adults of whatever sex that they can’t draw up a pact involving the sharing of their property.
    So far, so good. But the advocates of same-sex marriage take it further. They say they don’t want the government pushing them around. But once they achieve their goal, what is the very first thing they do? They demand that the government start pushing other people around.
    We saw that last week when an administrative law judge in Colorado ordered a baker to bake a cake for the wedding of two gay men. [See Ari Armstrong's TOS post Court Violates Cake Baker’s Right Not to Serve Gay Weddings

Subsequently, a NJ Star-Ledger letter written by Michael Holton (Freedom or Privilege) took Mulshine to task:

    In his Dec. 15 column, Paul Mulshine has . . . confused religious freedom with religious privilege. Common sense and common decency require that religious dogma not be used as a basis for our laws or the rights we grant the citizens of our free, secular society. Nor can we allow one to circumnavigate those rights and justify discrimination by simply evoking one’s interpretation of “holy” text.
    Historically, when societies have allowed the word of the god de jour to officiate justice, it has not been very just.

I left this reply to the letter:

Michael Holton is correct that "religious dogma [should] not be used as a basis for our laws." But he is wrong that rights are "grants" that "we (society or government) grant to citizens." Rights are moral principles sanctioning the individual's freedom of action in a social context, and they are inalienable—i.e., not to be given or taken according to the whims of "society," government, or "we."

That brings us to the issue Holton raises. Mulshine is half right. He states "A marriage is simply a contract between two people," and the state has no business forbidding it. Mulshine is also correct that the baker has a right NOT to bake a cake for a gay wedding.

But he is wrong that the baker's refusal to bake a cake for a gay wedding because "doing so would violate his religious views" is a matter of religious freedom. Religion has nothing to do with it. The baker's right not to bake the cake is, like gay marriage, a contractual matter. Freedom of contract is derived from the inalienable right to freedom of association, a right held equally and at all times by every individual. As I stated in my Objective Standard blog post, "Freedom of contract means not only the right to voluntarily contract with others, but also to REFRAIN from doing so for whatever reason or even no reason." Put another way, no one has a right to forbid two consenting adults of the same sex from marrying, nor force any businessman to do business with that couple. 

Freedom of contract is a secular principle, not religious dogma, and it is the job of government to protect that right. The fact that some people may make contractual decisions based on religious dogma does not mean religious dogma is the basis for laws protecting contractual rights.

No comments: