Archive | You Can’t Say That!

Is Refusing to Provide Commercial Services for a Circumcision Discrimination against Jews?

Here’s the hypothetical: Shlomo Cohen has been blessed with a son, but he lives in San Francisco, where there is a vocal anti-circumcision movement. He emails his neighbor, a photographer, and asks him if he would photograph his son’s bris. The photographer responds, “Shlomo, no offense, but I think circumcision amounts to genital mutilation, and I can’t participate in that.” Next, he approaches his local organic/vegeterian caterer about catering the bris. The caterer says, “you know Shlomo, I’ve done brises in the past, but I’ve been reading some of the literature put out by the anti-circumcision people, and I think circumcisions cause unnecessary pain to baby boys. So I don’t do brises anymore.”

Shlomo files a complaint with San Francisco’s human rights commission, claiming that the photographer and the caterer are engaging in discrimination against him based on his Jewish ethnicity and religion. There is no evidence that either person turns down or otherwise mistreats Jewish clients or potential clients, and both deny they do so. Should Shlomo win his case?

To me, the answer is no, and pretty obviously so. Neither defending is discriminating against Shlomo because he’s Jewish, they are discriminating against him (if that’s what you want to call it) because they disagree with his particular actions. Indeed, I’d say they are no discriminating against Shlomo at all, they are discriminating against potential clients who want them to help celebrate something that violates their strongly held personal beliefs.

So, am I right? And if so, is there any sensible legal distinction that can be drawn between my hypothetical and the cases in the news in which a photographer and a baker were held to have discriminated against gays because they declined to provide commercial services on moral grounds for gay weddings, but apparently otherwise did not discriminate [...]

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Gay Marriage and Intolerance

Perhaps the best most effective argument opponents of gay marriage (which I support) have [which, I’ve since read, is the focus of their current campaign in Maine] is that once gay marriage becomes institutionalized, people who still oppose it for religious and other reasons will be treated as pariahs and, even worse, will be treated as scofflaws who violate inevitable new antidiscrimination norms (and, more important, laws). With that in mind, stories like this don’t help the cause: “The chief diversity officer at Gallaudet University has been placed on paid leave after she signed a petition to put a gay marriage referendum on the ballot in Maryland…. Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz says McCaskill “participated in a legislative initiative that some feel is inappropriate” for someone in her position.”

UPDATE: Putting aside the issue of whether one thinks people like McCaskill should be treated as pariahs and eventually be subject to penalties for violating antidiscrimination laws (like the wedding photographer in New Mexico who didn’t want to cover a gay wedding), it’s unhelpful. The vast majority of supporters of gay marriage over age forty were once against it; telling them that they weren’t just wrong but evil isn’t helpful. Nor is it helpful for attracting the “swing vote,” the 20% of so of Americans who support civil unions but not gay marriage. And finally, given that an important argument for gay marriage sounds in tolerance, it helps when its proponents show the same.

Some commenters are making the argument that as a “diversity” officer, McCaskill needs to meet an ideological litmus test. I think there are some circumstances where people’s expressed views can interfere with their jobs, but it’s not at all clear to me that this is one of them, especially given that (a) all McCaskill did was [...]

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Star: Professor at his first lecture of the semester to Canadian university students: “Despite what you may have heard elsewhere, everyone is not entitled to their opinion. ‘All Jews should be sterilized’ would be an example of an unacceptable and dangerous opinion.”

Student misunderstands, and launches attack on professor for being anti-Semitic. When the context was explained to her, she refused to relent: “The words, ‘Jews should be sterilized’ still came out of his mouth, so regardless of the context I still think that’s pretty serious.” (Anyone who says “Jehovah” will get stoned!)

Professor: I’m very troubled because “I’m very proud of the fact that in the history of my teaching career I’ve stood for the best values of what constitutes a meaningful human community.”

So the politically correct professor warns his students in advance that he finds certain opinions “unacceptable” and “dangerous”. (The fact that he used a particularly egregious example doesn’t make up for the fact that he shouldn’t be intimidating his students by encouraging self-censorship the first day of class. [Not to mention that in a free society everyone is, in fact, entitled to his opinion, though not to express it in all circumstances.]) Politically correct student decides that the professor wasn’t being sensitive enough, and that the example he used was “unacceptable” and “dangerous.” Irony, rough justice, or something else?

H/T Virginia Postrel via Facebook. [...]

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More on Sean Lanigan and False Accusations

Yesterday I posted about Fairfax County teacher Sean Lanigan, falsely accused of child molestation. Here’s a bit more:

(1) Lanigan answers Post readers’ questions here. He opines that the accuser’s name should not be published, as she is a troubled 13 year old girl. I was already reconsidering my view on this, and I suppose I ultimately agree with Lanigan that her name shouldn’t be published–in part because I’ve learned that the Post also doesn’t publish the names of minors accused of crimes. [Apparently, however, the accuser hasn’t faced even any internal discipline from the county school system. Good thing for her she decided to make a false allegation of sexual abuse instead of, say, bringing a Tylenol from home.]

(2) I have two extended family members (who are part of completely different branches of the family and are unknown to each other) who were falsely accused of molesting their own children and arrested, just so their wives could get an advantage in custody/divorce proceedings (neither was prosecuted, but much damage was done to both men and their children as their wives pursued their respective vendettas). I also know people who suffered serious abuse that was consistently ignored by authority figures. It seems like somehow a lot of energy gets expended on pursuing false accusations, and not enough on getting the bad guys (and gals). I wish there was an obvious solution, but I don’t have one.

(3) Speaking of false accusations against teachers, Hans Bader has been all over a story that hasn’t received nearly attention:

If the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has its way, more teachers like [Lanigan] will end up being fired even if they are acquitted by a jury of any wrongdoing, and may very well be innocent. It sent a

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Enough with the Ridiculous Hyperbole!

One of the fun, albeit somewhat disheartening, things about having written a book about the encroachment of antidiscrimination laws on all aspects of civil society is watching hypotheticals your critics dismissed as “absurd” or “ridiculous hyperbole” turn into real cases. For example, while the Boy Scouts of America were sued for refusing to allow homosexual scoutmasters, what if a gay group was sued for discriminating against bisexuals? Shouldn’t organizations for gays and lesbians have the right to determine their membership policies? Come on, Professor Bernstein, enough with the ridiculous hyperbole! [...]

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