07 April 2015
No shoes. No shirt. No service.
Published 07 April 2015
It's a funny thing how laws polarize people. It's also remarkable how laws cut to the right, to the left and every other way.
I continue to have great respect for the idea that "law is an instrument of force" and that because of this limited laws or limited government is far better for our country than overly ambitious law makers. The recent uproar over religious protection laws bring to mind the old store sign that says, "No shirt. No shoes. No service". In this country it used to be widely accepted that store owners had the ability to decide who they could serve and who they would not serve. This idea is clearly under challenge today... and please don't jump quickly to the idea of race and discrimination. I'm not suggesting store owners should decide which customers they serve based on the color of their skin... stick with me on the topic of behavior. Not race. Not religion. Not gender. Not even age...well, actually I'll touch on age...
But let's test the idea of behavior...In our society if a young man walks into a store "topless" the store owner can say, "Excuse me young man, but you have to have a shirt on to be in here. Go get a shirt on and I'll be happy to do business with you." If it is a woman that walks in "topless", in most cities across this country the police are called and the woman is arrested for "indecent exposure". There is no expectation of service by the store owner. However, on the flip side, a woman can be hired to dance topless, as entertainment, in a bar or club and it is legal. So what does this have to do with pure & virtuous principles? Why, everything - if you believe in moral agency, or the ability to exercise one's conscience.
Let's take a hypothetical scenario - again based on behavior. Not race. Not religion. Not gender. A couple of men or two women walk into a store and ask to buy a wedding cake. The store owner is happy to sell them the cake... until he sees that the happy couple is holding hands, kiss each other like many other couples and ask him to put two men (or two women) on top of the cake. At that point the store owner declines to sell them the cake because it violates his sense of morality and good behavior. What's the difference between the store owner that posts a sign that says, "No shirt. No shoes. No Service." and the store owner that says, "No, I'm not celebrating or providing service to same sex couples." Are they not both moral judgments? Judgments of what constitutes good behavior? Or what about the store owner that won't serve topless women in his store? Is that not also a judgment of moral standards and behavior? Or what about the movie theater's that say, "You're not 17 or older. You can't come in here and watch this "R" rated movie?" Is this also not a judgment on morality and behavior? What about the strip bar or club where they say to the 13 year-old boy, "You can't come in here and watch the topless women dance." This is also a judgment on morality and behavior. Clearly we have standards and expectations of morality and acceptable behavior all through society, yet in some cases we claim the right to make that moral judgment, have laws to enforce those moral judgments and feel good about defending those moral judgments. How is it then that laws designed to protect religious expression is labeled "A right to discriminate"? Whereas the theater owner, the store owner and the strip bar/club owner all retain their right to discriminate - or let me rephrase - the right to make a moral judgment on who they will serve or not serve? Isn't it funny (as in odd) how we defend moral judgments in one situation but get all wound up about moral judgments and scream discrimination in another.
Remember, law is in an instrument of force. We need to be very careful how laws are used to force, coerce or over-rule the conscience of men - especially when we have a vocal minority masquerading as the majority.
The free exercise of conscience and religion, or the ability to abstain there from is a great privilege in this country. This means we have the liberty, according to the laws of the land, to make moral judgments in our day-to-day living. If we create laws that serve as "instruments of force" to take away that right to choose according to the dictates of our own conscience then we lose a great deal of freedom in this country. We need lawmakers and judges that have the wisdom and courage to make judgments and laws that defend our ability to make moral judgments in our personal and public lives. This truly is the free exercise of religion and we need to defend this basic God given right.