A 30 second Gish Gallup from ADF’s Kellie Fiedorek

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has teamed up with Kellie Fiedorek of Alliance Defending Freedom to advocate for a religious exemption to nondiscrimination laws. It would constitute a special right that would render the laws entirely unenforceable. So who is more full of crap — the bishops or Fiedorek?

To answer that burning question we begin at the USCCB site, Marriage Unique for a Reason. This is an anti-gay website that was established to lobby for national marriage discrimination whereby the bishops sought to impose Catholic teachings on everyone as public policy. Obergefell ruined their day. The title of their piece is: “Made for Freedom: Kellie Fiedorek on Religious Freedom in the Courts.” Apparently the right to withhold service from people one disapproves of is a requirement of religious freedom.

Lawsuits are not always, or usually, the best way to solve disagreements. As Jesus taught, it is best if we can work our differences out “on the way to court” (see Mt 5:25). While a lawsuit may sometimes seem to be the only way to address a wrong that has been done, it is not the normal course of action. Today’s clip from Made for Freedom features an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, Kellie Fiedorek, who is speaking about her work in defending Christians and others who are being sued for refusing services which would compromise their beliefs. One may reasonably ask whether it is appropriate to sue someone over these incidents.

Sounds to me like they are opposed to vexatious litigation. Going back ten years or so, ADF hasn’t won so much as a hearing, let alone a case. But they keep on suing. In fact, in at least two cases they are suing to prevent enforcement of nondiscrimination laws prior to any violation. Furthermore, religious exemptions to otherwise valid laws is a settled issue. It was settled in Employment Division v. Smith. Justice Scalia wrote the majority decision. So yes, ADF is wasting court time (at taxpayers’ expense) in frivolous litigation.

People might disagree about whether creating a flower arrangement or a wedding cake for a same-sex couple’s ceremony is cooperating in an immoral activity, but surely we can all agree that a person should never be forced by the government to do something that goes against their conscience.

What they mean is that people should not be forced to serve gays when that goes against their conscience — in practice that means when they want to demonstrate their disapproval. The same thing does not seem to apply with rules that require serving Jews, interracial couples, African-Americans, Muslims and so on. They might believe that a vendor should have the right to deny service to a Muslim or Jew but they are not going to publicly argue that position. There was a time, of course, when discrimination against Jews was de rigueur for the Church. Nondiscrimination laws applicable to public accommodations are supposed to remove personal bias from the equation so that everyone gets served. It is a simple formula really.

Furthermore, the taxpayers’ elected representatives enacted these laws. If they wanted a religious exemption, there would be a religious exemption. Apparently that is not the case.

At times of crisis and war, America has upheld the rights of conscientious objectors to serve in ways other than in battle. The government may choose to fight, but they do not force someone to fight if it goes against their conscience. One could make the same case here. The government has redefined marriage in the law. It has decreed that two men or two women can be united in the same way as a man and a woman. This goes against the religious beliefs of many people in our society. Why should they be coerced into going along with it?

For starters baking a damned cake is not the same thing as killing people in battle. It’s just a damned cake or a floral arrangement or whatever it is that someone wishes to deny in order to show their disapproval of gay people (all neatly packaged in scripture of course). Same-sex marriage does indeed go against the teachings of the Catholic Church. Adherents can choose not to enter into a same-sex marriage in order to comply. However, that does not extend to defying a nondiscrimination law. The sun does not orbit the Church or that baker or that florist. The sense of entitlement is exceeded only by their imaginary and unearned sense of self-importance.

Kellie Fiedorek

According to Fiedorek (per that video), her clients are being “punished” because the state enforces nondiscrimination laws. She also claims that her clients have been “coerced by the government to change their views on marriage.” She says that “these are really good people who are trying to follow their lord and their conscience about something as basic as marriage.”

The only people being punished are the gay couples that these people refuse to serve. Coerced? Just as we are coerced not to exceed the speed limit? Just as we are coerced not to burglarize others? Or murder? Moreover, nobody cares what their views on marriage are. They can insist that marriage is the union of two white people (per the Church of the Creator) for all we care. Where applicable, the law says that you cannot inflict your religious views on everyone else if you operate a public accommodation. Really good people obey the law and do not harm others. These folks have not obeyed laws and they impose harm on others in defiance of those same laws.

Civil marriage is pretty basic. It is the process by which we create a marital estate and formalize a bond between two people. These folks want to complicate the whole thing by imposing their qualifications separate and apart from what the law allows. Selling some flowers or smearing butter cream on sponge cake does not logically give them that power over others.

David’s ruling is that the question posed is impossible to answer. They are both disingenuous and obnoxious. I call it a tie. Readers are free to disagree.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.