Victims are good for business and so is the associated hyperbole, at least for hate groups. Tuesday, at the blog of Alliance Defending Freedom Bob Trent, the group’s media relations director, writes: “The Human Cost of the Attack on Religious Liberty.” According to Trent’s appeal:

What if the government told you that you had to create a film, documentary, or radio program that directly conflicted with your core beliefs or face fines that could put you out of business?

That’s hardly the case. Later on:

Carl Larsen is a filmmaker in St. Cloud, Minnesota. He and his wife Angel feel a particular passion for marriage – for what it means, for what it was designed to be, for the impact it can have not only on a man and a woman but on those around them.

As filmmakers, they want to begin telling more marriage and wedding stories … but they realize, in the current legal climate, that if they want to use their talents to celebrate God’s intention for marriage they would be required to celebrate same-sex unions as well.

So the Larsens have elected to file what’s called a “pre-enforcement challenge” against local laws that would compel them to violate their beliefs and use their creativity to promote an idea they don’t agree with.

Of course the notion that these people are in legal peril if they make Christian films is ridiculous. ADF’s lawyers know it is ridiculous and they should be sanctioned for frivolous litigation. As I wrote last December (now editing what was some poor composition on my part):

It would have been simpler and less costly to simply ask the state for
guidance if they felt that the law is ambiguous. However, the law is neither ambiguous nor arbitrary. Asking for guidance would have defeated the whole purpose which is to create a victim at the hands of radical gay people. Victims create an argument against nondiscrimination laws. Victims are also good for raising money.

Looking at the citations, this is all primarily hinged on the fact that
Minnesota’s Human Rights Actmakes it illegal “to deny any person the full
and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations
of a place of public accommodation because of race, color, creed, religion, disability, national
origin, marital status, sexual orientation, or sex.” [Minn. Stat. Ann. § 363A.11(1)].

Of course that is not in context and enforcement would require the state to consider a film producer a public accommodation. It is ridiculous to believe that the state would apply this in the manner described by ADF. A copy of the complaint is included in my prior post. Trent’s claim that the government is requiring these people to create content that does not comport to their religious beliefs is equally absurd. Also nonsensical is the suggestion that anyone has compromised the religious liberty of these people.

Moving along, Trent writes:

Imagine if, on your own time, you wrote a Bible study on God’s plan for marriage and were fired for it?

This pertains to former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran. It seems that every right wing Christian group has pimped Cochran, usually to ask for money. Trent continues:

Although an internal investigation found that the book was written on his own time, and that none of Chief Cochran’s beliefs had compromised his work or caused any problems with co-workers across his many years of service, he was summarily fired by Atlanta city officials in order to show their respect for “tolerance.”

Re-fried BS. The issue was not that Cochran wrote the book on his time. The primary issue is that he distributed a number of copies of his anti-gay manifesto to subordinates who did not request a copy. It is obvious that this did create a workplace problem because one or more department employees complained to a city councilman. A complaint usually means that others are offended but choose to remain silent due to an imbalance of power. Not only did the distribution of the book spread anti-gay hate but, in doing so, Cochran marginalized non-Christians.

Cochran initially claimed that he distributed only three copies of the book to fire department personnel. This became 22 to 25 in his lawsuit. It is probably more. Cochran also claimed that he had written permission to publish the book (required of any self or other employment). In his suit that changed to a verbal okay from the wrong department. The bottom line is that Cochran was not discharged simply for writing a bible study on his own time.

This expensive litigation has been going on since February, 2015 and it is nowhere close to conclusion. Cochran’s religious liberty is not at issue. Ultimately this is about his piss poor judgment.

Moving along Trent writes:

What if the city told your church that it could no longer provide
police or fire protection to it because taxpayer funds can’t support

Be assured that is not the case as Trent concedes:

Annette Kiehne is director of the learning center at Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Missouri. Her school applied for a state grant designed to provide for a rubberized surface to make playgrounds safer.

Trinity Lutheran more than qualified for the grant, but state officials decided they couldn’t give them the money – they didn’t want to be seen as “establishing religion” in violation of the First Amendment.

Because nothing establishes a religion like providing funds to keep children from banging their heads and skinning their knees.

ADF seems to want to make Ms. Kiehne a victim. The city’s attorneys concluded that a church is not an eligible grant recipient. Trying to make the kids the victims is also disingenuous. The question is not the need for the rubber but, rather, who will pay for it. The Establishment Clause prohibits the state from providing a house of worship with taxpayer funds. ADF is trying to claim that the funds are going to a permissible educational facility. However, since 1985 the Church assumed complete ownership and no 990 (annual return) is required to be filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Therefore, this amounts to direct state support of a church which is impermissible. The church has lost at trial and at appeal before the 8th circuit. It is now before the Supreme Court with oral argument scheduled for April 19, 2017.

Both sides of this controversy have a legitimate argument. It is a very complex matter. Truthfully, although I support the city’s position, I find it all rather interesting. Nevertheless, the church is not the victim of political correctness or whatever else Mr. Trent would like to assign from his extra-large box of crying towels. Trent’s suggesting that this could involve police or fire protection is absurd. Equally absurd is the idea that this has any connection to religious liberty and I apologize for my overuse of the word.  I have tried preposterous and ridiculous as substitutes. I have also tried goofy, foolish, nonsensical, illogical, stupid and irrational. However, right wing religious groups offer a seemingly inexhaustible supply of stuff that is, well … just batshit crazy.

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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.