Monica G. Burke
The Heritage Foundation’s Monica G. Burke

The Southern Poverty Law center might have coined the term “hate group” (perhaps they did not). Regardless of authorship we sometimes lose sight of what those words mean.

Hate is quite different from dislike which generally makes people indifferent. Real hate is the unification of loathing with fear. Haters believe that those they hate pose a dire threat. The perception of that threat is often overblown but it is the perceived threat that causes people to cross the civility line.

Hate is sometimes promoted. The usual method is to convince other people that there is an existential threat to them that must be countered.

The Heritage Foundation is not deemed to be a hate group but it sponsors people who promote hate. Such is the case with Monica G. Burke who writes: Pennsylvania Agency Goes Around Legislature to Impose Gender Ideology. The intellectually mediocre headline expresses the belief that sexuality, particularly gender, is a doctrine rather than a factual reality. Such language literally amazes the medical professionals who treat people with gender dysphoria.

Ms. Burke is promoting ignorance. She is also saying that facts supported by evidence are not really facts. Burke’s opposition to a set of facts that she doesn’t like comprises what really is an “ideology” based on Ms. Burke’s belief system rather than evidence. The science is massive and unambiguous. In a small minority of people gender and natal sex are incongruent.

Ms. Burke, by the way, works with Ryan T. Anderson as a research assistant. Anderson habitually substitutes the catechism of the Catholic Church for evidence-based science. Burke and Anderson seem incapable of separating their belief system (based on faith) from the real world around them and the evidence it provides. Two plus two equals four unless the Church says that the correct result is five. Denying the existence of gender is no more intellectually honest than that “five.”

Ms. Burke believes her own BS:

A Pennsylvania agency has made an end-run around citizens to impose gender ideology.

Last month, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission released new guidance reinterpreting the category of “sex” in state anti-discrimination law to include “sex assigned at birth, sexual orientation, transgender identity, gender transition, and/or gender expression.” The commission circumvented the state legislature, which never added categories like sexual orientation and gender identity into law, thereby circumventing voters as well.

Burke raises a good question. Does that commission have the legal right to interpret guidance? It would be a legitimate question if not coupled to the fear mongering of imposing something that is not in accord with her personal belief system which includes a belief in gender ideology. Burke is essentially espousing the belief that PA citizens are imperiled by transgender individuals (people the Church disapproves of). The combination of fear with the marginalization of a disapproved minority constitutes hate.

The threat expands:

This new policy could majorly curtail the First Amendment rights of citizens, as a similar policy has already done in Philadelphia.

Burke provides no relevant details. She moves on to a dissimilar issue in Philadelphia:

…the city halted the child placements of Catholic Social Services.

The reason? To investigate whether Catholic Social Services had violated the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance, a policy that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity—categories that the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission now considers to be “built in” to the definition of sex in state anti-discrimination law.

Philadelphia does have a nondiscrimination ordinance protecting sexual orientation and gender identity. Adoption agencies do the work of the city with taxpayer funds. Those agencies are required to comply with local law. Catholic Social Services doesn’t get a free pass to discriminate.

To further understand this issue we need to revisit Massachusetts circa 2003. Catholic agencies had been placing children in foster and adoptive homes without regard to sexual orientation. They did so quietly but they did so in order to offer the best possible care to children.

Marriage equality was on the horizon. Cardinal Ratzinger (future Pope Benedict) issued his proclamation:

Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children…

Ratzinger is a theologian and catechist. The fact that Ratzinger’s opinion conflicted with the science was apparently irrelevant. I think that they were also setting the stage for the “consequences of gay marriage” as National Organization for Marriage’s Maggie Gallagher would later assert. Since 2004, when marriage equality came to Massachusetts, all Catholic adoption services have refused to place children with gay couples claiming that doing so goes against their faith.

This has always been a manufactured controversy. Placing a child with a Jewish couple would also conflict with their faith and we would not stand for it. However, it is still acceptable in some quarters to discriminate against LGBT people using religion as an excuse.

Getting back to Ms. Burke, she is claiming that the entire state now has de facto the same nondiscrimination policies as Philadelphia and that poses a dire and direct threat to the faithful.

Burke goes on to write:

Catholic Social Services, like many other religious adoption agencies, opts to place children in homes with both a mother and a father in accord with their religious convictions.

Will they, or will they not, place a child with a Hindu couple? Doing so is most certainly not “in accord with their religious convictions.” Do they expect a free pass to discriminate against people who are not Catholic? How is diminishing the pool of available families in the best interests of children? Suppose they are eliminating a gay pediatrician married to a stay-at-home web designer.

Threat hyperbole:

Now, the city is effectively shutting down Catholic Social Services for their beliefs about marriage and the family. As a result, several hundred children will be displaced and the city will have one less agency available to meet the dire needs of the city’s children.

No. They are eliminating the Catholic agency for imposing its religious beliefs on public policy, not for the beliefs themselves. The Church and its agencies have no right to do that, particularly at the expense of taxpayers. Moreover, no children will be “displaced” and Burke offers no evidence that this induces a shortage of agencies.

Throw in some victimization:

The agency shutdown in Philadelphia gets at the heart of why expanding anti-discrimination law to include categories like sexual orientation and gender identity so often poses a threat to citizens’ First Amendment rights. Oftentimes, these laws conflate disagreements over sexuality and marriage with discrimination, and stigmatize traditional beliefs as bigoted.

The First Amendment right of Free Exercise is not free imposition. Moreover, this is not a disagreement over religious beliefs — this is conduct which is against the law. These people are free to believe whatever they want. The dogma can include the sanctity of Cheetos. What Burke wants, however, is one law for Catholics and another law for everyone else. Suppose another agency run by the Jewish organization Hadassah decided that it would not place children with Catholic families based on their religious beliefs. Latent anti-Semitism would become quite apparent.

A helping of BS:

Not every disagreement over controversial issues like marriage and gender identity is discrimination. In most of these disputes, at stake is citizens’ First Amendment right not to be compelled to communicate messages that violate their religious or moral beliefs.

It becomes discrimination when beliefs become conduct.

As LGBT advocate Andrew Koppelman notes, blanket denial of service for LGBT people is rare.

That is true Koppelman, a highly respected law professor, has said that and it is irrelevant. He was very much in favor of the gay couple in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado. The rarity of the discrimination doesn’t have any bearing on the enforcement of nondiscrimination laws.

If my neighbor negligently drills holes through the wall to mount a flat-screen television and, in doing so, drills through artwork on my side of the wall, that is probably a rare occurrence but I am still going to demand recompense and if he refuses I am going to sue.

Of course the bigoted baker is a victim too:

Phillips is now in court again, this time for declining to create a cake celebrating an individual’s gender transition.

“The state is doubling down on its hostility against my beliefs, even though that’s what the Supreme Court said they couldn’t do,” Phillips said. “It seems I’m the only person in the state of Colorado who can’t live out my beliefs.”

This is a moronic argument from both Phillips and Burke. The Supreme Court left Colorado’s anti-discrimination law intact and enforceable as long as the hearing board does not display hostility to religion. The Court did not say that the law was hostile to religion. In fact, just the opposite.

Speaking of idiotic arguments:

All of this controversy is entirely unnecessary. Anti-discrimination laws can and should be interpreted in a way that protects people from unfair discrimination on the basis of their identity. They should not be used instead as a weapon to target people for their beliefs.

I am at a loss for words. Nondiscrimination laws become a weapon when you do not like them? What happens when I discriminate against Burke’s religion?

LGBT people are dangerous:

Lawmakers should continue to oppose the legislative counterparts to this new guidance—House Bill 1410 and Senate Bill 613—and citizens should make their voices heard when it comes to the dangers of this kind of policy.

She means the perceived dangers that hate groups and hateful people can incite.

Pennsylvanians must remain free to disagree on controversial topics like marriage and human sexuality. It is the responsibility of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission to respect that freedom.

In her conclusion Monica Burke continues to confuse belief with conduct. Pennsylvanians are free to believe anything that they want. They can disagree with others on human sexuality. LGBT citizens should be treated fairly and with dignity. Burke would deny them that dignity based on her religious “ideology.”

Ms. Burke’s intellectual dishonesty is frustrating. However, it is her bigotry and hate that are profoundly offensive.

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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.