Some animals are more equal than others

Legal Scholar Gerard V. Bradley thinks there’s more the just a desire defend the sexual revolution behind the sudden and dramatic American turn against religious freedom.

That “more” is identity politics:

For the first time in American history, it has become respectable to publicly oppose religious liberty and its supreme value in our polity. This unprecedented turn is ominous. It will not only diminish our constitutional law. It will remap our common life, for religious liberty has always been a linchpin of our political culture.

You might think that all of this is just another example of the sexual revolution threatening religious liberty, as it has for decades. Think again …

The sexual revolution may be a necessary part of the gale-force headwind buffeting religious liberty. But sexual freedom itself is not nearly sufficient to threaten it. Only identity politics could do that.

Here are three of many possible illustrations of what I mean when I say that identity politics poses an especially great threat to religious liberty. They stem from three related errors.

The first is that what believers invariably understand themselves to be doing (steering clear of immoral involvement in the bad conduct of another person) is forcibly reconceptualized as an attack the personal status or “identity” of a person self-identifying or presenting as a member of a supposedly vulnerable group …

Compounding this first error is the prevalent notion that where public authority recognizes the religious liberty of someone like Jack Phillips, the state puts its own “imprimatur” on Phillips’s unjust discrimination, and even on his normative premise that marriage between two men or two women is morally impossible …

A third error builds on the first two. Often styled as “dignitary” harm, the idea seems to be that when you are refused a service due to the provider’s moral qualms about assisting you in certain activities, your personhood or identity is “demeaned,” and your “dignity” is attacked.

… It is ever more apparent that, in this context, we are really talking about perceived insult, about a same-sex couple’s feeling that they have been humiliated or demeaned, even though no word has been spoken, no gesture made, that means anything more than “It is against my conscience to participate in this activity.”

… Before sexual identity could emerge as the colossus it is, religion had to be reduced from a set of beliefs and truth-claims about the way the cosmos really is to nothing more than one’s singular expression of ineffable spiritual experiences or of the collective identity of one’s religious tribe. Religion had to first be authoritatively re-described, against the self-understanding of many believers, as experience, or even as raw subjectivity, somehow walled off from the realms of genuine knowledge about reality ….

A key here, which I fear Prof. Bradley did not summarize very well, is that even on identity politics terms, there is at least as great a dignitary harm in telling the religious “accused” that his deepest convictions are contemptible (as a Colorado civil rights commissioner told Jack Phillips in the wedding cake case) as there is in the accused’s sober “It is against my conscience to participate in this activity.”

“That’s not religious freedom, that’s discriminaaaaaaaation!” is the hackneyed and idiotic new convention for remapping our common life, and it’s reinforced every time the New York Times and other idiots put religious freedom in scare quotes (e.g. Indiana’s controversial “religious freedom” law …).

Some identities are just more equal than others.

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