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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Counter-hegemony

A fine Saturday WSJ profile of Heather MacDonald, who was only halfway onto my radar previously. She has some very plausible explanations of phenomena that swim against both progressive and conservative streams on snowflakes, Title IX Due Process, patriarchy and more.

Emphasis added.

1

Heather Mac Donald may be best known for braving angry collegiate mobs, determined to prevent her from speaking last year in defense of law enforcement. But she finds herself oddly in agreement with her would-be suppressors: “To be honest,” she tells me, “I would not even invite me to a college campus.”

No, she doesn’t yearn for a safe space from her own triggering views. “My ideal of the university is a pure ivory tower,” she says. “I think that these are four precious years to encounter human creations that you’re otherwise—unless you’re very diligent and insightful—really never going to encounter again. There is time enough for things of the moment once you graduate.”

2

Her views are heterodox. She would seem a natural ally of Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff, authors of “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.” They argue that college “snowflakes” are the products of overprotective childrearing, which creates oversensitive young adults.

Ms. Mac Donald doesn’t buy it. Minority students disproportionately come from single-parent homes, so “it’s not clear to me that those students are being helicopter-parented.” To the contrary, “they are not getting, arguably, as much parenting as they need.” If anyone is coddled, it’s upper-middle- class whites, but “I don’t know yet of a movement to create safe spaces for white males.”

The snowflake argument, Ms. Mac Donald says, “misses the ideological component of this.” The dominant victim narrative teaches students that “to be female, black, Hispanic, trans, gay on a college campus is to be the target of unrelenting bigotry.” Students increasingly believe that studying the Western canon puts “their health, mental safety, and security at risk” and can be “a source of—literally—life threat.”

3

She similarly thinks conservatives miss the point when they focus on the due-process infirmities of campus sexual- misconduct tribunals. She doesn’t believe there’s a campus “rape epidemic,” only a lot of messy, regrettable and mutually degrading hookups. “To say the solution to all of this is simply more lawyering up is ridiculous because this is really, fundamentally, about sexual norms.”

Society once assumed “no” was women’s default response to sexual propositions. “That put power in the hands of females,” …

Young women … are learning “to redefine their experience as a result of the patriarchy, whereas, in fact, it’s a result of sexual liberation.”

4

What about the idea of actively enforcing viewpoint diversity? “I’m reluctant to have affirmative action for conservatives, just because it always ends up stigmatizing its beneficiaries,” Ms. Mac Donald says. Still, she’s concerned that as campuses grow increasingly hostile to conservatives, some of the best candidates may decide, as she did, that there’s no space left for them.

5

What worries Ms. Mac Donald more than the mob is the destructive power of its animating ideas. If the university continues its decline, how will knowledge be passed on to the next generation, or new knowledge created? Ms. Mac Donald also warns of a rising white identity politics—“an absolutely logical next step in the metastasizing of identity politics.”

6

I turn now to Andrew Sullivan, as I often do on Friday or Saturday.

His Friday column, The Danger of Trump’s Accomplishments, is almost perfect, but “Put a spoonful of sewage in a barrel of wine and you get sewage”:

The Republican senators likely to be elected this fall will, if anything, be even more pro-Trump than their predecessors. Corker, Flake, McCain: all gone. The House GOP will have been transformed more thoroughly into Trump’s own personal party, as the primary campaigns revealed only too brutally. And if by some twist of fate, a constitutional battle between Congress and president breaks out over impeachment proceedings, Justice Kavanaugh will be there to make sure the president gets his way.

(Emphasis added)

That ipse dixit about Brett Kavanaugh defending Trump from impeachment is vile, far beneath Sully’s usual level and, I’d wager, wrong. Moreover, it undermines the judiciary and, thus, the rule of law as surely as Democrats do when they talk as if Kavanaugh is some kind of Manchurian Associate Justice.

And — set me straight if I’m missing something — I think it’s stupid. The House impeaches; the Senate tries the impeachment. An Associate Justice of the Supreme Court has nothing to do with this process which, as we’ve been reminded much of late, is political despite the allusion to “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

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