Appearing on the “All Star Political Panel” segment of Twin Cities Public Television’s Almanac on Friday, I fielded a question from host Eric Eskola regarding a newly proposed Freedom of Conscience bill presented by a Minnesota state representative earlier in the week. Referencing that morning’s episode of the Fightin Words podcast, Eskola asked why I thought this attempt at securing religious liberty for Christian business owners was doomed to failure.
In short, I noted that the argument for Freedom of Conscience rests upon shaky rhetorical ground. It seeks to preserve the freedom to deny service in a very limited context, conceding that such freedom shouldn’t exist in any other context. If people have the right to apply their judgment to their relationships, that right applies to all relationships, whether personal or commercial, and whether motivated by religion or not.
Former state senator Ellen Anderson, who sat with me on the panel, took exception to my interpretation. She noted that similar rationale has been used in the past to argue for a right to discriminate against customers on the basis of race.
Unfortunately, the segment had to end there. Given the opportunity to further the discussion, I would have argued that true tolerance requires us to allow that which we disapprove of. Indeed, private racial discrimination should be legal. Hate cannot be overcome with rights violations. It can only be neutered by removing coercion from human relationships. In a world where no one may legally take from or harm another, hatred simply doesn’t matter.
As it stands, my defense of freedom provoked the ire of gay rights activist Steven Lewandowski, who took to Twitter offering rebuke:
— Steven Lewandowski (@612Lewandowski) May 9, 2015
It remains unclear what news item or aspect of business changes the fundamental right to freedom of association, which gay rights activists rode to victory in their successful campaign for gay marriage in Minnesota. “Don’t limit the freedom to marry” read lawn signs peppering the Twin Cities in the fall of 2012 when voters considered an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Apparently for some, that freedom to choose with whom one associates only matters in the context of gay marriage.
— Walter Hudson (@WalterHudson) May 9, 2015