Christine Flowers, 4/3/2015 [Archive]

Tolerance is a Two-Way Street

By Christine Flowers

A duck walks into an Indiana bar and asks for a drink.The bartender refuses to serve him.The duck says "It's that damn religious law, right?You have something against poultry, right?You're such a bigot, you know?"

And the bartender says "Me, I'm an atheist.It ain't got nothing to do with religion. You just smell foul."

And the duck says "See, I told ya!"

The above will explain several things, not the least of which why I was never expected to have a brilliant career in standup comedy.But more importantly, it's an example of what happens when people with preconceived prejudices think the world is out to get them.

As everyone knows by now, the Indiana legislature passed a law which was signed by the Governor that extended the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to individuals engaged in commerce.

The original federal law, signed into benign existence by none other than that great man of religion Bill Clinton was designed to protect individuals from government intrusion into their spiritual lives.

It is true that the Indiana law actually exceeds the scope of the federal law by allowing for-profit businesses to assert religious rights.But that bridge was already burned last year when the Supreme Court handed down the Hobby Lobby decision, which held that a closely-held corporation could refuse to provide birth control for its employees.

Now, many of the businesses in Indiana that would be effected by the state law are closely-held, sole-proprietor Mom and Pop concerns, like the now legendary Cake Baker Who Will Not Bake for A Gay Couple. That's actually not correct.The Cake Baker might bake for a gay person, without asking that person whether they want vanilla icing, chocolate and what sexual positions they take in the bedroom.What that Cake Baker is protected from having to do by the Indiana Law is bake a cake in celebration of the couple's same sex union.

This is where the LGBT big mouths come in, and yes, I did say big mouths.There is nothing in the Indiana legislation about casting sexual minorities back into the closet, forcing them far into the dark recesses of the erotic bus, telling them to just be quiet.The law is silent on gays and lesbians.It is also silent about women who wear burqas, doctors who refuse to perform abortions, cab drivers who don't like people who drink, dressmakers who won't outfit Planned Parenthood employees, and so forth.The law simply permits a business owner with a legitimate and sincerely held religious belief to refuse to provide services or contract with someone if the nature of those services or of that contract would violate those deeply-held beliefs.

That's it. That's. It.

But of course, it's not. It became "so not," when the LGBT community and its allies in the straight world decided that this was a subversive way to stem the tidesweeping us all to that point where marriage was now whatever we wanted it to be.It is extremely possible that before the year is out, the Supreme Court will pull another Loving v. Whoever You Want and declare that gay nuptials are legal everywhere for everyone, whenever.

And while it might surprise some people who don't read the New York Times, that isn't exactly music to the ears of every American, including the several millions who live in the Hoosier state. There are people who, for either legal or religious or a hybrid form of reasons, feel that marriage should remain a covenant between one man and one woman in one bed.

They might not be in the mainstream anymore, but they have a right to be respected.At the very least, their religious principles and scruples have a right not to be trampled by the government, and by ornery litigious customers who want to force them to celebrate a union which they find offensive and immoral.

So now I've spent several paragraphs talking about how this law isn't about gay marriage by talking about gay marriage.But that's because the LGBT community has been so successful in commandeering the debate and making it about their perceived grievances that it has distracted our focus from some of the other possible targets (and beneficiaries) of the law.

And that makes me very angry.This is not all about the rainbow coalition, folks.This is about religious beliefs and the right to have them and to be left alone to practice them without interference from tolerant do-gooders who want to force us to tolerate them.

I wonder if they ever, for a moment, considered tolerating us.


©2015 Christine Flowers. Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at

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