On Sunday, June 12th citizens of the United States suffered the deadliest jihadist attack since 9/11. Like everyone in this country, my thoughts are with the families of the victims of the heinous attack.
Many people have written about the attack, so I don’t feel a great need to add much to that part of the discussion. What I do want to address is the response of the regressive left. The regressive left has been predictable in using the tragedy to push for greater gun control, efforts that would only disarm the innocent while doing nothing to prevent those who want guns for evil purposes from obtaining them. People have written about how the regressive left has elevated Muslims to the top of their “victimhood hierarchy,” giving them a pass on pretty much anything. People have pointed out that the regressive left has taken the logically contradictory stance that the shooter doesn’t represent all Muslims, but apparently does represent all gun owners.
The particular inspiration for this post is a tweet that I saw on Sunday afternoon.
Always fascinating to watch conservatives who won’t support basic non-discrimination laws bash Islamic fundamentalists for being anti-gay.
— Sally Kohn (@sallykohn) June 12, 2016
For a message of fewer than 140 characters, there is certainly a lot to unpack here, and all of it is telling of the regressive left mindset. I am making some assumptions here as a tweet doesn’t give a lot of information, but I think I am on solid ground. Given the context, we can assume that the “non-discrimination laws” referenced here are those laws which compel business owners to bake a cake for a gay couple despite their religious beliefs.
Jihadists don’t just discriminate against gays, they kill them
While this can indeed be considered anti-gay, it hardly rises to the level of how being “anti-gay” manifests itself among those who take Islam seriously. Those who take Islam seriously largely want to kill gays. While the regressive left is loath to mention it, this is hardly an attitude unique to the shooter in Orlando. Nor is it all that rare in Muslim countries. Homosexual acts are by law punishable by death in ten countries, including the supposed “moderate” Saudi Arabia. Even in countries where death is not the punishment meted out by the legal system, it is the penalty imposed with relative impunity by non-government actors.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, writing in the Wall Street Journal, points out that “no fewer than 40 out of 57 Muslim-majority countries or territories have laws that criminalize homosexuality.” The penalties meted out can include fines, whippings, jail time, and, as mentioned above, death. These laws, far from being imposed on an unwilling population, enjoy widespread support. Ms. Hirsi Ali cites a 2013 Pew Research Center survey which found that more than 75% of the population in 33 of 36 countries with significant Muslim population believed homosexuality to be “morally wrong.” It is not just Muslims in countries with Muslim majorities. A 2016 survey in Britain found that 52% of British Muslims believe homosexuality should be illegal, and 47% believe that gays should not be allowed to teach. (See the discussion below about what you should consider before supporting a law.)
So, Ms. Kohn in her tweet attempts falsely to equate a Christian baker who doesn’t want to bake a cake for a gay wedding with jihadists who want to kill gay people. This is simply absurd. As Milo Yiannopolous put it recently on Breitbart:
The Christian Right may not be totally down with homos, and Trump may say things that hurt our delicate feelings, but they aren’t going to kill us or put us in camps.
Conservatives and others are not bashing Islamic fundamentalists just for being “anti-gay,” they are condemning them for actually killing gays, whether it be shooting up a Florida nightclub or throwing gays from the tops of buildings. There are some fundamentalist Christian preachers who may talk about killing gays, but, unlike in Muslim countries, this is hardly something that even a significant fraction of conservatives believe and “is something horrifyingly exotic to the American experience.”
When dealing with men, our two choices are force and reason
Now I want to look at Ms. Kohn’s inability to grasp why someone might oppose both non-discrimination laws and jihadists killing gays. I am not a conservative, but I fall into the group that opposes both, so I can try to explain why I hold this view.
To understand why it is reasonable to oppose non-discrimination laws and jihadists killing gays, or anyone else for that matter, you have to understand that there are two fundamental ways for people to interact: by reason or by force. If you follow the path of reason, you engage in voluntary trade and association with those who are willing to do so and when disagreements arise you attempt to persuade the other to your viewpoint with arguments. If you cannot come to an agreement, each party goes their separate way. If you choose the path of force, no matter how an interaction starts out, force is the ultimate arbiter. You may start out offering to trade with another person, but if you reject his offer, out comes the gun, metaphorical or real, to compel you to accept.
The massacre of 49 people in Orlando by a devout jihadist is, of course, an example of choosing force over reason. The jihadist didn’t try to convince anyone in that bar that homosexuality was wrong according to his archaic beliefs. He didn’t try, as far as I know, to tell people that Allah declared through the prophet Mohammad that homosexuality was a sin. Nor did he inform them that Mohammad had declared, “If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.” He didn’t offer them a chance to repent and be spared. He chose force, and not just any force but the ultimate force. He chose to murder them.
There is no right to the products of others
Now we can look at what anti-discrimination laws are. In keeping with the “anti-gay” context, I’ll assume that Ms. Kohn had in mind laws of the type that prevent a baker from refusing to make a cake for a gay wedding. What exactly are the bakers doing in these cases? Are they violating anyone’s rights? No. Are they initiating force against anyone? No. They are just declining to offer a service to someone they don’t care to do business with. (Interestingly, there were plenty of stories of businesses and entertainers refusing to provide services in states where governments took actions the business or entertainer didn’t agree with, and the regressive left voiced no protest. In fact, many praised their actions.)
Contrary to popular opinion, no one has a right to products or services if the owner or provider doesn’t wish to deal with them. If you have a “right” to a product, what might this mean? What if the product is too expensive for you to afford, does the business owner have to reduce the price and sell at a loss? What if the business owner goes broke from doing this and wants to close his business, does he have to continue losing money because you have a right to the product? The obvious answer should be no. To claim that there is a right to the work of others is to claim, contrary to Thomas Jefferson, that some were “born with saddles on their backs” for others to ride.
With non-discrimination laws, the government is not trying to reason with the baker. They are not trying to convince them that they would have a more successful business if they provided cakes to all customers. Rather, they are using the threat of force to compel the desired behavior against the wishes of the baker, and the threat would speedily be replaced with actual force if the baker resists. If you doubt that they would use force, try not paying your taxes or a government fine. Soon there will be men at your house with guns to make sure you comply. They may not deliberately try to kill you, but accidents can happen. Law professor Stephen Carter puts it this way:
On the opening day of law school, I always counsel my first-year students never to support a law they are not willing to kill to enforce. Usually they greet this advice with something between skepticism until I remind them that the police go armed to enforce the will of the state, and if you resist, they might kill you.
I think it is immoral to discriminate based on non-essentials such as race, gender, or sexual orientation, and I would refuse to patronize stores that did so, but compelling moral, rational behavior is not the proper role of government. The sole proper function of government is to protect your rights by removing force from society leaving reason as the arbiter. In a society with a proper government, people can be irrational, i.e. not follow reason, and immoral as long as they don’t initiate force against the innocent. They and they alone will suffer the consequences.
When the government compels you to provide such a good or service, they are no longer protecting your rights but are violating them by initiating force against you. When the government uses force against you, it has chosen the same means of dealing with men as the jihadist chose in the nightclub in Orlando, and this is why you can reasonably condemn both non-discrimination laws and jihadists killing homosexuals.