The Des Moines Register recently published a nice essay by a gay couple who got married in Iowa without any discrimination issues to deal with. (See link to Register essay below.) It is fair and reasonable for government to prohibit discrimination against gay couples and others in the selling of standard goods and services that are offered to the public, like most products retail stores, rooms at hotels and motels, and meals at restaurants. But when the product or services needs to be customized or personalized by the seller, then discrimination by the seller should be allowed, and the buyer should not be able to enlist the force of government to require the seller to provide the product or service. So, for example, cake bakers should required to sell what is what is on their shelves and available for sale without discrimination, but they should not be required to create custom cakes against their will. At the same time buyers are free to choose other sellers and to organize peaceful protests and boycotts against such discriminating sellers. This way, everyone’s liberty is preserved, and no force needs to be used, by government or anyone else.
As readers of this blog may know, I am and atheist libertarian and support gay marriage.
I agree with The Des Moines Register editorial that the law that bans churches from endorsing specific candidates, (the Johnson Amendment), should not be repealed. (See link below.)
Once again though, you did not make clear the difference between all tax-exempt organizations and special 501c3 organizations. Virtually all political parties, candidate campaign committees, and special interest organizations are tax exempt – they don’t pay income taxes. But, people who donate money to these various political organizations do not get to deduct their contributions as a “charitable” deduction on their income taxes.
On the other hand, charities, churches and educational organizations are tax exempt under a special tax code section: 501c3. People who donate money to 501c3 organizations get a charitable tax deduction for the amount of their contribution when computing their income taxes .
Churches, and church officials can advocate all they want about issues without violating the rules for 501c3 organizations. What they cannot do is advocate for or against any specific candidate. If they do advocate for or against specific candidates then they should be treated just like any other political organization: their donors should not get a charitable tax deduction for their contributions. That is what the Johnson Amendment is all about, and it should not be repealed.
I was glad to read that the Boy Scouts are expanding their good work to include transgender boys. (See Des Moines Register link below.) Private club-type of organizations, like the Boy Scouts, do have and should have the right to decide who may or who may not be members. The fundamental and peaceful right to Freedom of Association should be respected by law. Any group of people should be able to voluntarily form a club or other organization. whether boy or girl, Christian or Muslim, Republican or Democrat, etc. I’m sure this was a difficult decision for some in the organization. Many people simply do not know how to react to people who are transgendered. Everything I’ve known about the Boy Scouts leads me to believe that it is an honorable organization that teaches both practical skills and good moral values and behaviors to boys. This was the right thing for them to do.
I respectfully disagree with Kevin Pokorny’s letter to the editor in the Register yesterday. (See link below.) The State of Iowa does need to amend its civil rights laws to allow buyers and sellers of products and services to peacefully follow their conscience when they have reasonable disagreements.
To the extent that a product or service is personalized or customized, it does infringe on the rights of a seller to force him or her to provide the product or service in such a way that goes against the seller’s sincerely held religious beliefs. If the products or services are readily available from a multitude of sellers, and a buyer can reasonably find what he or she wants from another seller, then it is not unreasonable to allow some sellers to follow their conscience.
In Iowa and other states, florists, photographers, bakers, and wedding venue operators have been forced to provide customized products and/or services for gay couples’ weddings. Governments should never discriminate against gay marriage, and I personally have and do support giving gay marriage the same government rights and privileges as any other marriage. But, private individuals, and the businesses they operate, should not be forced to provide customized or personalized services or products against their will.
FYI – I am a libertarian-minded atheist, and believe it is better to have peaceful voluntary solutions whenever possible, rather than to use the force of government to decide who will be winners and who will be losers.
Recent Iowa Polls have found: A majority of Iowans prefer to use the force of government to require fellow citizens to buy gasoline that has ethanol blended into it whether the buyer wants it or not. A majority of Iowans prefer to treat fellow citizens as criminals if they use drugs that are not favored by the majority, even if such use harms no other person. A majority of Iowans want to force businesses to pay a minimum wage, even though it means that the least skilled people may not be able to find work. A majority of Iowans prefer to use the force of government to prohibit vaping in privately owned businesses, even if the owners, customers and employees prefer that it be allowed. Iowa should change its motto to: Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain, unless, of course, the current majority disagrees, even if you are a peaceful person and do no harm to others.
The Des Moines Register recently ran an editorial about how the Iowa State Patrol appears to be targeting out-of-state cars travelling through Iowa to try to find assets to seize using our current civil asset forfeiture laws. (See link below.)
One obvious possible reason why out-of-state cars might be targeted is that it would help keep seized property flowing to law enforcement agencies, while keeping political heat off of this problem. Out-of-state drivers don’t vote in Iowa, and they don’t have an elected Iowa representative to call to complain.
It is clearly unjust that we allow our government to take property from people who are not charged with a crime, and then put the burden of proof on them to prove their innocence in order to get their property back. It is hard to believe that this does not violate both our Iowa and U.S. Constitutional right to due process. Also, in many cases, law enforcement agencies get to keep the property that they confiscate! This clear conflict of interest should not be tolerated.
Last year in the Iowa Legislature, a bill was introduced in the Iowa Senate that would have put a stop to this injustice, but it never got out of committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee chair, Steven Sodders of State Center, never acted on the bill, so it died in committee. He is a deputy sheriff in Marshall County. If you would like to see end to civil asset forfeiture in Iowa, contact Senator Sodders and let him know we need and expect his help this year.
The Supreme Court did get it right on the gay marriage issue. The fourteenth amendment to the Constitution says, “No state shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Equal protection of all citizens by government is fundamental. Government must not give favorable or unfavorable treatment in the same circumstances to any individual or group. The right of two people to voluntarily marry is a fundamental right, even if it is not stated in the Constitution. Remember the ninth amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” This ruling does not require any person or church to conduct or participate in a wedding between gay people. It only requires that state governments not discriminate between heterosexual and homosexual weddings and marriages. There was a time when our Constitution was interpreted to not protect marriage between people of different races. The current situation is very similar. Even if a majority of people think that gay marriage is wrong, peaceful and honest people who do no harm to others should be free to voluntarily enter into marriage and government should not discriminate against them whether or not they happen to be of the same sex.