Some fascinating questions should not be so … er … fascinating. To wit: Can one’s equal rights be violated by the proposition that equality is not supremacy?
Catherine Thompson of Talking Points Memo frames the latest iteration of the question:
The saga that is the construction of Ark Encounter, Kentucky’s proposed “creationist theme park,” plowed on Tuesday as the project’s coordinator vowed to sue the state for discrimination.
Ironically, it was the project’s proprietor, Answers in Genesis, refusing to agree to hiring practices that wouldn’t discriminate on the basis of religion that led Kentucky tourism officials to yank about $18 million worth of crucial tax incentives for Ark Encounter in December.
Answers in Genesis said in a statement Tuesday that the decision to reject its application for the tax incentives “violates federal and state law and amounts to unlawful viewpoint discrimination.”
“Our organization spent many months attempting to reason with state officials so that this lawsuit would not be necessary,” Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham said in the statement. “However, the state was so insistent on treating our religious entity as a second-class citizen that we were simply left with no alternative but to proceed to court. This is the latest example of increasing government hostility towards religion in America, and it’s certainly among the most blatant.”
This is a theme conservatives have echoed for years. The general idea is that by some device, the very concept of equality means that some people must be allowed superiority.
Let us consider a broader application:
• Equal pay for equal work discriminates against men because it forbids discrimination against women.
• Marriage equality discriminates against Christians because it means they cannot impose their religion on other people.
• The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is discriminatory against whites because it effectively forbids discrimination against black people.
• Allowing this author and this book space in a public library discriminates against Christians because it means they cannot demand censorship according to their personal aesthetics.
Do we all see where this is going?
This keeps coming up. It is as if having a conservative political outlook demands special accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The backstory, as Steve Benen summarizes, is easy enough:
The creationists sought and received taxpayer support for the project, and state officials, in the name of boosting tourism, approved $18 million in tax subsidies to bolster Ark Encounter’s finances. But the deal later fell through – Answers in Genesis insisted it wanted to discriminate in hiring, even while accepting public funds, requiring all employees to sign a “statement of faith,” in which workers agree, among other things, that the planet is only 6,000 years old.
Kentucky officials balked. If the group wants taxpayer money, the state said, it can’t discriminate against the same taxpayers supporting the project.
In an ironic twist, Answers in Genesis apparently intends to take this matter to court, arguing that Kentucky is discriminating against the group because the group wants to discriminate.
I have a hunch this lawsuit won’t fare especially well.
Then again, this would probably be the time to remind Mr. Benen that the only reason marriage equality is finally heading to the Supreme Court is that two judges in the Sixth Circuit decided that states had the right to arbitrarily regard legal behavior as illegal. In other words, there are certain venues in which the right to supremacy might be upheld as a prerequisite to equality.
Still, though, another issue persists: Centrism. Yes, the same political idea that brought us the Iraq War and American torture, forestalls human rights for women, and is willing to argue that an individual’s civil rights should be subject to other people’s personal aesthetics is part of the problem.
Think for a moment about our elections, and consider a common term: swing bloc. These voters allegedly reject partisanship because it is partisan―a proposition requiring that all partisan arguments are, collectively, of equal merit―and pretend to vote based on the better interests of society when what they’re really voting for is their own self-interest. And there are places in this country where the swing bloc doesn’t matter, such as Kentucky.
But there are places where the swing bloc does matter, and the functional result is exactly what we’re seeing in the new Congress.
Consider Colorado, where the state voted for Michael Bennet in the 2010 U.S. Senate election; the Democrat eeked out the narrowest of victories over professional rape abettor Ken Buck. For some reason, with another Senate election on the table, Colorado chose to balance it out, sending documentable liar Cory Gardner to the upper chamber; the state’s Fourth Congressional District decided to send the professional rape abettor to the U.S. House of Representatives. Then again, I might be too hard on Mr. Buck; perhaps he was right when he argued in his political defense that the people of Weld County would be incapable of convicting a confessed rape.
Nonetheless, Gardner, who couldn’t figure out his policy stance on various issues, made it to the U.S. Senate, and he could not have done so without a swing bloc.
How about Indiana, where a longstanding Senate Republican stalwart was replaced by a Democrat in 2010? The right wing did that to themselves, first by turfing out their own powerhouse and then by sending up a candidate who managed not only to destroy his own chances but offend women in particular and most everyone in general? The swing bloc there? They put the GOP in charge of the state’s government, and as Benen noted in his consideration of publicly-funded discrimination, they’re trying to enshrine Christian-supremacist discrimination in state law.
So, yes, they bear some responsibility for a Senate majority determined to open its legislative calendar with doomed bills requiring greed (Keystone XL), misogyny (abortion restrictions), more greed (financial sector safeguards), and racism (immigration) in order to rationalize and attempt to justify. The Speaker of the House, who publicly told the President to use his executive authority in immigration matters, is now suggesting he will file another frivolous lawsuit against the administration, and this time over immigration.
And while it is entirely possible that these “centrists” or “independents” or whatever they want to call themselves really are simply voting according to self-interest, and therefore not at all intending to advocate bigotry and greed and general uselessness, but neither do they care enough to vote against these obvious Republican priorities. Remember, then, the next time you hear one of these lamenting gridlock and shenannigans in the Beltway, you have well-established grounds to tell them to go screw.
Still, though, what exactly is the middle ground? Is there really a centrist argument to consider explaining just how supremacism is a vital component of equality? Because these voting centrist neighbors of ours are going to do this again.
Compared to what they’re telling us and what we get when the swing bloc swings, one can only accept that they’re just fine with gridlock, futility, and bigotry in the Beltway. And torture. And domestic espionage. And all the things we hear them complain about, anyway, despite having specifically helped make these outcomes possible.
And perhaps in that context the idea of Kentucky religious supremacists suing the state for discrimination against their apparently god-given right to discriminate is merely emblematic of just how stupid these outcomes can be.
Thompson, Catherine. “Creationist Theme Park To Sue Kentucky For Its Right To Discriminate”. Talking Points Memo. 4 February 2015.
Benen, Steve. “Publicly funded discrimination is a tough sell”. msnbc. 4 February 2015.