A balanced take on the gay rights-religious freedom debate requires an understanding of complicity.
America’s culture wars show little sign of letting up. In recent years the federal government’s executive and judicial branches have heated the battle by pressing hard on controversial LGBT issues, including the right to marry. Some state legislatures have followed suit. California and Iowa, for instance, are presently weighing new laws designed to pressure recalcitrant faith-based organizations to get on board.
Unsurprisingly, those who believe their religious rights are being infringed by these developments have pushed back. A series of southern states have passed laws they say are needed to protect religious freedom. These laws in turn have generated some push back of their own: state boycotts by a collection of high-profile individuals, companies and organizations. Not to be outdone, the U.S. Department of Justice fired off a lawsuit against North Carolina’s law in particular—to which North Carolina quickly responded with a countersuit against the Justice Department. Thus do the battle lines in this dispute seem more entrenched than ever.
What should we make of all this pushing and shoving? Inevitably in our digital world, a cacophony of commentators have offered their counsel. Virtually all of America’s major media outlets have declared themselves on the issues. I view myself as reasonably sympathetic to both tensions in this anti-discrimination/religious freedom divide, so what I have looked for are treatments that do justice to both sides. So far, however, I have been disappointed.
Mainstream media commentators tend to treat this two-sided dispute as if it were about only one thing: unfair efforts on the part of intolerant people to “limit anti-discrimination protections …