Beating the Social Justice Mob

A friend of mine asked me how I found something to write about each week. I told him that the liberal/progressive movement was so reliably outrageous that the trick was not in finding something but rather in sorting through the mess to find something of general interest.

For instance I could have written about how Portland has again become the laughing stock of the nation. Portlander Andy Ngo, in an article in The Wall Street Journal decries the mob tactics of the far left who are ruining Portland’s “foodie” reputation by demanding that white people not be allowed to prepare or serve ethnic food – cultural appropriation. But that is too parochial and such well-deserved ridicule happens so often that its absence is more newsworthy than its practice.

Or, I could have written about the fact that if it were not for idle speculation, rumor and unsubstantiated accusations the nation’s newscasts would be reduced to five-minute segments every other day. The two latest examples are the mindless groping for relevancy by NBC, MSNBC and CNN as they speculated on how it was President Donald Trump’s failures that led to his canceling the meeting with North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un and again that it was his failures to re-engage the meeting slated for June 12 in Singapore. Not a single fact, just raw bitterness and bias on the part of the talking heads. The same is true for the speculation as to why First Lady Melanie Trump has not been seen in public for a short period of time – all of it negative, none of it with a single fact to bolster the talking head’s continuing bitterness over Mr. Trump’s election. (Here’s a hint you morons, she just had major surgery.) Or maybe the latest mindless and moot issue of whether Mr. Trump can “pardon” himself. To date there has not been any evidence to suggest that he has done anything remotely relating to a crime for which a pardon might be appropriate. It is as irrelevant as speculating about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

And the list can go on forever.

However, there is something of relevance in the news and it is being ignored and mischaracterized by the mainstream media. The United States Supreme Court handed down its opinion in Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission on Monday. This is one of the “baker cases” in which a custom baker has refused to create a wedding cake for a same sex marriage. To put this in perspective please note this is one of several cases in which the liberal/progressive movement has attempted to impose their views on others. In specific, they have tried to impose the celebration of gay marriages on those whose religious beliefs limit the legitimacy of marriage to a man and a woman. Government has already sanctioned gay marriages but that is not sufficient for the post-Modern bullies who now insist that everyone stand up and cheer for such marriages – even if your religious views are in conflict. The post-Modern bullies seek out these small business people specifically to impose their views, knowing full well that they lack the financial resources to challenge them – particularly when they are backed by biased government agencies as was the case here.

If you listened to the headlines of the mainstream media you would have never thought that the Colorado baker won – he did. The mainstream media spent much of their initial report talking about how the Supreme Court reinforced the rights of gay couples to marry – it did not. It merely referenced the previous Supreme Court decision that obliterated states rights to define and regulate marriages. As the dust settled, the mainstream media retreated to describing the decision as “narrowly construed” – at last they got it close to being right. The social justice warriors lost and it may be the first of many losses in the conflict between religious freedom and “social justice.”

But what they missed were two significant aspects of the case that bode well for the First Amendment and poorly for the growing use of government to impose a monolithic ethos on us all – one in which traditional values would have to give way to the new brand of identity politics of the post-Modern ethicists.

In the first instance, the court acknowledged the potential for competing interests between non-discrimination and the anchors of the First Amendment (freedom of speech and freedom of religion.) The court noted that the “public accommodation” standard has permitted the state and federal governments to impose standards of conduct on those who choose to serve the public – particularly retailers. However, the impositions of those standards are not without limitations. In this instance it is whether the “public accommodation” standard can impose a form of speech and or practice of religion on someone who specifically objects to both. (We will see a further discussion of this issue when the court rules in the pending case relating to mandatory contributions to public employee unions.)

The court notes that these two “rights” may be competing but are not necessarily in conflict. And the court was not inclined to define a standard for balancing them since it decided the matter on other grounds. The reason this is significant is because the “social justice warriors” have pretty much had their way in the courts until now and assumed that they would prevail indefinitely.

In this instance, the majority of the court acknowledged that the “creation” of a specialty cake was tantamount to artistic expression and, therefore, protected by the Free Speech clause – which includes both the right to engage in the artistic expression and to refrain from engaging in it. (In a perverse way this is akin to several Oregon Supreme Court decisions that ruled that nude dancing and live sex acts were forms of protected speech under Oregon’s constitution.) The importance here is that exercising creative talents falls within the purview of the First Amendment and, therefore, will be considered in future litigation involving the competing interest. The mainstream media missed this entirely but conservatives have not.

The second issue is equally important. Liberal/progressives tend to migrate towards government jobs. It used to be because such jobs offered employment security and generous benefits (healthcare and pensions). But now, in addition, government employment offers the opportunity to impose the liberal/progressive agenda on the general public. In large part this is due to the inability or unwillingness of legislative bodies (both state and national) to create laws with specificity. Instead they are content to create “target legislation” – aspirational goals – and leave the definition and implementation to non-elected bureaucrats. The courts have made the problem infinitely worse by deferring to the “expertise” – read bias – of the agencies. If you are one of these bureaucrats you can impose your will with virtual certainty that the public has no real opportunity for relief.

But the majority of the court in the Masterpiece drew a sharp line in rebuke by noting that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was far from neutral in weighing the interests of the party and, in fact, was extremely prejudicial when it came to recognizing the First Amendment rights of the baker. It is upon this basis the court threw out the Commission’s decision and voided the fines, penalties and mandates imposed by the Commission on the baker. It is this chink in the armor of the liberal/progressive use of government to impose their will that those of us who believe in the primacy of individual rights to speech, association and religion should acknowledge and cheer.

But there is more. A reading of the decision tends to lead one to believe that at least four of the justices lean toward declaring the First Amendment to be controlling in these matters. (It is similar to the belief by some conservatives, including me, that a concurring opinion in 2014 by Justice Alito in Harris v. Quinn¸ laid out the roadmap for a successful challenge to the mandatory financial support of public employee unions that will be decided yet this month.)

After all, the right of free speech, of assembly and of religion are explicitly set forth in the Constitution. In contrast the “non-discrimination rights” followed by decades and really constitute limitations on the states in enacting and/or enforcing legislation. This is an individual right as opposed to a state limitation. Guess which one will adjudged primary? That belief is reinforced by the objections to the decision and its reasoning by Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor who are among the shrewdest and most liberal members of the court. Just as with the Harris case, Ms. Ginsburg and Ms. Sotomayor can see the handwriting on the wall to one of the cornerstones of the liberal/progressive movement and are already braying in objection to its inevitability.

Monday was a good day – an important day – for conservatives. A better day is coming when the court issues its decision in Janus vs. AFSCME in a couple of days.