42 thoughts on ““Those people”

  1. Non Sequitur has always slipped in thought-provoking stuff that other comics have eschewed. It’s one of the few reasons I open the comics section any longer.

    Sadly, my paper no longer carries Tom the Dancing Bug, another underappreciated comic.

    1. On gocomics.com you can set it up to have any of their hundreds of comics delivered to you daily by e-mail. They have Tome the Dancing Bug and SMBC, among others.

  2. Good one…though I didn’t know having a cat on one’s shoulder hinted at sexual orientation. Evian bottled water, sure, but shoulder-cat? 😉

    1. The arbitrariness of the criteria is (probably) the point of the joke.

      I’m a fan of Wiley. I’ve had a strip of his up on my various work walls since the 1990s.

  3. Sorry, but I think this cartoon misrepresents the real (and interesting) issue. First of all, all these wedding vendors have served (and one employed) gays–they drew the line at gay weddings.

    Second, shouldn’t a wedding vendor be able to put up a rainbow sign saying he/she only services weddings at churches that marry everyone? Maybe or maybe not (that’s the debate), but it’s the same right in both directions. It’s not “religious freedom” in one case and religious freedom in the other.

    1. This question was settled as part of everything else that went on surrounding the Civil Rights Act.

      A barber cannot, for example, refuse to cut the hair of Blacks “because their hair is different” or whatever. The barber is expected to be a competent professional in all aspects of cutting hair, regardless of its shape or color.

      Same thing for, for example, a wedding photographer. Your job is to know how to nail photographic exposure regardless of the skin tone of the couple…or whether the one is wearing a dress and the other a tuxedo, or both dresses, or both tuxedoes, or one a spacesuit and the other a tutu, or whatever.

      It is, of course, inevitable and natural that any small business will wind up with a clientele that clusters around certain demographics…but it is also the requirement that all businesses must have all their doors open to everybody.

      And if you’re a professional confronted with a situation you don’t have much experience with? First, assess whether your lack of experience is relevant to the job. If not, shut up, smile, get to work, and do the same level best you’d do for anybody else. If not, tell the customer about your inexperience and get the customer to guide you through anything you’re unsure about. “You know, I haven’t shaped up a ‘fro since I went to barber school — but I was rather proud of how mine came out. How big do you want yours? Do you want it more spherical, or did you want it squared, off, or…?”

      If you can’t deal with the public, in all their shapes and sizes and colors and everything else…don’t. Lots of other ways to make a living.

      b&

      1. Ben,

        I don’t disagree with you. My problem is the way this issue is so severely slanted away from what I regard as the central question: Should we allow vendors any conscience or religious exemptions? But framing it as “religious freedom” for bigots and haters is like asking people, who’s in favor of free speech for Nazis? When discussing basic freedoms, it’s vital not to focus exclusively on those whose views we hate (or love).

        1. Should we allow vendors any conscience or religious exemptions?

          No. And that’s the entire point of the Civil Rights Act.

          It was both conscience and religion that prompted the owners of the diners to refuse to serve Blacks. Neither excuse has been demonstrated valid.

          Once you hang your shingle up, you give up the right to pick and choose your customers — at least, based on either “conscience” or “religion.”

          b&

          1. In general, I would agree, but I can think of cases where I have my doubts. They are few and rare, and hard cases make bad law, as the cliche goes, but still.

            The fact that conscience was used for dishonorable purposes doesn’t mean we should do away with the right of conscience. We could shut down free speech with that logic.

            I cannot shake the feeling that to force anyone to work a job that deeply offends the conscience is unjust.

            Right now, vendors can pick and choose customers at will right as long it doesn’t exclude a protected class. But what if it does? Is that always indefensible?

            Suppose I am a baker whose son died in Iraq. Do I have to bake a cake for Westboro Baptist that reads “Thank God for dead soldiers”? I’m not a lawyer, but since Westboro Baptist is a church acting on its religious beliefs, I assume they are a protected class. Forcing a baker to take this job (every week if Westboro chooses) seems quite wrong.

            RFRA puts a judge between any vendor and an exemption to public accommodation laws. I’m OK with a court proceeding to weigh the public interest on the one hand and a vendor’s conscience on the other. Certainly overall, we should have unfettered commerce, but on rare occasions, it’s asking too much.

            1. AFAIK you can discriminate on message content using rational, consistently applied rules. Such as “I don’t write swear words” or “I don’t write messages of hate.” But what you can’t do is take a job where you write “Congratulations Adam and Eve” and then not take a job where you write “Congratulations Adam and Steve.” If you’ve shown you’re willing to write the basic message, you can’t write it for some customers but not for others.

              If a baker feels that strongly about not serving gay customers, then I think their best option is to bake the cake and subcontract out the messaging. Or decide their business is not going to provide the little figurines, its up to the couple to supply them and put them on. But if they do that, they have to treat their gay and straight customers equally.

              1. AFAIK you can discriminate on message content using rational, consistently applied rules. Such as “I don’t write swear words” or “I don’t write messages of hate.”

                Wow, these sound like speech codes to me. There is absolutely no authority I would trust with the power to define what is “hate”.

              2. There is absolutely no authority I would trust with the power to define what is “hate”.

                Using your own example, I don’t think there’d be much room for disagreement that “GOD HATES FAGS” is a message of hate.

                Anybody wishing to deny service based on the sociopolitical nature of the client would be well advised to discuss all this with a lawyer with a thorough knowledge of the Civil Rights Act and subsequent legislation, of course.

                My own suggestion would be to accept the work and do the best job you can. And, if you already have a standard practice of highlighting the work you do for select identified customers — as is very common — don’t at all hesitate to highlight the job in question. Remain very carefully neutral…and let the Streisand Effect run its full course.

                b&

              3. Wow, these sound like speech codes to me

                Well we’re talking about bakers writing in icing on their own cakes, not some HS principal deciding what kids can and cannot say. Its a code someone applies to themselves, not others. Secondly, you can still be sued and the courts are going to decide just how consistent you are; the more literal and objective your criteria (as in “I don’t use the word hate on my cakes”) the more likely it is to be considered legal…assuming you obey your own rules. The more squishy your criteria, the more likely it is the courts will see it as a sham or mere excuse to discriminate.

      2. Sam Harris suggested that there is enough momentum toward gay marriage now that he would favor not making the discrimination illegal. Shops who don’t serve would become the outcasts because their bigotry would be seen for what it is. I think Sam is probably right about that. Now, I think the civil rights law makes good sense. It’s a clear case where, without a law forcing the barber to serve blacks, the discrimination would persist in some communities for a very long time. But, for legislation or legal rulings to pick particularly pernicious forms of bigotry (bigoted barbers) and leave unaffected milder cases (gay wedding service) seems unbalanced and unfair. Thus, I think the civil rights law should be administered broadly and cover the gay service cases.

        1. Shops who don’t serve would become the outcasts because their bigotry would be seen for what it is. I think Sam is probably right about that.

          Oh, I wouldn’t be too sure. Many parts of the country, a “straights only” sign in the window would be considered every bit as effective advertising as, alas, “whites only” would still be today.

          You know all those business cards for plumbers and the like that “discretely” have a Jesus fish in some “inconspicuous” place? Many (but certainly not all!) of those businesses would be quite happy to let it be known that they don’t do business with “those people.”

          Besides, isn’t it a bit unrealistic to expect people to have to research how bigoted a barber is before walking through the door? Especially if you’re from out of town?

          Not to mention, of course, the chilling effect such policies have on society in the first place.

          b&

          1. Ben,

            In most of the country, such “Straights Only” signs would be legal right now. And would have been all these years. Where are they? In what parts of the country are gays not able to buy groceries, smart phones and cars? I’m in Texas and we have no law stopping businesses from throwing gays into the street, but I don’t see it happening.

            If this was a problem, I think we’d know by now. So far we’ve only heard of these few (less than 10?) wedding vendors who have served gays but not gay weddings.

            By the way, I’m a secular Jew with a 24 year old lesbian daughter. But I’ve lived in Texas most of my life, so as the cliché goes, some of my best friends are conservative Christians.

            1. Just because bigots haven’t yet thought to use their bigotry as a selling point to fellow bigots doesn’t mean they wouldn’t do it if somebody suggested it to them.

              But, much more to the point…I’m a straight white male so I never actually personally experience discrimination. But I’ve got many non-straight non-white non-male friends who’ve told me too many horror stories of the discrimination they’ve faced to think that that sort of thing doesn’t go on any more.

              I mean…do you really think you’d be safe in Laramie walking into a drugstore wearing full drag and asking whoever’s behind the counter for a box of condoms and a jar of lube?

              b&

              1. I see.

                Well, perhaps we have Stockholm syndrome down here in Texas living with all these “bigots”. But unless someone behaves hatefully to me, I will not call him/her hateful. And no, I don’t count religious differences by themselves as hate. Yes, down here people believe in hell and think I’m going there. And my daughter.

                My boss of 18 years is a “bigot and hater”. He knows I’m a Jew and my daughter is both a Jew and a lesbian. He thinks gay sex is sinful and doesn’t support same sex marriage. And without Jesus, we’re going to hell anyway. We agree to disagree. And when my daughter was in the hospital, he showed up every day for more than a week with lunch for both of us. When her mom was in Houston for cancer surgery, he told me to take my laptop and go with her. I didn’t even have to use vacation. Log in when you can, as far as I’m concerned, you’re “working”, he said. If this is bigotry, send me more.

                Of course there are real bigots out there. To hell with them.

                But I grow weary of the promiscuous talk of all religious conservatives as “bigots and haters” As my daughter (who still lives in Texas) once complained, “I’m tired of straight liberals telling me how oppressed I am. As a Jew and a lesbian, people like me have never been more free.”

              2. Ben,

                I really should make it more clear: I know there are truly hateful people out there. I also know they are not all in the South and not all religious. And I should add, I’m in Dallas, not in a rural area. But I have to say, Dallas is still the Bible belt and my daughter has been out since she was 13 and has scarcely had an unkind word said to her–at school or at work.

              3. I’m most emphatically not trying to claim that all religious people are evil — though I would certainly assert that your boss’s theology is truly vile. There’re lots of lovely people who manage to be good despite their religion, and they deserve kudos and respect for that. Your boss is clearly one of them.

                But the fact remains that your boss’s theology really is as despicable as worldviews get…and that huge numbers of people get the pointy end of that stick in their eye every day. It’s great that your daughter isn’t one of those people…but, believe me, she should thank her lucky stars for that fact. Far too many still deal with discrimination at all levels up to and including physical violence.

                Your daughter’s case is reason to hope that the tide is turning and all this nasty shit will someday become a thing of the past. But it’s also undoubtedly true that she herself only has the luxuries she does because of those who didn’t before her who fought hard and sometimes died for them. The history of civil rights is very emphatically not a pretty one, and the fight ain’t over yet….

                b&

              4. We’re just 46 years past the Stonewall Riots, if my subtraction’s correct.

                (It’s really amazing how rapidly gay liberation has proceeded!)

              5. I think the fact that the gay liberation movement followed hot on the heels of the civil rights movement has something to do with it…the foundation had already been laid and all the heavy lifting done.

                Those of us in the secular movement would do well to pay close attention to what both did….

                b&

              6. I fear for what’s coming. What does winning the war for gay liberation look like? I am secular but not a progressive. I am a hopeless accommodationist. Believing in heaven and hell and an old fashioned judgmental God is not the same thing as being a Klansman. I vehemently believe in agreeing to disagree about religion as long as we treat each other as fully human. I believe that was the genius of the American experiment.

                My concern is narrow and selfish: the dignity and well being of my daughter. I see no benefit to her in a war to purge that old time religion from the public square, to seek out those with the wrong thoughts and get them fired, to smash every small business that does the wrong thing, to decertify the degree programs of any religious schools, etc.

                The secular war is over and won and it’s wonderful. Personally, I’m ready to shake hands with those who are willing on the other side without forcing them to believe everything I do.

              7. I see no benefit to her in a war to purge that old time religion from the public square, to seek out those with the wrong thoughts and get them fired, to smash every small business that does the wrong thing, to decertify the degree programs of any religious schools, etc.

                That is a mischaracterization of the goals of the secular movement.

                “That old time religion” is welcome in the public square, but it’s not welcome in the capitol or courthouse or schoolroom. You’re welcome to have all the “worng thoughts” you like, so long as you only act on them in appropriate settings and venues. You’re perfectly welcome, for example, to be a fire-breathing preacher pounding the pulpit on Sunday. But, if you’ve got a public or public-facing job on Monday, you need to keep your flame breath to yourself.

                Your mischaracterization is much in line with what Faux News and their ilk likes to spread. May I suggest? Don’t pay any attention to them, and instead pay attention to what real secularists are actually calling for.

                b&

              8. “The secular war is over and won and it’s wonderful.”

                In a sense this is likely true, but I don’t think you can expect religious incursion into secular government to end. If left to it’s own inclinations, the godly could see that we spend the future in some manner of theocracy. No, there will have to be constant pressure to keep the lid on the woo-meisters in the USA, and much of the world is currently in much worse shape.

              9. “Your mischaracterization is much in line with what Faux News and their ilk likes to spread. May I suggest? Don’t pay any attention to them”

                Ben,

                May I suggest not making such assumptions about people with whom you’ve had only a limited interaction? I’ve never watched Fox news; I listen to NPR and bloggingheads.tv (which is mostly secular and liberal).

                Perhaps my last post was misleading. My problem is not with secularists. (I follow this site, after all and love Jerry’s defense of evolution.) I totally agree that religion and government don’t mix.

                My real problem is with progressives and how the gay cause has been captured by the progressive LGBT movement. (I say this as someone on the board of our local PFLAG). I find this movement antithetical to free speech and religious freedom and I don’t trust their agenda. They appear to seek a society in which:

                1) Bigotry and hate must be eradicated. And they will be the ones to define bigotry and hate.
                2) No organization or institution (even if private) can exist if it excludes them.
                3) It is never permissible to say no to any demand they make. To do so is to be branded a “hater”.

                This movement doesn’t speak for all gay people. I know many gay people with the same concerns through my work with PFLAG. My daughter went to an LGBT group at school and quit after four meetings. “I’m just gay”, she told me, “but those people are insane.”

              10. Abe, you’ll find that those of us here are typically not in the “Social Justice Warrior” crowd and think they’re every bit as nuts as you and your daughter do.

                b&

        2. I disagree. I don’t think its right to rest someone’s civil rights on social opprobrium, I want them to rest on law. And not eventually, today.

  4. But I would be ok with the neutral rule established in RFRA, compelling government interest in prohibiting discrimination vs substantial burden on religious belief. This test is viewpoint neutral, so it can apply both to a photographer who declines to service a gay wedding as well as a photographer who declines to service weddings at churches that don’t marry gay couples.

  5. Ben,

    I don’t seem to be able to click “reply” to your comment above, but there’s not much more to say.

    Your point:

    “Using your own example, I don’t think there’d be much room for disagreement that “GOD HATES FAGS” is a message of hate. ”

    Certainly that message is extremely hateful but I wouldn’t want a judge to set standards for what is hate. RFRA deals only with religion and doesn’t require the judge to adjudicate which religious beliefs are “true”. The judge only balances government interest vs substantial burden.

    The reason I think a RFRA claim against Westboro might (and I think should) succeed is that requiring a baker to write those slogans forces him, by normal Christian standards, to commit blasphemy which is a fairly heavy burden.

      1. You are absolutely correct! And I think that’s a flaw with the RFRA concept; that’s why in earlier posts, I referred to conscience as well as religious belief. But as you know, RFRA grew out of an explicitly religious 1st amendment case involving Native Americans, so it has that limitation.

        1. “Conscience” is a much better term, and something that should hold just as much water legally as religious belief.

    1. RFRA deals only with religion and doesn’t require the judge to adjudicate which religious beliefs are “true”.

      Of course it does; they have to decide whether someone is claiming a religious exemption out of sincere belief or as a sham excuse to discriminate. The courts already have to assess religious belief for other reasons (such as charity status and so on).

      1. Yes, you are correct about sincerity. But the judge would not decide which side has the “correct” biblical view.

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