What the Left's reaction to Trump's religious liberty EO reveals
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What the Left's reaction to Trump's religious liberty EO reveals

Posted May 04, 2017 04:35 PM by Nate Madden angry_yelling_man
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President Trump finally signed an executive order on religious liberty and free speech Thursday. While the final text of the order fell well short of conservatives’ hopes, it didn’t stop First Amendment opponents from overreacting on social media.

Ah yes, once again, the prospect of robust conscience protections bring with is the never-ending cries that liberty is actually “license to discriminate” accompanied by a whole host of other platitudes. It’s almost pavlovian at this point, but instead of a drooling dog set off by a bell, hordes of leftists are sent into full meltdown mode over an enumerated constitutional right.

As Reason’s Scott Shakford explained in a response to a misnomer-riddled segment on “The Daily Show” about HB2 (North Carolina’s bathroom bill), there is no such thing as giving someone a license to discriminate:

I realize this is probably overly nuanced nitpicking for something like The Daily Show, but based on a stunt they recently pulled, it's really worth reminding folks that the government hasn't given anybody "permission to discriminate." The possibility of this kind of discrimination has been around all along because it hadn't been forbidden.

The reality of the world we live in is that we discriminate every day, and we have license to do it. After all, discrimination without prejudice is merely making a decision based on a set of values.

We’re also given a license to discriminate in how we spend our money at various businesses. I cannot walk into the food court for lunch at Union Station in Washington D.C. without discriminating against several different establishments in favor of the one I end up patronizing. During this past Lenten Season, I discriminated against Netflix by trading in TV watching for audio books for 40 days. I was free to do that as well.

Likewise, every business discriminates based on what vendors they use, what materials they use to decorate the space, and yes, through the employees they choose to carry out their mission, what they supply, and how they compensate the people they hire.

In this scenario, liberty is a two-way street. Business owners make the decisions to turn a profit while living within the dictates of their conscience, and consumers are able to make choices on what they consume in line with their own beliefs. Ergo, the same freedom should exist for a Christian florist as it does for a designer who won’t make dresses for the first lady, just as the leftist who boycott’s Chick Fil A and the conservative who opts to forego Starbucks are equally free to do just that.

But leftists can’t let free people and free markets sort these things out among themselves. After all, it’s not enough to let these things work out between free people. Those who do not assent to the new orthodoxy must be either made to cheer it on or driven out altogether.

The last remaining argument is that making decisions based on different kinds of human interaction is akin to the kind of class-based discrimination that’s already addressed by federal law. But as conservatives have been saying for literally years, who you like to date and what you think you are not the same as race and sex. Nor are millennia-old beliefs about marriage, sexuality, and biology driven by the hateful animus that spawned Jim Crow laws. These are pernicious and pervasive false equivalencies that just won’t seem to no matter how many times they’re refuted.

But none of that matters, right now, because despite all the bluster, preening, and posturing in anticipation of the order, there was no language actually protecting religious employers, other than a “shall consider” section about the Obamacare contraception mandate, which will have to play out in court.

But the lesson here is important, and one that plays out in everything from immigration to religious liberty to national security: It doesn’t matter what Trump does, his opponents are going to see the same fictitious bogeyman they did on election night. Nothing is going to change that.

Whether the president operates two degrees right of center or actually does engage in fascism, the Left’s unhinged rhetoric, fearmongering, and obstruction will all be exactly the same. It is for this reason it makes far more sense to do the work that your coalitions asked you to do, rather than throw softballs where moderation will not be noted or appreciated.

Nate Madden is a staff writer for Conservative Review, focusing on religious freedom, immigration, and the judiciary. Follow him @NateMaddenCR and on Facebook.