Thursday, June 6, 2013

"Supporters of religious freedom"

Buried in this AP article on a same-sex couple suing a bakery which wouldn't sell them a wedding cake is this sentence: As more states move to legalize same-sex marriage and civil unions, the case highlights a growing tension between gay rights advocates and supporters of religious freedom.

Um, that's kind of a loaded phrase there, isn't it? "Supporters of religious freedom" makes bigotry sound dignified, almost noble, as if the bakery is courageously standing up for a brave and just cause.  Apparently these people aren't bigots; they're merely supporting religious freedom-- and who in America could possibly be against that? Furthermore, the whole sentence seems to suggest that "gay rights advocates" and "supporters of religious freedom" are two discrete and distinct groups, like two circles in a Venn diagram with no overlap. Is it impossible to want gay rights and religious freedom? Does supporting one require trashing the other? Or is there a false dichotomy being hinted at here?

Mark Silverstein of the ACLU points out the problem with this in the next paragraph: "We are all entitled to our religious beliefs and we fight for that. But someone's personal religious beliefs don't justify breaking the law by discriminating against others in the public sphere."

Exactly. If this bakery claimed their religion prohibited them from selling a wedding cake to an interracial couple, would the AP still characterize them as "supporters of religious freedom"? Somehow I doubt it. But in this case, the AP seems to have swallowed and regurgitated the phrase without analysis or thought, which is unfortunate.

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