Ross Douthat’s voice is one of the most nuanced and intelligent in public life today. He is unusual, too, as an orthodox Roman Catholic writing for a mainstream media outlet; there aren’t many like him anywhere, and certainly not at The New York Times. I did not realize that he was a hater and a fraud, until I read this Joe McCarthy Mark Joseph Stern piece in Slate. Excerpt:

In fact, Douthat’s column is such an effective piece of homophobic apologia that I expect many red state politicians to borrow from its playbook in the coming months and years. To make their job easier, I’ve laid out the most effective means of disguising raw hatred as religious liberty and rounding discrimination down to “dissent.” If you’re thinking about introducing an anti-gay discrimination bill to your own state’s legislature, you should pay close attention.

More:

He refers to anti-gay Christians as “a dissenting subculture,” and hopes more states pass Arizona-style laws that “let the dissenters opt out.” By rebranding anti-gay bigots as dissenters, Douthat transforms them from retrograde homophobes to virtuous objectors, unwilling to bend their beliefs to match public opinion. This makes them seem appealing—until you remember that their “dissent” is a hatred of gay people so vehement that they’ll violate non-discrimination laws just to make sure they never, ever have to provide a gay person with a basic service.

And so forth. You see what’s happening here. There can be no legitimate dissent on this issue. Any dissent, however carefully thought out and phrased, is insane hatred — and anyone who disagrees with that is lying. More:

What’s scary about Douthat’s column is how easily a casual reader can inadvertently consent to this implicit thesis.

Yes, it’s terrifying that someone might read Douthat’s column and think he has a point. Let’s freak out and drive a hate-filled bigot like him from the public square! Error has no rights!

Just so you know what’s coming, folks.

UPDATE: A more rational, irenic take from Pastor Dennis Sanders, who is gay, and who posts here from time to time. Excerpt:

The issue of a baker or florist refusing to serve a gay couple brings out conflicting emotions.  I do think at some level there is the potential of bigotry behind that refusal.  I also think that having laws where people can refuse service could cause chaos in our economy.  But then I think about how someone who is a social conservative and faithful Christian would see this.  There’s something about compelling someone to do something they don’t agree with because of their interpretation of the Bible that bothers me deeply.  Those of us on our side tend to see this simply as case of bigotry.  We think Bigots don’t deserve protection and they should shut up and do their job.  After all their “religious objection” is just a smoke screen for their hate.

But the thing is, seeing homosexuality as a sin was considered the normative teaching in our society until recently.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t wrong, but we have to take in account that tradition is not something that you can easily dispose of.

The tactic that I have shared at times is that it’s okay to believe what you do in private, but in public you have to set your beliefs aside.  But upon thinking on this, I found this reasoning to be bothersome.  We are basically saying that their faith is a hobby that can be pursued at other times, but not when we enter the public square.  For the faithful, religious belief is not something that is private, but very public.  It orders every part of one’s life.  I think it would be difficult for someone who might think that same sex marriage to have to set their belief aside.  In fact, it wouldn’t make sense.  Why would they knowingly put themselves in a position to sin?

UPDATE.2: Listen, I’m not going to publish any more comments on this thread about whether or not the Arizona bill was a good or a bad idea. Focus on the substance of the post, which is the rhetoric used to demonize Douthat and people who agree with him. Is that justifiable rhetoric, or not?