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Pinkshirts Vs. The First Amendment

Last week I was at a big religious liberty conference sponsored by Alliance Defending Freedom [1], the public interest legal organization that fights in court and elsewhere for religious liberty. I have been saying at least since the Indiana RFRA rout that organizations like ADF, The Becket Fund [2], and others like it are pretty much the last line of defense for Christians in this post-Christian culture. Having spent a week listening and talking to lawyers, law professors, and others on the front lines of religious liberty battles, I’m convinced of it.

Conference proceedings were off the record, so I can’t write specifically about what was said there (except for one case, which I’ll get to in a moment). But I can say in general that this was not an optimistic crowd. Observers who had been to this same event in past years told me the 2016 gathering was far more sober — which is to say, realistic. Obergefell, as well as the rapidly-changing cultural conditions around transgenderism and related questions, have been game-changers. From what I could tell, that decision and these realities have, if anything, increased their determination to fight in court with all we have to protect religious liberty. But we must be honest about the reality of the gathering storm.

I met two people who have been very much at the tip of the spear: small-town Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman, sued by a longtime gay customer whose wedding she could not do flowers for [3] because of her faith, and former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran, fired from his job by the city’s mayor for a book he wrote for his Sunday School class [4] (one that contained a few paragraphs critical of homosexuality). I talked to both of them personally, and listened to them both give presentations about their experiences. These are both deeply good, humble people who have been done a terrible injustice. And there weren’t the only ones there.

Barronelle may be the gentlest person I’ve ever met, period. But she is an absolute rock. Watch her on this short clip. [5] She stands to lose everything she owns in this case, and to face her final years (she is 70) bankrupt. The state Attorney General offered her a deal that would have dropped the case in exchange for her paying a $2,001 fine and agreeing henceforth to do flowers for gay weddings. She said no: [6]

“Washington’s constitution guarantees us ‘freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment.’ I cannot sell that precious freedom,” Stutzman’s letter asserts. “You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver. That is something I will not do.”

Stutzman’s letter added that Ferguson continues to prove that he does not understand the true meaning of “freedom.”

“Your offer reveals that you don’t really understand me or what this conflict is all about. It’s about freedom, not money,” Stutzman wrote. “I certainly don’t relish the idea of losing my business, my home, and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important.”

Barronelle told me in an interview that Christians all over this country had better understand that they are not safe. “If they can come after me, they can go after anybody,” she said.


And she’s right.

I got to spend time with Kaeley Triller, a young single mom from Seattle who was fired by the YMCA for objecting to its new transgender locker room policy [7]. Kaeley is a survivor of childhood rape. She tells her story here. [8]Excerpt:

I am not saying that transgender people are predators. Not by a long shot. What I am saying is that there are countless deviant men in this world who will pretend to be transgender as a means of gaining access to the people they want to exploit, namely women and children. It already happens. Just Google Jason Pomares, Norwood Smith Burnes, or Taylor Buehler, for starters.

While I feel a deep sense of empathy for what must be a very difficult situation for transgender people, at the beginning and end of the day, it is nothing short of negligent to instate policies that elevate the emotional comfort of a relative few over the physical safety of a large group of vulnerable people.

Don’t they know anything about predators? Don’t they know the numbers? That out of every 100 rapes, only two rapists will spend so much as single day in jail while the other 98 walk free and hang out in our midst? Don’t they know that predators are known to intentionally seek out places where many of their preferred targets gather in groups? That perpetrators are addicts so committed to their fantasies they’ll stop at nothing to achieve them?


There’s no way to make everyone happy in the situation of transgender locker room use. So the priority ought to be finding a way to keep everyone safe. I’d much rather risk hurting a smaller number of people’s feelings by asking transgender people to use a single-occupancy restroom that still offers safety than risk jeopardizing the safety of thousands of women and kids with a policy that gives would-be predators a free pass.

She has also written, about how this experience gave her, a practicing Christian, a new appreciation for feminism: [9]

I didn’t believe in rape culture until a 6’3”, 250-pound grown man stared angrily into my eyes and proclaimed to me how hurtful it was that I did not want to see his penis. And people agreed with him. (Because men forcing themselves on women is something new and different?)

I didn’t believe in victim shaming until I received death threats for sharing my experience of sexual trauma in hopes of protecting women in their most vulnerable places. “Stay at home if you’re uncomfortable,” they jeered. “You’re so ugly that no one would want to rape you anyway.”

I didn’t believe in systemic misogyny until I was told that my hard-earned boundaries were actually just bigotry and that my red flags were irrelevant. I guess “My body, my choice” doesn’t include my right to determine who gets to see it? “An erection in the shower next to you is no cause for alarm,” they explained. “It’s a normal bodily function. Use this as an opportunity to ‘educate’ yourself.”

Kaeley is part of the Just Want Privacy [10] campaign, which is trying to get a proposal on the ballot to keep biological males out of women’s locker rooms in the state of Washington. The other day, I featured a video of transgenders no-platforming members of Just Want Privacy — including feminists — who were trying to give speeches advocating their position. Watch the clip here. [11] These trans bullies are a pack of pinkshirts, trying to intimidate and silence their opponents using fascist tactics.

Someone with the campaign told me that one of their members approached 120 individual churches asking them to join their effort. Only seven said yes. Seven churches out of 120. I asked why so few. The answer? “They’re afraid to be seen as unloving.”

Let me tell it to you straight: there is no place for that kind of cowardice in this fight. None. The battle is here, and it is now, and there are ordinary people who never sought a fight, but the fight came to them. You spend any time in the presence of these people, and hear their stories, and come to understand what they are suffering for their faith (Barronelle wept when talking about the people who have threatened to burn her house down), and if you have a shred of decency or honor or courage within you, you will stand up with them.

You had better. Barronelle is right: if the pinkshirts can come for her, a small-town florist, and can do so with the ACLU and the Washington state Attorney General on their side, as well as the media, nothing but dedicated lawyers stand between those powerful bullies and you. You think you’re safe, but you’re not. You think that appearing winsome and loving will protect you. It won’t.

118 Comments (Open | Close)

118 Comments To "Pinkshirts Vs. The First Amendment"

#1 Comment By VikingLS On June 28, 2016 @ 10:56 pm

“Envy? Really? No. I just want my fair turn.”

Honestly Cascadian, if you’re going to embrace the will to power and the lust for revenge, fairness and turns has nothing to do with it.

#2 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 28, 2016 @ 11:35 pm

russ says it all so well.

“You hurt my FEELINGS” is the cry of a five year old, not an adult statement of a civil rights violation.

We can argue about the relevance of the issue to the 21st centur ad nauseaum, but there was simply no way to break segregation without massive application of federal power.

So true, and lot of southern “white” folks, once they experienced life without the segregation delusion, were grateful for it.

But the relevance to any other issue is tenuous at best. To each issue its own merits.

I see a struck a chord with many who came to my defense, or gave me a Voltairean shout-out while disagreeing with some portion of what I said. My thanks to all.

Darth Thulhu has taken the words out of my mouth. Thank you for an excellent defense that even vociferates the very content of what I was thinking. Bottom line, I’ve been reading these cases for a good twenty years or more, which is why I am prepared to offer commentary that relies on them, and also, why I am contemptuous of those who have strident opinions but haven’t done much homework.

I believe that a better framed argument could have avoided the absurdity that is Obergefell. I am not sympathetic to those who stumbled out of sheer incomptence and left us in the situation we are in now. I must add that the attorneys representing Elane Photography did a masterful job, and the main reason they were unsuccessful is that the Supreme Court of New Mexico took it upon themselves to find a rationale to utterly ignore all the judicial lines of precedent offered on Elane’s behalf.

I think this comes from the implicit assumption that religion is to be separate from secular reasoning, that one does not inform the other. This is a deeply Protestant view btw and traditionalist pagans like myself reject it (as do Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Muslims, Hindus etc).

While that is a valid philosophical position to enunciate and advocate (certainly covered by the First Amendment as freedom of speech), it does not ipso facto expound our Constitution with any validity. As Justice Scalia used to say, the constitution means what it says, not what we would like it to mean. And as Justice Black used to say, when the constitution says congress shall pass no law, it means, congress shall pass NO LAW.

Religion certainly can and inevitably does inform the secular reasoning of individual citizens. Religious belief is not, however, a valid precedent for what the powers of the state are, or are not. The constitution is not a laundry list of Good and Evil. It is a jurisdictional document. It grants limited discretionary powers, and restrains powers that might otherwise be theoretically unlimited.

“Religious liberty” can be a convenient shorthand for First Amendment principles, but it can easily become a sloppy mislocation. The First Amendment does not mandate an infinitely elastic and fuzzily undefined thing called “religious liberty.” Rather, it restrains state action that would either Establish a body of religious doctrine as officially approved, or that would burden an individual’s free exercise with gratuitous penalties. Yeah, there is a lot of Protestant thinking in it. If you appreciate the First Amendment, thank a Protestant. All of you who think your faith is the True Faith and should be fully integrated into the civil and criminal law, go off in a corner and kill each other over your differences.

The ss”m”ers have been stuck with the “God made them to have homosexual relationships” argument. I am not sure what could be religious than that.

That’s an interesting angle, but doesn’t change the fact that what counts in secular law is a sound secular argument. The judicial battles weren’t won on “God made me this way,” but more on “and our cause is exactly the same as the cause of the civil rights movement to open full citizenship to Americans of African descent,” which was a narcissistic lie, but very effective.

Charles Cosimano, for once, is dead wrong. The only people who rejected Bowers the day after it was decided, as a bad decision, were those who argued the other way in the first place. It took decades of work to overcome. I expect that someday Obergefell will be over-ruled, when it is applied to a totally different question, and people begin to realize what a house of sand it was built on. But, that probably won’t result in the end of same sex marriage — everyone will be used to it, and there won’t be many who are motivated to get rid of it.

#3 Comment By E. Potson On June 29, 2016 @ 1:10 am

M.F. Bonner: “Was he fired for writing the book? I had read he was suspended, and then fired for passing it out to his subordinates at work.”

I’ve read something similar, but there is another case out of Atlanta that arises out of a much stronger allegation of infringement of religious freedom.


#4 Comment By Chris Travers On June 29, 2016 @ 1:26 am

The Professor wrote:
BY the way, trying to avoid the legal problems by calling her a “floral artist” is patently ridiculous, and that tactic has never worked either, as the Supreme Court didn’t even want to hear those arguments. See: Elane Photography.

I don’t know. I think the Supreme Court *did* hear those arguments in Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans and interestingly the left-leaning justices gave a precedent here that ultimately provides huge options for resistance.

For example, if Texas has the free speech right not to put the confederate flag on a license plate, surely the florist has the right to include a card on every wedding arrangement saying “The Beauty of Man and Wife in Lifelong Union.” It is discriminatory, to be sure, but you cannot ban that sort of discrimination without government censorship of the sort the court just ruled out.

#5 Comment By Emrys On June 29, 2016 @ 3:31 am

[NFR: Yes, your mind automatically translates this, because it’s easier than *thinking* about what the First Amendment means. Do you automatically hear “free speech” as “special rights for conservatives”? If not, why not? — RD]

Because conservatives don’t demand that they be allowed to deny services or to refuse to sell products to liberals, libertarians, or anybody else. They ask for no special rights. They only ask that they be heard. You demand more. You demand special rights. You demand that your morals take precedence over law. Conservatives do not do that. Yes, there are conservative/libertarians who argue free association. They may have a point. But you do not. You want special rights. And as have so many of your commenters pointed out these couple of days, that is is all you care about. Your small. very narrow world view has crippled you.

#6 Comment By Rob G On June 29, 2016 @ 1:17 pm

Said this on another thread, but have to say it again here, looks like.

The idea that the Bible teaches the Southern American view of race relations is held by, in the grand scheme of Christian history, the backwater of a backwater. It’s basically hermeneutic Lysenkoism.

On the other hand, the view of homosexuality held by traditionalists is the same as that held by virtually all Christians of all denominations until approximately yesterday.

#7 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On June 29, 2016 @ 1:32 pm


Perhaps a bit perjorative, but yes, totalitarian. These groups have a total, complete, and universal vision of what marriage is, at all places, times, and for all people, and they insist rather strongly that all of us simply *must* share that vision or…bad things will happen, of a sort that don’t lend themselves to being translated from purely religious language to secular.

Actually, there are, and there have been, many cultural variants of marriage. Nobody denies this. So what’s your point?

Oh wait, I see now, you aren’t talking about marriage, but about the other thing, that strange chimera going under the name of Obergefell

But then, I have no objections of sort about a man obergefelling another man. At the end of the day, it’s up to them to look after their soul.

And a man marrying a man, well, this is materially impossible. So one wonders why one should be concerned about this. If a man persuades himself that he can marry another man, of course I’d be sorry for him, as for anybody having hallucinatory thoughts. You know, people believes any sort of things. Is a free country, ain’t it?

But it is the very nature, nay, the very definition, of totalitarianism forcing citizens to believe all sorts of self-evident falsehoods and impossibilities? Is it not the nature of totalitarianism to thwart people’s consciences with the full force of the state? Isn’t it what is happening right now, with the state trying to force Mrs. Stutzmann to betray her conscience, but also her rational faculty by forcing her to believe that false is true and impossible is possible?

#8 Comment By Fran Macadam On June 29, 2016 @ 2:05 pm

“I would feel the same way if Tim Cooke distributed pro-gay literature to Apple employees.”

You don’t, and he does.

#9 Comment By Fran Macadam On June 29, 2016 @ 2:08 pm

“Quit complaining about the boot on your neck. I’ve been on the otherside of this equation. Now it’s my turn.”

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot, stomping on a human face, forever.”


#10 Comment By Fran Macadam On June 29, 2016 @ 2:26 pm

“Where are the black and latino Christians on these issues?”

Latino congregations are leaving the Mennonite church in droves, the ethnic whites who were long the cultural hegemony of that church the ones driving affirmation of the LGBTQ agenda against the Latino churches’ will. Note the Pink Menno founder is named Yoder and the leading SJW propagandist Krehbiel, both common ethnic Mennonite surnames.

#11 Comment By Fran Macadam On June 29, 2016 @ 2:38 pm

“An erection in the shower next to you is no cause for alarm,” they explained. “It’s a normal bodily function. Use this as an opportunity to ‘educate’ yourself.”

To those with experience, the Y has always been a hotbed for male homosexual hookups. The tolerance for it has been obvious for 75 years or longer. That means that there had to people in charge who either turned a blind eye to it or in some cases wanted it that way. Now that society has been propagandized to consider it not only benign but an absolute right no one should be surprised it’s no longer don’t ask, don’t tell.

I have personal knowledge of a wealthy surgeon who picked up runaway adolescents who foolishly thought the YMCA a haven when they arrived in the big city, and were subsequently raped.

Remember the arch performance of “YMCA” by the Village People?

#12 Comment By Erin Manning On June 29, 2016 @ 4:08 pm

Aw, Cascadian wants a fair turn. Isn’t that cute?

So, first all of us religious believers will close our schools, nurseries and day care centers. No problem, right? You won’t mind your taxes going up to pay for all the new students in the public school programs, Head Start, and the like. Even if your taxes have to go up a LOT to compensate for the loss of these things.

We’ll shut the religious colleges and universities, too. The ones that only pretend to be religious can stay, but they won’t get funding from Christians anymore, so they’ll need more government aid.

Then we’ll close all the Catholic hospitals as well as any other Christian religious or charitable programs helping the poor with health care. You don’t need us or want us around, so I’m sure you have plans in place to take over these things as well.

Next, we’ll shut down the soup kitchens, shelters, community programs and so forth. You want your fair turn, after all! I’m sure you can make up for the loss of religious believers who volunteer their time and give money to these efforts.

But that’s just the beginning. After that we’ll demand that you treat us like the minorities you insist we are: we will demand tax breaks and accommodations and employment access and college scholarships and everything else that minorities get just for being in the minority.

In the early Church, after all, Christians mainly took care of each other’s needs; that’s what charitable works were for, and I see no harm in going back to that model. You want your child to go to a Catholic school? Sorry, we only accept children who are practicing Catholics and whose parents are active members of our parish, ever since Cascadian’s “Fair Turn Act” made sure that only schools that promote the pinkshirt agenda qualify for federal education dollars.

If this is what you want, I’m sure you’ll be glad to get it. Just keep doing what you’re doing, and it will be the reality soon enough. But, hey, many progressives don’t think Americans pay enough in taxes yet anyway…

#13 Comment By Cascadian On June 29, 2016 @ 4:54 pm

@Erin Manning

“If this is what you want, I’m sure you’ll be glad to get it. Just keep doing what you’re doing, and it will be the reality soon enough. But, hey, many progressives don’t think Americans pay enough in taxes yet anyway…”

I do believe a society should pay for the services it desires. Taxes in Canada are significantly higher.

Haven’t seen anyone mention Trinity Western lost their appeal in Ontario. Next stop the Supreme Court.

#14 Comment By jnw On June 29, 2016 @ 8:01 pm


You really want to cite Canada as a model for economics? Do some reading about the municipal and provincial debt they have going on up there. The services always end up costing more than the taxes collected. Oh yeah, and the oil sands were paying a lot of their bills, but that’s not so lucrative anymore and it’s an environmental disaster.

About all Trudeau is good for is virtue signalling.

#15 Comment By Chris Travers On June 30, 2016 @ 12:46 am


I have now lived and worked in the US, Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sweden, and Denmark. I figure I have some basis for comparison for a bunch of things.

I think you are drawing the wrong lessons regarding Canada. What makes Canada do better, generally, than the US in many respects is that the provinces have much more effective powers than the states (in the US, the feds have expansive powers and the states have what is left, but in Canada the provinces and the feds have separate spheres of governance and in fact each province, for example, runs its own health care system). A push to a more Canadian style of society would make more sense if it was accompanied with greater powers for the states and a weakening of the federal government.

Secondly, if you look at the history of the strong protections for free speech in the US, they arose in a very specific history, of courts reacting to increasingly harsh prosecutions of left-leaning thinkers. It is true we think of the KKK case (Brandenburg v. Ohio) as being the defining first amendment case, but the real work for that case came instead from Yates v United States, where the feds were prosecuting someone for distributing “A Communist Manifesto” on the theory that saying violent revolution would be needed was the same as raising an army.

In other words, the NRA can use the “cold dead hands” rhetoric because the US government went after the Communists for using similar rhetoric, and you trample on the rights of your opponents only at great peril to yourself.

If you want a more communitarian culture, then you should be aware most of us do here as well. But that means less individualism, more power locally, and fewer rights. For example, look up the restrictions on abortion in Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

Communitarian cultures tend to be more socially conservative than individualist ones and for good reason.

#16 Comment By Cascadian On June 30, 2016 @ 11:06 am

@ Chris Traverse

Yes, it’s ironic isn’t it that given the starting positions concerning the division of powers Canada actually has a better functioning system.

The community I live in is relatively communitarian. It helps that its pretty homogenous. Definitely not socially conservative.

#17 Comment By Chris Travers On June 30, 2016 @ 11:21 pm


Just remember, from a Swedish or even Canadian perspective, the Republicans are Liberal. Most people on this board will also see the Republicans as the business side of the liberal project.

I don’t think it is ironic nor does Canada do better across the board. SARS, if you remember, hit Canada hard and the reason was that Canada did not (and does not) have a national disease tracking authority. Provinces which had provincial ones did well, while those who did not more than made up for it.

But look, I am in Sweden now, and the primary powers are effectively at the kommun level (kommun is often translated as municipality, and land as county, but better would be to see land as province and kommun as county, just everything is scaled down). In theory the health care system is national, but in practice it is run by the kommun (and some kommuns privatize delivery of some services while others do not).

Since my kids go to an English-language school there are some kommuns I cannot live in, for example, because they refuse to offer such and say “if you want that, live elsewhere.” That’s actually pretty cool, if you think about it.

Local power *is* better. And social conservatism is not what the Republicans bring us.

You cannot have communitarianism and also have the idea that the government is there to liberate people from family duties and community norms. This includes sexual norms as well. We can talk about various perspectives and how to treat eachother humanely, but that is not the way this and other issues have been addressed in the US.

#18 Comment By Chris Travers On June 30, 2016 @ 11:46 pm

BTW one of the reasons I read The American Conservative is that most of what passes for a social conservative perspective in the US is a fundamentally Jacobin/Liberal take on the whole issues. This is one of the few publications out there which frequently breaks out of that.