Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Thinking thrice before supporting Brad Littlejohn

I'm going to comment on this post:

It was clearly an oblique broadside against this post:

He begins with hypotheticals. Nothing wrong with that in principle. However, the function of a hypothetical ought to be to clarify ethical reasoning. Instead, he uses hypotheticals to obfuscate the issue, like a squid inking the water. He raises hypothetical scenarios which he doesn't attempt to untangle. Instead of giving the reader any direction, he points the reader in all directions. That's worse than useless. 

Littlejohn says:

Here is my question: if Christians are going to hold up Kim Davis as a paragon of Christ-like refusal to compromise with injustice, then how soon are we going to hold up the hypothetical John Barlow or Joseph Rodriguez or William Black as well? Are we all prepared to examine our own vocations with the same rigor, and leave all to follow Christ? And if not, then is our admiration of Kim Davis simply proof of what progressives accuse us of--namely, a highly selective Pharisaism that takes sexual sins with profound seriousness, and everything else as relatively negotiable?

i) A better question is why we should accept how Littlejohn frames the issue? I, for one, am not holding up Kim Davis as a Christ-like paragon. Why does Littlejohn resort to an obvious caricature of the issue? In fact, the way he cast the question reflects his own intellectual confusion. 

Davis's personal character or personal motivation is irrelevant. This issue isn’t primarily or ultimately about Davis. It was going on long before she came on the scene, and it will continue long after her particular situation is settled one way or the other.

The cause is bigger than any particular individual who happens to represent that cause at any given moment. The rightness of the cause doesn’t derive from a particular spokesman.

ii) Another basic problem is that he indulges in a fact-free analysis, without even bothering to consider the specific laws or legal history. For instance:

Federal anti-discrimination law requires a reasonable accommodation of religious belief where it does not place undue hardships on the employer. And Kentucky, like many other states, provides additional protection against unnecessary government burdens on religion.

Anderson is alluding to Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as well as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which:

Prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religion (or lack of religious belief) in hiring, firing, or any other terms and conditions of employment. The law also prohibits job segregation based on religion, such as assigning an employee to a non-customer contact position because of actual or feared customer preference. 
In addition, the Act  requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of applicants and  employees,  unless  doing so would  cause more than a minimal burden on the operation of the employer's business.A reasonable religious accommodation is any adjustment to the work environment that will allow the employee to practice his religion. Flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments  lateral transfers, and exceptions to dress or grooming rules are examples of accommodating an employee's religious beliefs.

iii) Littlejohn completely ignores the issue of judicial supremacy. For instance:

iv) Littlejohn completely ignores the Kentucky marriage amendment:

Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Kentucky. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.

v) Then there's the First Amendment issue. Consider the historic Virginia religious liberty statute, which underlies the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution:

That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

That clearly rules out a Muslim public employee imposing Sharia on on American citizens. 

vi) Many gov’t employees are in a position where they might be ordered to do something illegal. Take a supervisor who orders them to destroy incriminating evidence of official misconduct. Or take the IRA targeting conservative groups. It’s incumbent on gov’t employees in general to make their own preliminary judgment regarding the legality of orders from higher-ups. If they don’t, they put themselves in legal jeopardy.

Indeed, subordinates are more likely to play the fall guy than the higher-ups. So it’s in their self-interest, as well as public interest, to ask if the order is lawful or unlawful. They are legally liable if they carry out an illegal order.

vii) An individual gov't employee doesn't that the right to formulate social policy and impose that on the public. That's reserved for elected lawmakers, acting collectively. 

However, the First Amendment contains specific civil liberties. A gov't employee has a duty to respect that. Likewise, there's statutory law.

viii) There are, of course, situations in which a Christian is obligated to break the law. But Kim Davis isn't doing that. 

ix) Moreover, there are situations in which "just do your job or quit" is a false dichotomy. For there are situations where you duty is to practice civil resistance within the system. Let's take an example I recently ran across:

Then the war comes and my father is asked by the French prime minister to go with a mission to negotiate with the Germans for the purchase of Grumman fighter planes. A totally amazing story happened. Everybody has forgotten that New York was a  neutral city in 1940. It was full of Nazi purchasing missions, bank missions, engineers. My father was at lunch in honor of the Trade Purchasing Commission at the Wall Street Club. At his table were representatives of the American treasury, the banks and the French delegation. The waiter brings my father a folded sheet of paper saying that a gentleman at another table has asked that I bring this to you. My father whirls around and sees a Nazi purchasing mission, with the swastikas in their lapels. Perfectly legitimate: they too were buying equipment and arranging oil loans with the Chase Bank and many others. Father recognizes a man who had been one of his closest friends in business, and with whom he has had no contact whatever since 1933 when Hitler took over. So my father ostentatiously tears up the note, the piece of paper, and drops it on the floor. He goes to the john; the man is waiting there, grabs my father and says, “You better listen to me whether you like it or not. I can give you no details, I don't know any. We're coming into France very soon.” (This is in 1940.) “Get your family out at any price.” 
Now, this was one of the heads of the most important electrical concerns in Europe, Siemens. The “final solution” meeting had not yet taken place. But in Poland the massacres were already on, and the heads of Siemens knew something. They didn't know the details, because you were shot immediately if you were on leave and talked about it; but it was filtering through the high command, through diplomats, and this man, thank God, believed it, and my father believed him. 
My father got in touch with the prime minister and asked him if his family could join him for a while since the negotiations were going to be longer than he had thought. The prime minister said, “Yes, of course, let them join you.” That's what saved us. We came out with the last American boats. 
This story will be of considerable interest to historians, because it means that early in 1940 — the Germans came through in May, whereas this was in January — an informed senior German knew something.

Now the Nazi official could either quit or do his job. Instead, he did something better: he took advantage of his job to tip off an old friend. Due to his position, he had inside information, which he shared with an old friend, to save his life. That's not something he'd be privy to if he resigned. And to "just do his job" would mean facilitating the Final Solution. Instead, he chose a third option. 

Does Littlejohn have answers to the questions he poses? If so, why not present them? If not, what's the point of raising questions himself can't answer? 

He may say he left it to the reader, but that's a cop-out. He would not have done the post in the first place unless he thought Christians who support Davis's action are shortsighted. Since he clearly doesn't trust their judgment, he needs to answer the questions he poses to them. If he can't answer his own questions, why is he attacking them? 

Even if he says he was up against a word-limit, he has other venues in which to expound his views at greater length. People like Littlejohn don't exercise genuine leadership. Not only do they fail to say or do the right thing, they get in the way of those who do. If they have nothing constructive to offer, they should butt out. 


  1. We don't need more would-be Nazi Popes running around acting as apologists for the regime.

    Facilitating evil is doing evil, and homo-sex "marriage" is evil; scandalously, shockingly evil. How is this even controversial to professing Christians?

    1. I think lay Christians often have better instincts on these issues than so-called Christian leaders.

  2. Steve, how would you draw the line on those hypothetical Brad Little john raises? Would be very helpful to hear.

  3. At first I didn't realize he made up all those "cases." Then he springs that on the reader. Notice what a strange trick that is. In real life, it is unlikely that several of those people would have accepted the employment in question in the first place. Unlike Kim Davis, they would have known that the activities in question were a condition of their employment from the time *prior* to taking it. If they did *not* know this, then that makes a difference to one's evaluation of the scenario. E.g. Suppose that a hotel is operating quietly under the radar of the non-discrimination laws and trying to keep its business clean and not facilitate sexual immorality. Maybe the community standards allow them to do this for a while. A clerk is hired having known of this previous, unwritten policy of the hotel. New management then takes over and fires the clerk when he continues the previous policy.

    Lacking nuance, Littlejohn thinks he's played some kind of "gotcha" by throwing out all these implausible cases and then telling the reader triumphantly that he just made them up and that "probably" the reader "wouldn't" have heard of them if they were real. How does he know that, anyway? I bet the media would be only too happy to publicize cases of that kind, because they would think it would make Christians look bad.

    In several of the cases, the scenarios are not fully developed. E.g. How much leeway in law did the judge actually have in refusing divorce cases? That sort of thing varies. A judge in Oregon right now is refusing to perform same-sex "marriages" and is being investigated for this as an alleged "ethics violation," even though performing marriages is explicitly *voluntary* for judges under Oregon law! Littlejohn doesn't trouble to fill out his scenario far enough to tell us whether his imaginary judge is using discretion allowed to him under the laws of his state.

    In short, he's trying to sow confusion with these examples.