Individual liberty took another hit with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s veto of legislation enhancing protection for people’s religious principles while doing business. Gov. Brewer suggests that if you hang out a shingle you should leave your deepest beliefs at home.
The issue in Arizona was not a lack of tolerance by those in business. There is no dearth of firms across the state willing to serve gays.
Instead, the question was tolerance for those in business. Should you be expected to abandon your conscience the moment you step into the commercial world?
Indeed, why would a gay couple insist that a Christian opposed to gay marriage photograph their wedding or prepare their cake? There’s no need to force those with unfashionable views to affirm what they reject.
ObamaCare’s contraception mandate has a similar effect—and almost certainly received vigorous support on the left for precisely this reason. As I pointed out in the American Spectator online:
the point was always state-mandated intolerance rather than health care. The objective was to force Catholics, mostly, and the few fundamentalist Protestants who hold similar theological views, to pay for what they oppose. In fact, there is no better way to humiliate those you dislike. It is pure and unadulterated intolerance, the ultimate Washington triumph: Make those you despise pay for what they despise.
Leaving people largely left alone to manage their own lives should be what a free society is all about. Of course, those who are on the receiving end of social disapproval understandably don’t like the result. But no one has a “right” to be served by any particular person. Forcing someone into servitude is infinitely worse than simply finding someone else to do the job.
The right response is to change social attitudes. My friend Sheldon Richman at the Future of Freedom Foundation pointed to the use of “boycotts, publicity, and ostracism” to penalize those who refuse service. Such activism is why gay marriage has gone from a policy wish to dominant law in just a few years.
Unfortunately, throughout history newly empowered minorities often learn the wrong lesson. Rather than create barriers to new state injustices, some people use law for their own advantage. Hence state persecution of the New Mexico wedding photographer who felt she could not promote gay ceremonies which she believed to be wrong.