“Gender-Identity” Policies and Religious Freedom

Feb. 17 2017

Utah recently passed anti-discrimination legislation to protect the claimed rights of homosexuals and transsexuals while including certain exceptions meant to guarantee religious freedom. Now activists are pushing for similar proposals, known as “Fairness for All,” in other states and on the federal level. Examining proposals for such legislation, Ryan Anderson argues against the claims made in their favor:

The approach [taken by the Utah law and similar legislative proposals] creates new protected classes in anti-discrimination law based on sexual orientation and gender identity and then grants limited exemptions and protections, mainly to religious organizations. . . . Because the new laws . . . impose new penalties on people (in some cases, jail time), the burden is on their proponents to prove the need for such laws, the “fit” between the law and the harms to be addressed, and either the lack of infringement of a preexisting right or the sufficient justification for its infringement. The record indicates clearly that proponents have failed to carry their burden on all counts. . . .

These laws are not about the freedom of LGBT people to engage in certain actions, but about coercing and penalizing people who in good conscience cannot endorse those actions. . . . It is one thing for the government to allow or even to endorse conduct that is considered immoral by many religious faiths, but it is quite another thing for government to force others to condone and facilitate it in violation of their beliefs.

There is also a practical difference between proposals for new anti-discrimination policies and policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race or sex. . . . When the Civil Rights Act of 1964, [which proponents of “Fairness for All” laws often cite as precedent,] was enacted, blacks were treated as second-class citizens. Individuals, businesses, and associations across the country excluded blacks in ways that caused grave material and social harms without justification, without market forces acting as a corrective, and with the tacit and often explicit backing of government. . . . Resort to the law was therefore necessary.

But no such legal push is necessary today. . . . [Therefore], the legal response that was appropriate to remedy the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow is not appropriate for today’s challenges. Simply adding sexuality and gender identity to far-reaching anti-discrimination laws and then tacking on some exemptions is not a prudent strategy. The policy response to the legitimate concerns of people who identify as LGBT must be nuanced and appropriately tailored. Anti-discrimination laws, however, are blunt instruments by design, and many go beyond intentional discrimination and ban actions that have “disparate impacts” on protected classes. Policymakers therefore need to rethink how to formulate and implement policy in this area.

Read more at Heritage

More about: American law, Civil rights movement, Freedom of Religion, Homosexuality, Politics & Current Affairs, Transsexuals

Mahmoud Abbas’s Appointment of a New Deputy Chairman Won’t Prevent a Violent Succession Struggle

Feb. 24 2017

Last week, amid ongoing concern over his refusal to choose a successor, the aging president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) elevated two of his associates to important positions within his Fatah party. Mahmoud al-Aloul, a PLO veteran who was close to Yasir Arafat’s inner circle, was named deputy party chairman, and Jibril Rajoub, who served as the head of Arafat’s Preventive Security Force in the West Bank, became the secretary general. The move, writes Yoni Ben Menachem, has calmed some of the internal tensions within Fatah, but only in the short run:

Both . . . Aloul and Rajoub, are unacceptable to the Fatah Central Committee as possible successors to Abbas as PA president or Fatah chairman. As soon as Abbas is in a state of incapacity, a harsh and violent succession struggle will ensue. . . .

Aloul and Rajoub are already making the most of their promotions to try and clear their path to the PA leadership and remove any obstacle in their way. . . . [The two] are themselves keen political rivals. But, although each sees himself as Abbas’s [rightful] successor, they appear to have a common interest in getting rid of [the current PA prime minister, Rami] Hamdallah, as quickly as possible. He does not belong to the Fatah movement and was appointed to the post because of his personal ties with Abbas. . . .

Abbas will have to contend as soon as possible with a pack of Fatah figures who want to succeed him. The pound of flesh he tossed to Aloul and Rajoub in the form of senior positions in the movement’s leadership will only satisfy them for a very short time. They will not stop trying to undermine him—especially Rajoub who is known to be a tireless subversive in Palestinian politics. Also involved in the effort will be [Abbas’s longtime rival Mahmoud] Dahlan and Marwan Barghouti, [the mastermind of the second intifada, who is currently in an Israeli prison], who are likely to join forces, and General Majid Freij, who has already forged ties with the new CIA chief Mike Pompeo.

The current calm in the Fatah leadership is only temporary. Despite Abbas’s new appointments last week, it could collapse at any moment.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Politics & Current Affairs