“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

As the Situation in Syria Changes, the Risks for Israel Increase

March 27 2017

On March 17, the Israeli Air Force struck a weapons convoy near Palmyra that was most likely bringing precision missiles to Hizballah in Lebanon. Syria responded with surface-to-air missiles, in turn triggering Israeli anti-missile missiles that successfully intercepted the counterattack. Yoav Limor comments on what is becoming an increasingly volatile situation:

[A series of military] successes in Syria have led the Russians, [who are fighting to prop up the Assad regime] to expand their campaign, and there is no doubt that Raqqa, Islamic State’s “capital” in Syria, as well as Palmyra and Deir el-Zor are next on Moscow’s list. Seizing control of these strategic areas will significantly increase Russia’s scope of operations, hence the increased risk factors in the regional theater, which includes Israel.

This was most likely the reason for Russia’s ire over the Israeli strike [on the Hizballah-bound convoy] in Syria, which led the Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov to summon, very publicly, the Israeli ambassador to Russia, Gary Koren, to provide clarifications. . . . The area struck near Palmyra, northeast of Damascus, is home to a Russian base and it is possible the Russian troops felt threatened, or that someone in the Kremlin wanted to draw clear operational parameters for Israel.

To be clear: Russia has no interest in a clash with Israel or in a fresh Israeli-Syrian conflict. But if until now Moscow was conspicuously uninterested in the covert blows Israel has been dealing Hizballah and Syria, the latest signal from the Kremlin is at the very least a warning sign to remind anyone who might have forgotten that the only interest Russia cares about is its own. . . .

[T]he tensions on the northern border do not spell an inevitable Israeli-Syrian conflict, as all regional actors have a clear interest to avoid one. Assad wants to re-establish his rule and he does not want to endanger it with an unplanned escalation against Israel, the strongest regional entity; Iran and Hizballah currently prefer to expand their regional sphere of influence quietly; and Israel wants peace and quiet as long as its two main interests—preventing advanced weapons from reaching Hizballah and avoiding war on the Golan Heights—are maintained. However, . . . recent events increase the risk that the parties could find themselves in a situation that might rapidly spiral out of control and result in a full-blown conflict.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war