Gay cakes and business by association

When you engage in business and provide goods and services, is your conscience switched on? Are you in some way condoning the event for which you are providing your wares? Or is it strictly business, as the mafia men might say?

By now some of you will be sick to death of the noise being made about the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the United States Supreme Court (with some dissent) ruled that there exists a constitutional right for same-sex couples to have their unions recognised by law as marriage (via a marriage licence). I’ve commented on the Bill to create same-sex marriage in New Zealand in the past (a Bill that was passed), and – on quite another note – I’ve commented on some criticisms of the observation that the Bible prescribes marriage as the union of a man and a woman. I may have more to say about the latter in the future, but throughout all of these conversations the issue of religious freedom has popped up from time to time. There have been some cases of Christian business owners (bakers and florists in particular) who were asked to supply products or services for a same-sex wedding but who, due to their views on marriage, declined. In a libertarian society this would be a simple matter: They chose not to engage in business with somebody, so no contract was formed. Still, there are plenty of other bakers and florists out there, most of whom will be only too glad to take your money. Continue reading “Gay cakes and business by association”

Free to discriminate, part 1

This is a two-part blog about the legal right to the free exercise of religion and discrimination, in that order. Prompted by the current fuss over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, part one will look at the situation in Indiana that sparked the current discussion, and part two will step back from the headlines and address the more principled philosophical question about liberty and the right to discriminate. Continue reading “Free to discriminate, part 1”

Trust nobody?

I’m officially sick of it. Stop linking to articles to make an argument for something that you believed with or without evidence. The line between information and propaganda is as faint as it has ever been.

I’m diarying a little here, and partly ranting. This would not pass peer review. I may also irritate some of my more liberally minded friends, but I hope that liberal though you may be, you will see that I have a point. I’m getting ever-wearier over the way people (and I’m even tempted to say “you young people,” such is the wearying effect) treat the notion of being informed. Being informed can now just mean that you’ve read a Buzzfeed article stating that all the research says X. You don’t have to think, it’s already packaged, with a dozen articles in the sidebar about how to fix everything that’s wrong with the world with “this one weird trick.” A while ago (maybe two months ago – in the age of education via social media, this is quite a long time) people (although in retrospect, people who advocate what they would call social liberalism) were passing around a link to just such an article. All the research, the enthusiastic writer told his readers, shows a clear link between spanking (i.e. as a form of punishment for children, you naughty readers) and mental illness later in life. Quick scan, existing beliefs reinforced, link shared, mission accomplished. I wonder if those who shared that link could even make it past this paragraph without rolling their eyes and declaring tl;dr. Continue reading “Trust nobody?”

A stone in your shoe

“The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad.’” (2 Chronicles 18:7)

I don’t want to make you happy.

I’ve been getting under some people’s skin lately. I wrote a recent short blog post about race – specifically about issues faced by the black community in America including poverty and also its relationship with law enforcement. I’ve also been making comments on social media and I’ve shared several links to news stories and opinion pieces about race-related issues, stories of abuse by police, and pieces on how we respond to the deaths of victims of such violence, such as Eric Garner.

As I would have hoped, there have been people who appreciate this. But as one might naturally expect, those who have had the most to say about it are those who are not happy with me doing this. Continue reading “A stone in your shoe”

Do not fight hate with hate

“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:34)

YESTERDAY IN Sydney armed man Haron Monis, carrying an Islamic flag, took hostages in a Sydney café in a siege that captured the attention of the world. Less than a day later, it was over, and Monis, along with two members of the public, lay dead. There will be some who, I suspect, over and above mourning the loss of innocent life, use this event to reinforce their view that religion is uniquely dangerous. My heart sank as the story broke, both because of the horror faced by the poor victims, but also because of the inevitable backlash against Muslims in general that we may be about to see. This has nothing to do with what I think of Islam. I am hardly an advocate. But it has everything to do with the excuses we sometimes make to overlook the ways in which we fail to love others. Continue reading “Do not fight hate with hate”

Single Issue Voting and Killing Poor Coloured People

The New Zealand general election is almost upon us! Rather than talk about which parties I like and which I don’t, I want us all to imagine a parallel world in which we find New New Zealand heading into an election.  Here’s what’s on offer in New New Zealand: Continue reading “Single Issue Voting and Killing Poor Coloured People”

A defence of just letting poor people die

Suppose you awoke one day and found yourself in a relatively technologically advanced society in which there were some very poor people. You did not consent to be in this position, but here you are. You ask around among some people with reasonably well-paying jobs (that is, people like you), and they all tell you the same thing: They didn’t intend for there to be any very poor people. They all just woke up and found themselves here. Continue reading “A defence of just letting poor people die”

Mental health and choice: A plea for some people to say less

If you kill yourself, then the only reason you did it is that one day you made a choice to do it. Are things really that simple?

Popular Christian blogger Matt Walsh has been getting a bit of flack lately. In a blog entry that was, in my view, a pretty bad idea, he offered what he took to be a correction to the many messages of sorrow about the recent death by suicide of actor Robin Williams. People have been drawing attention to Robin’s struggles with substance abuse and, more prominently in people’s comments, with the mental illness that is depression. I think it’s right to draw attention to this, and for Robin’s sad passing to be a reminder to us all how debilitating depression can be, and to reach out and help those who battle it. Sometimes you know about it, a lot of the time you won’t. Continue reading “Mental health and choice: A plea for some people to say less”

Growing old but still dying young

New Zealand’s suicide rate is down. But there’s an unhappy story here about our elderly.

Figures for the year ending 30 June 2014 show that our overall suicide rate is at its lowest since the year ending 30 June 2008. Whether it’s the overall economic environment and direction, hopelessness / hopefulness about jobs or more personal scenarios: Family hardship (or an improvement therein), relationship status, or (hopefully!) improvement in the shape of mental health services, this is encouraging. Mental health and suicide has been thrust into the limelight recently, and that’s a brilliant thing. Continue reading “Growing old but still dying young”