The Freedom to Restrict the Freedom of Others

by A. Jay Adler on July 31, 2012
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Conservative arguments in support of Chick-Fil-A – or more to the point, against those critical of Chick-Fil-A – demonstrate a characteristic contemporary conservative confusion of terms. What better example than Gary Bauer to represent how conservatives do it.

The left’s response to Cathy’s rather innocuous comment has once again exposed the gay rights movement’s intolerance for opposing viewpoints, an intolerance that often produces the very bigotry the movement says it exists to combat.

Though not much of a success at running for President, Bauer has enjoyed some fair success as a player on the American political scene. He is not a stupid man, so one has to believe that he does not really believe this sort of nonsense.

There is the weakness of allergy and then there is the higher order physiological refinement of intolerance. Why, no, I’m not allergic to milk. I am lactose intolerant. My body simply won’t tolerate it. It has, after all, its standards.

Similarly (or maybe not so, but that was a fun side point, and not without its point, for being on the side), there is intolerance and then there is – is there any way to get around it? – Intolerance. If one eschews Intolerance, then one has, it must reasonably be acknowledged, an intolerance for Intolerance. You hate ethnic hatred? Why, you’re just another hater. Hate bigotry? Bigot! It’s all the same thing, right?

You have to wonder if whether the Bauers of the world, when they go to sleep at night, do not, in the moment just before sleep, turn the corners of their mouths up just a bit. Happy dreams!

There has, yes, been some excess in the reaction to Chick-Fil-A’s acknowledged anti-Gay program. No effort should be made by any government to restrict its business operations. It is – I’ve heard this somewhere – a free country, and even a Grand Dragon of the KKK or Louis Farakhan has the right to run a public business establishment as long as the former employs and serves non-whites and the latter Jews. However, the massive criticism of Chick-Fil-A is, first, one must say, eminently warranted, and second, protected behavior itself. Writes Marc J. Randazza at CNN.com,

The First Amendment protects you from government action suppressing your right to free speech. It does not protect you from private individuals’ negative reaction to your speech. As an extreme example: In my younger and more impulsive days, I punched out a guy who offended my then-girlfriend (now wife). He said he was exercising his First Amendment rights. I agreed and told him that I would defend him if the government messed with him, but the First Amendment didn’t protect him from a private punch. I broke a few laws that day, but I didn’t violate the First Amendment.

Similarly, the First Amendment does not protect you from criticism. Sarah Palin infamously took us all back a few steps by ignorantly criticizing the media for its negative commenting on her views. She said, “I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.” This statement is utterly wrong. The First Amendment does not protect you from scrutiny or criticism by the media or others.

Therefore, those claiming that the private calls to boycott Chick-fil-A have any First Amendment implications are wrong. Cathy put his thoughts into the marketplace of ideas, where they may be bought or rejected. He has no First Amendment right to our approval, or to our money for his sandwiches.

It also bears repeating, often enough to produce votes at the chad puncher, that contemporary American conservatism has constructed a conception of freedom and of cultural liberty that is profoundly, definitively negative. Of course, it has its positive formulation: conservatives advocate traditional family life, the sanctity of life, law and order, and so on. However, these cheerier faces have, when turned the other way, a darker visage – they inevitably cannot subsist in their good spirits absent the suppression of other people’s humanity and the restriction of those people’s personal behaviors and enjoyment of public equality in their natural selves. Whatever errors liberalism may fall into in the ongoing war of cultural reformation, attempts to suppress the positive expression of some people to be themselves in themselves is not one of them.

Liberals hate that sort of thing. They’re such haters.

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