The Law Of Merited Impossibility is an epistemological construct governing the paradoxical way overclass opinion makers frame the discourse about the clash between religious liberty and gay civil rights. It is best summed up by the phrase, “It’s a complete absurdity to believe that Christians will suffer a single thing from the expansion of gay rights, and boy, do they deserve what they’re going to get.”
Alternate formulation: it is impossible that Christians will ever suffer the legal repercussions for opposing gay-marriage which they so richly deserve.
In my experience the discussion goes like this:
Person A: If gay marriage were legal, what possible negative effect could it have on anybody?
Person B: Well, say some gay-married grad-students want to apply for campus housing at Catholic University. CU, which is owned by the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference, would be forced to choose between being sued for discrimination and supporting sex acts which the Church considers sinful.
Person A: Noooo, sorry, I didn’t make myself clear; I mean, what possible negative effect could it have on anybody who isn’t a fucking bigot?
A creepy article in RNS attempts to outline the situation, but now not as an impossibility but a possibility:
It turns out that you are either for full and unequivocal social and legal equality for LGBT people, or you are against it, and your answer will at some point be revealed. This is true both for individuals and for institutions.
Neutrality is not an option. Neither is polite half-acceptance. Nor is avoiding the subject. Hide as you might, the issue will come and find you.
The author, a Baptist theologian I’ve never heard of, goes to point out that this is the direction not only of government and the Democratic party, but also the Republican party, the education establishment, and big businesses from computing to sports and everything in-between with the result that –
Openly discriminatory religious schools and parachurch organizations will feel the pinch first. Any entity that requires government accreditation or touches government dollars will be in the immediate line of fire. Some organizations will face the choice either to abandon discriminatory policies or risk potential closure. Others will simply face increasing social marginalization.
Oh, and the author considers this a good thing! The point of the article is to encourage religious conservatives to get on the rainbow bandwagon before the government takes away their institutions.
Rod Dreher of course is all over the article, since it confirms his fears, and he is a pretty high-strung guy.
The logic of both the RNS article and Dreher’s post are clear and correct: yes, the government and the broader society have made a sudden shift on issues of homosexuality and taken a rather extreme view on other gender issues, and yes, those new views define those who hold the older views as bigots who shouldn’t have rights. But it also tends to overlook just how ingrained religious liberty is into the U.S. legal system and tax-code. It isn’t the sort of thing that can change without a major overhaul of current law.
I do think the various churches in the U.S. will eventually be stripped of their institutions but it will not be in a systematic way, and I don’t particularly care if, say, Georgetown decides that being associated with the Catholic Church does not help its recruiting or fundraising drives anymore so they won’t bother keeping up pretense. Meanwhile with the expansion of the executive branch and federal bureaucracy there is more possibility for random and arbitrary harassment of all manner of citizens by mid-level paperpushers, churches and schools being no exception.