When you tell someone “no,” you limit their freedom, and exercise your own.
But when you lose the right to say “no” your freedom is utterly, and without exception, destroyed. It’s true that saying “no” has its consequences for you — the man whose proposal you’ve just refused will marry someone else and you’ve lost your chance as a result of your response. Your “no” to a job opportunity that you thought would leave you bankrupt means that when that start-up company is on the Fortune 500 list, you’ve lost out on a great opportunity. And it has consequences for others — the man cannot marry you. The company cannot hire you. Your response has limited their freedom.
Imagine a world, though, where your right to say “no” is taken away. If someone wants something of you, you cannot say no. You must marry that jerk. You must work for that company that will bury you in a sinkhole of debt in five years.
Removing the right to say “no” absolutely and unquestionably removes your freedom.
Freedom necessarily includes the right to say both “yes” and “no.” The right to say “yes, I will be a part of this,” and “no, I will not be a part of that.” Freedom is not freedom without the ability to make choices.
Which is why this article bothered me so much. Full of false dichotomies and outright lies about what limited freedom means, as if true religious freedom is only achieved by saying “yes” to everything. Let me tell you — religious freedom is made up equally of the right to say “no” as it is of the right to say “yes” to certain religious activities.
Religious freedom means that I can practice whatever religion I want to the exclusion of other religions. I can practice Hinduism to the exclusion of Islam. I can practice atheism to the exclusion of deism. I can say “yes” to one religion and “no” to another. I can say “yes” to ham, or I can say “no” to ham, and although I may be limiting the freedom of guests in my house to a ham sandwich, it’s my freedom and my right to do so.
And today there’s a battle raging in Arizona about the freedom for business owners to say “no” to certain clientele based on their religion. The Huffington Post article linked above is doing the dirty work of trying to convince people that we can maintain our freedom while being stripped of our ability to say “no,” and it makes me sick. We cannot have freedom without the right to say “no”! We should not be force to eat ham, or forced to not eat ham.
Here is an article about what the legislation in Arizona is actually for. No it’s not bullying, no it’s not a Jim Crow law. It’s just protecting freedom — the freedom to say “no.
The damage will be incalculable if we lose the freedom to say “no.”