Freedom Has Consequences

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.”

Sharia Law in Minnesota?

Today I saw something disturbing. Someone I know posted about how Somalian immigrants are taking over America, and are moving toward instituting Sharia law. Her reaction was, “This needs to stop”.

If I believed that Sharia law was actually being enforced in Minnesota, I’d agree wholeheartedly. But after watching the video, I was struck by the attitude, which lands somewhere on the scale of cultural insensitivity and racism, that, in this report, revealed an awful double standard. Here is the Fox News clip that was posted:

Based on the incidents listed in this video, according to the commentator from Fox News, these Somalian immigrants are clearly bringing Sharia law to the United States. Here are the snapshots of sharia law he mentions:

  1. Taxi drivers refusing customers who are carrying alcohol, traveling with dogs, or who are otherwise unclean based on Sharia law or customs.
  2. Target check-out employees who refuse to handle pork products.
  3. Somalian couple found with Khat, a mildly hallucinogenic drug (that seems to have the same effects as strong coffee).

People who are offended by being refused by a taxi seem to have forgotten another recent story that had many of them up in arms: Hobby Lobby’s refusal to add contraceptives to their benefit plans. There has been a groundswell of support for Hobby Lobby based on the belief that the consciences of owners and workers should not be required to compromise in order to stay in business. And herein lies the double standard. Let me demonstrate by creating my own MadLib sentence.

  • The owners of Hobby Lobby should be able to refuse to accommodate those who do not share their religious beliefs regarding birth control.
  • The owners of a bakery should be able to refuse to accommodate those who do not share their religious beliefs regarding homosexuality.
  • The owners of a few taxi cabs should be refuse to accommodate those who do not share their religious beliefs about alcohol or dogs.

See that? Same sentence, same issue, totally different reactions from the same, conservative, religious, Fox-News-Watching crowd. Now can you see that double-standard?

Next up, the issue of the conscientious cashier. To my knowledge, the cashier did not tell the customer that he or she was not allowed to buy bacon. The cashier merely refused to handle the product him/herself. To me that means that he or she was not forcing his or her religion on anyone else, but was doing what all Americans should appreciate – maintaining his or her religion without forcing others to conform.

The real question is whether or not this cashier should have taken the job without letting the manager know his or her restrictions. Maybe the cashier should have said something first, or the employer should have made the requirement to not refuse service of this kind to any customer part of the job description.

As far as khat goes, I really don’t understand what this has to do with Sharia law. Is khat really mentioned in Sharia law?And does it matter? There are plenty of Americans smoking marijuana every day. East African immigrants do not have a monopoly on mildly hallucinogenic drugs, and until they do, I don’t see khat as any more of a problem than anyone else taking too many vicodin or growing pot in their basements.

It is true that Somali immigrants don’t always assimilate, and that they’re often not the best winter drivers. But I think we need to remember that our ancestors were immigrants too. My family still makes German Mennonite food, even though I’m a fourth-generation American, and there are undoubtedly other cultural behaviors that have been passed down even this far! We cannot expect new immigrants to become fourth-generation Americans with remnants of a European culture. Ever. But we can expect them, over time, to become fourth-generation Americans with remnants of an African culture….just not for a few more generations.

Let’s give them time. They’re not changing our laws, they’re just living out their culture in the midst of ours – just like our ancestors did years ago.