03 April 2015

Not Selma, rather Salem

So, this happened.

In the wake of the Indiana RFRA law - a debate which has generated far more heat than light on both sides, and on which the best and most realistic analysis I have found so far in terms of the legal ramifications may be read here - it seems that the media have been looking for whatever sensationalist angle they could find on the story. And they seem to have found it in Walkerton. A small mom-and-pop pizzeria owned by a Christian couple, who had never denied anyone service in their restaurant and who had never had any complaints about discrimination before this story, were basically badgered into saying that they agree with the new law and that, even though everyone was welcome to be served at their restaurant, that they wouldn’t cater a same-sex ‘wedding’ if they were asked. Something which, in their ten years of existence, they have never been asked to do. For a straight ceremony or for a same-sex one.

Basically, this led to a deluge of abuse aimed at the restaurant, with thousands of negative reviews of the business and pornographic images being posted to Yelp, as well as a number of death threats against the owners and at least one arson threat against the restaurant, which have intimidated the restaurant’s proprietors, the O’Connors, into closing their restaurant. They have been quoted as saying they were considering leaving the state and reopening somewhere else.

The Memories Pizza incident is perhaps the first of many to come, and that is what makes it so disturbing. Also disturbing is the fact that they were targeted not for any discriminatory behaviour, not for turning customers away from the door, but for voicing a political view that has been deemed beyond the pale by what is essentially a mob. The people who targeted Memories Pizza likely think of themselves as the heirs of Selma, but in this case the pro-gay faction seems to be suffering from analogical dyslexia. The Civil Rights activists were, historically, mostly derived from the theologically Protestant but morally conservative historically-black churches. Also, those who marched with Dr. King were not out to police the thoughts of everyone who disagreed with them or hated them; they wanted only the legal and social rights which were necessary to living a dignified life, and they wanted those rights to be respected by the state. They wanted to do away with the everyday terror of lynch mobs in the Jim Crow South. They had no intention of organising lynch mobs and arson raids of their own.

Let’s be clear, then. The O’Connors were not suspected of breaking any anti-discrimination laws and never have been. In any event, there is no systematic discrimination against homosexuals going on here that is meant to treat them as anything less than human. The mob action against their business isn’t a march for civil rights, it’s a witch-hunt. The convictions here are by mob, they are reached summarily, and they are reached on the basis of what the accused are suspected of thinking, rather than on what they actually do. The analogy to be drawn is not to Selma but to Salem.

No comments:

Post a Comment