Among the many lessons that need constant teaching to a busy public is that the logic of tyranny is corrosive and malignant. Start with an exception from some right that people intrinsically possess, and you’ll find the exception spreads like cancer.
That doesn’t mean questions of rights and just laws are always easy to answer, but it does mean every principle that allows a restriction against those rights must have built-in limits. If we agree to some restriction (e.g., shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater as a restricted form of speech), we must be able to articulate why it’s permitted (because inciting a crowd with no time to think is a tangible action, not deliberative speech). Otherwise, we’ll find factions all too eager to push the boundaries of telling other people what they can and can’t do (e.g., expressing an unpopular thought is tantamount to inciting violence).
What brings this point to mind, just now, is a Catholic News Agency (CNA) article about a lawsuit from some Minnesota cinematographers who are suing to ensure that they retain their rights of expression and association despite a law intended to restrict those freedoms for Christians and others who don’t want to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies:
Carl and Angel Larsen run the St. Cloud, Minn. video production company Telescope Media Group. They said they aim to enter the wedding business but want to be clear on their website and other promotional materials that their company “cannot make films promoting any conception of marriage that contradicts its religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman, including films celebrating same-sex marriages.”
They said current law would compel them to produce videos “promoting a conception of marriage that directly contradicts their religious beliefs.”
Minnesota law bars the denial of wedding services like cake decorating, wedding planning, or other commercial activities by “individuals, nonprofits or the secular business activities of religious entities,” the Minneapolis Star-Tribune says.
“Bake the cake” directed at Christian bakers became a facile slogan for those who didn’t want to think too deeply about the tyranny progressive activists were encouraging them to support. But what about “film the event”? “Make the movie”? “Write the poem”? Unless we’re to conclude that nobody has a right to conform their occupations with their beliefs, there must be some line in there. Where is it?
Insisting that we’ll know excess when we see it won’t do, because we won’t. Instead, we’ll find that “excess” is when people with whom we disagree wish to exercise a right that we ourselves enjoy.