Something struck me in Ian Donnis’s weekly bullet column for Rhode Island Public Radio. Donnis quotes a letter that Governor Raimondo wrote to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, as follows, pitching the state for the first two rounds of the NCAA’s men’s tournament next year:
“… Rhode Island was famously founded in 1636 on the principle of personal and religious freedom. Today, that tradition of acceptance persists and we count the diversity it invites as one of our deepest strengths.” In signing off, Raimondo pledged to work, if the NCAA returns to Providence, “to ensure that every person who comes to enjoy the games is not only welcomed, but is, in the words of Coach K, treated unbelievably well.”
The unstated backdrop for this particular pitch is the NCAA’s decision to use its tournament games as a political weapon supporting a progressive worldview. In canceling already-awarded games in North Carolina, the league cited the four justifications:
- North Carolina laws invalidate any local law that treats sexual orientation as a protected class or has a purpose to prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals.
- North Carolina has the only statewide law that makes it unlawful to use a restroom different from the gender on one’s birth certificate, regardless of gender identity.
- North Carolina law provides legal protections for government officials to refuse services to the LGBT community.
- Five states plus numerous cities prohibit travel to North Carolina for public employees and representatives of public institutions, which could include student-athletes and campus athletics staff. These states are New York, Minnesota, Washington, Vermont and Connecticut.
No doubt Raimondo and her fellow progressives would disagree with them in this, but the voters and legislators of North Carolina see such laws as supportive of religious freedom — the very principle that Raimondo cites in Rhode Island’s “famous founding.” The truth is that the progressives who now dominate many of the elite institutions of our country really, vehemently do not support religious freedom. What they support is the imposition of their own ideological (that is, religious) worldview under the bizarre principle that it infringes on their freedom when other people are permitted to behave as if they are wrong.
My assessment here is now so uncontroversial that the chairman of the Orwellian U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is comfortable stating it outright. As Richard Epstein summarizes at the beginning of an analysis that is well worth reading:
The report’s title, Peaceful Coexistence, conveys, perhaps unintentionally, a grim social reality in the United States. Historically, of course, it described the uneasy relationship between the US and the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. In that context, the phrase described how two nations, organized under radically different principles, could avoid the dangers of mutual annihilation through nuclear warfare.
One would hope that the stakes would be lower in this domestic debate, but judging from some of the rhetoric surrounding the issue, they are not. The Chairman of the USCCR, Martin Castro, recently commented publicly that “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ . . . remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy, or any form of intolerance.” And there are powerful echoes of that position in a statement by five of the commissioners—Castro, joined by Roberta Achtenberg, David Kladney, Karen Narasaki, and Michael Yaki—who write: “These laws”—which seek exceptions to the antidiscrimination laws—“represent an orchestrated, nationwide effort by extremists to promote bigotry, cloaked in the mantle of ‘religious freedom.’”
One giveaway, in Raimondo’s letter, that progressives now communicate in their own distorted code language meant to confuse the public is her laughable reference to Rhode Island’s belief in “personal freedom.” Reading through the legislature’s annual output, as I do, and following various regulatory processes leaves absolutely no room to conclude otherwise than that the elite in Rhode Island really do believe that government is a sort of corporate board tasked with telling people how to live, interact, and do business.
Of course, they’ve cleverly (if cynically) positioned themselves as guardians of certain sympathetic parties’ rights, and more importantly, they’ve taken over the cultural institutions necessary to impose stiff economic and social penalties on those who attempt to articulate a different view. (Note, for example, that the Providence Journal has published multiple letters, op-eds, and articles on the firing of the St. Mary’s music director but refused to publish my explanation of the other side.)
Frankly, at this point would take near-miraculous fortitude among those who still believe in real freedom and true diversity to stop the elite’s momentum from taking the country to a very dark place, indeed. On the other hand, we could say that all we need is fortitude, because the actual task before us is simply to stand against the illusions of the powerful and expose their inanity.