While this outcome, reported by Matt Hadro of the Catholic News Agency, is obviously worth a small celebration, it raises disturbing questions about the state of representative democracy in Massachusetts:
Then in a Nov. 7 letter, the state announced that it had changed its guidance on the rule [forbidding all organizations to divide any facilities by biological gender] and would not be including “houses of worship” among the “public accommodations” that would be subject to the law.
“Your lawsuit caused us to focus on these issues and to make this revision to our website. Thank you for bringing the issue to our attention,” the state attorney general’s office said in the letter to ADF.
Of course, the same objection applies to religious exemptions as to journalists. Why should particular organizations have specific rights? Organizations shouldn’t have to be explicitly card-carrying religious organizations to have the right to set the terms of the use of their own property.
But more importantly — much more importantly — this should not be how representative democracy works. If the agency is able to preserve citizens’ rights through a simple change of its Web site, it will be able infringe on their rights the same way. Lawmaking via regulation, or even casual interpretation in letters and Web site posts has gone much too far.