The Triumph of the Counterculture - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Triumph of the Counterculture

The Left’s effortless smearing of Arizona’s religious freedom law indicates the speed with which the country is changing. Liberals are in the cultural catbird seat and they know it, resorting to simple name-calling to shut down any real debate. The Arizona law was, if anything, a modest defense of religious freedom. That Republicans ran away from it so quickly is a testament not to its unsoundness but to the mau-mauing power of the media in a secularizing culture like this one.

The framers of the First Amendment would have been astonished to learn that part of its real meaning, according to the Left, is that Americans lose all right to religious freedom the moment they decide to open a business. The Left says it is intrinsically unjust for a business to withhold services from a gay wedding. No, it isn’t. Were the underlying activity to which the business objected moral, one could make the case that a denial of service is unjust. But that is not a category into which gay marriage falls.

The Left, enjoying its power, doesn’t even bother to engage such arguments. Opposition to gay marriage is “bigotry” and that’s that. The vision of Chai Feldblum, one of Obama’s most outspoken EEOC appointees, has come to fruition. A self-described “radical’ activist for gay causes, she takes the straightforward position that the state has an unquestionable right to violate the religious freedom of Americans who consider the homosexual agenda contrary to the will of God.

“Just as we do not tolerate private racial beliefs that adversely affect African-Americans in the commercial arena, even if such beliefs are based on religious views, we should similarly not tolerate private beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity that adversely affect LGBT people,” Feldblum wrote in a 2006 Brooklyn Law Review article.

She cast the conflict between the freedom of homosexuals and the freedom of the religious as a “zero sum game” in which “a gain for one side necessarily entails a corresponding loss for the other side.” And the state as referee should make sure religious lose the game, she argued: “Protecting one group’s identity liberty may, at times, require that we burden others’ belief liberty. This is an inherent and irreconcilable reality of our complex society.”

The countercultural vision of America conceived in the 1970s continues to triumph in other areas too, making changes so dramatic that even California Governor Jerry Brown, one of the era’s young men of destiny, hasn’t caught up with some of them. “I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together,” said Brown on Meet the Press last weekend, opposing the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Yet surely California will follow Colorado. Under the embrace of cultural liberalism, America is at once anti-smoking and pro-drugs. 1972 presidential nominee George McGovern, once dubbed the candidate of “acid, amnesty, and abortion,” now looks ahead of his time.

One would think the Obamas might oppose the entry of marijuana into their health-conscious nanny state. Not so. It enjoys an exemption from the monitors. The Obamas fret more over the proper nutritional labeling of cereal than the enforcement of drug laws.

It is hard to think of any once-outré causes from the 1970s, such as women in combat, that aren’t picking up speed. (Obama refrained from supporting it as a candidate and now pushes it.) Jerry Brown may be resisting marijuana legalization, but he does support transgender bathrooms, which couldn’t even generate a ballot initiative challenge. “At least 504,760 signatures were required to force a public vote on the statute approved by the California Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year,” reported the Associated Press. “The law’s opponents submitted 619,387, but county election officers determined that just 487,484 of them were valid, according to a final count posted on the secretary of state’s website Monday.”

That transgender bathrooms don’t arch enough parental eyebrows to generate a challenge is an illuminating measure of the extent to which Bay Area liberalism now defines the whole state. Those few Californians dismayed by the radical complexion of California may look to nearby Arizona as a refuge, but after last week’s events, it is sure to become less and less of one.

George Neumayr
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George Neumayr, a senior editor at The American Spectator, is author most recently of The Biden Deception: Moderate, Opportunist, or the Democrats' Crypto-Socialist?
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