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Do Opponents of Same-sex Marriage Need "Rehabilitation"?

Oregon's labor commissioner suggests that bakers who refused to supply cake for lesbian wedding need "rehabilitation."

08/20/2013 Comments (310)

"Rehabilitation," a term once associated with charitable programs designed to help social outcasts change course, got a bad rap when Chairman Mao ordered millions of Chinese to leave their homes and jobs in the city and take up hard labor in isolated rural villages.

Now, the term has resurfaced in Oregon, after the Christian owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa refused to supply a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.  The state's Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian told the Oregonian that he didn't want to shut down the bakery, whose owners have been accused of violating a state statute banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. Acakian sought to present the intention's of the state in a kindlier light

"The goal is never to shut down a business. The goal is to rehabilitate."

Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, described the official's statement as something that

sounds like Stalinist Russia or China under Mao, where those who thought for themselves were forced under government coercion into re-education camps. This is not the America that was given to us by our Founders.

The Oregonian reported that

Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries' civil rights division will investigate to determine if the business violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which protects the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations.

It's the 10th complaint to the state in the last five years involving allegations of discrimination in a public place based on sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the bureau.

In this case, according to the complaint filed

"Respondent cited a religious belief for its refusal to make cakes for same-sex couples planning to marry."

Ever since Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, Catholic leaders and constitutional experts have predicted that "marriage equality" was on a collision course with religious freedom. Advocates of same-sex marriage and many of their partisan allies have disputed the need for religious exemptions, but few have raised concerns when people like the bakery owners are told they must conform to the new marriage regime or risk penalties. 

Avakias, the labor commissioner, sought to reframe the conflict as a matter of discrimination.

"Everybody is entitled to their own beliefs, but that doesn't mean that folks have the right to discriminate," Avakian said, speaking generally.

Yes, speaking "generally." But moving to a specific dispute between Christian bakers and a same-sex couple, it is clear that the latter trumps the former. 

Of course,  rehabilitation can take other forms. For example, if a social scientist publishes research that appeared to challenge the advisability of "marriage equality," he or she could find their job threatened.

In the world of children, rehabilitaiton may take the form of laws or classroom practices that punish some kinds of beliefs or behaviors while rewarding other ideas and practices.

Take California's new law directing public schools to "allow a student to participate in sex-segregated programs, athletics and to use facilities "consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil's records," as the San Jose Mercury explains it.

Not every school administrator, parent or student is thrilled about the new law, and opponents plan to sue. The Mercury's  story featured one predictable objection

"No 13-year-old girl should ever have to worry about a 16-year-old boy entering showers where she's showering on the pretext that he is a she," said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute of Sacramento.

Oakland Unified spokesman Troy Flint acknowledged the objections, but didn't appear to give them much credance.

Some people may object, he said, and the district will work with them. "But human rights are nonnegotiable." 

So, yes, rehabilitation will go on in California schools where 13-year old girls will have to acommodate a new regime of tolerance for some, but not for others. For recalcitrants, summer plans for 2014 may well include re-education camp.  

UPDATE: Aug. 22, Anthony Esolen in Crisis tackles another example of classroom "rehabilitation."  

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About Joan Desmond

Joan Desmond
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Joan Frawley Desmond, is the Register’s senior editor. She is an award-winning journalist widely published in Catholic, ecumenical and secular media. A graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family, she lives with her family in Menlo Park, Ca, in the San Francisco Archdiocese.