Friday, November 25, 2016


One of the pressing questions bedeviling political observers in the wake of the recent election has been why so many people whose values seem to be antithetical to those of Mr. Trump nevertheless voted for him. Indeed, he received 84% of the evangelical Christian vote while Hillary Clinton received only 12% of that demographic. Why? Perhaps it's largely because Christians have watched their values and liberties wash away like bare topsoil in a rainstorm over the last eight years and they believed a Clinton presidency portended four more years of the same. Donald Trump may not be much of a Christian, he may represent a lot of what evangelicals reject in contemporary culture, but they saw in him the only hope for stanching the erosion.

Another reason so many evangelicals voted for Trump, I think, forms the implicit subtext in an article at The Federalist by Mary Katharine Ham.

Ham points out that when Christian business men and women refuse to participate, as a matter of religious principle, in gay or lesbian weddings they're socially excoriated and legally crushed by courts unsympathetic to religious freedom.

But when a fashion designer declares that she'll refuse as a matter of political principle to sell her clothing to Melania Trump she's hailed as a heroine.

This kind of hypocrisy has frustrated evangelicals for a long time and they didn't believe a Clinton administration would be likely to do anything to change it. Indeed, many were convinced it'd only get worse under a President Clinton.

Here are some excerpts from Ham's essay:
Of the many things the Trump administration in waiting has made cool again, add private businesses refusing service to customers based on moral objections.

Friday, fashion designer Sophie Theallet, who has dressed the current first lady Michelle Obama, offered a preemptive refusal to hypothetically dress the next first lady, Melania Trump, should she ask for some of her clothes— presumably not the ones available at The Gap. In her unsolicited letter, Theallet informed the world that a person who did not ask for any of her clothes would not be getting them.

“As one who celebrates and strives for diversity, individual freedom and respect for all lifestyles, I will not participate in dressing or associating in any way with the next First Lady,” the letter reads. “The rhetoric of racism, sexism, and xenophobia unleashed by her husband’s presidential campaign are incompatible with the shared values we live by.”

“I encourage my fellow designers to do the same,” it goes on.
Of course, among those shared values is the right to live by one's own conscience and religious liberty, but should someone choose to make a floral arrangement for a gay wedding I wonder if Ms Theallet would champion their right not to participate in an event they see as immoral.
In refusing service to Trump, Theallet appealed to “individual freedom” and the idea of her art as an expression of the company’s “artistic and philosophical ideals.” Her announcement was called “noble,” “patriotic,” and “admirable integity.

But these are the same arguments the left and media have dismissed from Baronelle Stutzman, a Washington florist who thinks making custom bouquets for a same-sex marriage doesn’t comport with her personal beliefs. In appealing to the state Supreme Court after a three-year legal battle, Stutzman’s lawyer argued this week “that arranging flowers is artistic expression protected under the First Amendment. Stutzman — a Southern Baptist — would have been more than happy to sell prearranged flowers out of the cooler because that was ‘not custom expression.'”

A judge “questioned just what message is being expressed when Stutzman creates her floral designs.” No doubt no one will wonder whether Theallet’s expression is art and entitled to the protection of individual liberty and conscience against government compulsion.

A pair of New Mexico wedding photographers learned their photography was not deemed artistic expression enough when they lost a state Supreme Court appeal to a ruling compelling them to photograph same-sex wedding ceremonies.

Theallet’s triumphant and unnecessary announcement is also the mirror image of the Memories Pizza saga of 2015. In the spring of 2015, the proprietor of a tiny business seeking no publicity whatsoever, and located in the middle of Indiana, was approached by a member of the press about hypothetically catering the hypothetical wedding of a hypothetical gay couple.

Crystal O’Connor politely declined this nonexistent request while making clear the business has no trouble serving gay customers outside a wedding ceremony: “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” she told WBND-TV after Indiana passed a religious freedom bill protecting such objections.

O’Connor’s expression of her own philosophical ideals was met with such negative national attention and aggressive backlash that the family-owned pizzeria closed for more than a week.
Ham's article features a number of tweets from Theallet's admirers all praising her for taking such a bold and principled stand. Meanwhile, Christians are facing bankruptcy, loss of their businesses, or enormous fines if they take a stand for what they believe. I wonder how much Theallet's "courageous" posturing is costing her.