Memories Pizza and the First Amendment

Over the last week, Indiana has experienced a political firestorm. Conservative legislators passed an expansive religious freedom bill, and our conservative governor signed it. Since then, you know the story: the NCAA, Angie’s List, Apple’s Tim Cook, and NASCAR have all voiced objections to the law. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce opposed the law before it was passed. Our governor ducked the “does this law legalize discrimination” on national TV several times in one interview, leading to his becoming the butt of late-night comedians’ jokes.

A new firestorm erupted yesterday when a small town pizza parlor in Walkerton, Indiana, caught the Internet’s attention when its owner said on TV that she wouldn’t cater a gay wedding because her religious beliefs don’t recognize gay marriage. While there have been plenty of voices of outcry and support, some of it has gotten ugly—threats to the family and the business.

This is wrong and should stop immediately.

Don’t misunderstand me. I disagree strongly with the owner’s religious-based point of view.

But she has a right to believe as she wishes and to even express those beliefs without fear of retribution. She has the right to say she wants to be able to discriminate legally.

Every one of us in the United States at one time or another believes something that may be wildly unpopular, even angering. Nevertheless, if free speech means anything it has to permit people to express views like the pizza parlor owner’s—and not have to worry about personal safety afterwards. The mob’s veto must never be allowed to silence free speech, no matter how distasteful or wrong it might be. As Justice William Brennan explained in the case of Texas v. Johnson, the answer to speech we don’t like is not restriction or mob veto. It’s more speech, with the aim of persuading the other person she is wrong.

Call the owner of Memories Pizza whatever you want: uninformed, bigoted, intolerant, stupid, anything. At the same time, please recognize that she has the right to her opinion and to voice it. You have the right to voice your opinion and persuade her she’s wrong, but you don’t have the right to use threats to force her to recant her views. That’s what fascists do. It would be unfortunate to meet intolerance with fascism. No one wins in that situation.

Your legal rights in family law cases

These are your legal rights. Review them carefully and decide which ones you will invoke.

 

You have the legal right to never again say anything good to your children about their other parent.

 

You have the legal right to ruin every occasion your children see their parents together with some caustic or chilly interaction—and to actually make your children dread any future times their family might be together.
 
You have the legal right to show your children you think their other parent is the only person on the planet so loathsome as to be unworthy of your courtesy.
 
You have the legal right to refuse any adjustment to your parenting time that would allow your children to participate in a special event at their other home.
 
You have the legal right to turn every parenting or scheduling issue into a question of competing legal rights.
 
You have the legal right to spend every available ounce of your energy and every dollar you ever have to argue over your legal rights.
 
You have the legal right to show your children that the adult way to handle hurt and disappointment is to be resentful and argumentative. 
 
You have the legal right to ignore the overwhelming evidence that one of the greatest injuries to children is conflict between their parents.
 
You have the legal right to show your children that they come from one parent too awful to be forgiven and another parent too weak to forgive.
 
You have the legal right to make your children embarrassed and ashamed of their family—and thus embarrassed and ashamed of themselves.
 
You have the legal right to place your children at an overwhelming disadvantage to children whose parents are respectful and courteous toward each other.
 
You have the legal right to carry your resentments to your grave.
 
You have the legal right to have all your legal rights.

If you insist on exercising one or more of these legal rights, don’t be surprised if good family law attorneys are not interested in representing you.