It’s all about control
If you want to control people’s thoughts where would you begin? Let me suggest a good way, perhaps not the only way but an effective way, maybe the best way to influence thought is to begin by controlling the use of words. Forced control of words is as unamerican as thinking gets. There was a time in America when this would have been completely foreign… but not anymore. Today we seem to be ready to accept invasion of our right to free speech.
Increasingly, we are being forced to use language against our will. Even if the use or non-use of a word is a matter of conscience our intolerance. Now such matters of conscience are no longer sufficient for non-compliance with the legally enforced norm. All who do not comply regardless of reason face sanction. And those consequences can be dire.
The battle ground
A recent free speech battleground comes from transgenderism. The entire issue effects, at best, a very small number of individuals. Somehow it has become the newest “civil rights battle” of our time. It should be a molehill. A decade ago, few people could even tell you what the word “transgender” meant. Today, expressing the “wrong opinion” on the issue can cost you your business or job or both.
California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation in 2017 threatening jail time. California criminalized speech. The State singled out health-care professionals. They made it a jailable offense for them to “willfully and repeatedly” refuse to use a patient’s preferred pronouns. California isn’t alone. How intolerant have we become that we are punishing those who decline to use an individual’s preferred pronoun with legal sanction. Think about that before moving on.
New York City’s Commission on Human Rights issued guidelines issued in 2015 such that employers, landlords and business owners who intentionally use the wrong pronoun with transgender workers and tenants face fines of as much as $250,000. That’s a steep price for saying “he” instead of “she” or “she” instead of “he,” or even “he” or “she” instead of “they.” It is hard to understand how two wrongs are supposed to make a right.
In Virginia Peter Vlaming was fired from his job as a French teacher in December of 2018. Because he refused to refer to a transgender student by the student’s preferred pronouns he was fired. Vlaming’s religious belief, in this case Christian, prevented him from bowing before the notion that the student, who had been a “she” in his class the year before, was now suddenly a “he.” The teacher was willing to use the student’s chosen new name. He avoided using any pronouns when referring to this student. That wasn’t good enough for the school district. They needed to hear him say the words; it became a condition of continued employment.
At the risk of stating the obvious, you don’t have to be religious to believe that one person can never be a “they.” The California law respects right to compel use of a preferred pronoun. The law does so without respecting any right of conscience, religion or even the commonsense of singular versus multiple. Have the vast majority of us who hold the biology based view that chromosomes determine your sex no right to express our opinion? Can we no longer choose our own words? What about those who have a deep seated religious convictions? Perhaps they believe that sex is both biological and binary. Are they no longer allowed to embrace and express their understanding of God’s purposeful creation?
The Supreme Court has clearly decided that compelled speech is not free speech. That seems to be where case law now rests. At least if you live in a state other than California, New York or Virginia…
In 1943 in the case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, the Supreme Court upheld the students’ right to refuse to salute an American flag. Justice Robert Jackson wrote, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, religion or other matters of opinion.” And, Jackson went on to say, the state can’t force people to say things they don’t believe.
Today unfortunately, this is precisely what’s happening. People are being forced to refer to others as “ze,” or “co,” or “thon.” Those are now considered pronouns. What might otherwise be a courtesy now has criminal consequences. That is our state of affairs today. And so it shall remain until a case or a series of cases has wound its way through the courts.
Commonsense and logic
Employment of manners in polite society, in most contexts, requires that we address others in the manner they choose. Most Americans feel this way. But the Constitution’s protection of free speech neither begins nor ends with good manners. It extends all the way from rudeness to meekness. The first Amendment protects those who hurl insults and those who would prefer to say nothing at all. Free means able to offend and stops with infliction of demonstrable harm.
When the state can compel the use of certain words, it can force those who differ into silence. At that point it becomes pernicious of our freedom. The state can then force its citizens to parrot beliefs they do not hold. That is an evil we should not tolerate.
Please understand; to the extent that the transgender movement seeks to promote compassion for those who struggle with their biological sex, we should be grateful for it. To the extent it seeks to use government power to regulate our perspectives, our thoughts, beliefs and our conscience; to the extent they are commanding that we ignore biology and common sense, we should resist it. They are wrong, if for no other reason than they infringe on the right to freedom of speech we all have.
This is not a small issue. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech so that political issues can be worked out in the public square. The activist Left doesn’t want that conversation to occur. They want to force the adoption of their conclusions before the argument even begins. Compelled speech is the tactic they’ve chosen. It’s unconstitutional. It’s undemocratic. And it’s wrong.
As a classic liberal there should be empathy for transsexuals but that should not be used as a weapon to infringe the free speech of all. If gender activists prevail, what may be left is a world we neither recognize nor like very much. We won’t be able to communicate our displeasure. Potentially we won’t be able to communicate about anything which might offend anyone. We will have lost control of our words, our thoughts and our freedom.