Who’s More Scared of Free Speech? Baltimore Friends School, Or The N.Y. Times?

Who’s More Scared of Free Speech? Baltimore Friends School, Or The N.Y. Times?

[A Clue: It’s NOT the Times.]

Yesterday the New York Times ran an op-ed piece by one Ryan Anderson, titled, “We Don’t Need Kim Davis to Be in Jail.”

Three quick points about it; then we’ll get to BFS:BFS-Logo

  1. Anderson is the main apparatchik still beating the dead horse of opposition to same sex marriage for the rightwing Heritage Foundation. He’s also a handsome, well-spoken, Ivy-league Millennial — and a proud grad of the 231-year old Baltimore Friends School.
  2. His piece urged state or federal officials to create an exemption for Kim Davis, who is just out of jail. Davis, you will recall, is Clerk of Rowan County in Kentucky, who has refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. Her defiance of federal court orders upholding her duty to do so, since the Supreme Court same sex marriage decision in June, landed her behind bars last week. (But you probably knew that.)

Anderson wrote, in part:

Because each marriage license issued by the clerk’s office bore her name and title, Ms. Davis concluded that her religious beliefs meant she could not have her office issue licenses to same-sex couples. So she had the office stop issuing them entirely.

Ms. Davis felt she had to follow her conscience. And whether or not we share her Christian faith, and its particular positions about issuing civil marriage licenses, is beside the point.

. . . Federal anti-discrimination law requires a reasonable accommodation of religious belief where it does not place undue hardships on the employer. . . . So it was incumbent upon the government to try to work out a solution. Ms. Davis wasn’t trying to prevent same-sex couples from getting marriage licenses at all; she just didn’t want her name or title on the paperwork. . . .

Perhaps a similar solution could be found in Kentucky, by removing an individual clerk’s name and title from a marriage license. 

3. I’m half-persuaded by his argument. Why not change the form to remove Davis’s name, and identify only the Rowan County Clerk’s office as the official issuer? 

Why keep the office on the form? It’s a matter of “ownership.”  Davis’s conscience is her own; no human authority gets to dictate what it says. Her name is also her own. She and Ryan Anderson are right about that.

But not the County Clerk’s office: she doesn’t “own” that; no way.  It belongs to the people of Kentucky; and even though Kim Davis’s mother held the same post for a long time, neither of them inherited it as a family heirloom. They were elected to it, for a specified term.

The County clerk’s office in Kentucky issues marriage licenses; so to be legal, that office’s name and certification need to be on them. But the specific Clerk’s name? Maybe not; the state could let one of her assistants sign it. As Ryan points out:

“The state already amended licenses from “Bride” and “Groom” to “Party 1” and “Party 2.” Why not make another change?”

Another change is worth considering.  Would she accept an office-yes, skip-your-name option? Would Anderson? Interesting questions.

But minor ones. Ryan Anderson’s piece is not a big deal. Kim Davis can get out of jail whenever she wants, by complying with the law as it applies to to her job, or working out some sort of accommodation deal that is still compliant. Either way, her conscience is still her own, and the office is not. And same sex marriage is legal, in Rowan County Kentucky, and the USA. 

Ryan Anderson, right-winger to watch.

BREAKING: Tuesday afternoon a federal judge ordered Davis to be released, but also ordered her not to interfere with clerks in her office who are issuing licenses for same sex marriages. So something like this “accommodation” may be about to happen; or at least there will be a media frenzy. Son we’ll find out of Davis will abide by the latest “non-interference” order.

Now, about Baltimore Friends School. 

In April, Ryan Anderson was featured in a profile piece in the Washington Post [“The right finds a fresh voice on same-sex marriage”, said the headline]. In it he touted his argument that the Supreme Court should leave same sex marriage to the states. 

The piece was articulate — but in vain of course, as far as the  court went. Nevertheless it was a great brand-builder for Anderson as a conservative comer: if/when right-wingers occupy the White House again, watch for him to pop up in some highly visible post.

It also mentioned the Baltimore Friends School, which Anderson praised. Good publicity for the school, right? In the Washington Post? Of course. So Matt Micciche, the school head, posted a link to it on the BFS Facebook page.

For a few hours.
Then Micciche deleted it and put in its place an abject, cringing apology, extensively excerpted in our earlier post.

The apology itself was embarrassing enough; but what made this reversal worse was that the BFS website also trumpets an educational philosophy that poses as being fearless in facing tough, controversial issues:

Quaker education is a pilgrimage–a continual seeking after Truth. The search for truth requires a willingness to listen openly to the ideas of others, even in fields of controversy.”

BFS Head Mark Micciche.

 Except they were not about “to listen openly to” THIS controversy:

“At Friends, we work together to build and sustain a community that is inclusive, respectful, and supportive of all people; we value diversity and cherish differences.” With this ideal in mind, the celebration of divergent viewpoints is not, and cannot be, without boundaries.” 

And linking to an article in which Anderson argued for leaving same sex marriage decisions to the states was, he determined, beyond the boundary; it was evidently in the same league with organizing a lynch mob or shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

Oy vey. There’s no blinking it: 

The BFS head’s actions and statements were incoherent, anti-intellectual, cowardly, and un-Quakerly. If this sounds harsh, so be it. Right-wing blogs and pundits had a field day, and who could blame them? “Friends, This Is Not Tolerance” crowed the National Review. Micciche deleted his apology; a right-wing blogger reposted it.

The NY Times Op-Ed piece yesterday proves how lame the BFS panicked response was. Anderson’s anti-same sex marriage crusade has gone down in ignominious defeat. He’s reduced to haggling over photocopied signatures on a marriage license in one Kentucky County (out of 3100+ in the U.S.). The Times piece again burnished his conservative-comer brand, but beyond that was no big deal. 

I’ve sent Matt Micciche an email asking if BFS plans to make any use of this new BFS alum’s article, in the most prestigious national newspaper. If there’s any reply, watch for updates.

Meantime, I hope he’s taking some time today to ponder the BFS philosophy which was so humiliatingly dumped the last time around. Because the philosophy is a good one. And another occasion to put up or shut up about it is sure to come.

Besides, he & BFS have brands to burnish too; and Friends, they still need it.


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