A new column, “Canadian Crackdown,” by Michael Coren, at National Review shows where the U.S. may be headed if same-sex marriage is legalized throughout the country or if the Supreme Court declares same-sex marriage to be a constitutional right.
Just last week, in fact, a New Mexico appellate court ruled against a photographer who had declined to take the commitment ceremony photos for a same-sex couple. The photographer was appealing a decision of the New Mexico Human Rights Commission that had required her to pay the couple $6,000 for legal costs. (See “Eviscerating Religious Liberty in New Mexico” for additional information and links on this case.)
In Hillsdale College’s Constitution 101 (a free course I just completed and that everyone should consider taking), one of the lectures is on the founders’ concerns about how to guard against majority tyranny, a definite danger in a democratic republic.
While the founders were right to be concerned about majority tyranny, in America today the much greater threat is minority tyranny.
We see this in the case of same-sex marriage, for example, where homosexuals, who comprise only a small percentage of the U.S. population — probably five percent or less — nevertheless are becoming more and more successful — as the above case (one of several I could name) illustrates — in imposing legal and other sanctions against those who disagree with them.
Another case of tyranny by the minority is occurring in a rural county near where I live. In this case, a single student’s complaint forced a local high school — against the wishes of most county residents — to remove a copy of the Ten Commandments that had been hanging on a wall at the school since shortly after the Columbine shootings.
In a democratic country like the U.S., tyranny by majority is an ever present danger. But while we seem well aware of that potential danger, we seem far less aware of the dangers of tyranny by minority.
In Exodus 23:2-3, Moses instructs the Israelites to not “pervert justice by siding with the crowd [in a lawsuit], and [to] not show favoritism to a poor man in his lawsuit” (NIV). Without doing injustice to the text, I think we could find good advice for the problems of both majority and minority tyranny by substituting “majority” for “crowd” and “minority” for “poor man.” As with the crowd and the poor man, neither the majority nor the minority should automatically be favored by the law.
Such favor can result in a form of tyranny and tyranny — whether instituted by the majority or the minority — is wrong. Both marjority and minority tyranny are equally dangerous, equally ugly, and equally to be avoided.