Saturday, July 4, 2015

When Law is Based on Logical Fallacies: Christian Bakeries and Begging the Question

After Obergefell, we all knew this was going to happen but we hoped it wouldn’t. An Oregon bakery who refused to provide a “wedding” cake back in 2013 for a lesbian couple because of a religious belief was fined $135,000. The basis of this decision is that the couple who runs the bakery “unlawfully discriminated” against the plaintiffs. Reading the articles on the topic and the comments down below said articles, the widespread belief is that the bakery deliberately discriminated against the couple on account of their sexual orientation. So, that is the assertion to be proven.

The problem is, nobody attempts to prove the charge that discrimination and bigotry were the motive—the fact that the Kleins opposed "same sex marriage" is seen of proof of bigotry. Any other possible motive such as Christian moral ethics is automatically rolled back into the original charge of discrimination. The only way that one can avoid being guilty of bigotry in the eyes of the law and the media is to support “same sex marriage."

I imagine Aristotle would be appalled. What the government is operating under is nothing more than the begging the question fallacy. A principle is assumed to be true when it actually needs to be proven. Thus whatever action is done, it is assumed (but not proven) to be done on account of that principle. Aristotle put it this way:

[W]henever a man tries to prove what is not self-evident by means of itself, then he begs the original question. This may be done by assuming what is in question at once; it is also possible to make a transition to [40] other things which would naturally be proved through the [65a] thesis proposed, and demonstrate it through them, e.g. if A should be proved through B, and B through C, though it was natural that C should be proved through A: for it turns out that those who reason thus are proving A by means of itself. This is what those persons do who suppose [5] that they are constructing parallel straight lines: for they fail to see that they are assuming facts which it is impossible to demonstrate unless the parallels exist. So it turns out that those who reason thus merely say a particular thing is, if it is: in this way everything will be self-evident. But that is impossible.


[Aristotle, “ANALYTICA PRIORA,” (64.2.25–65.1.9) in The Works of Aristotle, ed. W. D. Ross, trans. A. J. Jenkinson, vol. 1 (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1928).]

In other words, with all the cases that allege “discrimination” against same-sex couples, these cases assume facts that have not been proven and all the examples cited as “proof” depend on the claim being proven true—which it has not been. In other words, instead of our legal tradition of “innocent until proven guilty,” this begging the question stands it on its head, making the Christian business owner “guilty until proven innocent."

What is happening here is very much akin to what St. Justin Martyr spoke against in the 2nd century AD:

For from a name neither praise nor punishment could reasonably spring, unless something excellent or base in action be proved. And those among yourselves who are accused you do not punish before they are convicted; but in our case you receive the name as proof against us, and this although, so far as the name goes, you ought rather to punish our accusers. For we are accused of being Christians, and to hate what is excellent (Chrestian) is unjust. Again, if any of the accused deny the name, and say that he is not a Christian, you acquit him, as having no evidence against him as a wrong-doer; but if any one acknowledge that he is a Christian, you punish him on account of this acknowledgment. (First Apology, Chapter IV).

Like 2nd century Rome, people assume from the fact that a person believes that a marriage can only be between one man and one woman as “proof” of his being a bigot without investigating into his motive for acting. Let’s restate that to show the injustice: Instead of investigating each individual accused to see if charges of wrongdoing are valid, the Christian is presumed to be guilty. Like 2nd century Rome, we have made Christian belief a crime where the only defense is to renounce that Christian belief. In effect we have a situation here which is remarkably similar to Ancient Rome—where those who refuse to follow edicts they believe to be morally wrong can be punished for doing so in spite of the fact that the Constitution recognizes freedom of religion as a right the government cannot violate.

Even an anti-Christian should recognize this: once we accept this as a valid tactic to use against those we dislike, it becomes easy for others to use it as a tactic against their enemies, using the same fallacy and the same injustice, unless one rejects expedience and requires judgments to be based on justice—instead of using the legal system and bureaucrats to punish those who are unpopular.

This is the danger of making begging the question into a precedent to judge Christians who say “I will not do what goes against my obligation to know, love and serve God.” If you will not listen to our moral objections, then at least behave rationally and realize that justice must be based on proving intolerance in each case and not merely assume that the belief is based on intolerance.

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