Tasseography

Originally I was thinking that this blog would just be an archive of previously published works of mine, from various fields, but I’ve decided that it’s also going to be a place for me to comment on my thoughts on things in the world of politics, religion, science, or whatever fields that don’t make sense for the content of my food, wine and travel blog, SaltShaker. Away we go, with a doozy to start off with.

Tasseography is fortune telling from the reading of tea leaves in cups. I was looking for some sort of cynical connection to the Stanley and Davis Cups from the sports world, some sort of metaphor, that connects to the current brouhahas over “double standards”, or not, in our political and legal system. But nothing occurred to me, so, on to the meat of the matter.

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We’ve all read and been following the Kim Davis debacle, the county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples because of her Christian religious beliefs. And now, we’re starting to hear about Charee Stanley, a Muslim woman who is (or was, at this point) a flight attendant who refuses to serve alcohol as part of her duties. The left is gleeful because it feeds into the predictable narrative of the slippery slope that the Kim Davis mess was going to lead to, no matter the claims from the right that “it would never happen”. And the right is up in arms because the left is gleeful, and because a Muslim woman is being treated different from a Christian woman, and therefore, “discrimination against Christians” and/or “Sharia Law is coming to America (because, Obama).”

But there are blatant differences between the two cases that make them stand apart. And there’s no “double standard” as many are quick to claim – at least not so far.

Kim Davis was an elected official, who swore an oath to uphold the laws of the State of Kentucky and the Constitution of the United States. She refused to do so, even when her direct superiors, not liberals by any stretch, ordered her to. Some are claiming that her duties changed, and therefore she hadn’t agreed to what she was being asked to do. There’s some edge of validity to that, but, the duties of her office were to issue marriage licenses, not to decide, based on her personal beliefs, the rightness of those marriages, and nothing actually changed in her duties – she wasn’t asked to sanction gay marriage any more than she was asked to sanction divorce, adultery, interracial couples, or interfaith couples (all things that violate her faith when it comes down to it), just to issue the licenses. She took the legal route, something that she was totally entitled to do, and exhausted it, right up to the U.S. Supreme Court, not a bastion of liberality these days. And she still refused to comply. She was arrested (not by some jackbooted federales, but by her employer, the State of Kentucky). Not for being Christian, not for being conservative, but quite simply, for violating her oath of office, the laws of her state, and the Constitution of the United States. In our country, she has every right to be a bigot, which let’s face it, she is, albeit cloaked in religious rhetoric, but that comes with consequences. I might be more sympathetic if she used the same standards to apply to other situations that equally, or more so, violate her faith – such as had she refused to issue marriage licenses to divorced people, or if she hadn’t herself committed adultery, and been divorced and remarried three times. Actions speak louder than words.

Charee Stanley is an employee of a private corporation. She’s a relatively recent convert to Islam. Yes, part of the duties of being a flight attendant are to serve alcohol to customers – though that’s not a right guaranteed by either law or the Constitution. And, she made arrangements when she converted to Islam (after having already been an employee for a couple of years) to be exempt from doing so – her employer, ExpressJet, agreed to have other employees handle alcohol service so that she wouldn’t have to. Whether that was a legally binding agreement remains to be seen… in court. There’s also no bigotry against those who drink alcohol in her case – she wasn’t attempting to have alcohol service terminated on flights, simply to not have to handle alcohol herself. However, after nearly a year of that arrangement, a fellow employee complained about the situation and her employers decided it put them in an untenable position, because the logistics, given that they’re a small company, didn’t always work out. They approached her about having to serve alcohol, she again declined, citing both her religious beliefs and that she had an agreement with them exempting her from violating those beliefs. They placed her on suspension. She’s suing for lost wages based on them rescinding an agreement that she feels was legally binding. And, just as I support Kim Davis’ right to have made use of the legal system in her fight, Charee Stanley has the same right. She gets to go through the legal process – and we’ll see where it ends up. She’s not getting special treatment because no one wants to offend Muslims, and she doesn’t lose her right to avail herself of the legal system just because she’s not Christian, she’s going through the same process (albeit in local civil court) that Davis did. She’s not asking for a Sharia court. She may prevail, she may not, either way, she’s no longer in her employment position. Just like Davis, though by a different method, she was removed from it. There are simply no facts on which to call “foul” on some sort of treatment double standard.

It’s also worth noting that, given that the cases are proceeding in different states, they are subject to differently written “religious freedom” laws. Kentucky courts and Michigan courts, as ought to be championed by those who feel that the federal government has overreached and that states’ rights should be in play here, may come to different decisions. And that, too, is part of our legal system.

Now, as to the “but Kim Davis was arrested and nothing happened to Charee Stanley” claims of double standards. It’s disingenuous. Let’s look at both. Why was Kim Davis arrested rather than just suspended or fired? Because she’s an elected public official – she can’t be suspended or fired. The choices are two – call for a special election or impeachment. The former is a useless gesture – in the county in which she works, the likelihood is she’d just get re-elected and nothing would be accomplished. Just because the people in her county support her doesn’t mean she gets to violate a Supreme Court ruling – it simply doesn’t work that way. So impeachment. In order to impeach her, they, her employers, the state of Kentucky, have to show criminal dereliction of her duties, or at least some other felony. In order to do that, she had to be arrested and prosecuted, and, no doubt, she’ll be convicted by a judge, because no county or state judge is going to want to go up against the Supreme Court [edit: actually, I think her case is going to be heard in a US District court, which is federal, so virtually assured that she’ll be found guilty]. Then, bet your last dollar, impeachment proceedings will start within 24 hours. Smart lawyers for the State.

As to Charee Stanley, her employer also did exactly what works best within the legal system. There were no grounds for arresting her – she didn’t violate a law, all she did was refuse to do something her employer demanded of her. Thousands of employees across the country do that on a monthly basis. The choices were basically three – let it go and let her continue to not serve alcohol, or fire, or suspend her. Obviously they didn’t want to go with the first or this never would have reached this point. If they’d have fired her, she would have sued for wrongful termination based on religion – and likely, she’d have won, because the burden of proof would mostly land on her employers, and it would have been heard in a federal rather than state court. So they suspended her, depriving her of the option of suing for wrongful termination on religious grounds, which is protected by federal law. Instead, all she can do is sue for lost wages in state court, claiming that she had a verbal contract which honored her religious beliefs. But she’s going to have to prove that. Smart lawyers for ExpressJet.

The glee from the left is ridiculous – mostly because it’s unproductive, it actually does betray an anti-Christian prejudice (at least towards the more fundamentalist Christians), and does nothing other than rile people up – but mostly because the situation is simply different. And it’s unresolved in our legal system, and it will be interesting to see what ruling the Michigan courts, generally fairly conservative, make.

The hue and cry from the right is just political rhetoric from, mostly, hate-spewing, generally racist folk who’ve become convinced that our country is on some sort of downward spiral (caused by the black muslim fake american in the white house… yada yada) rather than simply being at one point in the pendulum of political thought that has swung back and forth throughout our history.

At this point we’ll have to wait and see what sort of court ruling Stanley’s (and down the road, probably Davis’) case engenders, at which point, who knows? There may be something to squawk about then, from one or the other or both sides of the political spectrum.

[Update, November 10, 2015 – Interestingly, and I suppose not surprisingly, Charee Stanley has completely disappeared from the news, I can’t find an online mention of her since mid-September, while Kim Davis, though a bit more background, continues to show up in news stories. A short-lived kerfuffle.]

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