ACLU Belittles Believers as Wife Beaters

The resident seer, soothsayer, and sage of the ACLU of Louisiana warns of a coming wave of wife beatings in the bayou if Louisiana House Bill 707, the “Marriage and Conscience Act,” becomes law.

HB 707 would prevent the State from taking

“any adverse action against a person, wholly or partially, on the basis that such person acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction about the institution of marriage.”

Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, says that HB 707 could allow husbands to hit their wives, if the men claimed they thought they had a right to do so based on their definition of marriage. According to Julia O’Donoghue, writing for the Times-Picayune on April 10, Esman told her:

“He could say ‘It is my moral conviction that my spouse can submit to discipline from me.’ ... It basically dismantles the Louisiana legal system. The whole criminal code goes out the window.”

It could be said that Esman’s panicky prognostication dismantles serious legal argument from the Louisiana legal system.

Perchance Esman got hold of an Enigma machine and decoded a misogynist message hidden in the Apostle Paul’s admonition to Christian husbands:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her… In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”

For two thousand years women ‘round the world have been singing, “Someday he’ll come along, the man I love...”

Back in the bayou, there’s nothing in HB 707 that remotely provides a defense to a husband hitting his wife under the pretext of his “definition of marriage.”

HB 707 defines “adverse action” to include: denying or revoking state tax exemption, disallowing tax deductions for charitable donations, denying or excluding a person from receiving any state grant, contract, cooperative agreement, loan, professional license, certification, accreditation, employment, or other similar position or status; denying or withholding any benefit under a state benefit program; otherwise discriminating against or disadvantaging a person because of religious or moral conviction about marriage.

It also allows a person to assert an actual or threatened violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain compensatory damages, injunctive relief, declaratory relief, or any other appropriate relief against this state.

Basically, HB 707 protects people with religious and moral convictions about marriage from “adverse action” by the state if they refuse to compromise their beliefs, such as: a florist in Washington facing loss of her business, bank accounts, and home; a photographer in New Mexico; a baker in Oregon; another baker in Colorado, and a pizzeria owner in Indiana who declined to provide their services for same-sex ceremonies because it would violate their religious beliefs.

Esman and the ACLU of Louisiana claim to support “freedom of religion” and “individual conscience”:

“The goal of the ACLU's work on freedom of religion and belief is to guarantee that all are free to follow and practice their faith -- or no faith at all – without governmental influence or interference. The ACLU promotes religious freedom and works to ensure that government neither prefers religion over non-religion nor favors particular faiths over others. At the same time, we act to protect the equally important and related constitutional right to exercise and express religious beliefs and individual conscience.”

Esman should answer these questions:

  • Did the Louisiana constitutional right to exercise and express religious beliefs and individual conscience “dismantle[d] the Louisiana legal system”? Maybe it’s just been underreported.
  • Did the whole criminal code go “out the window” when Louisiana’s Constitution was approved in 1812?
  • Is there any case in Louisiana in which a defendant has successfully pled a “constitutional right to exercise and express religious beliefs and individual conscience” as a defense to hitting his wife?
  • On what basis are you claiming that a statute protecting “religious belief or moral conviction about the institution of marriage” would provide a successful defense?
  • If you actually believe that HB 707 will lead men to commit domestic violence, why aren’t you equally concerned that wives will start battering husbands?

Domestic violence against men is a serious matter, see here, here, here, and here, despite the laugh track prominent in situation comedies, in which women commonly slap, pinch, kick, and shove men.

Funny how Esman claims that HB 707 will be used as a defense to wife abuse, but she isn’t concerned that the right to privacy, for which the ACLU zealously advocates, could be used for the same lame defense.

Apparently Esman hasn’t deduced that HB 707 would prevent Louisiana from revoking the ACLU’s state tax-exempt status or disallowing its tax deductible donations because of its “moral conviction” in support of same-sex “marriage.”

Esman should stand by the ACLU’s “guarantee that all are free to follow and practice their faith… without governmental influence or interference” or add a disclaimer to the ACLU website: “Guarantee is void if we object.”

Jan LaRue is senior legal analyst with the American Civil Rights Union.