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Wisconsin, 1954

November 22, 2013 - Harry Eagar
Hawaii has a reputation as a liberal state, although it is hard to understand why, with its loyalty oaths and red witch hunts. Same for Wisconsin, which in 1954 -- at the height of local boy Joe McCarthy's sway -- passed a tax exemption for "ministers of the gospel."

It was the sort of insular, backward, ignorant, arrogant Christian backscratching that I, as a Southerner, came to regard as the fundamental weakness of American democracy.

It took long enough, but finally someone challenged the law on First Amendment grounds. Amazingly, the defendants chose to fight, demonstrating that Wisconsin, or substantial parts of it, are as insular, backward, ignorant and arrogant -- and antidemocratic -- as ever they were in Joe McCarthy's prime.

They didn't get very far.

A federal judge took the unusual step of delivering summary judgment for the plaintiffs when they hadn't even asked for it. The issue was -- to him and me too -- that clearcut.

A small but perhaps portentous victory for the religious freedom which is under such heavy attack nowadays.

Cue the outrage of the bigots. It is clear that District Judge Barbara Crabb knows a storm is rising. Very early in her opinion, she writes, "equality should never be mistaken for hostility."

I agree completely but we just had five days of raucous evidence that Christians in Hawaii, or a large number of them, don't get it, during the marriage legislation.


Article Comments



Nov-24-13 1:50 AM

Equality should never be mistaken for hostility


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