05/19/2015 10:35 am ET Updated May 19, 2016

The Return of the Jebi

I can't believe that I'm starting to become tired of writing about Jeb Bush, but it's actually getting to that point. My criticisms aren't because I don't like him -- in fact, as I've noted I find him among the most reasonable of likely GOP presidential contenders, though that standard isn't very high -- but he keeps giving interviews and saying incredibly stupid things. Almost at Ben Carson levels.

Over the weekend, the former Florida governor did it again. He gave an interview on the Christian Broadcast Network where he said that he believed that any Christian business owner should be allowed to not provide services for a gay wedding, if they feel that it is against their religion.

"Yes, absolutely, if it's based on a religious belief," he said, explaining that this distinction is what makes the matter non-discriminatory, since apparently in his minutely-narrow world and historic view, a religion, by virtue of being a religion, is unable to be intolerant of others. I do understand that this might conflict with his conservative base's view of Muslims, or with reality's view of the Inquisition, those are likely mere exceptions that just prove the rule,

"A big country, a tolerant country," Jeb Bush went on, "ought to be able to figure out the difference between discriminating someone because of their sexual orientation and not forcing someone to participate in a wedding that they find goes against their moral beliefs. This should not be that complicated. Gosh, it is right now."

Gosh, indeed. Just freaking gosh.

I must admit, though, there's something whimsical about contending that specifically because this is a tolerant country, people are therefore allowed to be intolerant ... I'm not sure if Lewis Carroll would have the imagination to use that inverted logic in Wonderland.

It's also worth noting that, despite Mr. Bush the younger's insistent to the contrary, the concept of catering a wedding is not remotely the same thing as "participating" in it. The bride, groom, best man, maid of honor, groomsmen, ushers, father of the bride, families and invited guests... they are "participating" in the wedding. The florist, bartender, photographer, and car valets? They're generally referred to hired employees. Such folk have to declare their wages on their W-2 forms. "Wedding participants," on the other hand, don't get paid for showing up. By custom, it's considered "an honor." Even by the IRS.

There's clearly so much wrong with what Mr. Bush is saying here, starting with that I suspect the Supreme Court and Constitution would disagree with him. What the Court decided in the Hobby Lobby case was something completely separate from what the former governor is suggesting. In that situation, the Court said a business couldn't be forced by a specific law to impose an action that goes against one's religious belief -- not that a business owned by someone with religious beliefs (which is probably at least 90% of all businesses) can decide what laws it will follow.

Additionally, this opens up the "What's good for the goose is good for the gander" Conundrum -- meaning that if Christians can decide what laws they'll follow if something goes against what they personally feel are personally their personal religious beliefs, that it follows so too can a Jew or Buddhist or Muslim or Hindu. Or Quaker, Taoist, Mormon, or Shinto. Or Druid, or whoever.

But let's even make this simpler and take it to its logical extreme. What determines what a religion is? The Encyclopedia of American Religions lists 1,584 religious organizations. What's to stay that you -- or anyone -- form your own religion and that in any of your business actions that are contrary to the law claim you're just following its religious precepts. Hey, sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard did with Scientology.

And why limit it to just business owners? By the Interpretive Law of Bush, it would seem that any person has the right to act in any way they want, so long as it's "based on a religious belief."

To suggest that any business can avoid providing protected sanctions or doing anything they want as long as it falls under the rubric of "religious belief" is a shockingly naive position for someone who seemingly wants to be a President of the United States -- president, it's worth clarifying, of all the people in the United States. Forget whether it's legal or not (obviously, that's an issue for the Supreme Court, though just as obviously, as far as I can tell they've already long-since decided it) -- but without even delving into matters of law, such a position is divisive and mean-spirited, and would appear to be a guideline for pure anarchy.

Perhaps next, we will hear from Mr. Bush the younger than he simply mis-interpreted the question. Again.

Then again, it's possible that he's mis-interpreted the position of president.


To read more from Robert J. Elisberg about this or many other matters both large and tidbit small, see Elisberg Industries.