John Oliver’s HBO show frequently includes a segment called “How is This Still a Thing?” That same question occurs after reading Dr. David Ryden’s “My Take: Trading One Intolerance for Another” (Sentinel, Nov. 11).
Ryden wrote a recent column condemning The Sentinel for an article on a same-sex couple seeking to marry at a local farm that hosts weddings. He called the article “shoddy and simplistic” and attacked gay advocacy groups and individuals as seeking a “zero-sum, winner-take-all” solution and The Sentinel for biased reporting. To say that he is engaging in hyperbole would be an understatement.
The contention that the article lacks context assumes that such stories must always contain the full political and legal history of the issue at hand. Such content is clearly beyond the scope of this story. Further information is, of course, always available to interested readers, but is not always appropriate given the venue to which the writer is confined.
The assertion that the publishing of the story was a devious attempt to influence the Holland mayoral election is a stretch. It is apparently Ryden’s position that newspapers must not report on relevant current events if an election is looming. Would it not then be reasonable to take the position that not publishing could also be construed as editorial bias? Besides, the issue in the election was not non-discrimination in public access but rather in the areas of housing and employment, a related but significantly different and more profound matter.
Ryden further contends that The Sentinel did not give adequate coverage to the position of the farm owners with Ryden claiming that the article implied the owners would not allow the wedding to take place on their property at all. A re-reading of the article reveals this to be demonstrably false. Not only was the owners’ position clearly explained by the reporter, but the owners’ statement released to the press was reprinted in full.
Ryden praises the so-called Utah compromise, a non-discrimination law passed in Utah several years ago barring discrimination in employment and housing based on sexual orientation (the Mormon church conveniently carved out an exemption for itself and other “nonprofits”). Other forms of discrimination were left in place. His implication is apparently that if granted non-discrimination in housing and employment, LGBTQ citizens should do their part by enduring second-class treatment in the area of public accommodation.
Putting aside the idea that human rights are mere political chips to be bargained away in the course of everyday legislative wrangling, the title of Ryden’s piece implies there is a political and moral equivalency between the claims of the larger concerned parties — religious fundamentalists on the one hand and the LGBTQ community on the other.
In the former, we have a numerically dominant and politically powerful group demanding the right to relegate another sector of the population exempt from equal protection under the law, all under the aegis of “religious freedom” — a slippery concept as recently defined by its adherents that bears little resemblance to its use in the First Amendment.
On the other hand, we have a minority who have over centuries been subjected to both prosecution under religiously motivated law and persecution in the form of harassment, beatings and murder — a group whose innate characteristics have been speciously labeled as merely a “lifestyle” and most relevant here, a group that is in no way advocating denying equal protection under the law to the former.
The notion that these two groups have equal claims of being aggrieved is, again, a stretch.
To quote Rep. Sandra Hollins, a Utah state legislator on the aforementioned “compromise,” “I stand before you today disturbed that in  we have individuals in our community who are standing before us asking to be treated equally,” she said. “This is embarrassing.”
— Craig Piersma is a resident of Holland. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.