"Religious Right Cheers a Bill Allowing Refusal to Serve Gays."
Thus did the New York Times' headline, leaving no doubt as to who the black hats are, describe the proposed Arizona law to permit businesses, on religious grounds, to deny service to same-sex couples.
Examples of intolerance provided by the Times:
"In New Mexico, a photographer declined to take pictures of a lesbian couples' commitment ceremony. In Washington State, a florist would not provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. And in Colorado, a baker refused to make a cake for a party celebrating the wedding of two men."
The question Gov. Jan Brewer faced?
Should Christians, Muslims, Mormons who refuse, on religious grounds, to serve same-sex couples -- that photographer, that florist, that baker, for example -- be treated as criminals?
Or should Arizona leave them alone?
"Religious freedom," said Daniel Mach of the ACLU to the Times, is "not a blank check to ... impose our faith on our neighbors."
True. But who is imposing whose beliefs here? The baker who says he's not making your wedding cake? Or those who want Arizona law to declare that either he provides that wedding cake and those flowers for that same-sex ceremony, or we see to it that he is arrested, prosecuted and put out of business? Who is imposing his views and values here?
What we are seeing in Arizona in microcosm is what we have witnessed in America for half a century: the growing intolerance of those who preach tolerance and the corruption of the concept of civil rights.
We have seen the progression before.
In 1954, the Supreme Court declared that segregation in public schools was wrong and every black child must be allowed to attend his or her neighborhood school. By 1968, the court was demanding that white children be forcibly bussed across entire cities to insure an arbitrary racial balance.
Under the civil rights acts of the 1960s, businesses were told that in hiring, promotion, pay, and benefits, black and white, men and women must be treated alike. Equality of opportunity.
But, soon, that was no longer enough. We needed equality of result.
Corporations were ordered to maintain extensive records of the race, gender, ethnicity and sexual preferences of their entire work force to prove they were not guilty of discrimination.
And if your work force is insufficiently diverse today, you are a citizen under suspicion in a country we used to call the Land of the Free.
Consider how far we have come.
Virtually all decisions to hire, fire, promote or punish employees, to oversee the sale and rental of housing, to ensure that all minorities have access to all restaurants, hotels and motels, are under the jurisdiction of these minions who are right out of Orwell's "1984."
Scores of thousands of bureaucrats -- academic, corporate, government --are on watch, overseeing our economy, patrolling our society, monitoring our behavior.
A radical idea: Suppose we repealed the civil rights laws and fired all the bureaucrats enforcing these laws.
Does anyone think hotels, motels and restaurants across Dixie, from D.C. to Texas, would stop serving black customers? Does anyone think there would again be signs sprouting up reading "whites" and "colored" on drinking foundations and restrooms?
Does anyone think restrictive covenants against Jews would be rewritten into contracts on houses? Does anything think that bars and hotels would stop serving blacks and Hispanics?
Why do we need this vast army of bureaucrats? They exist to validate the slander that America is a racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic country which would revert to massive discrimination were it not for heroic progressives standing guard.
And, indeed, some bigots might revert to type. But so what? Cannot a free people deal with social misconduct with social sanctions? And isn't this what freedom is all about?
As for the Christians of Arizona and same-sex unions in Arizona, if they don't like each other, can they not just avoid each other? After all, it's a big state.
Last year, the Supreme Court struck down the preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Yet, somehow, Mississippi still has more black elected officials than any other state.
If the conditions that called for the laws of the 1960s have ceased to exist, why do those laws still exist?
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of "Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?" To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.