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There is an op-ed in the Washington Post this morning by Apple CEO Tim Cook. It bears the heated title “Pro-discrimination ‘religious freedom’ laws are dangerous.” It’s a solemn warning of looming bias in America, the result of the spread of “religious liberty” legislation that will allow people to deny access and services to people on the spurious grounds of religious belief.

The opening sentence sets the tone: “There’s something very dangerous happening in states across the country.” Other phrases follow: “have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality”; “I was never taught, nor do I believe, that religion should be used as an excuse to discriminate.”

And, of course, there is the inevitable Selma analogy: “The days of segregation and discrimination marked by ‘Whites Only’ signs on shop doors, water fountains and restrooms must remain deep in our past.”

There is only one valid judgment to make of this statement: It is devious and manipulative from beginning to end.

The reason is simple: Cook does not quote a single word from any of the religious freedom laws he denounces. 

He judges them dangerous, regressive, pernicious, and duplicitous, but supplies no examples, no words.

If this were a paper in freshman English, it would be returned with a simple comment: “Do over and provide evidence.”

But it’s an op-ed in the nation’s capital, which raises the stakes and lowers the meaning of Cook’s statement to cheap propaganda. 

Mark Bauerlein is senior editor of First Things.

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