Cory (05.20.14, 12:51 PM): The good news to all of this is - Ben Carson for President.

Michael Andrew (05.18.14, 8:51 PM): We can respectfully agree to disagree. There is more to the NM case for those who are not aware. The photographer cited her business as a 1st Amendment right, freedom of creative expression and a right to deny creating work with which she disagreed. The customer, instead of taking her business elsewhere (which she should have) decided to use the courts to punish this photographer, and essentially use the law to say "you must be willing to artistically create something with which you disagree." That doesn't feel right. People should be free to artistic expression, not dictated by law. Lastly, I do not believe that simply because a law exists it is fair or good, so the basis of what is legal and what is morally fair/correct is debatable. I think the Ct. gun law that was just passed is a good example of this, long time gun owners were given a deadline to register their firearms and failure to do so makes them felons. Totally wacky. Any I appreciate your respectful and truth seeking style, hard to find these days! You can post your opinion here anytime.

Dave S. (05.18.14, 7:12 PM): @MichealAndrew - I think we both deserve a pat on the back for the civility of our discourse! :) You're asking hard questions and I'm certainly not going to claim to have all the answers. Why is it OK to punish one man for is beliefs and not another - it depends on how society views those beliefs. If I say something vile and racist, I can expect to be shouted down. Shouldn't the consequences be the same for everyone, minority or not. Yes. They should. Were the playing field level there would be no need for anti-discrimination laws, but there is a need for them. The playing field isn't level. Black men are convicted at much higher rates than white men for the same crime. Gay teens commit suicide at 3 - 4 times the national average. In 22 states you can be fired and denied housing for being gay. So when players that mocked Sams get a rap on the knuckles and players that mocked Tebow don't, I can understand why. It may not be fair, but life just isn't. I think we're moving in the right direction though. The case of the New Mexico photographer is a bad example for your argument I think. New Mexico law doesn't allow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The photographer violated that law. If they'd lived here in Georgia - they would've been fine, but in New Mexico that's a no-no. Personal beliefs aren't a shield against following the law. Never have been. If the people of New Mexico want to change the law they can, but that's not going to happen. Well I guess that's my answer, flawed as it is. Thanks for keeping from cleaning the house today!! :) I appreciate the exchange of ideas! Good light and Happy Shooting!! Dave

Michael Andrew (05.18.14, 2:12 PM): @Dave S- We agree on many things, but you have steered clear from answering my direct questions: 1. Why is it ok for one man to punished for his beliefs (in a public venue) and not another? 2. Why, in your opinion, should it be ok to treat men unequally based on whether they are part of the minority or not? Hence the original post. I also hear you saying that it is ok for consequences to apply to some, but not others. What I am saying is, that if there are consequences for one, there should be consequences for all. Not this selective, "it depends" - this is exactly my point. Furthermore, the government HAS stepped in to punish people for their personal beliefs and freedom of expressions. Look at the New Mexico Photographers who lost a ruling about not wanting to shoot a gay couple's wedding, or the fact that Obamacare seeks to force those who are against abortion to pay for it through these new taxes. This isn't even getting into the IRS and Tea Party 5301(c)s. Anyway, I see your position, I do not agree with your key points in regards to my original question, but thank you for attempting to explain anyway- I appreciate it. (And will not ridicule you for believing the way you do). PS- there were no consequences to the threats on Romney's life, which is alarming because at the time, he was under the protection of the Secret Service.

Dave S. (05.18.14, 1:21 PM): @MichaelAndrew - A couple of things right off the bat - advocating murder is NEVER acceptable. Threats of violence should be treated as the serious law enforcement issue that they are. Always. I think we can agree that's not a first amendment issue. Secondly, the first amendment does not protect anyone from being mocked, fired, pilloried on twitter, disowned by your family, laughed at in church, satirized in the media or anything else. (except threats, libel, or slander and the latter 2 have difficulty getting traction in courts). The Westboro case surely proves this is the case. No matter how repellant your views, your right to hold them and express them CAN NOT be infringed upon by the government. You can't be arrested, fined by the government, thrown in jail, or deported. That's it! That's all it does. Nothing more. Full stop. But as a society and a culture our views evolve and change over time. And that's why it depends. Telling a racist joke was perfectly acceptable in years past, but not now. Your right to tell such a joke is as immutable as ever, it's just the societal consequences have changed. Is that a 'brutal attack through varying forms of intimidation'? Our culture takes a dim view of racism and increasingly of homophobia, so that speech reaps more consequences in our society than in the past. Many in society also take the view that Tebow and Romney - as white, straight rich guys - seem to be doing ok for themselves depsite some lumps in the media and on Twitter. Going after them will get you little more than a 'meh'. They aren't viewed as a persecuted class and claiming persecution doesn't make it so. The first amendment is fine. It's not under attack and you're free to say and believe and say whatever you like. You're not free from the consequences of your speech, though. And those consequences will change depending on society's changes. "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice" = MLK

Michael Andrew (05.17.14, 9:03 PM): @Dave S- Im not sure I am following your logic. Help me understand, are you saying that it is ok for a person to be mocked for their beliefs if they are part of the majority, and that those with minority beliefs are untouchable? That doesn't make sense. If all men are created equal, shouldn't all men have equal rights? What I hear you saying is "it depends". There are numerous examples of Tebow's faith being mocked both on and off the field, they are easy to find and ubiquitous. Mitt Romney was absolutely destroyed on twitter for his beliefs by many including athletes, celebrities and those advocating his murder. Are you saying this is ok because he is a Mormon or because he is a white male? While I do not share the beliefs of those who are attacked in the media, I also believe they have a equal right to those beliefs, whatever they are and should not be punished for them as long as they are not harming or trying to force or intimidate them on others. If it is not ok for Michael Sam to be attacked for his beliefs, it should not be ok for Tim Tebow for his. The Sam-Tebow example is only one of many, but what I am afraid we are seeing now is that the 1st Amendment is under a brutal attack through varying forms of intimidation.

Dave S. (05.16.14, 11:06 PM): @MichaelAndrew - Thanks for the response! I've had trouble finding instances where (then) current NFL players openly mocked Tebow's faith during the time he was playing pro ball. The exception being Stephan Tullock of the Detroit Lions. I might well have been unable to find more under the deluge of links to Christian and other right leaning sites that decry the imbalance of coverage between Sams and Tebow. I think you could make the case that there is hypocrisy involved, but I'm not comfortable going quite that far. Christianity has such a vast majority in the US that any penalities for criticizing it would smack of 'blasphemy laws' to me. Historically - the majority doesn't need protections from the minority - it's most always the other way around. Tebow was not in the minority when he made the NFL, whereas Sams is the first openly gay NFL player. Does that give him more cover from attacks (and Tim Tebow less) - yes, especially in the current climate. Should it? My answer is yes, but you may have good arguments to the contrary. (I've been known to be wrong once or twice before. OK - three times. ;) ) Here's a link that is only slightly more wordy than my answer. I agree with most of it's points.

Thomas Zakowski (05.16.14, 8:17 AM): At the core of all the conflicts of the world is thinking. thinking we need to comply, or be politically correct, or follow rules ( someone else made up) The troubles start when people forget that we made it all up in the first place. So instead of knowing we are already whole healthy, complete, wise and loving beings, we create conflicts like war, crime, violence, and all the byproducts over nothing more than a mind made illusion made of thought.

Michael Andrew (05.15.14, 4:04 PM): @Dave S- I appreciate the comment. So as an example, Tim Tebow was ridiculed and mocked by several other NFL players for his religious beliefs, repeatedly. Why were no fines or suspensions handed out to those players? What in your view does not make this a double standard?

Dave S. (05.15.14, 11:52 AM): I think my problem here comes from the use of the word 'punishment' and 'discrimination'. Free speech is just that. You are free to state your opinion/views/beliefs without threat of retribution from the state. (obviously - threatening speech - or screaming 'fire' - as you pointed out - aren't covered). It does not mean you are free from the consequences of that speech. If I call my boss an a**hole - I'll be fired, but my right to free speech has not been abridged. I won't be imprisoned or fined by the government for this statement, though I might well suffer the consequences of it. When employers, or stockholders, or customers, or even the general public say "Hey! I disagree!" - that is free speech as well. It's not discrimination to refuse to purchase goods from a person whose views I find repugnant. I have that freedom. As do you. Boycotts are free speech. Companies that fire their CEO because of bad press (related to the sharing of personal opinions) - that's free speech too. In the marketplace of ideas everyone can contribute. If you have some bad ideas - you are free to share them. If others (including employers or customers) disagree it's not punishment, it's the consequence of free speech. If you want to argue that we should be tolerant of the intolerance of others - I'm going to have to disagree. In a pluralistic society we continue to learn that regardless of race, sex, creed, sexual orientation - everyone has value and a contribution to make. If someone wants to harbor personal beliefs to the contrary they are free to do so. They're free to share them all they want. But when others disagree, don't forget - it is not punishment or discrimination - it's free speech too!

Cory (05.14.14, 6:21 AM): There's a guy in Washington somewhere in a basement cubicle that thinks of concepts (often not true) that pull at the heartstrings of many with the sole purpose of gaining political favor. This works since the masses are, for some reason, incapable of critical thought. There's stem-cell research (a particularly incidious one that's come and gone), global warming, tons of others and now the current one is the gay lifestyle. That one, too, will come and go and we declare the war on global cooling. It's all founded on political nonsense and the faulty concepts of tolerance and equality. We're already all equal so we really don't need to be made that way and tolerance implies that there's something inferior that needs to be tolerated which implies that we're not equal when, in fact, we are. The solution to all of this is to ship most politicians and lawyers to Cuba.

Gary Robertson (05.13.14, 11:10 PM): Mike, You raise a very serious and relevant question about beliefs. If you notice that through to course of history of this planet any civilization that tried and did limit free speech turned into a dictatorship and is no longer in existance. This country was founded on certain fundamental precepts that are outlined and guaranteed by our Constitution of the United States. In a nut shell if we would follow those well defined rights all would be well . Remember the saying when we were in grade school that words would never hurt me. If we are that sensitive about what people say about us we are the ones with the problem. We need to keep the government out of the whold area of speech. If we would just live by the Bible this subject would never come up. Remember love everyone as you love yourself-simple. Thanks for all of the great photo lessons.