Assignments

Second Class Citizens: Christian Business Owners Losing the Freedom of Religious Exercise in the Public Square

This iPost is part of assignment:

Freedom of Religion

Imagine for a moment you bake cookies for a living, a seemingly peaceful and pleasant endeavor. One day, you’re approached by some folks who want to know if you would be interested in baking cookies for a Gay Pride rally. You politely decline the offer, delicately express that you would be in conflict with your Christian convictions supporting such an event. You thank them for giving your business consideration, suggest another vendor, and that's that, so you think. A few days later a Sheriffs deputy knocks on your door handing you a subpoena stating that you’re being sued by a group representing the Gay Pride rally for discrimination…

At the hearing, the judge determines that the civil rights of those who entered your store a few short days ago may have been breached. The judge further elaborates that being a Christian does not afford you the right to avoid commercial interests with people, or groups representing them because of their sexual orientation. Other reasons may be acceptable, but to discriminate purely on the grounds of gender, color, religion, or in this case sexual orientation, which may well be a natural born inclination, could be in violation of their rights. To shut off further litigation, the judge offers you a choice agreeable to the plaintiffs: provide cookies to the rally, or fight it out in court.

You feel like you have been just been shanghaied; a conscript, forced to advance a cause you don’t believe in, or risk costly litigation. You need time to get your thoughts and prayers together. As a Christian you understand that the world is immersed in sin seen through a variety of addictions, many of which you have wrestled with yourself. You feel for those caught up in the Gay lifestyle, but you believe in the life changing power of Jesus; even if it’s true that some people are born with same sex attractions. As you see it, we are all born with sin, and that was cured at the cross for those who are willing to follow Him. You decide that you can’t support any event with your business that celebrates the homosexual lifestyle. You have no choice, you must fight.

So in contrast to the judge’s opinions on the matter, you feel you have a right of refusal. In your mind, you should not have to support a Gay Pride rally. You’re under no legal obligation to engage in an act of commerce with a promotional group that celebrates a lifestyle that violates your religious beliefs, and besides, the rally is performing outside the confines of your businesses physical location. As you see it, the free exercise of religion isn’t just a moral playground between your ears. No indeed, it’s a free exercise anywhere you travel both in private and public, and your store front managerial decisions are included in that right.

The First Amendment’s free exercise clause reads: [Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;] Does it not appear that religious liberty, one of our nations cardinal moral truths, is being demoted to a second class status?

Reading through the progressive website ThinkProgress.org, it certainly appears that religious liberty is not only on the road to second class status, but is being characterized as hate speech that should be banned. The on-line magazine lists 15 discrimination cases, and none of them have faired well for Christian business owners, further smothering religious liberty. Looking through the cases from other websites it seems most of the complaints revolve around plaintiffs asking for what I would deem as promotional services. For example, T-shirts for a Gay Pride festival, photography and baked goods for a same-sex wedding. Think about it, it appears we have come to the point in our culture where if you decide not to attend a wedding you run the risk of being sued!

Is there a way where those supporting religious liberty, and the advocates for LGBT could be satisfied? Some have proposed a new law. A religious exemption for business owners who need protection from Gay Rights activist's. It seems to me, such an exemption undermines what is already in place—self-evident liberties, not created by government but simply enumerated. Government does not grant us our rights—we grant government its rights. We are raising questions regarding securing the rights of Gays, when instead, we need to be affirming what is common decency for the rights of all of us—honoring a person’s religious creed. Respecting the business owners Christian convictions in all these cases, could have been done by simply going to another vendor as opposed to running to a judge. This would have given the “injured” party the services they desired, if indeed, that’s really what they were after in the first place…

Finally, the following words of wisdom in 1st Corinthians chapter 6: 9-11 offers hope for all mankind, that no human court of law could ever accomplish. “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. [emphasis mine] People can change through the power of Christ. Salvation starts and finishes with believing in Jesus. He will meet you where you're at. The focus should not be your particular sin, although the Word of God clearly points out what is sin for your benefit. The focus is your new identity—a believer in Jesus. If you’re a person who is not particularly religious, please honor and respect those that are. That my friends is operating in civility and equality that is first class for all of us.