Religious Liberties
Gay Rights and Religious Liberties (Part 2)
Churches should be allowed to discriminate, but not in the public square.

As mentioned before, there is common agreement between us about protecting clergy and religious institutions from having to participate in the celebration and/or blessing of a same-gender marriage, or forcing any church/synagogue/mosque to host such an event against the teaching of that religious body.

However, when we expand the conversation to include florists and bakers, photographers and innkeepers – all of whom operate in the marketplace and are legally required to serve the public without discrimination – our common ground might begin to narrow. Some conservatives have argued that conscience should trump convenience. So, if a florist has a religious objection to providing flowers for a same gender wedding, the argument goes, the couple should simply go elsewhere and find a willing florist. But suppose a florist, on religious grounds, were to object to an interracial marriage? Or an interfaith marriage?

Let's be clear, in jurisdictions that have no anti-discrimination protections for gay and lesbian people, this is not an issue. There are no federal anti-discrimination laws protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from such discrimination. In a majority of states, a person can be fired from her/his job just for being gay, although 90% of Americans erroneously believe that such protection is already in place. Until there is a non-discrimination law that includes LGBT people, vendors are allowed to exercise their right to refuse service or fire gay employees. I believe such an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBT people in their jobs and in the open marketplace should be put in place.

However, in states and cities where such anti-discrimination laws which include LGBT people are in place, lawsuits challenging such discrimination are possible. Such vendors have the right to refuse service, but they must bear the responsibility of their actions, which in those particular states/cities is prohibited. (As a side note, I must admit to not understanding why any gay couple would want an anti-gay photographer snapping pictures of the most important day in their lives! How good could the photographs be if shot by someone totally opposed to what is being photographed?!)

Arguing for the legal right of individuals, organizations, and businesses to refuse to provide goods or services to someone they find objectionable "on religious grounds" is reminiscent of our painful racial past. Decades ago (but within the lifetime of many of us), some restaurant owners refused to serve African-Americans. Their actions prompted sit-ins at lunch counters across the country. If such discrimination against serving LGBT people were allowed, what's to keep the owner of a Subway sandwich shop from refusing service to someone who has long hair, or is obese, or who has a tattoo (tattoos are forbidden in Scripture)? This is a road we don't want to go down!

January 19, 2013

Displaying 1–3 of 3 comments


December 26, 2013  10:23am

Interesting comparison about Jim Crow restaurant discrimination vs. the wedding photographer who opposes gay marriage. By way of analogy to the current situation: if the KKK decided to hold a major rally, could an African-American baker (as a vendor to the general public) now be compelled to design and provide a celebratory "sheet cake" with hooded figurines on it? Or an African-American photographer be compelled to capture what the KKK believes to be a beautiful event? When does one person's choice result in another person's coercion? Bishop Robinson uses several telling words / phrases in that paragraph: One is "vendor", which seems to lump all non-religious vocation together, a giant dispensary of generic goods and/or services, devoid of personal expression or art. No distinction between providing parking spaces vs. artfully crafting a cake or photographing a ceremony (other than his side note about the potential quality of the photos). It's as if a person who is not a paid religious professional needn't be concerned about any connection between the motivation of their personal faith and the thing that occupies most of their waking hours. The other was the phrase: "someONE they find objectionable". He did not say: "someTHING they find objectionable". There is a presumption that those who would not provide business support to gay marriage must therefore dislike the person themselves. And here we arrive at the issue that gay marriage is viewed a necessary fundamental affirmation of a person's core identity… and therefore it is acceptable to use the power of taxation and economic coercion to achieve that affirmation from all spheres of life, (with an exception carved out for a small closet of private, professional religious practice).

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December 21, 2013  1:54pm

Mr. Robinson, I have read many scholarly papers in my life...scientific, historical, and biblical. I have read so much I'm actually pained to admit that for all my reading I question whether I ever had an original idea in my past thirty-five years, or is it just one of the many things I've read mugging me from the dark recesses of my memory. I've also have had the misfortune of reading complete garbage...and by garbage I don't mean the type of fly by night, readers-digest snippets of anecdotal opinion; but by people who are in the field of specialty who wrote crap, and the editor was asleep at the wheelhouse when that iceberg came floating by. I was expecting, and this is where I failed personally because I always expect more from someone in the field of which I'm reading, intellectual honesty, if not at the very least, a conscious collaborative continuity between the first and second parts of a split article. The question you addressed... and successfully answered, though I'm going to risk the opinion that the conclusion I came too is not the one you were going for... is whether or not the LGBT and their orbital surrogates and collaborators are going to force/coerce conformity to the non-discrimination laws in the public square against religious and faith based communities either actively or passively opposed to the law of the land? What I got from you summarize the first part ", no, no, no, no...not at all." And the second part can be summarized simply as, "Yes, yes you will." If you so desire to rephrase, or perhaps clarify your opinion I will gladly read it...but in all sincerity, at least have the decency to qualify your opening statement so that it conforms with your concluding statements. Specifically, those last five paragraphs undid your entire first part article.

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December 20, 2013  8:12am

I disagree with a lot of this. I write software for a living. Once I had a person approach me to do contracting work on a porn site. At the time I really needed the work too - but it was totally out of the question. Thankfully - the person seeking the help asked me specifically in so many words if my conscience would allow me to do such a thing and graciously allowed me to say "no". I actually thought that person was more sensitive than most Christians I deal with. When we push or assist someone to violate their own conscience - we sin against that person - I think the scripture is clear on that issue. So the clergy somehow gets a pass on discrimination - but software developers should not be allowed a conscience? I think what you're saying is - the clergy is sacred - software developers are secular. On that point - I couldn't disagree more. I belong to Jesus - and that is sacred - and I'm commanded not to participate in something that will bring great harm to others - and that is sacred - and it's the same whether I'm a priest or a computer programmer. So what am I suppose to do when someone with a political agenda who wants to advance their immoral cause comes to me to force me to produce work for them that I think will cause great harm to them and others? Your post seems to indicate that the business world should operate without a conscience.

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