Following up on "marriage equality" vs. religious liberty

Critics of my guest editorial on religious liberty have taken the principle of freedom of association and expanded it far beyond the real issue we are facing regarding “marriage equality.”

The issue is not whether Christian business owners should refuse service to all homosexuals, or whether businesses in general should be able to refuse service to specific groups of people. Selling gasoline or potato chips to a homosexual (or anyone engaged in any sin) presents no moral quandary for a Christian. The issue is whether the civil magistrate should force Christians to endorse homosexual behavior.

Should a Christian business owner be forced to participate in homosexual weddings by providing photography, flowers or a wedding cake? Should Christian business owners should be forced to provide space for homosexual activity by renting a room in a bed and breakfast to a same-sex couple? Should our society expect anyone to endorse behavior their faith deems unacceptable, and be punished by the state if they do not?

In a response to me, another guest columnist asked regarding a bed and breakfast if “different-sex couples registering for rooms required to provide a copy of their marriage license in order to rent a room.” The answer – of course. A Christian bed and breakfast owner should be allowed to refuse to rent a room to an unmarried heterosexual couple.

The common refrain is that a church should be allowed to refuse service, but a private business in the public domain should not. But the obvious question is this: Why should Christians who own a for-profit business have fewer rights under our Constitution than Christians in a ministerial position? More importantly, once the precedent is established, does anyone really think the exception for ministries will last very long?

The solution should be simple: Take your business elsewhere. There are plenty of business owners who will rent a room to a homosexual couple (or an unmarried heterosexual couple) or who will sell a wedding cake to anyone. No one’s rights are being violated by respecting freedom of conscience. But it is not and has never been about tolerance. It is and has always been about mandatory acceptance of homosexuality, now enforced by the state.

3 thoughts on “Following up on "marriage equality" vs. religious liberty

  1. Sir:

    I believe your understanding of history and government-compelled service is misguided.

    Going back nearly a thousand years, businesses were classified as either traditional or “common carriers.” A traditional business, say a barber, has the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason. Such right was memorialized in the U.S. Constitution under the “free association” clause.

    However, the U.S. Constitution also grafted itself on top of the common law, which stated that a common carrier could not refuse service except for specific circumstances approved by the sovereign. Thus, a hotelier could not refuse service to someone based simply on his nationality, or a restaurateur could not refuse service to someone simply due to his skin color. Similarly, a gas station owner cannot refuse to sell gasoline to someone based on his skin color or sexual preferences.

    These issues were dealt with in the 1960s with the passage and implementation of the Civil Rights Act. To my understanding, there is no push to force anyone to do business with homosexuals who isn't already obligated, per the common law rules pertaining to common carriers, to provide their service in an indiscriminate manner.

    To your point as to “Christians who own a for-profit business” having “fewer rights under our Constitution than Christians in a ministerial position,” you miss an important distinction: when someone incorporates, the corporation becomes a legally separate and distinct being. “Corporations are people, my friend.” That sword has blades on both edges.

    You remain free to hold your bigoted views of homosexuality. You can fly a “God Hates F**s” flag for all I care. However, you can't simply re-write a thousand years of common law jurisprudence to fit your preferred worldview, especially on the justification of “homosexuals are yucky.”

    You assert that there will be plenty of business owners willing to rent a room to a homosexual couple, yet provide very little evidence of such. Further, you fail to draw your lines clearly. Should a gas station owner be allowed to refuse service to a homosexual customer who is nearly out of gas in the middle of nowhere, with the next gas station 100 miles away? What about a hotel owner at 11 P.M. with the next hotel more than 100 miles away, and no guarantee that that hotel will serve homosexuals?

    I think I've made my point.

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  2. There is not now, never has been, and never will be any real-world “clash” between freedom of religion and marriage equality. No church or “pastor” can be forced to perform gay weddings, period. This fevered fantasy is one more manifestation of the “religious right's” raving bigotry, eventually destined for the scrap head of history–and the sooner the better.

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  3. Ministers have not been forced to perform homosexual weddings (yet) but Christian business owners have been forced to participate in them. That's a violation of religious freedom.

    The common law is subservient to the First Amendment.

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