Christianity,  Culture,  Politics

Are conscientious Christians the new Jim Crow?

Kirsten Powers argues in USA Today that Kansas’ recent effort to protect religious freedom is akin to enacting Jim Crow laws. She writes:

What’s the matter with Kansas? A bill protecting the religious freedom of businesses and individuals to refuse services to same-sex couples passed the state House of Representatives last week. It was blessedly killed in the state Senate on Tuesday…

Christians backing this bill are essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws.

She goes on to argue that Christian business owners have an obligation to serve people they disagree with because that’s what Jesus taught us to do. She invokes Pastor Andy Stanley for support on this point:

Evangelical pastor Andy Stanley leads North Point Ministries, the second largest church in the U.S. He told me he finds it “offensive that Christians would leverage faith to support the Kansas law.” He said, “Serving people we don’t see eye to eye with is the essence of Christianity. Jesus died for a world with which he didn’t see eye to eye. If a bakery doesn’t want to sell its products to a gay couple, it’s their business. Literally. But leave Jesus out of it.”

Christians serve unrepentant murderers through prison ministry. So why can’t they provide a service for a same-sex marriage?

Some claim it’s because marriage is so sacred. But double standards abound. Christian bakers don’t interrogate wedding clients to make sure their behavior comports with the Bible. If they did, they’d be out of business. Stanley said, “Jesus taught that if a person is divorced and gets remarried, it’s adultery. So if (Christians) don’t have a problem doing business with people getting remarried, why refuse to do business with gays and lesbians.”

I have no interest in defending the legislation that recently failed in Kansas. I think that good people can disagree on whether that particular law would have been a good idea. Nevertheless, Powers’ argument is disappointing no matter how you feel about the Kansas proposal.

First, Powers promotes the canard that somehow Christian business owners do not “want to sell its products to a gay couple.” That is bearing false witness. None of the Christian business owners cited in recent reports are refusing to do business with gay couples. They are happy to serve gay people, and they have served gay people. In fact, I think one of the business owners even had a gay employee. Doing business with gay people is not the issue. They simply do not want to be forced into participating in a gay wedding. That’s the issue, but that is totally lost in Powers’ article. And it totally undermines the analogy to Jim Crow.

Second, Powers invokes the “what would Jesus do” standard, and she offers her self-evident conclusion that Jesus would have contributed his part to a gay wedding (“he’d bake the cake”). But for many Christians, this conclusion is a far cry from the Jesus that is revealed in the Bible. Yes, Jesus often ate with “tax-gatherers and sinners” (Luke 15:1). No, Jesus never did anything that was promoting or participating in their sin! Jesus was a carpenter. What if he were still around today to offer his services? Indeed, what would he do if a gay couple asked him to design a platform upon which to conduct their gay wedding ceremony? Powers would have us believe that Jesus would employ himself as the set designer for sinful unions. I am guessing I’m not the only one who finds this portrait of Jesus to be inconsistent with scripture (e.g., Matt. 5:13-19; Rom. 1:32).

Third, she claims that Christian business owners are involved in a double standard since they don’t refuse to serve other kinds of sinners. Here again, this is a false analogy. These Christian business owners are willing to serve all kinds of sinners including gay people. They just don’t want to be coerced into participating in the sinful celebration. Yes, Christians will serve murderers, but they should not be required by law to sell the murderer his gun. If a Christian photographer were asked to photograph a heterosexual wedding ceremony involving nudists, conscientious Christians would decline that invitation as well. This is no double standard.

Fourth, Powers advances an argument that compares conscientious Christians to supporters of Jim Crow. In doing so, she is furthering a destructive narrative that is currently being used with great effect against Christians in America today. That narrative says that Christians are motivated by bigotry and animus when they oppose gay marriage. That narrative neglects the truth of the matter. We don’t hate gay people. We love them. We simply disagree with them about the morality of homosexuality.

Whenever folks want to label Christians as bigots for opposing gay marriage, they now have this item from Powers to support their case. And that is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Powers’ article.


    • Ginger Holm

      Pastor Stanley is wrong. Jesus invited everyone to accept HIS teaching – he did NOT open up his ministry to all kinds of contrary teachings. He healed people BUT, then told them to stop their sinning. (John 5:14 & John 8:11)

      The “bakery” owner did NOT tell gays to stop sinning nor tell them how to live their lives. He simply told them that he would not comporomise his beliefs to accommodate theirs.

      If I went to a muslim bakery and asked for a birthday cake decorated with a pig farm design, that muslim would refuse on religious grounds – even tho he bakes b-day cakes for other people.

      And no one would think he was descriminating against me as a Christian. No one would think he was a bigot or hateful. Nor would they think he was Christ-ophobic.

      But when a Christian tries to live his faith, he is threatened with financial ruin and / or imprisonment!

  • andrew alladin

    Kirsten Powers is a recent convert to Christianity and she is also a Democrat pundit. Perhaps this is her partisanship taking precedence over any scriptural analysis. Based on her logic a Christian plumber would be required to fix the sinks in an abortion clinic, and a Christian sound technician would be required to provide install equipment in a strip club, Both of these establishments are not illegal.

    As far as I know, neither Jesus nor any of the apostles sat in the midst of Greek temple prostitutes or Roman bacchanalian feasts. The “tax-gatherers and sinners” came to Jesus and he did eat at Zacchaeus’s house – but he did not immerse himself in their sinful elements. Besides, we all have sinful natures – Jesus didn’t – which is why it’s generally not a good idea to always use this example as one for us to follow.

    • Ginger Holm

      Andrew Alladin, I would just like to add, the baker this story is probably referring to, did indeed serve homosexuals in the past. So, he was not refusing to serve them because they were homosexual – he was refusing to provide a specific service that would conflict with his faith!!

  • Mike Dunger (@ModernEzra)

    Very well said. I don’t know any pastors that would not conduct a wedding because one or both of the couple had been married and divorced previously. However, every one that I do know counsels the couple in depth to ensure that he is not conducting a ceremony for a couple who do not NOW have a proper perspective, understanding and commitment to the vows that they are making, regardless of whether or not they have been previously married.

    Honestly, I wrestle with issues such as this, balancing the command to be salt and light with the command to love my neighbor. One way I put it earlier today is this: If my neighbor has lost his driver’s license because of repeated DUIs, it would be loving to help drive him to and from work. However, loving him doesn’t include driving him to the bar so he can get drunk.

  • Lisa

    Thank you so much for your very helpful analysis of this important story. I am finding so many are unable to understand and apply the issues related to the controversy of gay marriage to the life and teachings of Jesus. You have done an excellent and loving job here!

  • Bob Myers

    I have certainly been aware of Kirsten’s democratic leanings. I cannot tell you how impressed I was when I read of her conversion in Christianity Today and related articles. But at the same time I am a realist enough to know that the road to understanding Christian doctrine and the process of living it is not a short road and many times we experience “pot holes”. Because of her leaning and public influence, I was concerned that she may walk into one of those cultural potholes. That is what I consider it to be and I am afraid it has great consequences. I am grateful that she is seeking out spiritual guidance – obviously it is important who she seeks that guidance from and the guidance that is given. Although I appreciate a lot of what Andy Stanley does, at the moment, I believe he owes the church substantial explanation of his own theology; he does not get a pass – especially because of the influence he has on young pastors and on his dangerous application of “Gracie and Truthie” as they relate to the issue we face in the culture today. Denny has well stated the consequences and potential consequences that Kirsten and Andy Stanley have created – this is going to require the work of the Holy Spirit. As I understand it, Kirsten does have some mature, spiritual counselors that influence her. I hope she will seek out counsel from them.

  • Bob Wilson

    I’m still under the impression that gays are being singled out for special disapprobation. (The Kansas law specifically targeted sexual orientation, nothing else.)

    Do Christian lawyers typically refuse legal services, say writing a will, to heterosexual cohabiting couples? Perhaps, but I’ve never heard this.

    How far do you want to go? Do you feel that Christians should be able to turn gay couples away at restaurants?

    To those of us outside the Christian community, this is a crucial point. We simply don’t hear other sinful citizens being refused these services.

    Did anyone refuse to bake a cake for Newt Gingrich’s third wedding? Or Rush Limbaugh’s? That’s snarky, I know, but seriously, it’s hard to watch one group be shunned when SO MANY of the rest of us deserve no better.

    • Ginger Holm

      I believe the baker cited in this story is one who has served homosexuals in the past. So, he was not refusing to serve homosexuals, but rather refusing to perform a specific service that conflicts with his faith.

      There is a big difference between refusing to provide services to someone and refusing to provide a specific serve.

      At least, I have not heard of any story where a baker refused service on the basic of someone’s sexual orientation.

    • Thomas Achord

      The issue isn’t so much of which sin, but the compulsion to participate and/or celebrate. We help, feed, clothe, employ, and do business with any and all. But Christians do not celebrate or participate, such as selling a gun to someone who says he’s going to commit murder with it. But nowhere else are Christians presently and so prevalently being forced to participate except in homosexual matters. This accounts for it’s being “singled out”, it’s a hot topic not without an agenda.

      • Bob Wilson

        I still have to ask:

        Why don’t we hear about cohabiting couples shunned this way? Multiply divorced people? Why are there NO calls from Christian leaders to refuse to aid such people in furthering sinful behavior?

        How could Newt Gingrich win the South Carolina Republican primary?

        • Rick Willson

          Bob, it’s because this is about the act of the wedding itself, and participating in that. It’s not wrong for two non-Christians to get married, in fact it is quite right. I do know Christian photographers who would not do a wedding for a known Christian and a non-Christian, or a known case of an illegitimate re-marriage. So there isn’t a double standard. This is about using one’s art to make a sinful act look good, and Christians should have the right to refuse this when they know about it. All the examples of “Yeah, but what about …” don’t do anything to answer the core issue.

          • Bob Wilson

            As a non-believer, I actually agree that these private businesses should have been able to refuse a gay wedding job.

            But I am also very concerned about the scope of what conservative believers are asking. I do not think hotels, restaurants, etc should be allowed to turn away gays, individually or as couples.

  • Esther O'Reilly

    Sigh. Very unhelpful, shallow stuff. The kind of thing I feared when I read her testimony and saw her horror of being lumped in with (*gasp*) conservative fundamentalists.

    • David Powell

      Not that it is a massive accomplishment, but you just succeeded in putting 10x more thought in that statement in the comments section of a blog than Andy Stanley did in an official statement that will be seen by thousands and thousands of people. Anyone else getting tired of hearing Christian celebrity types say really dumb things?

  • Chris Ryan

    Thought experiments are fun! Here are mine. 1) When Jesus turned the water to wine at the wedding in Cana is it possible someone (say the man who reeeally enjoyed it) imbibed too much, and are we saying that Jesus was culpable if they did? 2) Would Jesus the carpenter put up wood paneling at a Jewish synagogue? What abt a Muslim mosque or Buddhist temple? 3) Are you really “a participant” at a wedding if all you’re doing is baking the wedding cake? Did you call the person that baked your wedding cake a “wedding participant”?

    The Kansas’ bill’s author refused repeated requests to narrow the bill to a simple conscientious objector law. That’s why the GOP majority leader called it discriminatory. Since you bring up Jim Crow I think its useful to remember MLK. He steered well clear of Malcolm X so as not to be perceived as partners in all that Nation of Islam foolishness. We Christians today should borrow that example. Let’s not aid and comfort the ppl who write bills like this and let’s stop our good from being evil spoken of.

    • Pamela Auld

      1) I betcha Jesus’ miracle wine had the miraculous ability to not get you drunk.
      2) Since Jesus WAS a Jew He probably would be fine working in a synagogue, probably not a Mosque or a Buddhist temple though.
      3) The baker, probably not, but a photographer, by necessity, is a participant.

      I don’t know what was in this particular bill, but I don’t see anything wrong with a certain amount of protection from being forced to attend an event of any kind.

  • Georgia Halloran

    This law was not a “Jim Crow” law. It was brought forth because of all the attacks on christains who believe what the bible says -that homosexuality is a sin. It seems every day I read where some gay takes a chrisitian to court for a so called discrimination case. If I won a business and I have certain religious beliefs it is not up to the government ot sanction my beliefs..And this is happening all over the nation,. Look at bakers, photogrphers, bed and breakfast owner-some losing their business, some being fined all because of so called acts of discrimination when in reality they were acting on the religious convictions… I am hoping the SCOTUS takes up a case soon and tells the gays and supporters they can all take a flying leap and Christians can retain their beliefs without the fear of “offending” some gay.. As to Powers and thie so called “evangelical” minister-they both need a real Christian to mentor them..

  • Sam Jennings

    My point in saying that (see the scriptures I posted, above) is that there is a clear biblical precedent that Christians keep company with those who don’t live in scorn of the faith. That is written in the Bible, in plain English. Therefore it is a religious obligation for Bible believers, and that means it is under the protection of constitutional 1st amendment rights (freedom of exercise).

  • James Stanton

    Denny, why do you get to exclude “Christians” who most certainly do express bigotry and animus from the ranks? I don’t you think you would take such liberties with the other side. Kirsten Powers is not the problem when we talk of giving ammunition.

      • James Stanton

        David, this is projection. I used the exact same words Denny did in his post. Again.. when you say something like “Christians are the least bigoted people in the world” you magically put everyone who falls short outside the tents of Christianity.

  • Michael Lynch

    Andrew said, “Based on her logic a Christian plumber would be required to fix the sinks in an abortion clinic, and a Christian sound technician would be required to provide install equipment in a strip club, Both of these establishments are not illegal.”

    Good analogy and one that ought to be used more.

  • Ian Shaw

    I would ask Ms. Powers to take a few NT courses at a few Christian colleges/univerisites as it seems her rookie knowledge on the NT is pretty presuppositionatory. (is that a word? if not, it’s trademark pending!)

  • Ian Shaw

    Business owners that are Christian will all have to become private, faith-based non-profits, if they don’t want to get sued into submission pretty soon…

  • Curt Day

    In principle, there are parallels between allowing Christian businesses to refuse providing their public services to same sex weddings to what happen during Jim Crow. And the “destructive” nature of this parallel isn’t the issue; the issue is its accuracy.

    Something else has to be noted. When someone runs a business that offers public services, if they can refuse public services to a group, then the possibility exists of that group being unable to receive these services because either they are not offered these services at all or in great enough numbers so that most cannot receive them. So during Jim Crow days, the group that was victimized was the Black race.

    So, how is it that some of the practices of Christian businesspeople, who offer public services refuse to provide their services for same sex weddings, cannot be compared with Jim Crow in principle?

    If these same Christian businesspeople claim that they don’t want to participate in same sex marriages because they would participating in sin, then, to be consistent, they would have to refuse their services to others as well. They would have to refuse serving weddings where one of the partners is Christian and the other isn’t and where at least one of the partners has been divorced for unbiblical reasons. Because, according to their logic, they would be participating in sinful weddings.

    Besides, traditionally speaking the participants of a wedding have included the person officiating the wedding, the bride and groom, the parents, and the wedding party. These are the participants. Those providing flowers are the photography have never, as far as I can remember been counted as being participants in the wedding. And as for the caterer, that person is providing services for the meal afterwards, not the wedding.

    But let’s extend the logic of those Christian businesspeople to others. Suppose I rent apartments or houses or I run some kind of hotel or motel and a same sex couple requests lodging. Would I be participating in their living together if I rented an apartment or house to them or gave them lodging in my hotel or motel? And would I be participating in their living together if I served them food at my hotel or motel?

    Again, when a business that provides a public service is allowed to refuse serving one group, it provides the possibility that that group will be unable to receive those services. The problem that many of my fellow Christians have here is that they are being myopic. They only see their role in the wedding and, perhaps, they magnify it when they are merely providing public services. But they are shortsighted when it comes to the ramifications of their actions should the permission they seek be extended to others. They also have difficulty seeing the predicament that same sex couples are put in.

    As for whether Christians love gays, no universal declaration can be made. Some do, some don’t. But we have to ask, do the Christian Missionaries, who contributed to the thinking in African countries that has criminalized homosexuality so that some homosexuals can face imprisonment or execution, love gays or hate them? Do the Russian Orthodox Church officials, who have had an influence on Russian laws regarding gays, love or hate gays? And what about those American Christians who have, in the past, worked to criminalize homosexuality, or who have supported the firing of gay teachers or other employees, or who have fought tooth & nail against same sex marriage, love or hate gays?

    In trying to answer the above questions, perhaps limiting ourselves to only two categories invites error. Perhaps what SOME American Conservative Christians want here is an out of sight, out of mind relationship with gays. In the meantime, what SOME American Conservative Christians do want is a hierarchical society. They want a Christian society with heterosexual and other privilege, just as it was in the old days.

    And btw, if one happens to read Michelle Alexander’s book on what is happening to Blacks in America today, one might be faced with the possibility that we already have another Jim Crow on our hands.

  • Lucas Knisely

    The real challenge here is that allowing any business to refuse service of homosexuals due to “religious convictions” is, in effect, a Jim Crow law.

    Christians want special status because we’ve had it, passively, for a long time. The Judeo-Christian ethic has been so common in this country, that Christian business owners were rarely faced with this dilemma before. And even if they were faced with it, the law and political winds were largely in support of Christian belief (keep in mind Bill Clinton is the one who signed DOMA just 17 years ago).

    This is why I think Powers is right in her assertion that Christians essentially want a Jim Crow law. We want laws that allow us to refuse service to a specific group. Sure, Denny and others have made the point that it’s just homosexual marriage they can’t assist or offer service for, but it surely wouldn’t stop there. If the law allows businesses to refuse service of homosexuals on religious grounds, it protects all businesses and all religions, not just wedding oriented businesses. If you strip away the rhetoric, it’s a law that allows for a specific group to be denied service based on religious convictions. That’s discriminatory. Period.

    • Johnny Mason

      Jim Crow laws were laws that forced establishments to discriminate. These establishments had to provide separate accommodations by force of law. This law does no such thing. We currently have laws in place that demand Christians to actively participate in things that violate their faith, under penalty of law. This bill was a reaction to that. It was designed to protect the religious liberty of individuals. To claim that it is in effect a Jim Crow law is demagoguery used to end debate.

      • Johnny Mason

        For example, let’s say I am a Christian adoption agency. It would violate my faith and my charter as a Christian adoption agency to place children in homosexual homes. This law would have protected this agency from law suits and penalties based on this type of discrimination. What would be your solution for protecting this agency absent a law like this?

        • David Weintraub

          Well, Johnny Mason, an adoption agency is licensed by the state because of a legitimate state interest in ensuring that the best interests of the child is the only standard governing the adoption process. If you wanted to use a different standard, say, your personal belief system, then you wouldn’t be fit to be licensed. My solution would be for you to either separate your personal beliefs from the actual evidence-based standards for best practices, or not run an adoption agency.

          • Johnny Mason

            @David – it is actually in the best interest of the child not to placed in a homosexual home or a home without a mother and a father.

        • Lucas Knisely

          First, I said it is a Jim Crow law in effect… meaning that a specific group is being discriminated against. And no, the bill was not designed to protect the religious liberty of individuals, it was designed to protect businesses. A business is not an individual. Now they might be an individual with a DBA (Doing Business As), and in that case the law may land on it differently.

          Second, in your example with the adoption agency question. Businesses can’t be “Christian” according to the law. If a church, as a non-profit religious entity, wanted to assist people with adoptions, then it would be protected as a religious institution. But businesses can’t be “Christian” or “Muslim” or otherwise. They are for-profit entities that happen to have owners who are Christian, Jewish, etc. Now, one caveat with your adoption agency question might be that an agency is non-profit. In that case, I believe they may have the option to be religiously affiliated and thus protected. Once you become a for-profit entity and pay taxes as a business, you are in a different category.

          So, bakers and photographers are not religious institutions and are thus not protected by religious freedom laws (hence the desire for the bill in question). Again, if you allow this type of reasoning then any business can discriminate and site “religious conviction” as the reason.

          • Johnny Mason

            ” And no, the bill was not designed to protect the religious liberty of individuals,”

            Here is the actual text from the bill.

            “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no individual
            or religious entity shall be required by any governmental entity to do any of the following, if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender”

          • Johnny Mason

            @Bob – I currently support an adoption agency that will only place children in Christian homes where the mother stays home to raise the child. So they would not place into a Muslim or Jewish home.

            • Bob Wilson

              Well, I agree that’s consistent.

              (I pity the children who may miss placement in some wonderful homes, but hopefully enough Christian homes are available for all the children in need.)

    • Gus Nelson

      Yes, the law would be discriminatory; however, that’s true of all laws, so it’s not enough to simply say it discriminates. Really where we tend to lose our focus is we get caught up in the idea that somehow it’s wrong for laws to discriminate, when that’s exactly and precisely what laws do. The New Mexico Supreme Court recently said that the cost of living in a pluralistic society is that sometimes you just have to compromise on your beliefs – this was in the context of a wedding photographer case where a homosexual couple was refused service for a marriage ceremony. Thus, the law in New Mexico discriminates against Christians. Ultimately, then, what we’re really debating isn’t whether laws discriminate but whether we’re okay with the discrimination in question. Right now, in the United States, it is fast becoming the law that it is okay to discriminate against Christians by requiring acceptance of homosexuality via the force of the state. At what point does that discrimination become too much? Seems to me Ms. Powers, in trying to make her point, really went overboard with the hyperbole. She’s missing the reality that it goes both ways.

      • James Stanton

        “Right now, in the United States, it is fast becoming the law that it is okay to discriminate against Christians by requiring acceptance of homosexuality via the force of the state.”

        Let’s just admit that the logic when it comes to these laws are purely self-serving. We want to be able to have our rights to “religious freedom” codified into law although many will interpret that as a right to continue discriminating against homosexuals. This in response to the repeal of gay marriage bans that homosexuals would argue are discriminatory. Should we expect that society will feel empathy for Christians in the wake of this legal and rhetorical gymnastics?

        That being said, seeking refuge from what remaining power Christians have in state legislatures and localities was the the logical next step after the realization that legalized gay marriage is inevitable on the federal level. In that vein, historical comparisons to Jim Crow are valid as an example of tactics and not morality. Don’t confuse the two.

  • David Weintraub

    Do you also disagree with the Episcopalian Church?

    “For Episcopalians, our faith is unequivocal. Our Baptismal Covenant asks, ‘Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?’ Promising to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being requires us to be adamantly opposed to legislation that does none of these things.

    Our biblically based faith calls us to live out the command of Jesus Christ to love one another. You cannot love your fellow Kansans and deny them the rights that belong to everyone else.”

    One of the rights that belong to “everyone else” is the right to seek redress from our government. This bill, for those who don’t realize it, contained a clause that literally exempted people in same sex relationships from that right. In other words, it was unconstitutional on its face. Another right that belongs to everyone is the right to access public accommodations. That is the meaning of “public.”

    I also suspect that you don’t really understand what Jim Crow was and what it was for. Bull Connor would say that he didn’t “hate” anyone either, he just knew all about God’s design for how things should be between the “races.” If everybody knew their proper place and stayed in it, all would be fine and there would be no need for conflict. It was those agitators and meddlers who were to blame for all the rage in Birmingham. If they would stop being all uppity, things would return to “normal.”

    It’s actually pretty clear, from the widespread reaction to this and similar bills, that most Christians understand the truth – including those who continue to believe that “homosexuality is sin.”

    • Randall Seale

      @ David Weintraub
      “Our biblically based faith calls us to live out the command of Jesus Christ to love one another. You cannot love your fellow Kansans and deny them the rights that belong to everyone else.”

      You are touching on one of the pivotal issues in this discussion and that is whether or not homosexuality is sin. From a canonically viewpoint, it is. Moreover, Paul writes that “love . . . rejoices with the truth.” (1 Co. 13:6). So the follower of the Lord Jesus cannot love the homosexual by condoning his sin much less celebrating it.

      If homosexuality isn’t sinful, then the homosexual can see, has no sin, and has no need of Jesus. If it is sinful, then why shouldn’t followers of Jesus call them to repent so that their soul isn’t damned? And how can we celebrate the sin which Jesus bore in His body on the cross? That would be tantamount to re-crucifying Jesus. I can’t do that.

  • Ian Shaw

    Lucas, unless a sole proprietor has incorportated his business or filed it as an LLC, the business and the proprietor are one in the same. Any legal rulings against the business would apply directly to the owner him/herself.

    And to Johnny’s point, most if not all “Christian adoptions agencies” are private non-profits. Weren’t there rulings on the east coast that caused many catholic social services locations to stop their adoption assistance? (which would be odd because I thought catholic social services were non-profits acssociated to the church)

  • Lucas Knisely

    Again, the bill in question, as far as I understand it, was to protect businesses and allow them to refuse service of homosexuals due to religious convictions. Johnny’s point about non-profit agencies is moot because the bill in question and the topic we are discussing is about for-profit businesses being allowed to deny services based on religious convictions.

    So yes, as I already said Ian, if a sole proprietor has a DBA, the law may land on the situation differently. If a women were to nanny as a way to make money, the government can’t force her to watch kids she doesn’t want to. But once you establish the business as an LLC, INC, or CORP, a whole host of laws about discrimination now apply with respect to hiring and servicing the public.

    If Christians seek to establish laws that allow businesses to refuse service to homosexuals based on religious convictions, you’ve either targeted a specific group that can be denied services or you’ve allowed any group to be discriminated against due to any religious convictions. Depending on how the law is worded, a whole host of implications would come from this. This is why it is, in effect, Jim Crow, if you allow a specific group to be discriminated against. Would these wedding businesses be able to refuse an interracial couple and site religious convictions? If no, then you have a law that allows for a specific group to be discriminated against. If yes, then you have a law that allows for any discrimination of any group for any “religious” reason.

    • Johnny Mason

      ” the bill in question and the topic we are discussing is about for-profit businesses being allowed to deny services based on religious convictions”

      another section from the bill:

      (a) “Religious Entity” means an organization, regardless of its non-profit or for-profit status, and regardless of whether its activities are deemed wholly or partly religious, that is
      (1) A religious corporation, association, educational institution or
      (2)?an entity operated, supervised or controlled by, or connected with,
      a religious corporation, association, educational institution or society; or
      (3)?a privately-held business operating consistently with its sincerely
      held religious beliefs, with regard to any activity described in section l,
      and amendments thereto

  • Ian Shaw

    “So, bakers and photographers are not religious institutions and are thus not protected by religious freedom laws (hence the desire for the bill in question). Again, if you allow this type of reasoning then any business can discriminate and site “religious conviction” as the reason”

    Strange. With very little modifications, I can change that to-

    “So, bigamy, polyandry, et. al. are no longer crimes as they are thus protected by the 14th Amendment (hence the reason for the court rulings in question). Again, if you hold that the equal protection clause can overrule any state law or state’s voter mandate, this type of reasoning can protect any person’s self identification of any behavior.

  • RD Evans

    Andy Stanley is retweeting this:
    “AndyStanley ?@AndyStanley 2h RT @willmattingly: Did they call before posting their commentary? Figured those who fight for religious liberty would do what the Bible says”

  • Ian Shaw

    I’m just surprised at the language used by Ms. Powers and others to compare the historical plight of african-americans in this country to those that practice homosexuality. I’m sure the comparison to 1930-1940 German Jews won’t be that far off either.

  • Shawn Keenen

    Christians who follow the Word of God are always going to be villified for doing so. Even by Kirsten Powers:
    Jesus said,in prayer to God the Father- John 17:14 – “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
    v. 15 – I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.

  • Adam Shields

    So do we really believe that freedom of religion should have no limits? What about stories like this were parents refuse treatment to children because they believe in faith healing.

    Or the mis-use of religious freedom exemptions by people that have no religious motivation for not vaccinating their children, but choose to use the religious exemption because it is easier to do than claim other exemptions.

    What about freedom to allow Sihk’s to carry religious knives (Kirpans, which are a religious obligation to carry at all times) on planes?

    The reality is that we all agree there should be limits to religious freedom. The problem is that we disagree where the lines are. So we should stop with the heavy rhetoric and properly (and kindly) disagree.

      • Adam Shields

        I agree. My point is that there is a limit. The question is not whether there are limits to religious freedom, but where the limits exist. So I think it is appropriate for Denny (and many others on all sides) to tone down the rhetoric and admit that limits exist and also admit the reasonable people of faith can disagree about where the limits are.

        Lots of people are suggesting Stanley and Powers are outside of orthodox Christianity for a political position. And that is a problem.

        • RD Evans

          Adam- But did Andy Stanley mention a political reason? Seems he was simply attempting to address it on a biblical level. I think I know where he is coming from, but not sure about how effectively he used biblical reasoning on this one.

  • Ian Shaw

    Adam, the Supreme Court has pretty much decided that there are no limits to the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment. Doesn’t that conflict with the smallest scale of the 1st Amendment?

  • Mark Lamprecht

    Denny, thanks for the helpful response to Kirsten’s piece. I appreciate your examples of what Jesus would not have participated in too. Another example would be: If Jesus would bake a cake for a gay wedding, would he also build a cross for the Klan to burn at their assembly?

    I see that some find difficulty looking for a consistent application for non-participation in certain events. Yet, consider the sins listed in 1 Cor. 6:9. If a Christian were asked to provide a good or service where the sins in 1 Cor. 6:9 were knowingly celebrated, promoted, condoned, etc. I would hope that said Christian would deny service.

  • Johnny Mason

    here is a good article that speaks to religious exemptions and the law. It focuses mainly on Muslims, but is applicable to our discussion here.

    “By and large, such “religious accommodation” regimes provide that religious objectors may get exemptions even from generally applicable laws unless denying the exemption is necessary to serve a compelling government interest.[53] So if a government action requires someone to do something that he sees as religiously forbidden (e.g., working on the Sabbath), then sometimes — but not always — the objector will be able to get an exemption.[54] The same is true if a government action forbids someone from doing something he sees as religiously required (e.g., wearing religiously mandated dress or facial hair, or using peyote in a religious ceremony). The federal Civil Rights Act similarly gives employees, public or private, the right to an exemption from generally applicable work rules that interfere with the employees’ religious practices, unless the exemption would work an “undue hardship” on an employer.[55]”

    The two overriding principles with which religious exemptions are denied are undue hardship on the employer or a compelling government interest. For baking a cake, the former does not apply, and I see no compelling government interest in baking cakes.

    Now the Kansas law may be too vague or not narrow enough, and I think that is a valid argument to have, but to say there should be no religious exemption whatsoever in cases like these is a bridge too far.

  • James Bradshaw

    Meanwhile, HB 2153 has passed in Arizona, with language so broad and vague that it allows any owner of any business to deny *any* kind of service whatsoever so long as it is done under the guise of “religious conscience”.

    This will be interesting.

    • Bob Wilson

      Also in Arizona a Republican (natch) sponsor of the bill said

      “A business owner can already decide not to hire somebody who is gay or lesbian. This doesn’t change that.”

      So I still ask, what do Christians want? Do you want the option to fire employees for being gay? If not, you need to be clear about that.

    • Esther O'Reilly

      Hurray. One step closer to my libertarian pipe dream of any private owner of any business being allowed to deny any kind of service whatsoever for any reason whatsoever.

  • Ian Shaw

    I think Gus had a great point. All laws discriminate. All discrimination isn’t bad. I openly discriminate against child molesters, no one seems to have a problem with that. I even on occasion will discriminate against green vegetables and tomatoes on a cheeseburger.

    Discrimination, in and of itself isn’t wrong.

    Will rapsits come out and say that laws against rape discriminate them and by virtue of the equal protection clause, it should be a protected right?

    • Adam Shields

      There is a difference between encouraging discrimination and discouraging it. Also there is a difference between discriminating based on action and based on characteristics over which a person has not ability to control. Clearly many think that homosexuality is something that a person can choose (and many that disagree.)

      But I am very concerned about the idea that as Christians we should encourage by law people to discriminate for any reason someone wants. Shouldn’t we as Christians work to empower the disempowered? Isn’t that the point of much of the Old Testament law and much of Jesus’ ethics?

      At this point we know that legal means do not immediately change hearts. But over time legal means are one way of codifying right behavior. (Maybe that is the point of Kansas and other laws, some don’t want to codify behavior of acceptance of homosexuals as fully people. – note: not accusing you of this Ian.)

      One of the tenants of freedom is that freedom should be encouraged to the extent that it does not hurt others. So clearly no reasonable person would say it is more free to make rape legal so rapists can be protected. But there is a much less clear case of harm in this case than in a rapist case.

      Making straw men arguments really does not move the debate forward. It just created heat and little light.

      • Ian Shaw

        While I would agree with you that no repsonsible person would say that rape should be legal, what we’ve heard from “responsible people’s” mouth and what we’ve seem “responsible people” legislate in the past 20-30 years should be somewhat of an alarming trend. For every 100 people that would say rape is a crime, I bet you could find someone that disagrees with it. My question is, who determines what “hurts others” and what is the merit/criteria?

        I fear that someday, this country will look like the movie Idiocracy and ruin the great burger chain known presently as Fuddruckers.

  • mikewittmer

    Well said. The key distinction here, which you make, is between serving and participating. I don’t understand why so many are unable or unwilling to see this distinction, but it is crucial.

  • Watson Klein

    Wow– we have come a long way from “love your neighbor” when we work to make our neighbor a second class citizen. This is why vast majority of millennials perceive us to be “anti-homosexual” and “hypocritical” according to the Barna Group, and why they are leaving the church in droves.

  • Ken Abbott

    “Christians serve unrepentant murderers through prison ministry. So why can’t they provide a service for a same-sex marriage?”

    Christians do indeed serve unrepentant murderers… but we don’t find one and go help out with the murder. That’s NOT part of the Christian call to serve others.

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