So today, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have allowed Christian business owners the right to refuse to provide services for gay weddings. Brewer, who spent several days considering whether to sign the bill or not, said, “it had the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve. It could divide Arizona in ways that we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want.”
For those of us here in New Mexico, we saw this issue rise up a few years ago when the New Mexican photographers refused to photograph a gay wedding. And more recently, a Christian bakery in Oregon was found to have violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007 when they refused to bake the cake for a gay wedding.
In the Oregon case, the subsequent investigation found, “that the bakery is not a religious institution under the law and that the business’ policy of refusing to make same-sex wedding cakes represents unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation,” said Charlie Burr, a spokesman for the Bureau of Labor and Industries. Under state law, the complaint against the bakery now moves into a period of “reconciliation”. If they can’t reach an agreement, formal civil charges could be filed and the Kleins (bakery owners) could face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian said their desire is to “rehabilitate” businesses like the one owned by the Christian couple. “Everybody is entitled to their own beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that folks have the right to discriminate,” he told the newspaper. “The goal is never to shut down a business. The goal is to rehabilitate.” Aaron Klein said there will be no reconciliation and there will be no rehabilitation. He and his wife will not back down from their Christian beliefs.
Widespread praise and celebration over Brewer’s decision to veto the bill has erupted all over the internet and social media. Many people, Christian and non-Christian alike, have written their support for Brewer’s decision and have cited the need to love and accept everyone as a valid reason to veto the bill. People are calling for the “discrimination, segregation, oppression, public shaming, and hatred” of gays to stop.
And that’s where I have a problem. Do we use these terms too loosely? Our society does not hate, oppress, shame, segregate, or discriminate against the LGBT community. The last time I went into a restaurant, I did not see a section labeled “gay section.” I do not see water fountains with signs posted “for straight people only.” We don’t require homosexuals to pay different taxes or to sit in the back of the bus or prohibit them from a certain career field or from pursuing a college education. We embrace people of all colors, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, socio-economic background, and religion and encourage them to pursue the American dream.
We are told to be “tolerant” and “accepting.” That’s fine. We shouldn’t hate anybody. And, yes, we should love everyone as Christ loved us. But to love and accept people doesn’t mean you have to agree with or condone every single decision they make. Yeshua loved everyone He came across but He also told them “go and sin no more.”
We are told to be tolerant and accepting but where is the tolerance and acceptance for those who believe homosexuality is wrong? Because I think it’s wrong I am somehow hating and discriminating and oppressing the LGBT community? Where’s the love and acceptance, people? You don’t have to agree with me, but you do have to respect my decision and view-point….just like I respect yours.
Which brings me to my next point. If we must respect everyone’s personal decisions on how they live their lives, why is it that this private-business’ decisions are not being respected? One of the benefits of owning your own business is that you get to set your hours, make your own rules, and decide how you will operate your business. You also get to decide with whom you and your business work. If a consulting firm, for example, decided that they and their potential clients would not work well together, they have the right to turn down the business deal.
I mean, really, if we let the free-market system work and enough people simply stop frequenting these business who refuse to be a part of gay weddings, then won’t they go out of business all on their own? It’s economic Darwinism. Let it happen.
So here is the question: Where do we draw the line? At what point are privately-owned businesses exercising their religious liberties or violating the civil liberties and “discriminating” against potential customers?
I am concerned that the message being sent is that civil liberties trump religious freedoms. And that’s a dangerous and slippery slope to go down. If one liberty trumps another, what’s to stop our other liberties from being taken away? Free speech? Freedom to practice religion the way we see fit? The freedom to own a gun? The freedom to choose how we raise our own children? And who gets to decide which liberties take precedence over another? The government? Is that really the best solution?
Now, to all the believers out there who feel guilty or embarrassed about their belief that a business has a right to refuse to participate in gay weddings: Don’t let others bully you into thinking that you are somehow a bad Christian and that you are not “showing the love of Christ.” That’s not hate…it’s simply a choice to disagree. Sharing the love of Messiah means that you don’t judge the LGBT community. That you don’t hurl hate-speech at gay people. That you don’t condemn at every opportunity. It is not our place to condemn or judge anyone.
However, showing people love doesn’t mean you now have to participate in or agree with their life choices…whatever they may be. When did “love” come to mean “approve?” You don’t have to agree with my decisions and I don’t have to agree with yours. We do, however, have to respect each other’s beliefs and sometimes, that simply means agreeing to disagree.