February 27, 2014

SSM round-up

by Jesse Johnson

Yesterday I wrote about three obvious questions from the recent scrap about gay marriage. Today’s post is for those that have been sleeping for the past week and missed the controversy all together.  If you suffer from gay-marriage-controversy overload, you may have missed the newest twists and turns, which is a shame because you missed some really good writing.  Today I want to give a round-up of what others have written, and direct you to some of the better posts on this issue.

But first a little history: in the past few months gay “marriage” has been legalized in 17 states. Most of these saw marriage legalized by judges, and a few saw the turn at the ballot box. Since then there has been a tidal wave of additional lawsuits in the remaining 33 states that ban it. Every indicator is that those bans will fall as well.

In the meantime, some same-sex couples have sued bakers, photographers, and florists who have declined to provide their services to gay weddings. Denny Burk has a powerful article detailing one of those examples.  The gist is that the florist served a couple she knew to be homosexual for almost ten years, and she considered them to be her friends. They then asked her business to provide flowers for their wedding, she refused, and was reported to the state, who filed suit against her (I wrote about these cases here).

This took gay marriage to whole new level. No longer is it something that can simply be recognized by the state, but it has morphed rapidly into something that every citizen could be force to actively approve of.  When a Christian DJ, pastor, baker, florist, or photographer refuses to service a same-sex ceremony, they fall on the wrong side of the law.

Some states (including Arizona and Kansas) proposed legislation that would specifically allow Christian business owners to decline service to same-sex marriage ceremonies without running afoul of the law. A good summary of what these proposals would/would not do is found at Christian Post. But these proposed laws were attacked, and eventually were discarded after a tsunami of public opposition. Ironically, some of that opposition was led by Christian columnists, such as Kirsten Powers (USA Today, who compared them to Jim Crow laws) and Jonathan Merritt (Daily Beast, who called these business leaders hypocrites for providing service to people on their second marriages). Together, their main point was essentially a WWJD kind of argument, and they suggested that Jesus the carpenter would have built the stage for a same-sex wedding, had he only been offered the job.

As for a response, I strongly suggest you read Al Mohler who systematically dismantled Powers’ and Merritt’s columns. Douglas Wilson offered his response as well (“Put an egg in their shoe” which is well worth reading for the way he interacts with Romans 1, and also for this sentence: “ I don’t know much about Merritt, but what I have seen seems to indicate someone who is being wafted along by the breezes emanating from the Zeitgeist Wind Farm, which is a bad metaphor because that’s not how wind farms work.”).

Meanwhile, Russell Moore responded to the accusation that it is hypocritical for Christians not to endorse same-sex ceremonies if they would sell their wares to a person on their second marriage.

Telling in most of the articles that compared Christians to racists is that the authors generally missed the distinction between denying service to a person because they are gay, and declining to use their business to promote a same-sex ceremony. I have not heard of any Christian arguing that others should not serve homosexuals (despite the hysteria on the issue), but instead have only heard of Christians arguing that they should not be forced by the government to make cakes for gay marriages. It is a distinction lost on Powers and Merritt, but strangely enough, one that was grasped by what is certainly the best secular post on this issue (here, at The Atlantic; I really recommend you read this, although you do have to get through the author saying, “You might not believe this, but I actually know a few Christians who are not bigots!” Yeah? Well I actually know an Atlantic columnist that isn’t condescending, but I digress).

Finally, if you are going to only read one of these posts, I suggest this one: The Institute on Religion and Democracy has a staff editorial (“Jonathan Merritt, Christian Artistic Expression and the Preferential Option for Caesar”). They summarize this issue quite well, and show the folly of asking the government to compel people’s consciences at the expense of religious freedom. It really is a must read.

Where does this leave us?

Eric Teetsel at the Manhattan Declaration gives a ten-minute crash course in why Christians should care about these issues. But ultimately we are seeing Romans 1 validated and vindicated  right before us.  In a culture ruled by homosexuality and idolatry, it is not enough to simply do evil, but it has to be celebrated and affirmed as moral good. And not being satisfied with the freedom to practice evil, those who are on this road insist that their own evil must be applauded by others. If you refuse… well, as Eric Erickson wrote almost one year ago, “you will be made to care.” Or, as the prophet of our day has said:

 

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA.
  • Val Kukec

    What about the doctrine of “Separation” ? I and my church “believe that all the saved should live in such a manner as not to bring reproach upon their Savior and Lord; and that separation from all religious apostasy, heresy, and all worldly and sinful pleasures, practices and associations is commanded of God. We further believe that the Scriptures plainly teach that Christians should not marry or have other entangling alliances with unbelievers (Romans 12:1,2; 14:13; 2 Corinthians 6:14-17; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 1 John 2:15-17; and 2 John 9-11).”

  • http://michaelcoughlin.net/ Michael Coughlin

    Thanks for rounding things up. Much easier to navigate. If I may share my thoughts about some of these issues, you can see if they are worth your time here.

    http://michaelcoughlin.net/blog/index.php/2014/02/real-friendship-includes-the-gospel/

  • http://www.melissacollins.biz/ Melissa Collins

    Thanks for another great post. I will be reading all of the articles you suggested.

  • T Howard

    “This is why the first line of analysis here has to be whether society really believes that baking a wedding cake or arranging flowers or taking pictures (or providing any other service) is an affirmation. This case simply has not been made, nor can it be, because it defies logic.”

    Despite Mohler’s attempt, he doesn’t really address this. When does a business providing goods / services to someone = affirmation and celebration? According to Mohler, I can sell them a cake, but just not a wedding cake. How about if the cake is to celebrate their adopted child’s birthday? Or the flowers are for valentines day and they are giving them to their same-sex partner? How about a Christian caterer who is asked to serve food at the reception? Is he/she celebrating / affirming so-called same-sex marriage by providing catering services?

    Stop the madness, Al. A business providing goods / services to someone affirmation or celebration.

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      So to quote Douglas Wilson’s article, are you saying its ok to make something immoral LOOK good, as long as you don’t have to SAY that it is good?

      • Ken B

        I know the comments of the people that tell us “provide the service just don’t condone the action…” but I can’t use that approach and escape the end of Romans 1:32 (who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. NKJV) so… even our approval is “deserving of death”.

        • Jacob Hudson

          I think the distinction should be made between our “approval” of a practice as believers and our unbiased provision of services as Americans if we open our services to the public. If you own a private company or establishment, I think you should have the right as a citizen to deny service to whomever you like, but once you become accessible publicly, you have opened yourself to serving the public with your business as long as it does not pose a risk to safety or legal violation. To deny your services, as a public entity, to a member of the public dependent upon a certain characteristic setting them apart from everyone else is am act of discrimination. Discrimination is to look upon someone as a lesser being and thus not feel they are worthy of having the privileges you have. We have seen this in our country’s history in masters of race and gender, primarily. But this situation is no different. And to treat someone as anything less than if you did not know that about then is, plain and simple, hate. Hate is just as much an violation of the Bible as accepting sin. But there is a difference in accepting the sin and allowing them the same privileges as the next person. That is what the entire issue, from the very beginning, is about. Are we to show discrimination and hate toward homosexuals, or will we allow them, as Christians and despite our disapproval, the same legal and public service rights as the next person and love ALL our neighbors? After all, muslims, buddhists, atheists, agnostics, taoists, jainists, and Christians can all get married, though not in the Christian church. Let people marry, I say, though as a religious institute, the church has the right to deny the officiating of the ceremony as a provision of its doctrines, recognized the world over, not just in America.

      • T Howard

        Jesse, I’m saying it’s okay for a Christian business to provide goods / services to people regardless of their sexual orientation because doing so does not necessarily mean you endorse, celebrate, or affirm what someone does with your goods / services.

        • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

          If your “goods/services/deeds” are public affirmation, then yes, it does mean that.
          Listen: NOBODY is saying Christians shouldn’t give their services to homosexuals. Who is saying that?

    • http://michaelcoughlin.net/ Michael Coughlin

      T – Regardless of whether or not you desire to continue to do business with people who are using your product/expertise to celebrate or advance evil, can you at least concede that the gov’t ought not force EVERYONE to do so?

      • T Howard

        Michael,

        Would you want a business to deny you their product / service because you’re a Christian? Or, would you want gov’t to compel businesses to serve people regardless of religious beliefs?

        I’m not for govt compulsion in general, but allowing businesses to determine which customers they serve based on a person’s religion, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation is not a road I think you want to go down.

        • http://michaelcoughlin.net/ Michael Coughlin

          No, T. And no one is proposing that is what is to be allowed. Did you read the article above?

          1. I frankly don’t care if a business wants to deny me a service because I’m a Christian.

          2. No one is proposing denying service because someone is a particular type of sinner. You change the argument when you make that statement.

          Why not answer the direct question you were asked? Do you believe the government should compel people to provide services which violate their conscience.

          For example:
          1. Dr’s must provide abortions if they are obs. Why should an aborter be denied service by a Christian?

          2. Pastor’s must perform marriage ceremonies for couples they do not believe are engaging in a biblical marriage.

          3. DJ’s or caterers must attend and provide service at frat party’s where strippers are performing.

          4. Bakers, photographers and florists must provide services to people who are engaging in an act considered sinful by God, nay an ABOMINATION. How many pictures of a dude kissing a dude are photographers required to photograph?

          T – Until you are willing to be logical, honest and biblical, we will get nowhere.

          • T Howard

            Again, I’m not in favor of gov’t coercion in general, but here’s my direct answers…

            1. This is an invalid comparison to bakers or florists.
            2. This is an invalid comparison to bakers or florists.
            3. Yes, unless you specify that you don’t work frat parties period.
            4. Yes.

          • http://michaelcoughlin.net/ Michael Coughlin

            T – Please forgive me. I was interacting with you as if you were a Christian. Can you confirm for me that you are not a born-again Christian?

          • T Howard

            Michael,

            You need to explain why my answers indicate I’m not a born-again Christian. Your question was about gov’t coercion, was it not?

          • http://michaelcoughlin.net/ Michael Coughlin

            T – read my reply to Philip. It is useless to argue the nuances of how a Christian should live with someone who is not a Christian and who does not believe the Bible to be his authority.

            I am not interested in convincing you of how government should work. I’d prefer that you would submit to God and be reconciled to Him through Christ. Until then, you are actually unable to be truly rational.

          • T Howard

            Michael,

            Thanks for your non-response and demonstrating your ad hominem, non sequitur logic.

          • Philip

            Let me see if I understand the basic principle here. It is your position that the government should allow me to deny my services (for example, photography, baking, etc.) to one set of individuals while I provide my services to another set of individuals if providing my services to the first set of individuals would violate my conscience or my religious beliefs. Do I have this correct?

          • http://michaelcoughlin.net/ Michael Coughlin

            No, not quite Philip. And without knowing you, it would be wrong to assume you are trying to cleverly twist the actual argument to create what is commonly known as a straw man so that you can easily burn that and put a notch in your debate belt.

            At the same time, I must assume that you possess an adequate level of intelligence to allow you to read and think critically. So considering your question has already been answered multiple times in the post and comments, I have to wonder about your motivation.

            Nevertheless, the problem here is not how you and I want government to function. In fact, it is impossible for us to come to an agreement. The reason is because we both want the government to do the same thing – enforce righteousness and punish evil. As well, the problem is not necessarily in how we believe government should accomplish this (although we may differ on that point, too).

            The problem is that you and I have a different definition or standard of what is righteous and what is evil. As long as I think homosexuality is evil and you do not, then our approach to dealing with its existence will differ. I’ll see it as a problem to be solved, you’ll see my rhetoric as the problem…

            Here’s the really wonderful news, though, Philip. The same God who hates evil and will punish it is the God who also sent His Son Jesus to die in the place of sinners like you and me.

            Yes, the God of the Bible. You know, the one you hate, He’s the God who defines righteousness – and He’s done it clearly through His Word, the Scriptures.

            Which type are you? Do you deny His existence? Do you feign indifference toward Him? Or do you just hate Him, unwilling to submit or worship a God like He is?

            That’s how I was. I said I don’t care if the God of the Bible is real – I WILL NOT worship a God like that, because He is not worthy of worship. I hated Him, and I hated people who told me He was going to send me to Hell for my sin.

            I was wrong, Philip. And so are you. I don’t say that to be offensive, per se, but it doesn’t bother me if you are offended because I care for your soul more than I desire your approval. You’ve offended God, and He holds you in contempt. You are more vile in His pure eyes than the most ugly insect who bit you would be in yours. Your love for sin, whether it is homosexual sin, heterosexual lust or promiscuity, lying, stealing, cheating – whatever it may be- has separated you from Him. You may be a really good dude (I was NOT). Maybe you are pretty good in the sight of most men.

            Who cares? It is nothing but worthlessness to the God you refuse to submit to. Even worse, your desire to be approved of based on your own efforts is idolatry.

            Yet, even so, in His mercy, God the Father sent His only Son, Jesus Christ into the world. You probably have heard the story. He was born of a virgin, became a man and was crucified. He was punished in the place of sinners. Strange, the latin prefix anti- means “in the place of.” Jesus was the anti-Michael on that cross. He was punished “in the place of Michael” on that cross. I’m ashamed I was proud to once identify myself as an anti-Christ. But now I am, in God’s eyes, hidden in Christ.

            He was bruised for my transgressions and chastised for my iniquities. The best part, Philip? He offers this to you as well. You, Philip, have a personal decision to make about Jesus today. Is He God almighty and Savior to you? Or will be simply be God almighty and your judge?

            Turn to Him today and recognize His grace. Trust Him fully as your savior and through your faith in His righteousness God will declare you righteous because of what He has done. This is the message of hope and salvation in Christ. Do not delay as you do not know what tomorrow may bring.

          • Philip

            “No, not quite Philip. And without knowing you, it would be wrong to assume you are trying to cleverly twist the actual argument to create what is commonly known as a straw man so that you can easily burn that and put a notch in your debate belt.”

            If my goal was to twist the argument to create a straw man, then we did I deliberately and specifically ask you if my understanding of your position was correct? In fact, my goal was to avoid making assumptions. My goal was to understand the principle that you are using to draw conclusion about what the government should or should not do.

            Then, if my understanding of your position was correct, then we could have proceeded from that point. If my understanding was inaccurate, then I was trying to give you the opportunity to correct my misunderstanding. Unfortunately, after reading your answer, I’m afraid that I’m actually more confused about your position that I was at the start.

            “So considering your question has already been answered multiple times in the post and comments, I have to wonder about your motivation.”

            The only questions I asked was whether or not I understood your particular position on this specific question. I don’t believe that this question has been answered before.

            “Nevertheless, the problem here is not how you and I want government to function.”

            Well, maybe I misunderstood, but I thought that this was, indeed, the problem under discussion. You raised the question “Do you believe the government should compel people to provide services which violate their conscience?” Isn’t this a question about how you want the government to function?

            As for the rest of your reply…sigh.

          • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

            I deleted a bunch of comments on this thread. Go to the newest topic on top if you want to keep the conversation going.

  • Melissa

    Jesse, this was a very well-written article. Thank you for what you wrote and also the links you provided to other writings.

  • Pingback: Addressing a week of controversy over religious freedom and SSM rights | Strengthened by Grace

  • http://almostreadytogoamish.blogspot.com/ Johnny

    Make marriage exclusively a church issue for believers. And if the state wishes to define marriage different, then who cares? Seems like there are bigger issues to deal with than this.

  • Ray Adams

    In an interesting article on the concept of subversion as a two-way street – implying the necessity of receptivity – this quote, which I believe applies to this discussion, raises the picture of rearranging chairs on the Titanic (not that Christians capitulate as to their moral obligation, but that we recognize that the war of words is extremely limited):
    “…the destruction is already complete. No attempt will ever be made to reconstruct a desire for the Bible as God’s authoritative word in the hearts of American people. As a result, America will continue to be without discernment, tolerant of all kinds of evil and destroyed by the very evil they welcome.”
    That is the end rung of Romans 1 – God turns them over to a mind unable to discern. It is God’s judgment. We are commissioned to snatch brands from the fire, not to preserve America as though we could overturn his judgment.
    No implication that you were trying to save America, Jesse. Just my effort to identify what I perceive many who enter into this kind of a discussion seek to achieve. In fact, I appreciate the article as one who wishes to be informed, to know the times.

  • 4Commencefiring4

    There’s no avoiding the inevitable clash between our constitutionally protected right to freely exercise our religion and the right of others to receive equal treatment under the law. And I would agree that providing a product or service to benefit an ungodly event or person runs afoul of our obligations.

    We need a few more instances where the roles are reversed: a church retreat organizer asking an atheist sign maker to produce a huge banner for the meeting hall: “Whosoever believeth shall not be condemned. Whosoever believeth not is condemned already.”

    How would MSNBC report that one?

  • brad

    This is a tough issue. I feel like people who actually live and work with homosexuals have one response that seems loving but could come across as celebrating or encouraging sin. On the other end of the spectrum are the pastors and intellectuals who are writing from a more general and depersonalized perspective. Their perspective seems more truth centered, but out of touch with reality. I am thankful for both the practitioners and the intellectuals! They both challenge me and encourage me!

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      …the pastors and intellectuals who are writing from a more general and depersonalized perspective.

      How would you know that these “pastors and intellectuals” don’t also “actually live and work with homosexuals”?

      Their perspective seems more truth centered, but out of touch with reality.

      If truth is that which corresponds to reality, then the sentence quoted above makes no sense.

      I am thankful for both the practitioners and the intellectuals!

      This is puzzling. If the practice of the “practitioners” in any way encourages or celebrates sin, then no amount of politeness and politically correctness can be truly loving. And if all the “intellectuals” do is theorize about truth but don’t ever put it into practice, they short-circuit the task of sound thinking and biblical reasoning by not actually being a benefit to anyone. I’m not sure why either, let alone both, would be encouraging.

      Rather, the “practitioners” need to submit their minds to the truth and start “practicing” biblically, and the “intellectuals” need to translate their truth into action.

      In fact, there are many of the condescendingly-dubbed “intellectuals” who do indeed do just that, despite what Brad may feel like.

      • Brad

        Thanks for your reply Mike! Your comments always sharpen me! Here are my responses:

        1. How would you know that these “pastors and intellectuals” don’t also “actually live and work with homosexuals”?

        I don’t know for sure that they don’t also live and work with homosexuals, but “the pastors and intellectuals” seem to talk more abstractly about principles and theory rather than the messiness and complexities of relationships. I have found that these principles are helpful in general and helpful on a “macro” level, but they don’t always address the issues I come across when I minister to real people.

        It also seems to me that if you are a pastor at a conservative evangelical church you probably aren’t working with too many homosexuals:)

        2. If truth is that which corresponds to reality, then the sentence quoted above makes no sense.

        I am not trying to be too philosophical here:) I have just noticed that the advice pastors and intellectuals give on blog sites or in articles is very difficult to apply to my everyday experiences, to my reality. Their language and arguments are very abstract and they don’t deal with the nuances of my reality. I actually think this is where the local church and body of believers is a huge benefit. The local church is a wonderful place where these complexities are fleshed out and answered. Can you really tell me that there aren’t days when the answers just aren’t clear and the Bible doesn’t seem to provide a quick answer to the complexities of life or your ministry? And what a blessing it is to talk about these complexities and pray about them with fellow believers!

        By the way, I always take away some great truth and knowledge from the smart guys like Albert Mohler, or TGC, or you guys here at the Cripplegate!

        3. The “practitioners” need to submit their minds to the truth and start “practicing” biblically, and the “intellectuals” need to translate their truth into action.

        Yes, you are correct. But in my experience, intellectuals generally talk about the “whys” – the theory and principles behind the truth, but not about the “hows.” And the practitioners usually talk about the “hows,” rather than the “whys.” For example, an intellectual will break down the Great Commission and tell you what each word means and how you should be motivated by Jesus’ presence, authority etc. On the other hand, a practitioner will brainstorm all the practical ways the gospel can go out. Its the difference between being a seminary teacher and a church planter, a mathematician and an accountant etc.

        At any rate, don’t you think that it is true that being a “practitioner” is a different skill than being an “intellectual” and the person who does well at both is pretty rare? I have found it helpful to learn from both types!

        Finally, I wasn’t trying to be condescending when I used the word “intellectuals.” I am sorry if I offended you or hurt your feelings with the words I chose.

        Looking forward to your response!

  • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

    Ok, a few commenters are having a hard time getting this point. Let me say this as paitently and pastorally as possible:
    NOBODY is saying that Christians should deny “goods, services, etc.” to homosexuals. Who is saying that? It is absolutely absurd.
    Let me try it this way: ZERO people are saying Christians should not sell cars to homosexuals, etc. So please, please STOP SAYING THAT. I apologize for the caps.

    The AZ law, for those that are acting like they care about it, took federal freedom of religion act and applied it at the local level (that federal act, btw, passed the house unanimously, was intro’d by Schumer, and signed by Clinton, FYI). It has nothing–NO-THING to do with saying Christians have the right to refuse service to people. So can we stop saying that, please?

    What it did allow is for a Christian business owner–or lets say a baker–to refuse to make a wedding cake with two grooms on top of it. Or for a photogropher to say, “You know what, homosexuality is sinful, and I don’t want to spend a Saturday shooting a wedding that is a celebration of it. You want me to take your passport photos? Sure! A retirement cake? On it!”

    • Philip

      I’m not all that interested in keeping the discussion going, because, as they say, I’m am not a lawyer, and legal arguments make my head hurt.

      However, I’m genuinely confused.

      You said, “it has nothing–NO-THING to do with saying Christians have the right to refuse service to people.”. But if a photographer says “you know what, homosexuality is sinful, and I don’t want to spend a Saturday shooting a wedding that is a celebration of it”, how is this not a refusal of service?

      Two gay men request a service (photos, cakes), etc. The photographer refuses to provide the service. Isn’t this a refusal of service? The owner has refused to serve people who requested his/her services. I’m not asking if it’s right or wrong for the owner to do this. I’m just asking…isn’t this a refusal of service?

      If a law was passed that protected a business owner who does the above, why wouldn’t the same law protect an owner who simply decided not to provide any services to any homosexuals, including taking passport photos? I understand that you are not saying that the owner shouldn’t do this, but why couldn’t the owner do this if he/she so desired? Isn’t the legal principle here the idea that he government should allow an owner to deny services if providing services would violate the owner’s conscience or religious
      beliefs?

      • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

        2 points: first of all, those protections are already there for federal laws. Have, in the 20 years that law has been around, has it ever (a single time?) been used by a Christian to justify refusal of service? Never, in 20 years, that I know of. So, I’m not really sure what you are getting at. Its not like that freedom isn’t already there (some how, some way, its actually legal to do that, and guess what? Christians aren’t doing it.). Its not as if the AZ law would have suddenly opened the flood gates. Those gates are already there. That law was almost identical to the federal law.

        Second–refusing to shoot a same sex wedding for someone who has been your customer for 10 years is not refusal of service. Hence my point about passport pictures. If you are having a hard time getting that point, flip it around–if you are an author and you were asked to write an article about a movie you liked, and you do it, great. If you were asked to endorse a movie about prostitution, you don’t do it. That’s not refusal of service, Jim Crow style. Its you saying you are not going to promote something that you find immoral. if that SAME CUSTOMER asks you to then write a nice review of bike paths, and you do that, obviously the issue is not the customer.
        Or, as Eric Teetsel at the Manhattan Declaration wrote–if you sell someone apples, but not oranges, the issue is not the someone, but the oranges.
        And, moreover, its not even an issue of should Christians sell cakes or whatever. Its an issue of should the government compel them to. I get that you (or someone else) might not see the big deal. But that is precisely why the law would have been helpful–because not everyone thinks like you.

        • Philip

          “Refusing to shoot a same sex wedding for someone who has been your customer for 10 years is not refusal of service.”

          So, it’s only “refusal of service” if you ALWAYS refuse to serve a particular customer? Refusing to provide photographic services is not refusal of service if you’ve taken photos for that person in the past?

          Again, IANAL, but I would have thought that “refusal of service” refers to any refusal of service, whether the provider had provided a service to a given customer in the past or not. Guess the legal definition of “refusal of service” is different from what I thought it would be. I think this may be why we are, to some extent, talking past each other. I’m surprised by what appears to be the legal definition of “refusal of service”, but ya learn something new every day.

          “That law was almost identical to the federal law.”

          Then what was the point of the proposed Arizona law? If the Arizona law was almost identical to the federal law, why was the Arizona law needed? What was the difference between the federal and Arizona laws? They must differ in some way or the Arizona law would have been redundant.

          As far as I know, federal law usually trumps state law, especially with respect to rights. So, if the federal law actually does as you suggest that it does and the gates are already there, then the bakers, photographers, etc. should have already been able to win their cases. They should have been able to do what you say no one has done, namely, use the federal law to justify refusal of service.

          I’m also confused by something you said in a previous post. In answer to the rhetorical question “should Christians push for laws granting us the right to refuse to sell services to gay weddings?”, you said “it would be nice for those laws to exist.” Now you say that a federal law that grants the right to refuse to sell services to gay weddings DOES exist. I’m sorry, but I’m confused by this. Do such laws exist or not?

          “Its an issue of should the government compel them to.”

          I assume that you don’t believe that the government should compel a photographer to provide his/her services to an interracial marriage or an interdenominational marriage if the photographer thinks such marriages are immoral?

          Finally, I’m still trying to figure out what the basic legal principle is behind the laws. Is there a basic principle here? What is the fundamental argument? Is it the idea that the government should allow an owner to deny services if providing services would violate the owner’s conscience or religious beliefs? This is really what I’ve been trying to figure out. What is the fundamental principle here?

          • 4Commencefiring4

            I don’t think any business has a legal obligation to provide a potential customer their reason for declining a particular job. What’s wrong with saying, “I appreciate your thinking of me, but I believe I’m going to turn it down at this time. Thanks for coming in, though.” And just smile.

            If they ask why, just say it’s a business decision you’re making, one of many you must make routinely. And smile.

          • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

            Exactly. But these cases aren’t preceding under the law, but rather under human rights commissions and such. So you can say whatever you want, but if you get sued under the human rights comissions, you have to justify why you said no. And also, it probably goes to far to tell Christians that they are not allowed (or should not) use their business for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel.

          • Philip

            I don’t think any business has a legal obligation to provide a potential customer their reason for declining a particular job. What’s wrong with saying, “I appreciate your thinking of me, but I believe I’m going to turn it down at this time (because you’re black, but I’m not going to say this out loud). Thanks for coming in, though.” And just smile.

            See the problem?

          • Philip

            My reply to 4C4 appears to be missing. Perhaps I’m looking in the wrong place, but if we’re at the stage where you start deleting my comments, then I guess we’re done here.

          • Philip

            Let’s try this again using a different approach. The reason you have a legal obligation to provide a potential customer a reason for declining their job is that, otherwise, you could simply turn down all jobs based on race, religion, etc. You would be free to discriminate for any number of reasons. So, yes, you have some obligation to offer a reason for turning down a job.

          • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

            Ok–It is not an issue if Fedral Law trumps state law. They are different. So the Federal Freedom of Religion law means that a federal law that infringes on religious freedom has to pass a huge test before it is enforced on those whose religious freedom it infringes upon. But state laws are not protected by that. So for example (the actual case taht brought about the federal law) if an Indian tribe smokes peyote for religious reasons, they are not violating federal laws that prohibit that. But they could be violating state laws.
            In this case, there is no federal law saying that a business has to take each and every customer that walks in the door, for whatever they ask. That’s why these cases are not in federal court (yet). They are in state preceedings (in Oregon under the business comission, WA under the state AG office, NM under their state human rights commission, etc.). So the federal law doesn’t offer protection from rulings by state human rights commissions.
            The AZ law as literally almost verbatim to the federal law–again, one that was passed by the house unanimously, and signed into law by Clinton.

            Also, a huge difference you are missing between this and the old “refusal of service” segregation era laws. Those laws were state laws that prohibited service of people based on race. Civil rights movement struck those down…but still, stores are allowed (at a federal level) to discriminate–such as a male only golf club or whatever. But they do that voluntarilly, not based on the law.
            The huge irony is that the AZ law would have actually given homosexual customers more protection than they currently have (which is none), but that subtle point is lost on most people. Alas.
            Does that clear up confusion? If you still have another question, ask it on a new comment, rather than under this.

          • Philip

            Don’t have another question, just want to point out that if there is a great need for state laws, then the “freedom” isn’t “already there” and “those gates” are not “already there”. If everything was “already there”, then there truly would be no need for a state law, whether if mimics the federal law or not.

          • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

            Philip–I replied below, and I did delete some of your comments. See the newest comment on this thread where I moved one of them, just for the sake of readability.

          • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

            See my other reply, but I missed your last question. The principle is that right now Christian business owners are being brought before business commissions and human rights commissions (at the state level) for discriminating against homosexuals. My point is that they are not doing that (as evidenced by the fact they have lots of homosexual customers). This law would have given business owners a defense. They could have still been sued, but in court they could have claimed that any human rights commission verdict against them would substantially infringe on their religious beliefs (a defense already available on the federal level). You seem to be saying “no it doesn’t infringe on your religious beliefs,” but I’d appreciate it if you (and judges, and Jonathan Merritt) kindly let me decide for myself what my religious beliefs are.

          • Philip

            “My point is that they are not doing that (discriminating against homosexual customers)”.

            I will photograph heterosexuals getting married. I will not photography gays getting married. What’s the difference between the the individuals getting married? Sexual orientation. It’s the same event (marriage ceremony), but I refuse my services on the basis sexual orientation of the participants. Now, maybe I can justify the discrimination on the grounds of religious belief, and I can hope there will be laws that support me on grounds of religious freedom, but I AM discriminating against gays. I AM treating my customers differently, based on their sexual orientation. Justify it as you wish, but let’s call it what it is. It’s discrimination.

            “You seem to be saying “no it doesn’t infringe on your religious
            beliefs,” but I’d appreciate it if you (and judges, and Jonathan
            Merritt) kindly let me decide for myself what my religious beliefs are.”

            I think that you misunderstand me. I’m not at all attempting to decide for you what your religious beliefs might be.

            As I see it, the legal question is this. When and to what extent can you appeal to your religious beliefs as a justification for denying a service? Now, I’m not at all sure that I have a good, solid answer to this question, and that’s what makes it a very interesting question. However, it seems to me that one could use the argument that “X infringes on my religious beliefs” to justify a wide range of actions or refusal of services. This is my concern.

            For example, I could certainly refuse to photograph a marriage between a Calvinist and an Arminian on the ground that it “infringes on my religious beliefs, right? Same for an interracial marriage. Or couldn’t I say that blacks and whites cannot stay together in my motel, because this “infringes on my religious beliefs” about race? Why not? My religious beliefs are my religious beliefs, and they are justification enough for my actions. The government should not compel me to act otherwise with respect to potential customers.

            So, at what point do we allow the religious beliefs of a given individual to negatively affect the lives of others? At what point can you no longer use “religious belief” as a justification for deny someone a service. As I said, I think it’s an interesting question. I do think that in this case, there may be too much emphasis on the particulars of gays and wedding ceremonies. It’s easy to say that the state should not compel a photographer to photograph a gay wedding when you, personally, think homosexuality is a sin. But what happens when we take the basic principles (the right to refuse services based on belief) and apply them to other situations?

    • Philip

      Interesting.

  • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

    Philip: I deleted your last few comments b/c I asked you to, if you had another question, to put it as its own comment. In Disqus, you can only reply like 4 levels before it gets impossible to read/track with.

    Basically though, the deleted comments say essentially this:

    “Let’s try this again using a different approach. The reason you have a legal obligation to provide a potential customer a reason for declining their job is that, otherwise, you could simply turn down all jobs based on race, religion, etc. You would be free to discriminate for any number of reasons. So, yes, you have some obligation to offer a reason for turning down a job.”

    My response is that, in many states, it is in fact legal to refuse service to people for essentially any reason (I’m sure you’ve seen the signs, right? The business reserves the right to refuse service”). Now, obviously, if a business did that, they would lose their customers. But that is their choice, and it is in many states perfectly legal. The Jim Crow laws were just that: laws. The owners had no choices in the matter.

    Obviously, and this point has been made so many times I’m hitting my head against the computer typing it again, nobody is saying Christians should not serve homosexual customers. They can right now, at this very second, and they are not. But in some states, WA, OR, CO, NM so far, state govts. have ruled that Christians by virtue of being in x business, can be forced to do a same sex wedding. I can think of no other paralllel to that. The question I asked you earlier remains unanswerd: IF you were an author and you were paid to write endorsements, and you were asked to write one endorsing something immoral but legal, do you have the right to refuse? (Obviously you do, I just would like to hear you say it :) ).
    One other huge difference b/w your constant tie back to segregation–God made black skin, and God also declared homosexuality to be immoral. They are on opposite sides of morality. It is immoral to discriminate against people b/c of race. Also homosexuality is immoral. So even on a base ethical level, they are opposites, not similarities.
    Despite my snarkiness, I appreciate your questions–if indeed they are questions. Thanks Philip

    • Philip

      Yes, my questions really are questions. As I said, I find this a very interesting legal issue.

      “My response is that, in many states, it is in fact legal to refuse service
      to people for essentially any reason.”

      Any reason? I can refuse to provide services to blacks or Jews or whatever, just because they are blacks or Jews or whatever? Are you sure this is legal? Can I refuse to teach a student in a classroom because he is X, Y or Z? Is this true for all services? If I can refuse services for essentially any reason, I must admit that this greatly surprises me. I guess I should have gone to law school.

      “Obviously, and this point has been made so many times I’m hitting my head
      against the computer typing it again, nobody is saying Christians should not
      serve homosexual customers. They can refuse right now, at this very second, and they are not.”

      I understand that you did not say that the Christians should never, ever
      serve gay customers in any way shape or form. I understand that no one else at this web site said that Christians should never, ever serve gay customers in any way, shape or form. I believe that the legal principle that you are promoting could mean that a Christian could refuse to ever serve a gay customer on grounds of religious belief, but I’ve never thought or stated that you, personally, were saying that a Christian should do this.

      And yet you said that Christians should not photograph gay weddings. You are saying that a Christian should not serve a gay customer who asks you to photograph a wedding. This is a refusal to serve a customer based
      on sexual orientation. So, Christians who refuse to photograph or bake for a gay weddings are refusing to provide a service “right now, at this very second”. Right now, Christians are refusing to serve gays who request their photographing and baking services for their weddings. Yes, I understand that this is not refusing to serve gays at all times and under all conditions, but it is still a refusal to provide a requested service based on the sexual orientation of the customer. Now, you believe that the refusal to serve is
      justified, so why not simply acknowledge this for what it is? Or are you going to hold to the concept that it’s only a “refusal of service” if you never, ever serve someone under any conditions?

      “But in some states, WA, OR, CO, NM so far, state govts. have ruled that
      Christians by virtue of being in x business, can be forced to do a same sex
      wedding. I can think of no other paralllel to that.”

      I believe that if I’m in the restaurant business, I can be forced to serve interracial couples, regardless of my feelings about the morality of such relationships. I’m forced to offer my services, regardless of my personal moral objections. There are plenty of examples of federal and state governments forcing individuals to do things against their beliefs. I think
      that you are focusing on a particular example of service to a particular type
      of customer because you find this specific case offensive to you, but you are missing the forest for the trees

      “If you were an author and you were paid to write endorsements, and you were asked to write one endorsing something immoral but legal, do you have the right to refuse? (Obviously you do, I just would like to hear you say it :) ).”

      Is writing an endorsement really the same as taking a photo or baking a
      cake? No, so the question isn’t really relevant. I can photograph a war or any number of other events without “endorsing” the event. A photographer simply records events.

      Obviously, you believe that a photographer has the right to refuse to photograph an interdenominational or interracial wedding. I would just like to hear you say it.

      “One other huge difference b/w your constant tie back to segregation–God made the races, and God also declared homosexuality to be immoral. They are on opposite sides of morality. It is immoral to discriminate against people b/c of race. Also homosexuality is immoral. So even on a base ethical level, they are opposites, not similarities.”

      Ah, but these are just you own, personal religious belief, aren’t they? I may have very different personal religious beliefs with respect to race, and my beliefs are as valid as yours. If it’s my belief that God requires discrimination based on race (and many Christians once believed this), then the government should not compel me to serve blacks, right? The principle here is that my beliefs should not be trampled by government compulsion.
      Doesn’t matter what those beliefs might be or whether or not you agree with those beliefs or what you personally think is moral or immoral.

    • Philip

      Just out of curiosity, why are you deleting my comments? Did I break a rule?

      • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

        Yeah, try again by commenting as a new comment, rather than hitting the reply button. I know Disqus can be confusing a bit on this point, but it is the best thing we’ve come up wiht here.

  • 4Commencefiring4

    Philip: Sorry, but I can’t find your latest post here, but here’s my take:

    Ideally, I think any business should be able to accept whatever jobs it wants, buy or sell from and to whomever it wants, etc., without having to be hauled into court. If everyone were free to choose his own customers & suppliers, the market would decide their degree of success. If Chin wants to serve only Chinese clients, he’ll have fewer jobs. If Sam wants only white customers, he’ll become known for that, too, and have the appropriate results. A Jewish rehearsal dinner (if they do that) probably isn’t going to reserve the banquet room at Som Ting Wong.

    I’m white. There are barbershops where I’d probably feel they’ve not been exactly waiting up for me. Frankly, I think we could probably dispense with a lot of the laws against discrimination now because it’s not 1955 anymore and attitudes are not what they were then. A realtor who wants as much business as possible isn’t likely to engage in the old “redlining” practice of years ago just because he could. Some might, but those who didn’t would then have a market advantage.

    Of course, government could not do that in awarding contracts. But they’re the exception, I’d say. In the free market, let the racists pay the price for their choices.