In December of 1865, the several American states ratified the 13th amendment, constitutionally ending involuntary servitude in the United States. In the 21st century, Americans are coming full circle. In a number of states, a black man can again be forced by the government to work involuntarily for a white man.
Not since the nation eliminated Jim Crow laws during the civil rights era have we seen such a bizarre conundrum. But if the black man is a Christian and the white man is gay, a court can forcibly order the black man to serve the white man or drive the black man from business. A number of states have been working to pass laws to prevent this weird conundrum, but in an irony that knows no bounds, gay-rights activists are comparing these religious freedom laws to Jim Crow.
The issue boils down to one question -- should a Christian who believes a wedding can only be between a man and a woman be forced to provide goods and services to a gay wedding? Despite the histrionics of some, no one suggests that anyone be allowed to simply deny service to any class of people, be they black or white or gay or straight. The issue only arises in the context of gay weddings.
Gay rights activists have lately claimed that Jesus would bake the cake for the gay wedding, so Christian bakers should. Jesus, of course, affirmed in the Gospel of Matthew that marriage is between one man and one woman. He also told the various sinners he encountered to "sin no more." So it becomes highly dubious that Christ would bake a cake for a gay wedding, and he most certainly would not preside over the service.
Therein lies the problem. One side is arguing that Christ would not do this so they should not have to do this. The other side is arguing that not only would Christ do this, but the government should be able to force Christians to do it. Gone are the days of turning the other cheek and going to another baker.
In one real world case, a florist had a long-time relationship with a gay couple. She had sold them flowers on multiple occasions. She knew they were gay. She gladly served them. When they asked her to provide flowers for their gay wedding, she declined because of her faith. She assumed they were friends. They sued her business for discrimination.
She did not take the position that she should be allowed to deny gays any good or service. She only objected to participating in a gay wedding. Committed Christians believe in a doctrine of vocation. They believe that their work is a form of ministry. Through their work, they can share the gospel and glorify God. Because committed Christians believe marriage is a relationship created and ordained by God Himself to be between a man and woman, they believe they cannot provide goods and services to a marital union that would run counter to that which God ordains. Christian merchants do not see themselves as passive participants in a transaction, but active in a ministry. Their work cannot be separated from their faith.
The government saw it otherwise and forced the florist to perform the work or be punished.
Similar situations have come up in Colorado, Oregon, New Mexico and other states with florists, photographers, bakers and others. None of them denied all goods and services to gay. They just declined to provide them with goods and services for a gay wedding because of their faith.
A number of states have sought to ensure Christians cannot be compelled by the state to violate their consciences. The laws are being badly mischaracterized as anti-gay. Christians are being compared to Bull Connor for trying to honor their God. The state is picking sides in matters of conscience. Instead of living and letting others live, tolerance has become a one-way street. Those who seek to dissent or opt out are made to care whether they want to or not.