Already in April, 2009, an article in the Washington Post documented how, “Faith organizations and individuals who view homosexuality as sinful and refuse to provide services to gay people are losing a growing number of legal battles that they say are costing them their religious freedom.”
This was confirmed by Georgetown Law Professor Chai Feldblum, appointed by President Obama to serve on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and herself an out and proud lesbian, when she remarked that when religious liberty and sexual liberty conflict, “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.”
Recent court cases have further confirmed Feldblum’s views, and it is now the Attorneys General in different states who are leading the charge against Christian-owned businesses that refuse to provide floral arrangements or bake cakes or do photography for same-sex wedding ceremonies because of their religious convictions. (Bear in mind that these companies always served the LGBT community, and some of them had LGBT employees; their issue was providing services for a ceremony that violated their consciences and religious beliefs.)
Many people now have the opinion that “you can’t discriminate in the public square,” meaning that freedoms of speech, conscience, and religion do not carry over to public businesses, a position that the ACLU plans to pursue aggressively, declaring war on religious exemptions.
But this argument cuts both ways, and those advocating against the right for a business to adhere to certain religious principles or matters of conscience also need to consider the following scenarios. (The first two were suggested to me on my Facebook page by a young man who preaches on the streets and on college campuses.)
1) What if I asked a gay-owned t-shirt shop to make me a street preaching shirt that said, “It is not OK to be Gay.” If he declined, would that be discrimination based upon my religious beliefs? (Or, what if he was asked to print up t-shirts quoting Leviticus 18:22, stating that it is an abomination for a man to lie with a man, supplemented by a picture of two men holding hands with a red slash symbolizing “No” running across the picture?)
2) What if I was hosting a street preacher conference and we were going out on campus, preaching against homosexuality, and I asked a gay photographer to come along and take photos for us for my ministry. If he said no, would that be discrimination based upon my religious beliefs?
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.