In 2013, the attorney general of the state of Washington filed a lawsuit against Barronelle Stutzman and Arlene’s Flowers after she refused to create flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding, citing her religious views. This is well-known one of several similar cases now occurring across the country. As a result, the governor of Arizona has a bill on her desk to sign that protects the rights of religious citizens like the florist. Many well-known Republican politicians are urging her to strike down the legislation. The Super Bowl is in her state next year and the NFL is making a subtle threat to move it if she doesn't veto.
In the name of equal rights and equal protection of the law, the government for awhile has been eroding the rights of private businesses. I don't mean state operations, but private. For awhile, the state has been forcing businesses to serve customers and hire employees they don't want. In a related matter, if you own a private home, you are also forced by the government to rent it to people whom you don't want either. At one time, this wasn't so. It wasn't that long ago that you could easily reject a customer, an employee, or a renter. It was your property and your business and you had the right to serve or hire or rent to whomever you wanted. This was a private property right and the power of the government was limited by that right. The understanding was that we received that right from God and not from government, so the government should not have the power to take away that right, since it didn't have the power to give it. It was a natural right.
Our God-given, inalienable rights are being lost as American citizens. According to the Constitution, does anyone have a right to service or employment or housing from a private citizen or private enterprise?
The above described erosion of rights for private citizens began with the federal civil rights legislation passed by the government in the 1960s. The point of that legislation and laws like it has been now to require private citizens, businesses, and property owners essentially give equal opportunity regardless of race or ethnicity. This has expanded to gender and now what is called sexual orientation.
In 1954, in Brown versus Board of Education, the Supreme Court ended racial discrimination in state institutions based upon the 14th amendment. State institutions. This did not mean that private citizens, property, and business could not discriminate for any such reason. I'm not arguing for discrimination. I'm simply asking if there is a right in the Constitution to stop discrimination by a private citizen, property, or business.
The Supreme Court surely did not foresee where these decisions would progress. Now enters the free practice of religion, an actual right in the actual United States Constitution. Would even Thurgood Marshall see a private citizen being forced to arrange flowers for a same-sex wedding as guaranteed in the Constitution? Can a private citizen who owns a private business be forced to provide a service for a same sex marriage, when that marriage is against his religious convictions?
I have read some pro arguments for Governor Jan Brewer to veto the Arizona bill. Some are merely arguing for why Christians should serve anyone, no matter what their sin, because that's what Jesus would do. If Jesus was a florist, does anyone really think that Jesus would do the flower arrangement for a same sex marriage? That's absurd. If anyone thinks that, then he doesn't know Jesus Christ. Private businessmen want business. They don't want to lose business. If a Christian florist rejects a same-sex wedding job, he's losing money. If there is a punishment, that's the punishment. If he can be sued by the United States government, state or federal, then his own right to practice his own religion freely is being violated. This is where the wrong turn with the government intervening in the rights of private citizens has come to conflict with the very first of the Bill of Rights.
What we are reading today are "gay rights." These "gay rights" are being read into the United States Constitution. Are there gay rights in the Constitution? Really? That brings us back to a decision in 1986, Lawrence vs Texas, a landmark case in which the United States Supreme Court overturned state of Texas sodomy law. By doing so, the Supreme Court read into the Constitution gay rights. Now an actual right, the freedom of religion in the first amendment, is being impinged by an only so-called "right," a "gay right," not actually found in the Constitution. Does anyone really think there is a right in the Constitution that can directly contradict an already written right in the Constitution?
Many thresholds or barriers of rights have had to be abolished to create this new "gay right," starting with private property rights all the way to a right to the free practice of your religion. What our government would be saying is that it is against the law for a Christian in practice to reject the law of sodomy. For the sodomite to maintain his constitutional gay right, the Christian must forfeit the right of his personal conviction.
A private citizen or business or property owner can choose not to discriminate. Many private businesses or companies advertise non-discrimination clauses. Our church doesn't discriminate based upon race, but I'm sure that most would say we discriminate based upon gender. We don't have women preach in our church. Many others would say that our church discriminates based upon sexual orientation. You can't join our church if you're a homosexual. We're very clear about that in our documents. Earlier this week, I wrote about how that a college like Swarthmore wants to discriminate against conservatives who reject same-sex marriage. Does anyone think that you could right now obtain a job at any state college with open and public opposition to same-sex marriage? Discrimination obviously goes the other direction in this country. I argued against diversity. If that's what a private college wants to do, I think it should be able to do it. Our church teaches only one point of view. We are not diverse in our theology. We have that right. Our government should protect that right.
What's the legal argument for the same-sex marriage side? Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the US under President Obama, recently advocated for attorneys general disobeying unconstitutional laws, specifically referring to Democrat state attorneys not defending laws against same-sex marriage in red states. This is an impetus for lawlessness. The legal argument is something like the following, you were licensed by the state to run your business, and when you paid for that license, you agreed to serve all groups. Not exactly though. What if they have no shirts or no shoes? The state can defend your right there.
What we have here are at least two issues. We have an extension of "you didn't build that business." In other words, every business, since it receives infrastructural state support, can be regulated by the state to serve or sell to groups defined by the state. Democrats love groups by the way. It's how they win elections -- is by dividing the country into groups. The Republicans are now joining them. The other is that our country has become fascist. The state controls private business to the extent that it can force private business to act in its own interest against the rights of the business owner. You may not like the fascist word, but I'd be happy to hear how this is wrong.
Religious punditry, including evanglical pastors, who are in the mold of Tim Keller (pastor of Kirsten Powers) and Andy Stanley, exhort Christians to forfeit their right here for the sake of Christianity. They make the fallacious parallel that since Christians already serve sinners in their businesses -- fornicators, adulterers, thieves, murderers -- that this is the same thing. Really. At what point does this stop. It stopped at state institutions not long ago. It stopped at race. Then it stopped at gender. Will it stop at the churches themselves, the private Christian schools? Will they be forced to ordain homosexuals and hire homosexuals to teach in their schools? Some might say, "Of course not."
But I don't really like the slippery slope argument either. Our rights are already being violated. If by opening a bakery, I knew I had to bake wedding cakes for same-sex marriages, I wouldn't start that business. I couldn't start a business, because I'm a Christian. Someone said something like this: "Moslem businesses wouldn't have to serve Christian women who were not wearing a burqa." Ouch. I say, more power to them. I will never cry or protest or sue over not having their business. A Moslem business owner should be able to provide a business for whatever constituency he desires. If my wife wants his business and she must wear a burqa to receive it, then she'll need to buy a burqa to get it. That's his right. It's not my right.
Kirsten Powers (who wrote the USA Today articles, here and here) is advancing her own agenda, not the Lord's. She's no better than the modern church growth advocates, attempting to be "seeker sensitive." Exposing scripture on same-sex marriage won't hinder true conversion. She reads a message into the Bible and into the Constitution that are not in either document. She's been a professing Christian for a few short years and she already thinks she's prepared to preach to all Christians everywhere about what the Bible says about how to treat homosexuals (not a novice?). She is a shame to herself and to God. She has the right to an opinion and to express it in the United States, but she's wrong. True men of God will say so.
The Lord Jesus still rules in the midest of His enemies through His churches. Someday He will rule with a rod of iron and make His enemies His footstool. In the meantime, we should all listen to what Peter preached in Acts 5 when the government tried to stop him from practicing his faith, "We ought to obey God rather than men."