Do citizens of our country who earn their living as a commercial photographers have the right to turn down the job if the wedding ceremony to be photographed is for a lesbian or gay couple?
Not in New Mexico, according to the ruling of the state’s Supreme Court. (Read the Reuters news story here).
Ok, so change a few details of the story and the location … and ask the question again.
Does a commercial baker in the free-market economy of the United States have the right to refuse to bake a cake intended for the celebration of a homosexual wedding ceremony?
Not in Oregon. Well, at this point in time they could make the refusal. But if they serve up a “it goes against my Christian convictions” explanation to the couple, they could face an official investigation by the Oregon Bureau of Labor — to say nothing of the barrage of economic boycotts they, and all who work with them on a wedding, will face. (Read here for news about the discrimination case, see here for news about the bakery’s closure).
Some Christians have argued that these businesses should have served the LGBT community — that it was wrong not to. Indeed, they argue that the Gospel could best be shown and heard if Christians would get off their religious high horse and live joyfully alongside (i.e. take the jobs offered to them) by LGBT patrons.
Two thoughts …
First, taking such a job could bring about a situation which offends the conscience of a Christian. I use the word “could” deliberately because I realize that not all Christians would have the same conscience about such actions. However, Romans 14:23 says, “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” As R.C. Sproul reminds us, the issue of one’s conscience is a “dilemma of the double-jeopardy sort.” That being said, if a Christian said they truly felt it to be a sin and shame on Christ for them to take part in celebrating a LGBT ceremony by supplying items (cake, photos) essential to the celebration, then the pastoral caution I would give would be: “Let your Christ-led conscience be your guide.”
Second, even if your conscience did not bother you for taking part, when you bake a cake or photograph a ceremony, there is indeed an implied acceptance of the morality and joy of the event. So, if you actually possess a religious conviction against the truth-claim of the ceremony, you would not want to support it. Why not? Because you would be bearing false witness by your participation. Your “Smile everyone” countenance as you snapped a lesbian couple kissing at the conclusion of the ceremony would communicate moral acceptance of an action you actually believe to be immoral and a characteristic of Genesis 3 (the Fall) not Genesis 1-2 (the original created order). By Biblical conviction you would find yourself under the condemnation described in Romans 1:32 giving approval to those whose practice is knowingly contrary to God’s revealed will.
So, what should a Christian do in such circumstances? I will not attempt to answer that question today in the confines of this blog post.
But I will end on this note. If you commercially photograph weddings in New Mexico or bake wedding cakes in Oregon…don’t worry about how you will decide what course of action to take. These matters are being settled for you by government officials. No free exercise of religion for you and no participation in the formerly free-market economy.
Apparently, you can’t have your same-sex cake and religious freedom too.
Well, as with anything else that has a moral component (which is just about everything, INCLUDING many things that most people consider merely “matters of taste”) the photographer or baker or musician, or any other actor may make their decision and accept the consequences, wether those consequences be that of losing some amount of income, or broader ramifications such as losing a business license. And, they are at liberty to campaign within the bounds of the law for changes to the law, to include, perhaps, exceptions for troubled consciences. Seems to me this is the very essence of the freedom so widely, and appropriately, mentioned as a strength of the United States. If consequences are severe, then the moral witness is intensified.
In the New Mexico photographer case, it wasn’t even a wedding ceremony, it was a commitment ceremony.
I am waiting now for someone to go into a kosher deli and order a ham sandwich, then sue because they were not served what they ordered.
Not sure what you mean by “formerly free market economy.” Are you referring to a time before the supposed infringement on “free market economy” at Greensboro lunch counters? It is settled law that first amendment issues related to neutral regulations about access to public accommodations trump first amendment issues related to non-neutral restrictions to public accommodations. If your notions of moral conscience are such that they prevent you from operating a business then at most you have my sympathy, but that is hardly new or in any way un-American. Free exercise of religion is for everyone, but just like any other freedom it is not absolute if it bumps up against the rights of other people.
Freedom of religion, or really, to use the language of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, the “free exercise of religion,” does need to trump “the rights of other people” in public accomodations. The reason that for nearly 50 years people have accepted the right of the government to demand public accomodation without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex (and more recently) disability, is because no world religion or ethical system has taught that any of those unchangible categories (excepting religion) had anything to do with moral choices or behavior. Even the religion category is treated with more sensitivity–as someone noted above, no one expects a Jewish owned Deli to serve ham.
How in the world, a sexual lifestyle choice–and make no mistake, homosexual BEHAVIOR is a free choice (or else we cease to be human), whether orientation is or not–is demanded special, or equal, treatment by any business is beyond me…..It is ludicrous to call people unified only by a behavior–which is by definition…ethics and morality– a protected class of people.
It is as ridiculous as saying a business must accomodate people who curse like sailors…(freedom of speech, after all!). Sure people can cuss all they want, in a free society–just not on my property, or in my business!
The argument made in the photographer’s case too, was that in artistic professions, religious/moral sensitivity is more important. One would never expect a Jewish song writer to expected to write hymns for Christians–because he operated a music writing business open to the public. I think it goes beyond that though, and that businesses really should have a right to serve whom they want–within the old, non-controversial categories of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability. Adding “sexual orientation” (or actually “sexual ethics”) to that list, just makes a mockery of the hard won battles of racial equality of a generation ago.
To tell people they have to dump their conscience–over an issue of ethics, in order to do business in America–is a mark of tyranny, and thoroughly un-American.
“we believe that the Trustees of Montreat have been eminently Christian in their viewpoint and action.” – The Presbyterian Journal defending the denial of use of facilities by African Americans.
Claims of religious exceptions for discrimination. We have heard it all before.
You cloud the issue by trying to conflate the segregation issue with the homosexual issue. The two are separate – separated by decades.
As long as you’re going to conflate, how about forcing a Jewish temple to host a Klan rally? Or a Presbyterian church, a satanic ceremony?
As Ralph Davis points out, if I run a business, I have a perfect right to refuse service to someone who is rowdy or disruptive. Or as the signs say, “refuse service to anyone”. And that refusal is not based on race, gender, &c – things the patron has no control over – no choice in his state, but on behavior – behavior we feel is un-Christian.
The homosexual lobby shows its hand when they specifically target a business they know will decline their patronage, knowing that they will sue.
Were these businesses the only ones of that type in the two locations mentioned?
Actually, the Greensboro Four targeted the Woolworths lunch counter because they knew it was a problem. It is not clear that the New Mexico couple did any more than pick a photographer off the internet.
Be that as it may, it does not matter whether the photographer was “targeted” or not. Refusing to provide a business service on that basis of this sort of prejudice is illegal in new mexico and oregon. There were plenty of business owners who believed that any “behavior” mixing the so-called races at a lunch counter or bus station violated their Christian beliefs. We can still find such people today. You may think that you have a right to refuse a business service to anyone, but it is a matter of fact and law that you do not.