The legalization of same-sex marriages in the United States has generated discussion on both side of the argument, with conservative religious organizations expressing deep concern over government treatment of religious freedom and “firmly held beliefs” that homosexuality is prohibited by sacred scripture.
But beyond the obvious concerns of synagogues, churches, and mosques, many conservative Christian business owners have refused to serve homosexual couples with the sincere conviction that doing business with them is wrong, or against their personal beliefs.
This issue has few facets that can be quickly detailed.
“We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone”
The first issue is based upon state laws concerning discrimination. All states have some version of “Public Accommodation” laws. These laws, simply stated, require any business that intends to make public accommodations (i.e. serve the general public), they may NOT discriminate against any protected class. Under most state laws, no business has the “right” to refuse service to anyone. The Colorado Court of Appeals has held this stance against famed Christian Bakery owner, Jack Phillips.
In this regard, then refusing becomes a violation of law and will cost a business tens of thousands of dollars in fines and damages.
To understand what the Bible says about obeying the laws of the land, one can consider [su_tooltip style=”light” title=”Romans 13:1-7″ content=”Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed”]Romans 13:1-7.[/su_tooltip], or [su_tooltip style=”light” title=”1 Peter 2:13-17″ content=”Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”]1 Peter 2:13-17[/su_tooltip].
But for many, their religious views recall the civil disobedience of Puah and Shiphrah, Daniel, Hanania, Mishael and Azaria, Paul the Apostle, and others. The reasoning among Christians has long been argued when man’s laws are contrary to God’s law, we must obey God’s law. While this sounds rational and cogent, there is a LOT of confusion on what exactly IS God’s Law (ie, Is it the Old Testament? Is it the New Testament? Is it a mix/selection of both? etc…). American law has several areas where man’s law is contrary to God’s Law. and depending on what denomination or religious leaning, maybe more. The death penalty has been a HUGE issue for Catholics over the generations, but in most states, it is man’s law. Most Christians are fine with the death penalty, but balk at abortion and the definition of life, but have NO issue with sending their children to be educated in public schools. And last, but not least, not all [su_tooltip style=”light” position=”north” title=”Catholics” content=”57% of Catholics support gay marriage”]Catholics[/su_tooltip], [su_tooltip style=”light” position=”north” title=”Jews” content=”77% of Jews support gay marriage”]Jews[/su_tooltip], and [su_tooltip style=”light” position=”north” title=”Christians” content=”14% of Christians support gay marriage”]Christians[/su_tooltip] actually believe homosexuality is actually sin.
“As I recently noted in The Atlantic, even among religiously affiliated Americans, supporters today actually outnumber opponents. Among all religiously affiliated Americans, 47 percent favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to 45 percent who oppose. And support among all religious Americans has jumped nearly 20 percentage points, up from 28 percent in 2003.” (Attitudes on Same-sex Marriage by Religious Affiliation and Denominational Family. (n.d.). Retrieved August 22, 2015.)
Judaism is much clearer on when to incite civil disobedience. While Jewish law believes that the value of human life is all important, it dictates that people must choose to defy the authorities, even at the cost of their own lives, rather than obey a law or decree that would otherwise require them to commit murder, to engage in immoral sexual relations, or to worship idols.
In this regard we can see why this is not an issue among Jews and a mixed bag of reactions among Christians and Catholics. So depending on the personal beliefs of each individual, the choice to exercise civil disobedience will result in a losing battle in the court of law in America.
Stick It to the Man
But one step beyond this issue lies the truth that Hebrew scriptures and Christian scriptures prohibit us from holding outsiders to righteousness that God demands. The Torah is FULL of examples of how to treat a fellow Jew and how to treat the “alien” or “stranger” that lives among you (i.e. non-Jewish Israelites and foreigners within the boundaries of the commonwealth).
In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul writes:
“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.”
If we use this passage as a guide, then we could simply ask, is the gay couple claiming to be followers of Christ? If so, then maybe there is good BIBLICAL reason to refuse service. However, then a shop owner must probably ask ALL of his cutomers if they are Christian or Jewish, and then determine if they are idolaters, adulterous, drunks, gossips, slanderers, liars, etc. to determine if he will provide services or not. With this, then a court would at least recognize that it was a “firmly held belief”. But as it is, ONLY discriminating against gays, becomes discriminatory.
But on the other hand, the Bible contains another truth that is observed among Jews, but not so much among Christians. The principle is found in Deuteronomy 14:21.
“You shall not eat anything which dies of itself. You may give it to the alien who is in your town, so that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner, for you are a holy people to the Lord your God.”
It is based upon this idea that God lays out the idea of doing business with pagans. We do not agree with them, or even partake in their God-less activities. So, what might be prohibited for me is not a reason that I should not charge or even charge MORE to pagans. Go to Israel and walk into a jewelry store. ANY JEWELRY STORE. I guarantee that a gentile will NOT get as good a deal as a fellow Jew. It is based upon God’s Law. When it comes to doing business with God-less pagans, STICK IT TO THE MAN!
In reality, most of this comes down to personal conviction. However, we all must be careful that sins that we personal deem as “worse” than other sins do not give way to discrimination against specific sins. Otherwise will will be guilty of Paul’s warning in Romans 1:
“Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
Remember, ALL SIN IS SIN!