Arizona’s legislature passed a bill that allows Christians to discriminate against gay people (particularly when it comes to gay weddings). Of course, the bill doesn’t explicitly say that, but there’s no question what the bill is actually about. Christians want to be able to deny goods and services to gay people, and this law was designed to give them legal protection to do so.
Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the bill, albeit for different reasons than I would have, but this specific legislation and legislation like it has support from the Christian Right, and it is certainly possible that refined legislation could be proposed that would avoid some of the “unintended and negative consequences” cited.
I think this is terrible, harmful legislation, and I think it’s fueled by sloppy Christian theology. Some random thoughts, which by definition, are in no particular order.
I worked my way through college and graduate school refinishing antique furniture. My primary client was a gay man. At the time, I was firmly convinced that homosexual practice was wrong under all circumstances, but I never once thought of denying services to him. That’s bad business, and I would have gone out of business had I done so.
In fact, I never asked for any personal information from my clients, and it never factored into my decision to take or not take a project.
I do not understand why some Christians believe that providing a service to an individual constitutes support of that individual’s behavior.
What would happen if all Christians everywhere stopped providing all of their goods and services to gay people? Should Christian grocery store owners be allowed to deny food to gay people and families? Should emergency room doctors be allowed to deny emergency services to gay people? This legislation is sparked by florists and bakers, but there are bigger implications here – and not just for businesses, but for gay people who would suffer as a result.
Christians who deny services to gay people but do not deny services to heterosexual divorced couples (who are divorced for reasons other than those covered by Paul) or couples who were sexually active before marriage are hypocrites. If you’re going to cite the Bible and your deeply held religious beliefs, at least apply them consistently.
If you refuse to photograph one unbiblical wedding, you should refuse to photograph them all. If not, you’ll be seen as a hypocrite and as a known Christian, heap shame on the Gospel. As all Christians know, Jesus saved his harshest words for the hypocritical behavior of religious people. So, if Christian wedding vendors want to live by a law the Bible does not prescribe, they must at least be consistent.
Before agreeing to provide a good or service for a wedding, Christian vendors must verify that both future spouses have had genuine conversion experiences and are “equally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14) or they will be complicit with joining righteousness with unrighteousness. They must confirm that neither spouse has been unbiblically divorced (Matthew 19). If one has been divorced, vendors should ask why. Or perhaps you don’t even have to ask. You may already know that the couple’s previous marriages ended because they just decided it wasn’t working, not because there were biblical grounds for divorce. In which case, you can’t provide them a service if you believe such a service is affirming their union.
If your hotel is hosting the wedding and you don’t see rings on both individual’s fingers, you must refuse to rent them only one room. The unmarried couple must remain in separate rooms until after the ceremony. Otherwise, you may be complicit in fornication. And of course, you must not under any circumstances rent a room to a gay or lesbian couple.
While we’re talking Bible, where does the Bible command Christians to deny goods and services to non-Christians? Take Paul, for example. We know that Paul depending on support from churches, but we also know he was a tentmaker. Are we to assume that he only did business with other Jews and Christians? Given that he was a missionary, that seems unlikely, does it not? It seems much more likely that he did business with all sorts of people with whom he fundamentally disagreed about almost everything (see this exposition of Romans 1 for an example of the cultures in which he worked).
It seems to me that Paul would do the exact opposite of what Christians behind this legislation are doing. Romans 12:18:
If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
What’s more “peaceable”? If someone with whom you disagree wants to buy something from you…
a. Deny them services and fight the lawsuit if they bring it.
b. Sell them what they want to buy.
From the perspective of Christian witness, are people more likely to be drawn to Christ or pushed away from Christ by a Christian who refuses services to a gay person?
Maybe this kind of legislation is one of the reasons millenials are leaving the church in droves.