Photo Credit: kids.christiansunit.com
The legal requirement that everyone provide goods and services, employment (even in religious organizations), and housing that contribute to homosexual behavior as a matter of “civil rights” is growing increasingly threatening. Effectively, these legalities act as a “silver bullet” that threatens the destruction of the conservative Christian subculture in America.
While it will always be possible for individual Christians to be faithful to God’s commands, such persons may effectively become an underclass, excluded from much of business and the professions, and even harassed in church and family life. This theme has repeatedly been discussed by the present writer, and was also focused on by two presentations at the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s recent conference on the Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage, held in Nashville, Tennessee at the end of October.
As noted in a previous article at the time conscience protection in Arizona was vetoed, contributing to sin is, in terms of Christ’s words in the New Testament, sin itself (Matt. 18:7), and thus faithful Christians cannot possibly take action that contributes to homosexual behavior. Acquiescence in this matter is thus a matter of personal disobedience to God, and is not an option for disciples of Christ. Those who do acquiesce on this issue effectively accept the sexual revolution, after which can be expected a general abandonment of Christian orthodoxy. By requiring unfaithfulness on a non-negotiable item, liberals and secularists have found a weapon which can destroy the Christian subculture which has remained faithful to orthodoxy after the initial modernist advance early in the Twentieth Century.
A discussion of the legal battle to secure liberty of conscience against facilitating homosexuality was provided by Kristen Waggoner and Erik Stanley of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal service organization that offers defense in many of these cases. Stanley began by quoting I Pet. 4:12 (“do not be surprised at the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you”). He noted at “redefining marriage was never the end game of the same sex legal agenda,” rather it was “unfettered sexual liberty and the silencing of all dissent.” Referring the Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen’s 1987 book After the Ball, which proposed a way to win the culture war for homosexual liberation at a time of apparent loss, Stanley noted the three stages proposed: 1) desensitization of the American public concerning homosexuality, 2) portraying homosexuals as “victims” rather than “aggressive challengers,” and 3) “promote [homosexuality] through government recognition and get tough with remaining opponents.”
Such remaining opponents are to be the object of efforts to “cow and silence them.” Referring to the recent (2013) New Mexico Supreme Court decision against photographer Elaine Huguenin that compromising one’s religious duty is the “price of citizenship,” Stanley said that the pressure to do this “is only going to increase.” Yet “this is not a time for discouragement”; just as the apostle Paul appealed to his Roman citizenship to protect his rights, so Christian citizens, churches, and organizations should continue to appeal to their historic American rights of freedom of religion and speech. Continued attacks against Christians holding to Biblical morality will nonetheless “continue to occur at an increasingly rapid pace,” Stanley said. He noted the “six year legal battle” of a California church to dismiss a music minister for homosexual behavior. Similarly, a new domestic partnership law in Hawaii requires churches offering their facilities to the public for weddings to accept requests for same sex weddings.
Kristen Waggoner, also of ADF, noted that appeals by Christians to her organization who are faced with the requirement to facilitate homosexual behavior on pain of losing their livelihood are happening “every day.” All the many professions and occupations which require licenses are now increasingly at risk, as state or local law, or the requirements of professional associations, in more and more cases mandate facilitating homosexual behavior, if that arises in the course of one’s work. Waggoner pointed out a student in professional counseling who declined to counsel homosexuals on homosexual relationships being blocked from graduation, a printer who declined to print tee-shirts for use in a LGBT parade, homeowners who refuse to rent rooms to couples not united in heterosexual marriage, artists who cannot in conscience participate at same sex ceremonies, and in particular a baker required to undergo re-education to alter his values after refusing to bake a cake for a homosexual ceremony. These cases show how pervasive the threat to freedom is once religious liberty is denied, and that religious liberty “is the bedrock on which all other liberty rests,” according to Waggoner.
Religious liberty has priority because it pertains to the meaning and value of life, she argued. Yet state and local SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) laws threaten this basic right to conscience; supposedly designed to prevent discrimination against homosexuals, they in fact are being used to require accommodation of homosexual behavior by religious merchants, who are required to take actions they believe sinful and “cower in silence.” One such merchant, florist Barronelle Stutzman of Washington state, appeared in person to say that “Christ is my life,” and that this is not an issue on which Christians can “sit this one out.”
At a subsequent presentation, Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation, said that religious liberty need not be in conflict the prerogatives for sexual activity now guaranteed by the state. He claimed that the great majority of Americans do not want religious freedom and sexual prerogatives to be in tension, but some homosexual activists do. Referring to the firing of Brendan Eich of Mozilla Firefox and the experience of Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty, he noted that advocates of traditional morality, while objecting to these attacks on freedom of speech and action, did not want the companies concerned to be legally required to retain these individuals, whereas legal coercion is exactly what homosexual activists want applied to those who continue to oppose homosexuality. Catholic adoption agencies have not endeavored to prevent homosexual couples from adopting children elsewhere, but they have been closed for refusing to provide children themselves. Children are not helped by the closure of these agencies; all that has happened is that homosexual liberation has scored points in “an adult culture war.”
Anderson stopped short of saying that facilitating homosexual behavior is in itself sinful; “at the end of the day, it’s not my conscience that’s on the line,” he said, but that of Christian professionals, businessmen, and merchants; and their consciences should be respected. While the present writer believes it is demonstrable from the Bible that contributing to sinful behavior is in itself sinful, Anderson does believe conscience should be respected by the law even if others are offended, which is the important point in the secular legal system. Anderson questioned whether there was a “compelling state interest, pursued in the least restrictive way possible, when you’re compelling every photographer and every baker and every florist to celebrate a same sex wedding.” Many, surely the great majority of such artistic merchants, do not have religious objections to participating in same sex weddings and would be happy to provide such a service. But the government should not “coerce third parties,” into accepting homosexual relations. Government should “respect the rights of all Americans,” respecting their rights to “free association, free contracts, free speech, and the free exercise of religion [which] would protect citizens’ rights to live according to their beliefs… Increasingly, most Americans agree on that,” Anderson claimed. Refusal to provide goods and services facilitating homosexual behavior does not infringe on anyone’s prerogative to sexual activity. This is no less true of religious laymen, who are now “being forced to choose between their religious beliefs and the livelihood,” than it is of clergymen, who are now largely protected from such demands.
While Anderson said that the attacks on liberty of conscience are not “a war on Christianity” or “persecution,” it is difficult to see how they can be characterized as less than this. Death, torture or hard labor are indeed not among the penalties facing Christians in contemporary America, but firing, heavy fines, imprisonment, and social harassment and ostracism are. It is not possible for conscientious objectors to engage in business, and thus continue in the work of their calling and livelihood, if they are faced with these penalties. This is a “soft tyranny,” which is growing harder.
More positively, Anderson did say that for the “common good,” Christians and other Americans committed to freedom should endeavor to put in place protections for religious liberty for all persons, whether we agree with them or not. The success of this involves the general public understanding why Christians believe traditional sexual morality is right, which, he said, has not been well communicated. People will then understand why “principled pluralism,” that recognizes freedom to hold and live out different world views, with no “government imposed orthodoxy,” is necessary and desirable for a free society. It must be clear that Christians are coming to the issue of marriage and morality “from a perspective of love,” Anderson said.