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Religious freedom vs. mandatory acceptance

By Scott Tibbs, March 3, 2014

It is clear that homosexual "rights" and religious liberty are no longer on a collision course - the two are clashing right now and religious liberty is losing. The homosexual rights lobby's goal has always been mandatory acceptance, not tolerance, and they are speeding toward that goal at a frightening pace.

The most recent battle is over whether Christian business owners should have freedom of association, and religious liberty suffered a loss when Jan Brewer vetoed a religious liberty measure in Arizona. But before we examine freedom of association more broadly we need to look at facts and reality.

First, let's cool down the rhetoric and the hysterical shrieking about "Jim Crow" and examine the real issue here: Mandatory, state-enforced acceptance of homosexuality and homosexual "marriage." The cases of the florist and the baker who have been punished by government for refusing to serve a homosexual "wedding" are well-documented by now, and illustrate that this is about mandatory acceptance.

Nether business refuses all service to homosexuals. The baker would not have refused to provide a birthday cake, or a cake celebrating a homosexual employee's anniversary of service with his employer. What they did not want to do is provide flowers and a cake to celebrate a homosexual "wedding," because of their Christian beliefs that homosexuality is a sin before God. In their view, providing a wedding cake would be an endorsement of that sin.

The homosexual couple could have simply gone to another baker, and spent their money elsewhere. They did not. They went to the state and demanded the baker be punished by the civil magistrate. They did not demand tolerance from the baker (because they already had that) they demanded acceptance and forced labor to endorse their union. That is profoundly un-American and impossible to reconcile with religious liberty.

So this was not about refusing to serve homosexuals generally, or putting out an sign that says "no homosexuals served here." This was about a very narrow situation where the baker could not in good conscience provide a cake to endorse a union he believed was sinful. To the homosexual lobby, that is something that should not be legal, and should be punished by the state.

To the issue more generally: There was a discussion on Herald-Times Online recently about what exceptions should be made to nondiscrimination laws - for example, should a Jewish baker be forced by government to decorate a cake with a swastika? Should a black baker be forced by government to decorate a cake with a burning cross?

The entire orientation of those questions is wrong. The question should not be where we carve out exceptions for personal choice, but where the interests of society are so strong that the civil magistrate should intrude on freedom of choice. The orientation should always be to allow private citizens to do business the way they see fit, and in a way that conforms to their moral or religious beliefs.

If a white racist doesn't want to serve blacks, he should be free to make that choice. If a Black Panther doesn't want to serve "whitey," he should be free to make that choice. If a Muslim doesn't want to serve Jews, he should be free to make that choice. If an atheist doesn't want to serve Christians, he should be free to make that choice.

What we should do is allow any business serve anyone, or refuse service to anyone, and leave the government out of it. It should not be the role of government to force private business to serve anyone they do not want to serve. If a business refuses money from a specific class of people (for whatever reason) they are the ones getting hurt by driving away customers and getting bad publicity for that choice.

That is not Jim Crow. What we had in the South was government-mandated segregation, which is immoral and was rightly made illegal. That was also a violation of freedom of association as well as religious freedom. Allowing private individuals to make private decisions is not a return to the days of state-mandated segregation or discrimination. It is instead exactly the opposite.

But even if this were to be official policy (which it is not and will not be) does anyone really believe we are going to see large-scale discrimination against minorities? Does anyone think that a business can get away with that in 2014? Come on, folks, let's be real here. The hysterical screeching about "Jim Crow" was never based in reality. It was always pure fear mongering designed to frighten low-information voters and smear the opponents of the homosexual lobby. This is about a very narrow set of circumstances, but the Left cannot abide that because they demand 100% total acceptance.

The one exception I would make is life-saving or otherwise necessary medical care. Doctors, licensed by the state, should not be able to discriminate in who they serve. Because of the nature of medical care, society does have an interest in not allowing discrimination here. Note this is not the same as refusing to perform certain objectionable procedures (such as abortion) on anyone, regardless of who they are. But that is another issue for another day.

But in all other areas, we should respect freedom of association and religious liberty, allowing the market to rule. Keep the government out of it and respect private choices, whether you personally approve of those choices or not.