Coexist: Freedom of Religion & Gay Rights

Written by Kevin Webb
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Even though homosexuality only impacts a very small percentage of the U.S. population (3.5%), the ‘gay rights’ outcry has recently been catapulted into federal court rooms, legislative tables, and into news headlines around the country. The redefining of ‘marriage’ has already taken place despite the opposition – federal courts have simply overturned community votes in several states. With as much media attention that the issue gets, it’s no surprise that Americans have the perception that 25% of the U.S. population is gay.

Unfortunately, what has followed these new trends and changes is a clashing of the titans – freedom of religion vs homosexuality is what the media wants us to see this as. Don’t fall prey to more divisiveness, there is a solution.

In the path of passion and fury lie several issues within the new precedent being set, especially as it relates to small businesses that are owned by people whose religious beliefs and convictions are contrary to the homosexual lifestyle. A couple was recently forced by the federal government to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. There is another example of a florist being sued for not providing services for a gay wedding. In the grand scheme of things, these issues have been extremely isolated, and have mostly revolved more-so around gay-specific products and services than general products and services. What I mean is that, there have not been any situations where a homosexual was simply denied food, cake, personal care, medical service, or any other product or service other than those specifically designated to the gay person’s lifestyle (gay wedding cake, gay wedding reception, gay tattoo, gay website, etc.).

My first question is, why would anybody want somebody involved in their wedding that did not want to be? Your wedding is supposed to be a special day, what is the desire to hire photographers, bakeries, and florists that do not want to be a part of your wedding? If we didn’t know better, you would probably think that these accused business owners violently beat the gay couples that were denied service. Unfortunately for their narrative, there was no violence, and no sign of hatred. The business owners simply turned down the opportunity to do business with them.

On the other side of this issue lies the feeling of being discriminated against. The LGBTAPB community feels that they should not be denied anything, regardless of what the business owner’s personal or religious convictions are. They believe that they should be able to force business owners into making them a gay wedding cake, building them a website that promotes the homosexual lifestyle, or letting them have a reception or party for homosexuals at a venue owned by Christians who believe that homosexuality is contrary to their beliefs. And if they do not comply, then the gay community feels as though they are entitled to sue that business, which is already happening. Not only are business owners being sued, but they are losing both their court case and their business.

Is this really what we have come to?

So here we are. Two sides with uncompromising beliefs and feelings. The Christians vs the homosexuals. The religious vs the gays.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Personally, I think there is a perfect compromise, but it will take adults willing to be adults, and both sides taking into consideration that America represents people with vastly different beliefs that can and should both be respected. These ideas also require that people be both reasonable and logical, and you don’t have to compromise who you are to be a reasonable person.

I am a Christian, and I believe that marriage is defined by the cultural history of the world, the evidence provided by biology, and by religious context as being between a man and a woman. This does not mean that I hate anybody. I simply do not agree with how some people have chosen to define marriage, but I am still willing to have the tough conversation, and work towards a reasonable solution so that we can all coexist. I have several close gay friends. I treat them with respect, and I engage in respectful conversation at all times, probably even more-so that I do with other people that live lives I disagree with.

I can use alcohol as an example. I think alcohol is terrible, and it has nothing to do with my religious beliefs. I simply weigh the results that alcohol has produced in so many lives – death, heartache, torn families, medical conditions, addiction, ect. I think drinking alcohol is a choice, and often times an unwise choice. I think that there are safer alternatives to alcohol that can be just as enjoyable without removing a person from their normal state of mind. This doesn’t mean that I hate people that drink. In fact, being in the military, I would say that 90% of my close friends drink. I have church friends that drink. I do not treat them any differently. I invite them to my house. I have conversations of substance with them. And I never expect any of them to be denied general services or goods in public. With that said, I personally would not want to have to provide any specific goods or services that would be alcohol-related. Why? Because it is contrary to my personal ethics. In America, I should have the freedom to run a business that I own by my standards as long as nobody is being physically hurt in the process.

It does not stop with alcohol and homosexuality. I can point to other things that might be considered a sin, controversial, or against somebody’s personal ethics – pornography, adultery, polygamy, profanity, atheism, satanism, etc. As a private business owner with personal convictions, a business owner should not be forced into providing any good or service that is specific to a controversial lifestyle. Remember, it’s not JUST about homosexuality.

Freedom of Religion and Gay Rights Can Coexist?

Please understand that I am not attempting to define what sin is, what Christianity is, or whether or not ‘gay marriage’ should or should not be allowed. My only intention is to address the specific issue of how businesses should operate when taking both freedom of religion and gay rights into consideration.

First of all, Christians should recognize and accept that they are not compromising their religious beliefs simply by serving homosexuals at their place of business. If a gay person walks into a burger joint, they should be fed. If a gay person wants to buy flowers, then they should be sold flowers. I cannot imagine that Christ would turn away somebody seeking His services, even if they were living a lifestyle contrary to the Bible.

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31)

With that said, I also do not think that Jesus would personally get involved with their lifestyle in a way that would seemingly advocate their actions. I don’t think that He would do something that would confuse people into thinking that He advocates a lifestyle contrary to the teachings of the Bible. And this does not just apply to this issue. You can [insert contrary lifestyle] of any sort and the same principles would apply.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:12)

Secondly, homosexuals should recognize and accept that there are people who have deeply held religious convictions regarding homosexuality, as well as people of no religion that see homosexuality as a biological abnormality. This disagreement does not equal hate. The idea that people must agree to get along is a lie.

Rick Warren summed this sentiment up best when he said that “Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

Rick Warren went on to say that “The problem is that tolerant has changed its meaning. It used to mean ‘I may disagree with you completely, but I will treat you with respect. Today, tolerant means – ‘you must approve of everything I do.’ There’s a difference between tolerance and approval. Jesus accepted everyone no matter who they were. He doesn’t approve of everything I do, or you do, or anybody else does either. You can be accepting without being approving.”

We have to stop the inciting narrative that if a person disagrees with homosexuality, then that means they must hate them. EVERYBODY SINS, so hating  a person based on the fact that they sin would mean that we must hate all people. Obviously, that is illogical.

Thirdly, the “discrimination” cry is a two-way street. The same argument could be made that by the government mandating an individual take part in something specifically contrary to their religious beliefs, that their religion, and by the nature of it, the individual, is also being discriminated against. The definition of discrimination used to apply to 3 main aspects of an individual – race, age, and gender. Not sexuality. But if it’s going to be used one way outside of its original intention, then it should apply on both sides of this argument. The same can be said for the word ‘bigot.’

Lastly, let’s not forget the most important part of this conversation – the Constitution. I know this document means less and less everyday with progressives at the helm of the United States, but there is no Constitutional protection for sexual preference. However, freedom of religion and freedom of speech are both protected under the First Amendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This is supposed to protect the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression from government interference, or at least it used to.

The Art Industry & Product Customization

This issue of products and services is highlighted even more within the art industry, or a company that makes custom designed products. Cake makers, painters, website developers, graphic designers, tattoo artists, printing companies… they all rely on products that are designed specifically for the consumer. It’s not like going into Target to buy a toaster or some dog food. These services cater specifically to the needs and lifestyle of the customer or consumer, and there are special considerations that should be recognized on both sides of this issue.

Here is How We Compromise to Coexist

Here are a few things to consider.

1) No business owner should turn down a person of any lifestyle or religion (gay, goth, Muslim, Christian, adulterer, alcoholic, etc.) simply for their lifestyle, unless it directly contradicts their business model. Common sense on both sides would help with this, but common sense is hard to come by these days. Business owner – If you know somebody is gay, but they are not making you customize your services to their lifestyle, then serve them. Gay customers – If you know a business owner disagrees with your lifestyle, and you want a good or service specific to your lifestyle, then as them if they’ll serve you. If they do not want to, then go somewhere else. What good is being done by forcing a business owner into providing a service for a lifestyle they disagree with? Do you REALLY want them providing you a service anyways?

2) Violence, hate, or disrespect cannot be a means of expressing a person’s religious convictions, personal beliefs, or lifestyle from either side.

3) No business should be legally forced into providing a specific lifestyle product or service that does not line up with their personal or organizational code of ethics, religious convictions, or business morals. Even the thought of the federal government forcing a private business to make a certain product sounds asinine. This does not just include homosexuality. Muslims should not be legally forced into serving pork, I should not be forced into designing a website promoting alcohol, a tattoo artist should not be forced to tattoo obscene designs, and a printing company should not be forced into printing profanity on materials ordered from their company. The list goes on, but hopefully you get the point.

4) This is not an issue of freedom or equality. First of all, there is not a widespread movement to not serve homosexuals goods and services, and nobody is forcing them to purchase said goods or services. If this ‘discrimination’ was happening for medical or government services, or for general goods and services, then this issue would be entirely different. If you find a place that won’t serve you, then you are free to shop at 99.999% of the other businesses in your area.

5) Gays need to compromise as well. I would submit that many of these issues have an agenda behind them. Outside of the examples I already stated, there is NO reason to bring a $100,000 lawsuit on a company because they would not bake a gay wedding cake. Really? GO TO ANOTHER BAKER!

6) Businesses have standards. That is nothing new. If a person is THAT concerned with a business owner’s beliefs, why would they want to spend their money there anyways? Dave and Busters has a 25 year old age limit because they want to set an inviting atmosphere for a more mature demographic. Some restaurants have dress codes in order to eat there. Personally, I don’t eat at places that require a tie to be worn. Some gas stations won’t serve you if you are not wearing shoes or a shirt. Some hotels do not allow dogs or cats during your stay. The list goes on. The compromise is that you can find another business to take your money to.

7) STOP with the incitement and “gay hate” scams. They’re everywhere these days. Don’t believe me? You can read about them here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Just stop it. This does not do either side any good. The media and government will do anything it can to keep us fighting. Divide and conquer.

8) STOP with the gay hate crimes. The gay slurs, the disrespect, the bullying… just STOP IT! It does not do either side any good!

9) A business owner should be able to post, display, or verbally announce their beliefs without the threat of legal action as long as it is not violent or hateful. This means that a business owner can choose what music they play, what signs they have up, and publicly state what their beliefs are. After all, it is THEIR BUSINESS. It is not the customer’s business or the government’s business.

Each of the above points will lead us all to the place of true tolerance. It will open the doors for Christians to be able to be a true witness, and it will provide gays with the “right” to do business where they please.

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Agree? Disagree? Do you have an idea for compromise? A way to create unity while still allowing for people of all beliefs and lifestyles to live harmoniously in the same world? Leave your comments below.

About the author

Kevin Webb

2 Comments

  • Though I’m all for Gay rights, some of these things are absolutely Ludacris! If a business refused to provide me with a good or service because I’m a black man, I wouldn’t threaten to sue them, they’d just be minus one customer! I realize that statement could open up all kinds of doors that lead to people saying some variation of, “So you think MLK, Rosa Parks and the like were wrong to fight for equal rights for blacks during the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s?” My response, absolutely not because they were not being politely denied a good or service; their lives were in-danger if they so much as set foot in the wrong restaurant or store, at the wrong water fountain or in the wrong restroom, if they so much as greeted a white person, if they sat on the wrong part of a bus or refused to give up their seats, etc. To me, that’s a totally different ball game.

    The same thing applies here.

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