What are your thoughts on the recent cases involving the Christian baker, photographer, offended gay couples, and Constitutional freedoms?

gay wedding cakeFor those not familiar with the case involving the Christian photographer who refused to shoot a gay wedding, link here. There was litigation and the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled unanimously that such refusal of service was a violation of State law. The court opined, “When Elane Photography refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, it violated the [New Mexico Human Rights Act, or NMHRA] in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races.” Read the linked article for further analysis of the court’s opinion – it’s rather fascinating. Incidentally, there’s a current push in Idaho for legislation similar to that of New Mexico (I reside in Idaho).

If you’re not familiar with the Christian baker who refused service, link here. Similar story, but was ruled by a Denver administrative judge with no penalties, but a directive to comply in the future.

I’ve already opined on how Christians ought to move forward attitudinally with respect to the recent legal defeats here. I also think that goods and services are an extension of one’s identity and ought not be compelled by the State under threat of punitive justice. This affords much diversity in the free market of ideas. It might be messy, with hurt feelings to boot, but someone being a racist idiot who only wants to serve people of his race is better than the State saying that you can’t be. I also think that free trade and the market economy does a better job of eliminating bigotry and institutional racism. But that’s another post.

I would also commend the thoughts on Erick Erickson in his article Yes, Jesus Would Bake a Cake for a Gay Person. He summarizes the crux of the issue as gay marriage, not general service:

Jesus Christ would absolutely bake a cake for a gay person. He’d bake a cake for a straight person. He’d bake a cake for a girl, a boy, a person who isn’t sure what they are, a black person, a white person — Jesus would bake that cake if it, in  some way large or small, drew that person closer to Him.

And Christians should too.

Christians should show love and compassion to gays, straights, and everyone else.  Christians should show God’s love in hopes of drawing people to a relationship with Christ.  95% of that may just be relationship building, but it should still be done.

If a Christian owns a bakery or a florist shop or a photography shop or a diner, a Christian should no more be allowed to deny service to a gay person than to a black person. It is against the tenets of 2000 years of orthodox Christian faith, no matter how poorly some Christians have practiced their faith over two millennia.

And honestly, I don’t know that I know anyone who disagrees with any of this.

The disagreement comes on one issue only — should a Christian provide goods and services to a gay wedding. That’s it. We’re not talking about serving a meal at a restaurant. We’re not talking about baking a cake for a birthday party. We’re talking about a wedding, which millions of Christians view as a sacrament of the faith and other, mostly Protestant Christians, view as a relationship ordained by God to reflect a holy relationship.

Some thoughts:

  1. Goods and services are an extension of a person with creative capacities made in the image of God. Refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding is far different than refusing necessary food to someone who is dying. Loving our neighbor requires that we seek general equity and the well-being of our neighbor. This involves a large amount of charity and benevolence for all, even our enemies. Loving our neighbor is therefore indiscriminate at its fundamental level.
  2. To love our neighbor, however, doesn’t mean that we celebrate their sinful lifestyle. We won’t be a party to sin. If my neighbor wants a ride to Planned Parenthood to secure an abortion, I’d decline. If they want me to film their pornographic efforts, again, I’d decline.
  3. The mistake made by some Christians is to think that we can discriminate in loving our neighbor, confining the mandate to just the evangelicals on the block. That is wrong. The mistake made by our friends on the other side of the issue is to lay claim to our goods and services as what justice demands, no right of refusal allowed, period.
  4. If equality necessitates that goods and services of private individuals are owned by all who have legal sanction, then this will cause much harm. The photographer takes pride in his craft and seeks to accentuate that which he finds lovely. Any photographer worth their salt is hired specifically because his work is somewhat unique. If the photographer finds gay marriage to be sinful and distasteful, it ceases to be good, true, and beautiful. To shoot pictures of the couple kissing after the pronouncement, when he finds it offensive, ceases to be an extension of his art. It is compelled. Tyrants are known for forcing great artists to make portraits of themselves. When they don’t like it, they force the artist to edit it to his liking. At this point, the portrait ceases to be the unique artifact of the artist. We ought to cringe at such tyranny in the name of equality. Under such logic, a Christian wouldn’t have the right to refuse to do a pornographic photo shoot. Again, the logic would forbid any discretion to the private citizen, because any right to refuse service of something that is legal would be deemed discrimination.
  5. A free and virtuous society requires robust freedom of speech. It will also involve soft bigotry, strong bigotry, and collective shame over the actions of some. This is much better than State intervention, so long as life and property aren’t criminally deprived. The Christian baker and photographer did not injure life or property. But the State threatening to compel their conscience – or else be subject to fines and revocation of vocational licences – is a crime against ones livelihood and the property of their creative expression.

© 2014, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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