A local event that took place in Greensboro yesterday provides a great illustration of the enormous challenges faced by Christian conservatives who wish to live in accordance with their religious convictions. On the eve of the Supreme Court's oral argument on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, typical arguments in favor of taking away our religious liberty became manifest.
Two articles reported on this gathering. One appeared in the Greensboro News and Record, and the other was published by Triad City Beat. Both accounts are biased in favor of those who want to take our religious liberty away. But some of the puerile commentary nevertheless merits dissection:
Colorado bakery owner Jack Phillips...argues that customizing a cake for them would violate his religious beliefs against homosexuality.
“This argument does not fool the NAACP,” said the Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the state chapter of the civil rights group. “Jack Phillips is not a victim. He is a purveyor of cakes and a purveyor of hate”...
All expressed opposition to discrimination against people of same-sex orientations and said it was wrong to couch that bias in terms of religious faith...
Spearman said arguments against providing equal service to LGBT people echo those of the 1970s that sought to suppress women’s right to equal pay and of the 1950s that allowed restaurants to discriminate against black patrons.
“Make no mistake, hate-based discrimination is a plague that must be eradicated,” Spearman said. “And we rely on the court system to protect the vulnerable, particularly at a time when many of our highest leaders are advocating the opposite”...
“Those who cannot accept the reality that all humans are created in the image of God tried the same arguments in the 1970s to assert that women should be paid unequally because their proper role was in the home,” Spearman said. He added that the same arguments were used in the 1950s “to assert that Negroes should be segregated because they were members of an inferior race” and in the 1930s “to assert that Jews and Gypsies and intellectuals should be sent to the gas chambers.”
This is a great example of the complete lack of intellectual integrity among the event's participants. Acting in accordance with one's religious conscience, according to this "Reverend", is reflexively dismissed as "hate". It vilifies those who feel they cannot facilitate what they believe is utterly wrong.
When folks on the political left gather, they use language and methods that are characteristic of the political left. A businessman and woman declining work in accordance with their religious conscience, and allowing that business revenue to go elsewhere, is accused of "discrimination" and "bias". But are the LGBT individuals seeking their services doing so in good faith, or are they trying to nail them to score a political victory and subjugate those they perceive to be their enemies?
And is it truly discrimination and bias when same sex "weddings" and homosexual acts are not really genetic, immutable characteristics, but are instead "free will" choices chosen by LGBT individuals? Spearman makes faulty comparisons to race and gender which are genetically determined. Homosexual acts and weddings are not genetically determined.
Rabbi Andy Koren of Greensboro told the group that in modern history Iran and Nazi Germany were the two nations most repressive against LGBT people.
“We have to ask ourselves as a country and as a people, is that the company we want to keep?” said Koren, associate rabbi at Temple Emanuel.
This is an utterly ludicrous false equivalency. To suggest that someone who declines business because of religious conscience is analogous to Iran or Nazi Germany is wild overstatement and slander.
Andy Koren, the associate rabbi at Temple Emanuel and a co-chair of the Greensboro Faith Leaders Council, said scripture from the first book of the Bible and Torah declaring that “all humanity is created in the divine image of God” provides a theological grounding for inclusion. He acknowledged that many conservative religious leaders point out that “the Bible calls homosexuality an abomination.
“Let’s also not forget that the Bible refers to eating shrimp as an abomination,” Koren added. “The same is true for lobsters. You don’t see anything with that. More importantly, however, the Bible sees cheating in business and deception and lying as abominations. And which of these is most important? As a religious leader, I know my answer.”
Koren is from the tradition of contemporary Judaism. Those from within this tradition typically favor elective abortion on demand. If he truly believes that all humanity is created in the divine image of God, he would oppose legal elective abortion. But I expect that he probably does not. Instead, those from within his faith tradition, after having witnessed 60 million human lives taken in our country since Roe v. Wade, typically call out for more.
His comparing homosexuality to eating seafood can only be regarded as utterly ridiculous from a Christian perspective. Christian theology holds that we are scripturally freed from many of the painstaking details of the old Mosaic law. But it classically has not held that we are freed from the biblical conceptions of morality as developed and elucidated in the New Testament.
Of course, Koren's faith tradition-- reform Judaism-- is very much like liberal mainline Protestantism and portions of the black church. These traditions feel emboldened to rewrite scriptural instruction, and devise new conceptions of morality, based on their own cultural and political preferences.
“As we know, this case isn’t about cake, but it also isn’t really about Jesus,” said Alex McNeill, the executive director of More Light Presbyterians, a national organization that promotes LGBTQ inclusion in the Presbyterian Church (USA)...
“I’ve read the Bible and I can’t find a single place where Jesus turned someone away because of who they are,” said McNeill, who is in the process of becoming a Presbyterian minister. “In fact, Jesus’ ministry was about welcoming people, and meeting people where they are. Jesus taught us that we show our love for God by loving our neighbor, even when we disagree.” He added that “granting businesses the right to discriminate is not only inconsistent with our Constitution, it’s also opposite to Jesus’ example.”
A transgender man, McNeill said he could easily imagine himself in the shoes of David Mullins and Charlie Craig, the same-sex couple in the Supreme Court case. After all, he was planning his own wedding in North Carolina in 2012, the year the Colorado couple was turned down by Masterpiece Cakeshop.
“Every time I walk through the doors of a business, I worry that my fiancé and I will be turned away or treated badly because of who we are,” McNeill said. “We were so excited to plan our wedding and begin our lives together as a new couple, but I braced myself when walking into a new business. Would I be told by a store employee or owner that they didn’t ‘serve my kind’ here?”
McNeill claims to know how Jesus Christ would handle the circumstance of same sex marriage. He seems to be arguing that Jesus would expect that vendors participate in same sex weddings. Unfortunately, having read the four gospels many times over, I cannot recall a single passage that suggests that Jesus Christ approves of homosexuality and same sex weddings. He had every opportunity to expound on these issues if He felt that revising conceptions of sexual morality were warranted. But He did not. To suggest that Jesus Christ would require his followers to facilitate or participate in a celebration He would perceive to be against His righteous law is simply blasphemous.
But like Koren, McNeill is from a faith tradition that feels free to rewrite the rules.
He makes the case that the force of government should bear down on the Christian baker, and compel him to deliver services to protect McNeill's own feelings and convenience-- even if it violates the baker's religious conscience. That is a profoundly selfish position to take.
Margarita Delgado, the owner of Manny’s Universal Café, ended the assembly by declaring that her Christian faith compels her to welcome people of all backgrounds.
“I believe when I open the door as an owner, I should have the doors open for everybody,” she said. “As an owner, I cannot be selective…. I believe in Jesus Christ, and I do believe the love of Jesus should be the center of everything. And when we start practicing this, we’ll all be the same. There’ll be no discrimination, there’ll be no color or race. And we all at sometimes have been discriminated [against].”
Ms. Delgado is certainly free to run her business as she sees fit. And it probably would not be appropriate to exclude homosexuals from her cafe. But she chooses to impose her own worldview on other citizens and business owners, and to force them to violate their conscience. She is ultimately accountable to God, as we all are.
But her critical lapse in judgment is assuming that Jesus Christ's love extended to all requires that we facilitate something that He regards as wrongful. These are two separate issues-- Christ's love and facilitating sinful relationships-- but she erroneously combines them into one.
The oral argument before the Supreme Court today left observers once again wondering what Anthony Kennedy is going to do. It is utterly absurd in a constitutional republic that so much could ride on the vagaries of one man's temperament. It ought to be clear to everyone that a constitutional requirement for religious liberty ought to override a statutory requirement regarding public accommodations. There is ample precedent for devising religious exceptions and accommodations when certain laws are being enforced. But the outcome of this particular case is quite uncertain.
Part of the reason orthodox Christians are in jeopardy is the half-hearted, conflicted approach to these issues taken by elected Republicans and those they have nominated to the bench. If we lose our religious liberty, it is because Republicans failed to stand up. Congress ought to put a stop to this nonsense, as Daniel Horowitz suggests.
Recall that Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly repealed HB 2 which had provided protections on these matters. That cowardly action included locally such luminaries as Berger, Wade, Hardister, Blust and Faircloth.
Is anyone else sick of the weak-kneed Republicans failing to do their jobs, and equivocating repeatedly on matters of principle?
What can the Republicans in North Carolina do? From JBS:
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof... shall be the supreme law of the land....
The event last night in Greensboro provided great clarity because it demonstrates vividly who the enemies of orthodox Christians truly are. You can look at the types of folks quoted and understand immediately those who want to take our religious liberty away.
My personal opinion is that orthodox Christians ought to revolt if the Supreme Court rules against us, and if the Republicans characteristically refuse to act. The Declaration of Independence, one of our key founding documents, indicates we have the right to revolt if government takes our liberties away. Perhaps it is getting to be time.