|Attorney General Bob Ferguson|
The State of Washington Attorney General has begun steps to sue Arlene’s Flowers & Gifts in Richland, WA for refusing to provide services to a gay couple who sought services from the florist for their marriage. The owners, citing their religious opposition to gay marriage refused their request to provide flowers and other marriage amenities. The couple complained to the Attorney General's office that their civil rights had been violated under Washington State Law.
Now this begs a question that I've asked forever. Is it Christian to refuse services that you may morally disagree with? This isn't a matter of static immorality like lying or cheating or some other form of malfeasance that causes an obvious injury to another person. This is about an arbitrary viewpoint about a civil institution that is legal, of which it's "moral" standing is deeply questionable and highly debatable. This moral issue on the level of, "Is it moral to wear white shoes after labor day" or "It's immoral to strike your children" or the ethics of paying minimum wage vs. a livable wage. These are arbitrary moral standards that do not provide enough legal justification for refusing to serve the needs of gay couple. Nor is there a sufficient amount of Biblical justification as well.
The justification that is often touted by fundamentalists to refuse same-sex couples access to services or goods is argued on the grounds that such an action would result in introducing "demonic" presences or that you are tolerating "evil". Some believe that you are encouraging a sinful lifestyle in society. There are any number of reasons that a Christian might have for refusing to serve a gay couple or individual for that matter. Such a viewpoint is entirely based in fear, ignorance, and hatred. The arguments above hold no water, and they have no scriptural justification to hold them up. Service, especially to those who perhaps do not follow Jesus is the primary mission of Jesus. Service, compassion, and love are what we are requested and mandated to have for others regardless of faith, lifestyle, culture, or other differing norms that perhaps make them different from you. If there was one man in the Bible who touted the virtues of tolerance, it was Jesus. Here are some scriptures to look at:
1) Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, for this is the law and the prophets. Matt 7:12
2) Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Matt 22:36-40
3) Judge not, that you may not be judged. For with whatever judgment you judge, you shall be judged; and with whatever measure you measure out, it shall be measured to you again. And why do you look on the splinter that is in your brother's eye, but do not consider the beam that is in your own eye? Or how will you say to your brother, Let me pull the splinter out of your eye; and, behold, a beam is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First cast the beam out of your own eye, and then you shall see clearly to cast the splinter out of your brother's eye. Matt 7:1-5
The three statements above are verses that pretty much lay down any inklings to judge someone for anything. The argument that you can discriminate based on religious belief is as appalling as discriminating based on cultural values, or race, or gender identity, sex, whatever criteria you want to use. The first verse, Matt 7:12 is pretty clear, if you don't want to be treated like a jerk, don't treat others like jerks. Be kind if you want people to kind to you back. It's a give and take kind of rule which makes sense and is profound all at the same time. Would a married couple want to be discriminated against for being a straight married couple? Could an Atheist tell a straight married couple, "It's against my lack of faith to provide you with my services because I object to the Christian label of marriage in civil law?" No of course not. So just as Atheists can't tell that to a married patron, neither can a Christian business owner tell a gay couple. It's a morally bankrupt assertion to make, and it's a close-minded, bigoted position.
The second set of verses, Matt 22:36-40 is the exact copy of The 10 Commandments in two-statement form. How does refusing to offer services to gay couples express the command from Jesus to love your neighbor? What is loving about treating someone as though they are diseased? The 10 Commandments don't say anything about gay couples, or any couples for that matter. Love your neighbor as yourself not only covers the 10 Commandments, but reinforces Matt 7:12 and expands on it. It's like the 9th Amendment of the US Constitution. The list of rights are not the only rights, and does not exclude future unlisted rights. The same level of argument for this scripture, Matt 22:36-40 is the same kind of statement. Anything you can do to love your neighbor, you should do. You may not agree with someone's sexuality, but it's not the basis to not love them, or treat them fairly. The law should not recognize any discrimination that does not directly affect another's personal rights. So, for example, if you decide not to offer services because you doubt the ability of the person to pay, and request payment up front, then I would argue that is a justified type of discrimination. If you cannot fill the requested service due to limitations on your manpower and available product...that is a legitimate discrimination. If you engaging in a service would infringe on the rights of another person, such as property rights, personal safety, or the right to due process...then this is definitely a justified discrimination. However, just because someone is gay does not give you the legal right to deny services, nor is it religiously justified. Its only when the legal rights of another is threatened that such a discrimination may be ethically justified.
The third verse, Matt 7:1-5 is the final scripture I reference in this discussion. Christians are often, and sometimes deservingly so, labeled as judgmental. Now you may ask, "aren't you doing this with this article?" And do a degree, yes I am passing judgment on another's actions. The degree in which I am judging is the legal and religious arguments they gave for their assertion that they are allowed to discriminate. But in regards to judging others as people, this business had no cause to judge their choice of partner, and deny services as such. Actions such as those are, in essence, a form of the business punishing the patron. The business is not God, or a Judge of Morality. If you don't approve of someone's "lifestyle", why would you feel it's right for you to punish them?
The whole point of all this article is that, as Christians, we have an obligation to love everybody equally, fairly, and justly. It is our purpose, our mission statement, and our call. Compassion, sympathy, empathy, service, and love should be a central part of every Christian's life. Even if you don't agree with someone, does that mean you should love or serve them any less? Should Christ have not healed the Leper or the blind and lame man? Or perhaps Christ should have just let Lazarus sit in the tomb to rot (which he actually kinda did technically) and not resurrecting him. Jesus should have recoiled away from the Samaritan Woman for being disgusting and unclean because that was the "social tradition" of the time. But folks, guess what. He didn't do any of those things. He served all layers of society. I mean for heaven's sake, he let a prostitute wash his feet with her hair. That's not exactly a socially "shining" moment for him either. We should not do things that we know are morally bankrupt. As Christians, we are called to live as Christ lived, do as Christ did, and serve as Christ served. If you don't have love...anything else you do is pointless and worthless. Through love, and Christ, all things are possible.
Gabriel Givens holds a Bachelor’s Degree from The Evergreen State College in Political Science and History. You can read more of Gabriel’s work at http://centerleftfield.blogspot.com. You can follow him on twitter @gdgivens and subscribe to him at http://www.facebook.com/gabrielgivens