Last month the Kansas House of Representatives passed a law protecting individuals and businesses who on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs refuse to participate in any way in a wedding or marriage ceremony, or refuse to consider such a marriage valid. The bill was promptly defeated in the Kansas Senate, but that has not stopped people from commenting on it.
The law clearly is designed to protect those who do not wish to participate, by providing services for, so-called “gay weddings”, although it is worded in such a way that, for example, atheists could refuse to participate in or recognize Christian weddings, or homosexuals could with impunity refuse to participate in heterosexual weddings, as long as they can assert a religious conviction as the motive of their actions.
About ten days ago, when the law had already been killed in the Senate, USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers used her column to lambast Kansas, comparing the bill to Jim Crow laws. She denies that providing services for an event constitutes participation in it, or affirms its rightnesss, and quotes two pastors in support of her view (to which she is of course entitled).
Her quote of Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church in Atlanta and son of former SBC president Charles Stanley has caused a lot more comment and controversy than her quote of Adam Hamilton, pastor of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, probably because most conservative Evangelicals were not surprised for Adam Hamilton’s reported comments coming from a UMC pastor but considered the quote attributed to Andy Stanley a betrayal of the Evangelical understanding of Scripture.
The quote as reported by Kirsten Powers was,
(I find it) “offensive that Christians would leverage faith to support the Kansas law. Serving people we don’t see eye to eye with is the essence of Christianity. Jesus died for a world with which he didn’t see eye to eye. If a bakery doesn’t want to sell its products to a gay couple, it’s their business. Literally. But leave Jesus out of it.”
I see a number of problems with this entire situation.
I googled this quote, and I find only Kirsten Power’s report of this statement and many others quoting her — nothing from Andy Stanley himself — and yet every commentator I read on the subject assumes the quote to be correct and in context, and castigates Andy Stanley for it. Would it not be fair to ascertain first whether the quote is accurate, or at least to prefix critical comments with “If this is indeed what Andy Stanley said, …” ???
If this is indeed what Andy Stanley said ( 🙂 ), and if he said it in response to the Kansas bill, then he makes the same mistake that Kirsten Powers makes, as well as many of those reacting negatively to the comments criticizing Powers and Stanley: that the bill legalizes discrimination against homosexuals. It’s been pointed out in numerous comments, but it bears repeating: the bill is NOT legalizing discrimination against homosexuals; it legalizes the refusal to participate in weddings to which one is religiously opposed. Or, in other words, it does not legalize discrimination against a group of people (like the Jim Crow laws did), but rather against a specific activity, or specific events.
That brings us to the big difference between the Kansas bill (and similar bills elsewhere, i.e. the Arizona bill vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer) on the one hand, and Jim Crow laws on the other: the latter legalized, and indeed mandated, discrimination against a group of people, on the basis of their skin color or ethnic origin, while the former attempt to legalize limited discrimination against an action or event. The big difference is that nobody can influence what skin color they are born with, it is not a choice and therefore cannot be a moral or immoral choice, so discrimination is totally unjustified and unwarranted. Everybody can, however, influence and determine their own actions, which are therefore a choice which can be viewed as either moral or immoral. Protecting people against being compelled to participate in what they, due to sincerely held religious convictions, regard as an immoral act is an essential aspect of protecting the free exercise of religion. And contrary to the implication in Kirsten Powers’ column, most every conservative commentator criticizing her column clearly stated that discrimination against homosexuals is wrong, and every one of the businesses she refers to who have been or are being sued for refusing to service “gay weddings” have in the past served homosexual customers: this whole debate and controversy is not about serving homosexual customers but is strictly about participation in “gay weddings”.
And let’s be honest: this whole issue has only arisen because homosexual lobbyists, contrary to their assertions, do not merely want equal treatment under the law, they want everyone to morally affirm their “orientation” and the way they choose to live out this orientation. This is why they go out of their way to force people opposed to “gay marriage” to participate in it by attempting to hire them to provide services. Any normal person will seek out businesses who want to do business with them, who want to cater to their events, who want to provide photography or other services to their wedding. Homosexual activists seem to seek out those who do not want to participate in “gay weddings” and try to coerce them by taking them to court: they are intentionally trying to interfere with people’s religious beliefs, because they disagree with them.
When Kirsten Powers (and Andy Stanley, if he indeed said what she reports him as saying) implies that Jesus would have attended a “gay wedding” and would have turned water into wine on that occasion, they are engaging in so much speculation. Jesus did not just defend the woman taken in adultery from her accusers, he also said to her “Go and sin no more” rather than “Go back to your lover.” When Kirsten Powers asserts (again supported by a supposed Andy Stanley quote) that since Christians do not refuse to cater to or provide other services to heterosexual re-marriages after a divorce, they have no right to refuse to cater to or provide other services to a “gay wedding”, they ignore the obvious: no business owner can reasonably be expected to investigate all circumstances surrounding a wedding; thus he or she is probably not aware of a previous marriage — but it’s rather difficult to be unaware if both bride and groom are male, or both are female. And I would not be surprised if Christian business owners who will not provide services for “gay weddings” would also balk at “re-marriages” if they knew the couple and were aware of the situation.
One of the blogs I read on this subject makes puts it this way, and except for his automatic assumption that Kirsten Powers quoted Andy Stanley correctly, I agree with him:
Pastors are constantly pleading with their congregations to take their faith with them out of the church and into every other part of their lives — their family, their finances, their businesses. It is a constant theme in every church I have ever been in.
But Andy Stanley has found an area where Jesus doesn’t belong. If a gay couple tries to get you to participate in their wedding — if they try to force your participation through lawsuit or threat of lawsuit, even if your own conscience and your understanding of your faith demands otherwise — you should “leave Jesus out of it” and just go along. Because nothing says “bold servant in the kingdom of God” like feeble capitulation to gay activists.
So, here’s hoping that Andy Stanley was quoted out of context, or hadn’t really read the Kansas Bill, also that in future, more people will properly read what they are commenting on.
P.S.: Just read a Time Magazine article referenced by Kirsten Powers in her column which quotes ACLU counsel Eunice Rho on the Kansas bill:
“The language of the bill really allows discrimination in virtually every aspect of somebody’s life,” says Rho. She says the language could potentially protect an employer who, for instance, chose not to promote a woman because she was not as submissive in her heterosexual marriage as his religion dictated, just as much as a vendor who refused to sell wedding rings to a lesbian couple. “They’re really opening the door for all kinds of litigation,” she says.
That seems very far-fetched: the bill would have provided protection to people and/or businesses who “provide employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement;” — so unless said woman is employed “related to her marriage” the law would not have applied, even if it had not been killed in the Senate.
P.P.S: For what it’s worth: If I were a baker or confectioner I would not refuse to sell wedding cakes to homosexual couples, but I would not have same-sex decorations available. If I were a caterer or photographer, or provided any other service that would involve me directly in a wedding, I would not accept a job to service a “gay wedding”, nor would I accept a job to service a re-marriage wedding unless I were persuaded that this wedding made pastoral sense (i.e. there were scriptural grounds for the divorce). If I controlled a secular event venue, I would not refuse to rent it for a “gay wedding” but if I controlled a church building I might well refuse. If I ran a hotel I would probably not require couples to produce a marriage certificate before renting them a double room, but if I ran a B&B in my own home I might be more discriminating. I think we have moved beyond the point in our societies where anything we do can turn the tide on this issue; but we do not need to unnecessarily facilitate it, and we certainly do not need to roll over and capitulate by participating in something we consider sinful.