Business Owner’s Religious Freedom

Business Owner's Religious Freedom
One of the most critical issues of this decade in America is a business owner’s religious freedom. If you own a business, do you have a right to refuse to perform a service which violates your religious faith? Here are some examples of Christian business owners being told by the government that they must provide a service that they find morally objectionable.

Barronelle Stutzman owns Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington. She declined to design a flower arrangement for a same-sex wedding. The Washington Attorney General and the ACLU brought suit against not only her business but her personally. She could lose everything because of taking a stand based on her Christian faith. This case is being appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Blaine Adamson owner of promotional printing company Hands On Originals in Kentucky turned down a job to print promotional t-shirts for a gay pride festival. He had refused to print other materials that he considered to be morally objectionable. The local human rights commission charged him with sexual orientation discrimination saying that he must print the shirts. In 2015 a Kentucky circuit court found in favor of Adamson, and that decision was upheld in 2017 by the Kentucky Court of Appeals. Now the Kentucky Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the case.

Masterpiece Cake Shop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is one of a dozen similar cases where a private business owner of a bakery wishes not to produce something that violates their religious convictions. In this case, Jack Phillips did not want to design a cake for a same sex wedding. The state is threatening him with a fine and jail time.

It is not only Christian printers, flower shops, and cake decorators that are being forced by the government to provide services that violate their faith. Christian wedding photographers and videographers also face legal challenges. In the Minnesota case of Telescope Media Group vs. Lindsey, Carl and Angel Larsen have a video business. They produce videos that teach Christian values and educate couples about God’s plan for marriage. They are being threatened with a $25,000 fine and 90 days in jail because they do not make videos of same sex marriages as well.

These cases bring to mind many questions about a business owner’s religious freedom. Can a printer refuse to print pornography because of the moral issues involved, even if it is legal? Should a black business owner be required to provide materials promoting a KKK rally? Should a Jewish business be required to provide facilities for a neo-Nazi rally? Should a Christian printer be required to print materials promoting atheism? Does a business owner’s religious freedom end when the doors open for business? To turn the question around, should a business owner who is a gay rights advocate be required to produce material saying that homosexual activity is immoral?

We have commented before about the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and their efforts to protect religious freedom and Christian values. In Acts 4:18-20 we read about the authorities telling Peter and John “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” They responded with, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2017

The Church-State Problem

Religious Separation
Religious Separation
The polarization that has taken place in America in the past 25 years is appalling. That statement is true on many levels with the political situation being the one that gets the most attention in the media. The relationship between the Church and the State has strong advocates that have very different agendas.

On one side of the issue are groups who advocate freedom FROM religion. They don’t want religious people to take a public stand on moral issues. Americans United for Separation of Church and State is an example of such a group. They say: “We envision an America where everyone can freely choose a faith and support it voluntarily, or follow no religious or spiritual path at all, and where the government does not promote religion over non-religion or favor one faith over another.” That sounds good, but the problem with groups like this is that they do not want any attempt on the part of religious people to evangelize or to promote moral agendas. You can go to church if you wish, but don’t say or do anything outside of the church walls that demonstrates your faith. Any religious group opposing gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia, legalizing marijuana, or any other moral issue is considered to be violating the separation of Church and State. Also when a church congregation helps families with food shortages they cannot let the families know that they are doing so because of their religious convictions or invite them to any church events if they use any government commodities, even if the church purchases those commodities. A Christian can be fined or jailed in America for publicly living out their faith in opposition to gay marriage or other moral issues.

On the other side are groups advocating freedom OF religion. An example is Alliance Defending Freedom who strongly oppose any government interference with individual expressions of religious belief. Groups like this are fighting in courts for the right of religious people to live out their faith in the public arena. The problem is that some fringe religious groups hold to something that clashes with the safety and well-being of innocent people. An example is those who oppose medical treatment for disease. We had a case in Indiana in which a child was an insulin-dependent diabetic, and the parents refused to allow the child to have insulin shots on religious grounds.

These are tough questions. The lesson of history is that when a religion gains control of the government, the result is always a disaster. It is also a lesson from history that when a government embraces atheism and enforces it, the result is anarchy and chaos. America has become more and more antagonistic to religious belief and expression, and the result is chaos and conflict tearing at the very fabric of our existence as a nation. The founding fathers had no desire to make America an atheist state. Some people today want to allow any kind of dissent as long as God is not mentioned or involved in any way. Rendering to “Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” should not be that difficult, but vested interests are making it difficult for religious freedom to exist. Romans 13:1-7 spells out the solution. Whether America will officially adopt the atheist religion or turn back to the ideal of our founding fathers remains to be seen.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

“I Told You So.” Here Comes Sologamy

Self Marriage
Self Marriage
One of the problems involved in the gay marriage movement is that once the definition of marriage is changed, anything is possible. One of the newest examples of this is self-marriage. Anderson Cooper on CNN interviewed a North Dakota woman who married herself in front of forty friends. Cosmopolitan magazine published an article titled “Why I Married Myself.” It said, “Self-marriage is a small but growing movement, with consultants and self-wedding planners popping up across the world.” Some self-marriages have been lavish, expensive affairs with many bridesmaids. (It’s usually women who self-marry.) To go the cheap way, there is a website where you can get a self-marriage kit for $50.

What is incredible about all this is not the fact that creative people will develop items to fit a growing social trend, but that people actually think that all marriage consists of is a ceremony and a piece of paper. God’s plan in Genesis 2:20-24 was initiated at least in part because “it is not good for man to be alone.” When people try to substitute same-sex marriage, polygamy, marrying their pets, or themselves for God’s planned relationship the result is always disaster and frustration.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Gay Community Hurt by Media’s Downplay of CDC Report

Homosexual Lifestyle
Atheists and skeptics have accused the Bible and Christians in general of being homophobic. This accusation is inaccurate and actually the opposite of what the Bible teaches. Jesus and the Apostles taught very clearly that Christians are to take care of everyone, and no passage says to avoid taking care of the homosexual. We are to love our enemy, do good to those who are opposed to us, and never return evil for evil. (See Matthew 5-7.) By the same token, Christians are obligated to oppose all forces that bring evil, pain, and suffering to others.

Last September the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data on the spread of HIV and AIDS in the United States. The report made it very clear that homosexuality is a destructive lifestyle, but that material was largely ignored by the media. Here are some facts from the CDC:
1) Gay men are 2% of the population, 55% of all HIV cases, and 67% of all new cases of HIV.
2) Gay and bisexual men ages 13 to 24 accounted for 92% of the new HIV cases and 27% of new diagnoses among all gay and bisexual men.
3) Gay and bisexual men accounted for 83% (29,418) of the new HIV diagnoses among males aged 13 or older and 67% of the total estimated new cases in the United States.
4) Gay and bisexual men accounted for 54% (11,277) of the cases of people diagnosed with AIDS.
5) One in six gay and bisexual men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime.

The Bible clearly teaches that God’s plan was for men and women to have sexual relationships in the context of marriage to members of the opposite sex. Christians need to encourage people not to live destructive lifestyles. We are not “alcoholifobic” because we oppose the use of alcohol as a social drug. We are not “abusophobic” because we oppose any form of abuse. We want people to live in a way that keeps them healthy, and we will do what we can to urge people to make good choices. But if they make bad choices we will still love them, encourage them, and try to help them become free of destructive lifestyles. Homosexuality is a destructive lifestyle, and we will work towards stopping the spread of diseases which homosexual acts tend to spread. We will also work to help those who are victimized by their destructive lifestyle choices.
Data from http://cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/group/msm/cdc-hiv-msm.pdf
–John N. Clayton © 2017