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?
The theme of many gay pride parades has been “born this way,” and the question science has been wrestling with for at least 50 years is whether that is true. Is being “gay” not something that can be chosen or changed? Rebecca Jordan-Young, a sociomedical scientist, has written a book titled Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences. The book reviews hundreds of scientific studies on sex and the brain conducted over the last 13 years. Her conclusion is that biology matters, but it is not the whole story.
The Bible makes it clear that God created man and woman with purpose and with definite roles. Romans 1:24-27 indicates that it was humans who changed “the natural use into that which is against nature” (verse 26). People have misused just about everything God has given us.
Dr. Sari van Anders at the University of Michigan says, “The science of whether sexual orientation is biological is pretty sparse and full of disparate, mixed, and unreplicated findings.” The data shows that there is no “gay gene” that causes a person to be a homosexual. A combination of genetic characteristics, the hormone pollution in our environment, and the effects produced by experiences in early childhood are all part of our sexual orientation and how we act on it. We are not all born with the same genetic factors, we don’t all have the same libido, and we have not had the same experiences in our first twelve years of life. There is much more to it than just being “born this way.”
We live in an age of pluralism. While the word “pluralism” is applied to religion and the idea that there are many equally valid paths to God, the concept also applies to other areas of life. There is a push in intellectual circles now to say that democracy is not the only path to political stability, that even dictatorships may be equally valid. The current rage in the popular media, however, is to say that “gender is a spectrum”–a plurality of sexes. That was stated in National Geographic‘s January issue (page 61) which was totally dedicated to what it calls “the gender revolution.” Television specials and documentaries on transgender cases have become a major feature of the media, and people are flooded with a pluralistic view of the whole gender question.
The biblical position on this issue is quite clear. Genesis 1:27 indicates that God created male and female and blessed them. Genesis 2:21-24 tells us that woman and man were distinct with the Hebrew issa being used to differentiate woman from man who is identified by the Hebrew word is. These terms indicate how close man and woman were, but the wording leads to the conclusion that woman was taken out of man to meet a specific need–to be a “help meet.” So what do we make of the current situation where we have boys claiming they are really girls and girls claiming they are boys?
Let us say from the outset that it is not our job to judge or condemn those who are transgenders. We do want to suggest some causes to the gender issues and suggest that God has given us tools to deal with the issue whether it is in our bodies, families, communities, or culture. As you read through the National Geographic issue on “The Gender Revolution,” you have to be impressed with the fact that culture has a huge effect on the gender issue. The magazine has gone to one culture after another to show how the culture impacts and forces sexual identity and sexual roles on their people. As Westerners, we may be appalled at what is forced on children in other cultures, and yet in our own culture drugs are used to control and facilitate sexual identity. It may also be true that human pollution of our environment has caused some changes in our genome and in the chemistry of human hormones.
God gave us the ideal sexual arrangement. Not only is there a unity with woman being taken out of man, but we also see a combined oneness in Genesis 2:24 where man and woman were to become “one flesh.” That isn’t just a sexual reference, but a stable platform from which man and woman could live, make decisions, and build a family. In 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 Paul emphasizes this oneness in very clear terms. In Romans 1:24-32 he castigates those who consciously reject God and His plan by deliberately corrupting God’s ideal sexual arrangement. There are adults who would be condemned by these verses for their attitudes and practices. However, that certainly does not apply to innocent children who are struggling with sexual identity due to culture or perhaps by drugs forced upon them.
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.