Absorb the beauty of your Easter service this year: the stained-glass rose window; the woodwork; the vaulted ceilings; the chorus of voices joined together in worship. Memorize the feel of the large, open sanctuary. Enjoy greeting neighbors and old friends, and watching your kids put your tithe envelope in the offering plate. Try to absorb every detail, because soon it will all be gone.
Easter itself won’t be gone of course. Believers will find a way to mark the key celebration of the Faith. But the church building that we take for granted, the openness of the observance, the ease with which you wish coworkers, store clerks, friends and neighbors a “happy Easter” could, and likely will, disappear.
It’s the course we’re on. Our elected champions are proving to have backbones of dried bread exposed to water. They’re strong at first, but absolute mush in the storm.
Like a deep-forest deer crossing a paved road for the first time, Indiana Governor Mike Pence walked into a nationally televised Sunday news program a doe-eyed innocent absolutely incapable of dealing with hostile, on-coming traffic. He and his fellow Republicans weren’t “hiding behind the Bible” like Jim-Crow era racists as basketball great Charles Barkley asserted. The issue wasn’t “refusing to serve” but “opting not to participate.”
The distinction is key. Now, I’ve helped arrange flowers for weddings and I’d do the same for a same-sex couple, though I’d prefer to bake them a cake. But others have theological objections that I respect.
I’ve already heard countless people say, “That’s stupid. They should have to do it anyway.” So now the free exercise of religion is free exercise unless certain cultural judges among us find your religious restrictions “stupid”? If we all celebrate the freedom of others to do only what we think is right, how long before none of us is free?
In any case, the primary controversy wasn’t over religious freedom legislation, but the idea that “those bigots refuse to sell.” It was a false and willfully distorted assertion. The isue isn’t “those bigots refuse to sell” to gays but “those people who seek not to be forced to participate.”
Some say, that’s “just” because of the rise of same-sex weddings (most forced upon states by courts adding their own desires to laws that clearly did not require redefining marriage—in my state of Washington, we changed it legitimately by initiative). This is said as though it’s impossible to conceive of a theological problem arising from same-sex marriages.
Should you doubt there’s a difference between “refusing to sell” and “refusing to participate,” look at the case of Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington. She sold flowers to openly gay men for years. She has employed gay men. When asked if she would arrange flowers for the same-sex wedding of a long-time customer she said, in the kindest way she could, her faith would not permit it.
For this, Bob Ferguson, the Democrat Attorney General of the State of Washington, went to war against this 70-year-old grandma individually as well as through her business so that no gay man should ever be denied their first choice of floral arranger again, even if it means coercing her into doing it.
But how will the problems of a few florists, caterers and wedding planners translate into a problem for the rest of us? If you’re not in the wedding business, why should it matter?
Businesses and owners will be targeted first. Opponents will cite the Civil Rights Act as though failure to participate in a same-sex wedding, which results in the same-sex couple having multiple other options for the same services or those services offered for free by others, is the same as a Jim Crow South, in which refusing to serve black Americans was a government-enforced norm and a Klan-terror enforced reality.
If we allow “hate” to be redefined as “disapprove of” or as “a failure to fully endorse and embrace,” it makes all religious people, churches, temples, synagogues, religious schools, colleges, and religious charities instruments of hate and “discrimination,” and that goes for Jews, Mormons, Catholics, Muslims, and Protestants.
If government has a compelling state interest to prevent “discrimination” against homosexuals and the definition of discrimination includes failing to participate in state-recognized same-sex ceremonies, or disapproval of homosexual sexuality, what will stop the state from seeking to pull the tax-exempt status of churches or faith-affiliated organizations? And how long could your church keep its building if it has to pay full-market property tax and donations are no longer tax-deductible?
If it’s “discrimination,” how long before religious schools will lose grants, access to student loans, and accreditation? Catholic and other religious-based adoption services are already falling. And if this verbally abusive definition of the faith-affiliated is allowed to stand, are the faithful fit to be a judges, lawyers, or teachers? Can they be trusted to daycare providers, reporters, or managers?
Sure, places like Indiana—chock-full of Christians and with no law protecting homosexuals from discrimination—have allowed countless gay and lesbian employees to thrive, but why take the risk?
In the Civil Rights era, “bigotry,” “hate,” and “discrimination” were words used to start a discussion. Now they’re used to preempt one. The self-congratulatory Cultural Left is “tolerant” only of views on morality and religion that they already agree with.
Gays and lesbians deserve to be protected by the law like anyone else, and their individual rights must be preserved. But none of us has the right not to be offended. So why care if some religious people have to give up their livelihoods or are forced to go against their consciences? Isn’t it foolish? After all, Iran could get a nuclear bomb.
Freedom matters. And freedoms generally don’t disappear all at once, but one bit at a time.
So the news for the faithful this year is very bad—well, except for Easter. There’s Good News there.