Tempers are flaring over the Indiana Religious Freedom Bill with the loudest voices getting the most attention as usual. The issues involved are highly socio-political in nature and cut to the very heart of all our freedoms. While it is popular and often effective to appeal to emotions, we cannot afford more heart-felt actions at the detriment of sound and logical ones.
I believe that most of us can agree that to deny anyone food, water, housing or other basic necessities is immoral and unjust. The Declaration of Independence clearly states that we are “endowed by our Creator with …. [rights] to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” (Just for the record we have the right to pursue happiness, we are not guaranteed the right to happiness.)
One of the big arguments in today’s diatribe, appeals to sentiments stirred during the era of the Jim Crow laws in the South. The claim of the time was that Blacks had the right to “separate but equal” protection under the law. While this may sound fair to some, it more often than not, resulted in unjust treatment and substandard housing, restrooms, food and more. In a phrase, it was evil.
In the current debate, it is important to understand that the situation under Jim Crow is in no way equal to the claims of the secular progressives today concerning the modern treatment of homosexuals. Here are just a few reasons why:
- Institutional Difference: Discrimination based on sexual preference is not institutionalized as was Jim Crow. Under Jim Crow, the whole system was designed to oppress a group of people. It was legal and it was organized. Discrimination against homosexuals is case-by-case, not societal. If it were, they would not have been so successful at redefining the accepted definition of marriage in so many states. They have changed thousands of years of precedent across the entire United States. Discrimination against Blacks still occurs today, but it is not institutional in nature and is therefore considered case by case. If you want to be a member of the KKK and exclude Blacks from your membership, the law allows it. If for that matter you want to be a member of the Black Panther party and deny whites privileges in your organization you can do that as well.
- Apparent Perception: Race is different than sexual preference. Someone can look at someone else and quickly have an idea of their ethnicities. With sexual preference, the information has to be volunteered. You might never know that I am a huge Trekker (Trekkie to the uninitiated) unless I told you. You also don’t know about my sex life unless I am willing to share. (Don’t count on it.)
- Systemic Oppression: During the time of the Jim Crow laws, Blacks were greatly oppressed. They had little influence in the dominant society and very low opportunities for advancement because of the system. We do not see a systematic oppression of homosexuals. They serve in high levels of Government, Organizations, Hollywood and literally every area of society.
- Fundamental Civil Rights: A very wise lawyer and Government Professor I had in college said it this way: “My civil rights end where yours begin.” In other words, I cannot claim a right that forces you to compromise yours. As I mentioned earlier, it would be fundamentally wrong if I refused to not provide basic necessity to anyone in need regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity or Sci-fi preferences. Clearly this is not the issue. I don’t know of a single situation in the past few years where a restaurant or other service provider has denied basic services for any of the above reasons. If there have been any, they are so far off-the-radar, they are not even discussed.
On the other hand, it is also fundamentally wrong for someone to demand that I serve and promote their actions at the cost of my conscience. Let’s suppose that a few years from now, it is determined that polygamists should be a protected class. Let’s assume that it goes even further and marriage is legalized between multiple combinations of people or perhaps even animals. (Yes there are people that support that.) Should I as a Christian business person be required to participate in their polygamous ceremony? What if Wiccans were one day declared a protected class. Should a Christian Pastor be required to offer them religious services using their beliefs? Should a Christian business be forced to take pictures at their ritual, or cater to a coven?
It is really not about bigotry (or hate) at all. As I Christian, I love everyone regardless of their color, religion or sexual preference. I will feed them, cloth them and pray for them (according to my faith). That does not mean that I believe everything they do is laudable or something that I feel comfortable supporting. Something very important is lost when we base our ideas of discrimination on actions rather than fundamental humanity. I can and do love you as a person without celebrating everything you do. I have close friends that I love dearly but am saddened by their sinful (as defined by my faith) lifestyle choices. I am glad I still live in a country where I have a right to live by the convictions of my faith and values.
Father, bring healing to our nation and our world. Help us love one another deeply. Help us realize that love does not mean acceptance of every aspect of a person’s life and that love does not demand that others accept all aspects of ours. If that were the standard, then truly we could never be loved by You and that would be the greatest pain of all. Amen!