To the Christian, a job is more than a
job; it is a calling. Whether as a butcher, baker, or candle-stick maker (or
even a lawyer), we are to use the gifts God has given us for His glory. It is a
grand opportunity and responsibility.
And the government has no business interfering
with this faith-driven view.
In recognition of this important concept
– applicable not only to Christianity but other religions as well – last week,
the Arizona Senate and House both passed landmark legislation protecting the
religious freedom of small business owners.
Over the last several years, Christian
photographers, bakers, florists and others in wedding-related occupations have
faced lawsuits and criminal penalties all across the country for declining to
provide their goods and services for same-sex wedding ceremonies and
receptions. These actions have
cost people their livelihoods as they face daunting court costs, fines, negative
press and even boycotts for refusing to compromise their faith.
Though these individuals are ostensibly free
to believe whatever they want to believe at home, they are compelled to shed those
beliefs prior to clocking in. Thankfully, this imposition on individual conscience
has not gone unnoticed.
Along with Arizona, legislators in Idaho,
Kansas, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee have all
introduced legislation that acknowledges a business owner’s right to conduct
his business in accordance with his religious beliefs. Arizona’s legislation
became the first to get to the executive branch level.
Governor Jan Brewer has thus far refused
to comment on the bill. Arizonans are hopeful she will take national leadership
in protecting the rights of Christians and others with strong religious objections
to same-sex marriage, but she is encountering significant pressure to do
Same-sex unions are not recognizable as
marriages in Arizona; in fact, the citizens passed a referendum barring the
prospect in 2008. The proposed law merely allows a religious objector to avoid
participation in something that is already considered illegitimate in the
state. But this reality does not keep homosexual advocates from crying foul and
labeling the law as discriminatory. The Senate Democratic leader in Arizona,
Anna Tovar, was among the first to criticize the bill, claiming “many Arizonans
will find themselves members of a separate and unequal class under this law
because of their sexual orientation.”
Summoning up visions of Jim Crow laws and
separate drinking fountains, Senator Tovar presumes no one will actually read
the bill. The text reveals that it clarifies the existing Religious Freedom
Restoration Act to include individuals and businesses – in addition to churches
– as parties protected under the law. Nothing in or about the bill suggests a
business can refuse service to someone because of the person’s espoused sexual
And the loose charge of harmful discrimination,
echoed by numerous members of the media, is dripping with irony. No same-sex
wedding has ever been called off because a vendor declined to partake in it. No
reception has been canceled or postponed. No same-sex couple has been forced to
rely on memories due to lack of a willing photographer. There always seem to be
a cake to slice and a bouquet to throw at these events. On the other hand, Christian
vendors who have the temerity to beg off involvement in these same-sex gatherings
are ostracized and made to suffer for taking their faith seriously at work.
As Republican Sen. Steve Yarbrough
articulated during the Arizona Senate debate on the bill, this law is geared to
stop – not facilitate – inequitable treatment. "This bill is not about
allowing discrimination," Yarbrough said. "This bill is about
preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their
Now that the bill has passed, Gov. Brewer
has a decision to make, which should be made by the end of the week. If her
choice turns on an aspiration to curb real, invalid discrimination, she will
sign the bill into law.