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« An Illustration to Help Reconcile God’s Sovereignty with Evil | Main | Finding Truth: Foreword »

April 02, 2015


You ask, "Why is there no room in our society for this?" It's a good question and sounds pretty reasonable. But the answer is because of the whole history of the gay rights issue.

If people had never made laws against gay sex, and had not been cruelly bullying gay people all this time, and if the Christian attitude were that gays could go ahead and legally "marry" even though that's not a Christian marriage - then there would be a lot of room for compromise and accommodation. But the time for that kind of peaceful cooperation is over.

One could just as easily flip this illustration around and make it about a person who is for same-sex marriage declining to make a banner for a rally promoting man-woman-only marriage.

I still don't get it. She's being compelled to sell flowers, not design a banner or write a freakin' poem. Do you not recognize a difference between expressive and non-expressive conduct? Do you not recognize that, if the government were ever to compel expressive conduct from anyone, for any reason, it would be plainly unconstitutional regardless of RFRA or "freedom of conscience" or anything? Did you go through public school with the understanding that you were required to say that Pledge of Allegiance?

Seriously, I'm tapping into every single ounce of empathy I possess here, trying to put myself in a parallel situation. Say I owned a print shop, and the Westboro Baptist Church comes to me with a Word document containing invectives against "fag enablers" and whatnot. They want me to run off a thousand copies. I'd really love to refuse, but there's some weird law that says I can't. Now I'm not saying I'd be happy about it, but it wouldn't, to my knowledge, be unconstitutional or be a fundamental encroachment upon my human dignity. It wouldn't be persecution, and it certainly wouldn't be the Second Coming of the Third Reich.

Now, if Westboro wanted me to help write their missive, then we'd have a different situation. Your prejudice is showing when you assume that serving a same-sex wedding is somehow a political, expressive act in a way that no other wedding is.

This is a false distinction, they were not declining to attend the wedding, they were declining to do business with them. They refused to sell them flowers for that occasion. If they had been invited to attend the wedding, and declined, that is the definition of refusing to participate in an event. Is this author a native speaker of English?

I have a question for this florist. Suppose a man in the community cheats on his wife, dumps her, and then decides to marry a younger woman he has had sex with. According to my understanding, this is adultery. Jesus talks against this because, unlike gay marriage, it involves lying, and also generally hurts people such as the ex- wife and kids.

Would the florist refuse to sell flowers for his wedding? Why single out gays, they are a tiny minority of the population. Adultery is everywhere.

@Douglas, we can only act on what is revealed. In your case, if the florist was given the information about the nature of the wedding, I think the florist has the right to refuse service as well, which would be consistent. However, I would highly doubt that the adulterous man would disclose that information freely.

@Amy, great post, my mind is chewing ...

From this point forward, whenever people on the left refer to conservatives as "fascists," let us all bear in mind the remarkable degree to which social liberals operate on the default assumption that the government has supreme authority over what kinds of events a business (even a small-scale one) must serve. And this non-Constitutional authority is considered to trump a consideration of paramount importance to the founders - that of conscience.

When Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptists about the First Amendment "building a wall of separation between Church & State," he said it expressed "the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience."

Madison said, "Conscience is the most sacred of all property."

(That the sanctity of conscience was vital to the founders is consistent with the fact - as Amy demonstrates - that it is a basic biblical value.)

The severe state sanctions being brought to bear on people like Stutzman and the Kleins - our canaries in the coal mine - for causing at most trivial "harm" (hurt feelings and minor inconvenience) show that the charge of "discrimination" (that magic buzzword) is now being put to lunatic purposes, and that in circumstances where said discrimination pertains not to people but to events.

The huge current uproar over RFRA makes a mockery of any suggestion that people who identify as homosexual today face any serious, widespread deprivations comparable to those endured by blacks which prompted the real civil rights movement. It makes it ridiculous to claim that same-sex couples will have too hard a time finding someone to serve their weddings, and that therefore it is necessary to override (genuinely Constitutional) considerations of conscience. It is much more reasonable to see this vociferous opposition to RFRA more as serving the plainly vindictive purposes expressed in John Moore's comment.

Liberals purport to be concerned about the plight of homosexuals in places like Russia and certain African countries. But what people in those places can see as they watch the scene unfold here will hardly lead them to regard the advance of "gay liberation" as an advance of the cause of civil rights.

Jim Abernathy

noun fas·cism \ˈfa-ˌshi-zəm also ˈfa-ˌsi-\
: a way of organizing a society in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of the people and in which people are not allowed to disagree with the government

: very harsh control or authority

Douglas, there's another segment from the same Bible passages I quoted above (1 Corinthians 10) that says:

If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience’ sake. But if anyone says to you, “This is meat sacrificed to idols,” do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience’ sake.

In other words, Christians were free to buy meat in the public market, without asking questions about whether or not it had been sacrificed to idols. But if it was made known to them that the meat had been sacrificed to idols, then they were not to eat it because of the message it would give to others. The Corinthians were living in a world where people had beliefs they disagreed with, and this was a wise way to get along. It didn't become a matter of conscience and/or a statement on their part about idols until they knew and others knew they knew.

So in the case of a couple that comes in, the florist isn't going to ask questions about whether or not he was married previously, how his previous marriage broke up, whether or not the reasons were biblical, whether the Bible says he's free to marry again, etc. She doesn't know, and nobody would think she knows. But if the man were to brag about it, at that point she would probably feel that now that she knows, and now that everyone knows she knows, to go along with it would be to endorse it, and she would likely decline the business. But it probably doesn't happen often (or ever, I suspect) that a person reveals these things to the florist.

In the case of same-sex marriage, on the other hand, there's nothing hidden. It's clear it's a same-sex marriage before they even say a word, and that immediately turns it into an issue of conscience for the florist. She knows from the beginning that she will be using her talents for something she strongly disagrees with, and that this will be seen by others as cooperation and support. So she chooses to decline.

Secondly, even if the marriage is troubled or a sinful, adulterous marriage, it's still a marriage if it's a man and a woman (the passage says that if he marries, he commits adultery, which means it's still a marriage, albeit an adulterous one). She would be participating in the union of a man and a woman, not endorsing his previous sin (which, I assume, would not be on display at the wedding). I can be for marriage without thinking every couple is a good idea, but I can't say something is a marriage that I think is not marriage.

I have thought about this for a while, as I am sure we all have. I think if I were a baker, I would no longer make wedding cakes, but celebration cakes. I would bake and decorate an nice tiered cake in one of a few designs I had created in accordance with the customer's wishes. I would not deliver it. And I would give the customer a web site where they could order a topper for the cake. But only if you don't tell me about that cake's use. This way would not only save some money for the customers for several reasons, but would help me feel like I have served the public without bending my conscience. If I treated everyone this way, what would be the problem?

I ran into someone that told me that since people used the public roads to get to my business, my business belongs to the government. All I can think of is that the public roads lead to your house, but you don't want the government there.

Meanwhile, anyone want to go with me the Jewish deli and demand ham sandwiches?

Jesus ate with sinners which was clearly a sign of acceptance in that day and time. This is one of many reasons why the religious leaders of the day were so mad at Jesus. In their eyes he was endorsing their lifestyle.
I can't help but see that this issue shows yet again that too many Christians are behaving more like Pharisees than like Jesus!
I say serve them, take their pictures, love them, and build genuine relationships with no strings attached. Then when you have earned the right to be heard and the Holy Spirit opens an opportunity..share the hope you have within you.

If we don't have freedom of conscience we don't have freedom. This should not be about religious freedom but freedom of conscience. It should be called the freedom of conscience restoraton act. The late Christopher Hitchens was a loud atheist but pro life would he be forced to provide his employees with the morning after pill just because he obviously has no real religion he subscribes to?

Its_your_brain, it doesn't sound to you like Stutzman treated them as Jesus would for a decade? She had very much developed that relationship with them.

Damian, I think I saw a similar post by you on a different post, but I can't remember which one. I meant to write back earlier. I completely agree with you on this one. I've heard that at least one legal organization is working on developing an argument for freedom of conscience, but it's tricky since it's not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. I think conscience should fall under "religion," but that hasn't been tested yet. Maybe that hasn't happened yet because people without religion tend to go with the current popular views in society, so it's less likely for them to be in a situation where they would object (or, at least, where they would object strongly enough to resist all coercion).

But one example where conscience is separated from religion is in terms of having to fight in war. You don't have to be religious to be a conscientious objector, and perhaps that could be a precedent that would help the case of an atheist in other matters.

I would love to see this tested in court, and I can imagine we will eventually see it over the subject of either abortion or euthanasia and non-religious doctors.

She merely didn’t want to participate in a same-sex wedding.

I don't see how selling flowers for a wedding is the same thing as participating in a wedding.

Designing arrangements? Delivering to the venue? Setting them up? Having your work central to the decorations for the ceremony? That's not being part of it?


Yes, Jesus ate with sinners, but Jesus' was consistent in admonishing people to turn away from sin, and I am sure that Jesus never engaged in any action to help validate or celebrate a person's sin. Jesus was a bit more nuanced than I think you give Him credit for.

Cakes, flowers, and photography are all clearly part of the celebration (and the adornment)of the event. In any case, there is a clear, well-established moral issue at stake regarding the event, and people should be permitted to heed their own consciences regarding whether they have anything to do with it (i.e., make any material contribution to it).

What supposed "liberals" in the media, the courts, etc., are doing is insisting that others must adhere to *their* relativistic or even affirming attitude toward same-sex marriages.

@Amy Thanks for the interesting post.

I think I am still missing the crux of the argument here. Are you saying that a business owner's (deeply held) desire to not participate in an event allows some legal protection that she doesn't have when it comes to providing a service to individuals?

What if the event is called "Valentine's Day"? And the participation in question is creating an arrangement on behalf of one homosexual and delivering that arrangement to that homosexual's partner? This all assumes that the business owner being asked to do the work has known the homosexuals as a couple for a length of time and she's provided arrangements for different occasions. Suppose also, the florist in question holds a deeply held belief that romantic couples should be male/female and that "St. Valentine's Day" is a sacred holiday for her. Do you think the law should protect her decision to follow her conscience to refuse to participate in this instance?

I've read the article concerning Stutzman and perused the 60-page document written by the judge. It is safe to say Ms. Stutzman didn't consider Valentine's Day an event or at least an event that engaged her conscience in the same way the same-sex wedding did because she had provided flowers for the couple in that capacity.

It does make me wonder what is the determining factor between one person's "event participation" and another person's "providing a service"?

Another interesting quote from the article was where the judge stated that Stutzman's actions became illegal with the passage of the same-sex marriage referendum. That seems weird. Does that mean she could have refused to provide service/participate in same-sex union reception before the passage and it would have been legally okay?

Do all of you that feel a business owner has a right to not provide services or participate in a same sex marriage feel that they also have the right to deny service to a mixed race couple? What about to a black couple? At what point do the requirements of society override a businesses conscience? Can a restaurant then stop gay customers from dining in their establishment (especially if it a celebratory event that they are now "participating" in).

Amy's post gave you the answer with many examples; if the service requested is related to a function or event that goes against the provider's conscience, the provider has the right to refuse service.

If you had an oven-cleaning business in 1944 Poland, would you accept the request by Auschwitz management to clean the camp's ovens? How about the personal oven at the camp's director's residence, used to bake bread and pizza instead of people?

Do you see the moral difference between the two requests?

@ Francesco

"If you had an oven-cleaning business in 1944 Poland, would you accept the request by Auschwitz management to clean the camp's ovens? How about the personal oven at the camp's director's residence, used to bake bread and pizza instead of people?"

These are excellent examples! I wouldn't have thought of them. I'll have to borrow these for future discussions.

Let's see if Jason responds.

John Moore wrote:

But the time for that kind of peaceful cooperation is over.

This is honesty. It’s not about flowers, cakes, photos, or peace. Nothing less than pure and absolute surrender on this issue will be tolerated.

See, even your religious convictions must be first approved by the culture before you may put them to practice. This is just the first stop.


I do not accept the idea that those who oppose catering a same-sex wedding event are being "pharisaical." Yes, Jesus ate with sinners such as prostitutes. However, we should remember that Jesus didn't eat with the prostitutes while they were "working." This is an important distinction in that Jesus never endorsed their lifestyle simply by speaking to them; the pharisees were completely wrong about that, and it's wrong to compare Christians, who do not want to partake in what they consider to be a "sin event," to Pharisees, especially when it can be demonstrated that they serve everyone equally otherwise.

Likewise today, in my own business, I have several gay customers. I care for each and every one of them, and like them all. The issue of tuning their pianos has nothing to do with their sexual orientation. It does not advance any agenda whatsoever. If I thought that by simply tuning their pianos I would be sinning, it would be rightly pointed out to me that I would have to consider the individual sins and problems of all my customers, and make judgements about whether I should serve them or not. That's total rubbish, of course. First, we're not called to that in the Scriptures, second, I wouldn't be able to serve anyone at all (for all have sinned...), and third, I wouldn't be able to serve myself, being formerly under the same condemnation as a sinner except for the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Piano tuning is very different to catering a wedding or doing the photography. The tuning of the instrument is for any kind of event that the facility would be hosting; it's not gay-specific, and I am not required to be there, approve or endorse the event. The gay wedding is gay-specific and requires a lot more involvement from the people hired to make the event go smoothly. The wedding planner, caterer and baker, photographer, band, etc. are true participants in the event, and that is the sticking point.

Should the Christian participate in sin? This is the question with which we have to wrestle. Now, if a Christian has determined that homosexuality and "gay" weddings are not sin, then they will not have a crisis of conscience over this issue. But then, I suggest, they will have other crises with which to deal, such as their understanding of Scripture and its relationship to their lives as disciples of Christ.

I should amend one statement in the last paragraph. Should the Christian participate in sin? The first answer should always be "no." There may be a theoretical "yes" answer in some extreme situations. What has become problematic for the Church today, however, is the definition of sin as it relates to the practice of homosexuality, and by extension, so-called "gay" marriage. Christians no longer agree either on the inerrancy of the Scriptures, or their influence in our lives as a guide, infallible or otherwise.

It is already illegal to read from the book of leviticus in England. Pastors have already gone to jail over such "hate speech" (The Bible). Those who think it won't happen here are fooling themselves. It always progresses one step at a time. Its called incrementalism. First, it will be going after those who refuse service for gay weddings. When Christians submit, then it will be those who refuse to produce material with messages that actively promote gay marriage and the gay lifestyle. When Christians submit to that, it will be denying tax exempt status to conservative churches that don't allow people to be openly gay in their churches and removing accreditation for Christians universities whose policies don't allow people to engage in gay behavior. When the Christians submit to that, then it will move on to arresting people who openly speak against Christianity (as in England). After that, the Bible will be banned as hate speech or some other excuse (as in many totalitarian nations) . After that, Nazi Germany? Who knows,

Correction: When the Christians submit to that, then it will move on to arresting people who openly speak against the gay lifestyle (as in England). After that, the Bible will be banned as hate speech or some other excuse (as in many totalitarian nations) . After that, Nazi Germany? Who knows,

I don't think anyone has pointed this out before:

If we don't have a right to refuse to provide a service for an activity we find morally wrong, then doesn't that mean liberals who are boycotting any economic activity with Christian businesses, also don't have that right?

If my business must be forced to provide services, then doesn't that apply to politicians and others banning economic activity with Indiana despite their moral disagreement with that state?

Freedom of conscience must come into play in these situations. Suppose a woman came into the bakery and requested a special cake to celebrate her anticipated abortion? Abortion is legal but that doesn't make it ethical to a pro life person, Christian or otherwise. Would that pro life baker have to bake the cake? This may sound absurd but consider how absurd homosexuals legally marrying sounded in the not so distant past. As far as Jesus eating with and talking to sinners is concerned remember what he said to the woman at the well...go and sin no more.

Prohibitions versus demands. The law prohibits and individuals demand. No one and no government can demand what the constitution protects. A demand that can be satisfied elsewhere and is enforced is tyranny.

I thought it was very interesting that in her Mar. 2, 2014, column, Dear Abby sided with a baker whose deeply held beliefs about animal rights kept her from baking a cake for a wedding with a hunting theme ("Animal Lover Is Appalled by Camouflage Wedding"). The letter writer was so morally opposed to the idea of hunting that she couldn't bring herself to even attend the wedding, which was for her own nephew whom she loves.

So surely Dear Abby (not being a hypocrite) would also likewise support the bakers and photographers whose deeply held religious beliefs keep them from providing services in celebration of gay "weddings." I look forward to hearing that viewpoint expressed to her millions of readers...

Hi Amy, I appreciate your post. I have one question: How is selling flowers, or baking a cake to a gay couple, "promotes" or endorses same-sex marriage? Isn't it the case that, the gay couple, not the Christian business owner, that purposes and intends the product (i.e., cake) to symbolize a celebration OF SSM. It seems to me the Christian can bake a cake, and not endorse SSM. That's consistent. So how is the Christian complicity in celebrating SSM merely because he provides the very thing he is in business for? Thanks.

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