Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Homosexuality, Equality, Discrimination, and Free Speech

Should Christians have the right to discriminate against gays? Don’t they have a right to protection under the law, and doesn’t the First Amendment guarantee our free exercise of religion? How do we put these concerns together? Here’s my response to an atheist on this subject:

Thanks for your willingness to try to understand these issues from a Christian perspective.

There are many difficult moral/legal issues involved in these various cases. You raise the issue regarding a public employee needing to follow the law. Recently, my state of New York legalized gay marriage. There was a Christian clerk (and perhaps also a judge) who had been hoping that she could be grandfathered-in based upon her years of faithful service as a civil service employee. However, Gov. Cuomo told her that absolutely no special allowances would be made for her, even if there were others willing to transact the gay marriage in her place.

This is very reflective of the harsh and militant secularism of today. It wasn’t always this way. Prior to this, government had a greater respect for diversity of opinion and belief. Of course, certain religious practices couldn’t be tolerated. If sexing of one’s young children was a part of religion, society understandably has a prevailing interest to not tolerate such a practice.

However, our nation has often shown itself willing to accommodate religious practices that did not serve the common good. For instance, the Supreme Court allowed for conscientious objectors, even though this provision might serve to create discord within the ranks of the military. It ruled that Jehovah’s Witnesses didn’t have to say the Pledge of Allegiance, even though it could be argued that this provision would cause an erosion in patriotism. However, the Court rightly deemed that society could tolerate such diversity.

The secularism of yesterday had a high regard for diversity in belief, and consequently, honored the First Amendment, which forbade government from interfering with the practice of religion. This respect maintained a unity in the midst of diversity.

It also maintained professionalism. Within the mental health community, there was a certain degree of respect for differing points of view. If a therapist didn’t feel she could work effectively with a court-mandated rapist, the case was given to someone else. If a Christian couldn’t effectively counsel a gay couple who were trying to resolve their issues, it was usually deemed that these clients should be assigned to a different therapist.

However, this kind of tolerance is no longer valued. Now Christians are loosing their jobs, credentials, and are even being expelled from counseling programs simply because of their views. California just passed a law forbidding a psychotherapist from working with a youth seeking help to resist SSA!

Should Christians have the right to exercise their faith in regards to their own properties, households/businesses? Even here, the law is messy. I think that most of us would uphold certain forms of discrimination in these regards. The law shouldn’t coerce the owner of home-based B&B to employ or murderer or a pedophile. Nor should it coerce the B&B to rent a room to a known thief or to someone who will pose a threat to the welfare of the business or the patrons.

However, I do acknowledge that society has the right to impose certain restrictions. Because of the overriding social concerns, businesses should not have the right to discriminate by virtue of race or nationality.

However, these are not behaviors but morally neutral, unchanging characteristics. However, discrimination according to behavior – criminality – is entirely another matter. Sexual orientation is one thing – we are all oriented to certain types of sins – but sexual behavior is entirely another matter.

Should a B&B owner be compelled by law to rent space in their home for an adulterous fling? Or to someone who insists on smoking in their bedroom? Perhaps they are intolerant, but isn’t such intolerance warranted? Forbidding this type of “intolerance” would represent needless and malicious government encroachment – the very thing that is happening today. Because of this encroachment, many Christians have lost their businesses.

Christian businesses are now targeted by militant gays who want to force them to violate their conscience. One Christian community can no longer host weddings under their private boardwalk pavilion because of a court ruling that it represented discrimination against gays.

Today, I was discriminated against by an atheist Facebook group, which banned me. I didn’t like it, but I respect their right to do so. Christian groups also do this. They have a right to maintain the character of their group. However, universities – both public and private – have now banned Christian student groups from campus because they “discriminate.” Meanwhile, these same universities discriminate in their hiring against Christians and allow other groups that discriminate – the Young Democrats, for example.

There are so many instances of this type of thing. Mentioning individual cases serves to minimize the extent of this pervasive cultural bias.

I am not really against gay marriage. It’s something that gays have always been free to do, albeit without legal sanction. However, with legal sanction, there will be the inevitable push to silence any criticism of the gay lifestyle. In Denmark, churches are now required to marry SS couples.

Even now, the New Federal Hate Crimes Bill penalizes any speech that can be construed to lead to a hate crime. Some congressmen tried to write in an exception for responsible religious speech. However, this amendment was voted down.

Many have already lost their jobs or suffered intimidation because they have spoken outside-the-job against gay marriage.

I must conclude with one additional thought. This militant, totalitarian secularism is polarizing the nation in such a way that we will not be able to live together.

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