The article from the above link talks about a bill passed in Arizona’s legislature that “would allow business owners to cite religious beliefs as a legal justification for denying service to same-sex couples.” As you see from the title of the article, the “Religious Right” in Arizona is cheering this bill. The question is about how a person’s religious rights relate to being involved in the marketplace, namely, having religious rights used as means to refuse doing business with a customer. Now before I get into the two reasons why I oppose this type of legislation, let me state the following: in Iowa, same-sex marriage is legal, but, because I am a pastor and Iowa is concerned about the separation of church and state, and since I work in an “industry” that has at its core for existing religion, by law, I cannot be required to perform same-sex weddings/ceremonies if I choose to decline. And, I have chosen to decline performing such weddings or ceremonies.
Now, let me comment about this bill on the practical level first. This bill legalizes discrimination based upon religious views and beliefs. Under this bill, business owners, based upon their religious belief that homosexuality is a sin, would be allowed to refuse to do business with LGBT individuals because of this. Here’s my question: why is this the only sin that would cause, say, the owner of a flower shop or photography studio or bakery to refuse to give service? I would like to know if this owner has provided services to a couple who, before marriage, was living together, which should also be viewed as “living in sin” if this owner were being consistent. I would like to know if these business owners ask each and every client, before providing service, if they are living in some “type of sin.” Or, as I surmise, do they separate out homosexuality as the only sin which would cause them, due to religious beliefs, to refuse to offer service?
On the principle level, this type of bill chills me to the bone because it was this very type of reasoning, religious belief, that was used to support slavery and then segregation. I did a little bit of research and came across articles (here’s one: https://libertyeducationforum.org/issues/12-religion/47-the-bible-tells-me-so.html) that demonstrated that many opponents (they probably would have placed themselves on the “religious right” for they deemed desegregation as a plot to bring in socialism into this country) used the Bible as a support for segregation. They believed that it was God’s desire that races be separate. Therefore, segregation was what God wanted. Therefore, it was perfectly legit for a business owner, due to religious belief concerning the separation of the races, to refuse to offer service or do business with a person of a different race. This is where this Arizona bill is headed. And, for that reason, it concerns me greatly.
As a business owner, whose primary reason for being in business is to make a profit, I would think that having as many paying customers as possible would be what they want. And, to me, providing photographic services or a wedding cake or flowers isn’t an endorsement of same-sex marriage; it’s an endorsement of wanting customers. Any entity which is in the marketplace and has as its primary reason for existence to make money and not religion or religious reason, should not be allowed to use “religious beliefs” as grounds to discriminate against potential customers, just like, since the passage of the Civil Rights Act, a place of business is not allow to refuse service to a person of a different race, based solely on that person’s race.
Therefore, as the “Religious Right” of Arizona is cheering, I am weeping.