Laws that Contradict the Love of Jesus
We are encouraged by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's veto of AZ Senate Bill 1062. This bill would have amended a current law to give citizens even more freedom to discriminate against sexual minorities by refusing them commercial services.
Freedom to act on one's religious beliefs is important and worth protecting; however, it is easy to see how that right can be twisted in the climate of current "culture wars." Even though this bill did not speak specifically to the issue of LGBTQ rights, it would have allowed people to refuse to serve sexual minorities in any capacity on the basis of religious beliefs. While religious freedom is a treasured value, it is important to make sure that we are not using this freedom as a vehicle of potential oppression. This is especially true for Christians.
Faith in Public Life is an organization that seeks to be "a strategy center for the faith community, advancing faith in the public square as a powerful force for justice, compassion and the common good." In response to the Arizona law and similar laws in other states, they drafted a letter in opposition to the bill and invited other Christian leaders to sign on.
Excerpt from Faith in Public Life's Letter:
To support such a law is to fail to walk in the footsteps of Jesus who was known for associating with and loving those who were considered outcasts by his society. Serving people with whom we disagree is a central calling for those who follow Jesus. We believe that the current position that many evangelical leaders are taking on issues of discrimination toward the gay community directly contradict that posture of radical love and grace that Jesus so powerfully embodied in his life and teachings.
There is a civic/legal debate to be had on this topic, but there is also the question of how Christians love our neighbors and serve people we may believe to be our enemies. It is not just about loving "enemies" on this issue. We know from ESA's Oriented to Love dialogues that Christians hold many different viewpoints concerning LGBTQ issues.
While the AZ law has been vetoed since the drafting of Faith in Public Life's letter and similar laws in Georgia and Mississippi are meeting roadblocks, the heart of the call in the letter remains the same. Laws that seek to define the boundary of religious freedom as it pertains to the right to refuse service are also on the table in other states—Tennessee, Oregon, Missouri, Illinois, South Dakota, and Hawaii. In some cases the wording of the law opens up the right to refuse service to a broad context; in other states the wording limits the right to refuse service to LGBTQ couples only in the context of providing services related to marriage/partnership ceremonies or celebrations.
As other laws move forward, Faith in Public Life would like to collect the signatures of faith leaders who agree that Christians should not leverage "their faith to support a … law that would allow business owners to discriminate against the gay community and many others on the basis of religion." Some of those who have already signed the letter include Alan Chambers, Rev. Ted Haggard, Rev. Amy Butler, and Dr. Brian McLaren.
If you are a Christian Leader (pastor, organization leader, teacher, mission committee chairperson at your local church—there are many levels of leaders!), read the full text of Faith in Public Life's letter and decide if you would like to add your name to the list of signatures.
For an alternate viewpoint, read Baking Cakes for Caesar: Why We Need Freedom to Say 'No' by John Stonestreet for BreakPoint Commentaries.