Month after month, more cases of Christians facing punitive and unjust discrimination in the marketplace of goods, services and ideas roll in. Whether you’re a faith-driven entrepreneur who rents out your private property for events or a photographer, florist, baker or tee shirt maker, your livelihood as a Christian seeking to steward your business in alignment with your faith and values is under threat like never before.
This should not be happening in a nation founded on religious liberty and freedom of speech and expression.
The latest case working its way through the courts involves a Washington state florist who is in the crosshairs of a judge who has determined that laws protecting religious freedom must take a back seat to laws that protect the LGBT community.
In a culture grounded in pluralism and identity group politics, it’s time for America to have a serious discussion about equal application of equal protections.
While the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution clearly establishes religious freedom as a protected class, since the 1960s, local, state and national governments have passed laws establishing an expanded list of enumerated classes that merit protection in one form or another. And Corporate America has responded to the fast-evolving multicultural reality by implementing equal opportunity and non-discrimination policies that cover every imaginable distinction among employees and customers.
Truly, the twin gods of Diversity and Tolerance reign supreme in twenty-first century America.
But what happens when one group in a pluralistic society plays a winner-take-all game that tolerates no dissenting viewpoints and successfully mandates a social, legislative, judicial, and marketplace agenda that punishes all who disagree—forcing them to violate their consciences or suffer the penalty?
This is the crux of what’s playing out across the nation as the LGBT-rights juggernaut comes head to head with biblically orthodox faith. Today, it’s Christians who face the harsh consequences of an unequal application of equal protection laws. Tomorrow, which “out group” will be next?
Unless each group’s respective values can be accommodated in the rainbow of diversity, somebody’s going to get trampled on.
And based on recent polls, Americans are not in favor of religion being relegated to second-class status. In one poll a slight majority of Americans said they support gay marriage, yet nearly a third were ambivalent. Perhaps more significant in another poll, a staggering majority—85%— said that Christians who disagree with gay marriage shouldn’t be forced to violate their faith in order to accommodate it.
Here, we see that most Americans are fair-minded and want to make space for each group in our culture to have the freedom to live in accordance with their respective values and worldview. It seems that a clear majority think it’s fundamentally unfair for the government to force Christians to violate their consciences in order to participate in the economic arena—particularly when everybody knows that there are plenty of businesses across the nation ready, willing and able to print tee shirts for gay pride parades or offer the space, flowers, cakes and photography for gay weddings and commitment ceremonies.
Has the LGBT community overplayed its hand? Time will tell.
However, given that the inherently American principle of equal application of equal protection is alive and well, it’s time for Corporate America to not only give serious consideration, but lead the way, to create a balance in the marketplace where the values and worldview of each respective group in the rainbow of diversity—including faith-driven Christians—is welcomed and respected in ways that demonstrate true tolerance for all.