Can Religious Freedom Laws Come Back to Hurt Christians?


“I’d like to purchase a wedding cake,” the glowing young woman says as she clutches the arm of her soon-to-be husband. “We’re getting married at the Baptist church downtown this coming spring.” “I’m sorry, madam, but I’m not going to be able to help you,” the clerk replies without expression.

“Why not?” the bewildered bride asks.

“Because you are Christians. I am Unitarian and disapprove of your belief that everyone except those within your religion are damned to eternal hell. Your church’s teachings conflict with my religious beliefs. I’m sorry.”

Would conservative Christians support this storeowner’s actions? Because if not, they better think long and hard about advocating for laws that allow public businesses to refuse goods and services to individuals anytime they believe the person’s behavior conflicts with their sincerely held convictions.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican, vetoed legislation Wednesday that would have allowed the state’s businesses to refuse goods or services if providing them conflicts with their religious beliefs. Though same-sex weddings are the impetus for the bill, it did not specifically mention gays and lesbians. TheArizona Republic editorial board warned Brewer, “The proposed law is so poorly crafted it could allow a Muslim taxi driver to refuse service to a woman traveling alone.”

So with a stroke of the pen, Brewer killed a bill conservative Christian activists—part of her political base—had been championing. Similar legislation also died in Kansas and is being blockedin Mississippi and Georgia. But conservative Christian activists are vowing to keep pressing such bills, claiming that these roadblocks are a temporary setback in their push to gain protection for religious believers who discriminate against customers.

Interestingly, the conservative Christians who support these bills also believe that America is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward members of their own faith. They have long decried the secularizing and pluralizing of America’s public square. They’ve argued that America is, in Robert Bork’s phrase, “slouching toward Gomorrah” and becoming post-Christian or even anti-Christian.


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