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"Marriage equality" on a collision course with religious liberty

By Scott Tibbs. Printed in the Herald-Times, October 28, 2014 (Comments)

State recognition of homosexual marriage is on a collision course with freedom of religion, and I fear that freedom of religion is going to lose.

We are already seeing erosions of our cherished freedom of religion. A bed and breakfast in Hawaii lost a discrimination lawsuit when the owner declined to rent a room to a lesbian couple. A baker in Colorado was sanctioned by government because he did not want to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual couple. A photographer in New Mexico was punished for not photographing a same-sex wedding.

Defenders of homosexual marriage argue that these cases have nothing to do with whether or not homosexual marriage is recognized by the state. (They also enthusiastically support government sanctioning these business owners for following their faith.) But we need to be clear here: When homosexual marriage is declared by government to be identical to the union of a man and a woman, do you think these cases will become more or less common? The question answers itself.

Those who think the state should force business owners to violate their consciences on sexual morality proclaim that freedom of religion is not at stake, because one is free to worship in one's home or church, but not in a "public accommodation." But faith is not so simple. People who are serious about their faith see it as interwoven into everything they do, not just an activity they engage in while in private.

Forcing private individuals who believe homosexual behavior to be an egregious sin to participate in a homosexual wedding is unconscionable and un-American. Forcing a bed and breakfast owner to rent a room that he knows will be used for behavior his faith declares to be sinful is a direct assault on freedom of conscience. Freedom of association necessarily includes the freedom not to associate, and freedom of religion means little if it is confined to your home and church.

If homosexuals were truly interested in tolerance, they would not try to force others to endorse their lifestyle.

The good news is that the Supreme Court's decision on the Hobby Lobby case provides a template for Christian business owners who do not want to be forced to participate in homosexual weddings or provide space for homosexual behavior.

Some would compare this to racial discrimination. That logic is flawed for two reasons: First, behavior is hardly identical to skin pigmentation. Behavior is not an immutable characteristic, unlike race. Second, the issue is not refusing to do business with all homosexuals, but that Christians should not be forced to endorse and participate in homosexual behavior, regardless of what Scripture says about that behavior.

The big difference between freedom of religion and "marriage equality" is that the former is explicitly protected by our Constitution, while the latter is not. If we take our Constitutional liberty and the rule of law seriously, we must begin to establish conscience protections for Christians who continue to submit to God's declared law on sexual morality.