I had a dream yesterday morning about the ancient Roman world. (This past weekend, I have been re-reading Michael Grant’s The Twelve Caesars.) In my dream, two men, Caligula and Nero, go to a small business owner, who is an excellent and highly-regarded carpenter in Palestine. The carpenter is a young man in his late 20s, and works in Nazareth. He is well-liked by everyone in his community. When the lads come to Jesus, they announce triumphantly that they love one another and want to marry, and ask Jesus to build them a really nice bedroom set. However, Jesus, a Jew, holds a sincerely-held belief in the teachings of the Bible. So, does Jesus build the matrimonial bed for the newlyweds? And if He doesn’t want to do so, should He be compelled to do so?
Governor Janice Brewer of Arizona is considering signing a bill that would amend Arizona’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”), a law originally passed in 1999. She is under great pressure to veto this bill. Currently, under Arizona state law, it is legal for a business to deny service to someone because they are homosexual. Although some towns in Arizona have ordinances against this, there is no state law against it. This is also the case in many other states. RFRA provides Arizonans with religious freedom protection, but not everyone who claims that their religious freedom is violated will win a court case using RFRA as a defense. (Incidentally, there is also a federal RFRA.) Late last year, on these pages, I wrote about a case involving a wedding photographer in New Mexico who refused to work at a homosexual wedding because of her religious beliefs. In that case, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the state’s RFRA law only applied when the government is a party in the case, and concluded that she should be punished. However, the legislative history of RFRA makes clear that the law was never intended to be so limited. To avoid this New Mexico problem, the Arizona legislature wanted to make the Arizona law more specific and protective of religious liberty. You might be mildly surprised to know that businesses can legally refuse to serve heterosexual, Christian breeders because the owner dislikes Christian values. For example, David Cooley, owner of Abbey Food and Bar in West Hollywood, California, recently announced that he would deny entry to any legislator from any state who has voted for “bills to allow for discrimination against LGBT people.” Mr. Colley stated, “I want to send a message to all those out there who conflate Christian values with discrimination; we don’t want your kind here.” (Emphasis added.) The Arizona bill clarifies that any business would be covered by RFRA, and that government does not have to be a party in the case. However, to prevent frivolous RFRA claims, the bill requires that any person claiming a religious freedom violation show that there is a strongly-held, sincere religious belief behind their actions, and that the government has placed a substantial burden on their religious belief. You may recall that beginning in 2007, following the issuance of a fatwa by the Minnesota chapter of the Muslim American Society, numerous Moslem taxi drivers in both the United States and Canada refused to transport persons carrying alcohol or dogs (including dogs helping persons with disabilities), and such actions continue. (You know the important, but simple, principle of Western progressive governance: Christians bad, Moslems good.)
Mere Comments readers know that a few Christians have refused to provide services for homosexual “weddings.” These cases have involved wedding photographers and bakers. In those cases, the Christians said that they would gladly serve homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered persons, but only outside the context of a homosexual “wedding.” So, I woke up from my dream before hearing whether Jesus would build the bedroom set for the lads. But I do think that He would not have built an altar or a chuppah for their homosexual “wedding.” And He would be proper not to do so. We should do the same in our country as well.