In a recent news article, the proprietors of a bakery in Ireland, wanting to remain faithful to their conservative Christian values, refused service to a homosexual couple who wanted the words “Support Gay Marriage” inscribed onto a cake to be featured at their upcoming wedding ceremony.
The case is being thought of as a discrimination issue and was even brought before Prime Minister Cameron by a conservative member of the British parliament who wanted to defend the rights of religious individuals who aren’t comfortable with supporting something (in this case, homosexual marriage) that they don’t condone.
This is nothing new. Just last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a wedding photographer in New Mexico who, on religious grounds, refused to use her camera to capture the festivities at a lesbian wedding. The decision was upheld this past April when the photographer’s appeal was rejected.
Where should Christians stand on these issues of service provision to those we don’t agree with?
When this kind of thing first popped up some years back in the media (and in thanks, no doubt, to some very outspoken proponents of gay rights), we were of the mindset that Christians rights and freedoms were being taken away and that we should all take a firm stand for every believer’s right to not compromise on their faith or faith’s tenets, regardless of whether such views fit with the mainstream ideas proliferating society.
But after thinking this through, we believe that ‘violations of freedom of speech and/or beliefs’ are indeed at stake, but in the reverse. If ANY proprietor (and in particular, a Christian one) refuses to provide ANYONE service and/or products when such services/products are an expected part of a business owner’s offerings, they are acting in a discriminatory manner and violating the core principle of Jesus’ teaching – namely, loving your neighbour as yourself.
Picture for a moment that you own and operate a clothing store in a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business – whether you want to or not. One day, into your shop walks ‘Roger the wife-abuser’ … a nasty dude. He comes in and cavalierly asks, “Hey, I’m here to pick up some more ‘wife-beater’ shirts! Whatcha got?” (Please don’t go bananas at this point thinking I’m comparing gay marriage proponents or homosexuals to wife-beaters. I am simply using this illustration to hold up for scrutiny the concept of ‘Christian tolerance’.)
What are you gonna tell Roger, exactly? What will you say? Would you look at him disgustedly and repine, “I’m sorry, but since you referred to the shirts you want to purchase as ‘wife-beaters’ I refuse to sell any product to you”. Shouldn’t you, as a Christian, simply sell Roger the sleeveless shirts and try to open up a conversation with him in order to try and share with him the love of Jesus and set an example through your life, conduct and, if the opportunity arises, your beliefs?
If a gay couple comes into your bakery and wants to buy a cake and have you decorate it with the words, “Adam and Steve Forever”, why should you refuse to serve them? You have no say in what ANY customer is going to do with your products/services – including the icing sitting on your shelves that you are going to whip up and pipe onto the top of a cake at your customer’s request.
By making, decorating and selling the cake, you’re not saying to the world, “I now support gay marriage”, just as you wouldn’t be in support of wife beating because you sell some unpleasant dude some sleeveless men’s shirts that have come to be associated with some (perceived or actual) evil.
You are not baking a ‘gay cake’.
A bakery is a place where the buying public has a reasonable expectation that the baker is there to whip up some eggs, flour and some sugar into a cake and then decorate it with words made out of icing and sell the entire package. You may not (or may) agree with gay marriage but your cake-making and associated script-writing on the cake does NOT represent your beliefs. If you feel you mustdo or say something, you might mention that you don’t necessarily agree with the words you had to squeeze onto a 12″ diameter dessert product. But if you do not provide the service that your industry promises to for the public at large, then you ARE most likely in violation of your country’s constitution and DEFINITELY acting in a discriminatory manner. And that is not very Christian at all, is it?
“But where should we draw the line?” you may ask.
Okay. Let’s say a person comes into your bakery and asks you to inscribe, in bright pink icing, “John Smith, owner of Smith’s bakery, supports gay marriage.” At this point, we have an issue. If you happen to be named John Smith and own the bakery that bears your name and this request is made of you, you may THEN invoke your withdrawal of service. If you don’t happen to support gay marriage, you shouldn’t be forced to say you do by the government or by anyone. Period.
Admittedly, the whole ‘separation of church and state’ conundrum surrounding gay marriage is a far more serious matter. Should a minister of a denomination that is wholly and only in support of traditional marriage be forced to officiate a gay wedding? No. Currently and generally speaking, the religious community does possess rights and freedoms associated with practicing their faith. And if by practicing their faith it means they don’t support the marriage of same-sex couples, then they should be allowed to carry on as they see fit. Would a minister be forced to marry anyone he didn’t want to in any other given situation? No. If the gay community doesn’t like ‘that denomination’ or ‘that minister’ for their lack of support, then simply don’t shop with them – just as a heterosexual male seeking a mate wouldn’t opt to spend money on dinner or drinks at a place called, “Dykes-R-Us Restaurant & Bar” .
As for your trade or profession, brothers and sisters in Christ, if your business is to provide a service, do so in full and don’t discriminate. By doing so, you will actually be fulfilling the law of Christ. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that ‘good Christian people’ thought they were fine and cultured for keeping ‘coloured folk’ from getting on white-only buses. And if that seems ultra-draconian in today’s light, what will baking cakes for gay couples seem like 50 years from now?
© Flagrant Regard 2014
“So no matter what your task is, work hard. Always do your best as the Lord’s servant, not as man’s, because you know your reward is the Lord’s inheritance. You serve the Lord, the Anointed One, and anyone who does wrong will be paid his due because He doesn’t play favorites.” Colossians 3:23-25 (The Voice Translation)
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:18 (The Voice Translation)
“May we never tire of doing what is good and right before our Lord because in His season we shall bring in a great harvest if we can just persist. So seize any opportunity the Lord gives you to do good things and be a blessing to everyone, especially those within our faithful family.” Galatians 6:9-10 (The Voice Translation)
“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 (New International Version)