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Should Christians be free to obey our conscience?

In recent years there’s been a worrying downward trend for religious freedom in both Canada and the United States. Examples abound of Christian T-shirt printers, bakers, photographers, print-shop owners, wedding dress makers, florists and caterers who are being forced – through human rights commissions, or through lawsuits – to participate in same-sex weddings in violation of these various business peoples’ consciences.

Each of these Christian business people said they would bake, cater, arrange flowers, print invitations, take photos, print T-shirts, etc. for a gay person’s birthday or retirement party or any other celebration – they just wouldn’t do it for a same-sex wedding (the only exception was the wedding dress maker, for obvious reasons).

This means the objection is not about discriminating against gay people. It never was. It’s very specifically about endorsing a definition of marriage or a specific act that fundamentally violates God’s design for marriage.

Stand up for others

I know of Christians who can, with a clean conscience, bake, photograph, etc. a gay wedding. And I know some who can’t (see 1 Cor. 8). This is a legitimate discussion to have between Christians. The much bigger question is: should the State force the latter group to do as the former?

If you are a Christian and you advocate that the State is justified in making Christians participate, in any way, in a gay marriage, I believe you’ve ripped the rug from under yourself – if it is fine for the State to violate other Christians’ consciences this time, what’s to prevent them from violating yours next?

If a Christian photographer has to shoot a gay wedding, does a church have to rent their hall for a gay wedding? (This happened in British Columbia in 2005). Or must an organist play for a gay marriage ceremony? Or will a Christian marriage commissioner be forced to officiate for such a celebration? (In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, this is the case).

Negative implications of the bill for Christians

Does this mean that I’m ready to let the State allow the same kind of discrimination against Christians? If an atheist decides he doesn’t want to take photos of a Christian wedding, am I okay with that?

Well, the State can’t force all citizens to embrace, encourage and support the Christian faith, because that wouldn’t be freedom of religion, would it? Freedom of religion is freedom from the State, and not from fellow citizens. Your Charter rights protect you from the busybody government interfering in your religious practices and beliefs. They are not meant to make the government interfere in your personal or professional relationships in order to promote, oppose or defend your religion.

So, to be clear and consistent, I do expect and accept being shunned by others because of my Christian beliefs. (Christ predicted it, didn’t he?) I would not expect the State to go to bat for me if a gay bookstore refused to sell my book on a Biblical understanding of gay-marriage, or if an Islamic school refused to hire me as a janitor. If I wanted to publish a Christian defense of capital punishment, I wouldn’t expect the State to force a Mennonite printer to publish it for me. With liberty comes responsibility. That includes responsibility to go find another printer, or baker or candlestick maker.

André Schutten is the General Legal Counsel, and Director of Law & Policy for ARPA Canada.


Up Next


News

Conscience protection – maybe now the Left will understand

Normally it can be quiet a coup to design a dress for the US First Lady, but in the weeks leading up to the inauguration designer Sophie Theallet, who had previously dress Michelle Obama asked her fellow designers to boycott the next First Lady, Melania Trump. Theallet issued a open letter on Twitter in which she said: I will not participate in dressing or associating in any way with the next First Lady. The rhetoric of racism, sexism, and xenophobia unleashed by her husband’s presidential campaign are incompatible with the shared values we live by. I encourage my fellow designers to do the same. Other designers, including Marc Jacobs joined her boycott. Most media outlets reported these boycotts either without commentary, or with a generally positive slant. And any who believe in freedom of conscience should support their right to deny their services for this political event. They oppose Trump, and so they don’t want to have any role in making him, or his wife, look good. Finally, something we can agree on – no one should be forced against their conscience to participate in something they think is evil. But now the Left has to remember to treat others as it wants to be treated. If designers shouldn’t be forced into into participating in Donald Trump’s inauguration, then Christian bakers shouldn’t have to violate their consciences, and participate in same-sex weddings they oppose....


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