Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) signed legislation on Thursday that allows business-owners to discriminate against literally anyone based on religious objections. Naturally, same-sex couples, gays and lesbians, along with perhaps even mixed-race couples or random minorities will be impacted most, creating a convenient loophole for business-owners to refuse service to anyone who makes the business-owner feel icky.
The law is the first of at least a dozen proposals nationwide — a last gasp for anti-gay conservatives in the face of, among other things, legal and recognized same-sex marriages. But what it achieves is a return to the pre-Civil Rights Act era when bigoted shop owners could refuse service to African-Americans and other minorities.
Along those lines, you might familiar with the story of Ollie’s Barbecue in Birmingham, Alabama. The owner, Ollie McClung Jr., sued the government in 1964 following the passage of the Civil Rights Act, insisting that allowing black customers in the restaurant would drive away white customers. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously against McClung, upholding the Civil Rights Act — the part of the law, by the way, that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) objects to. With this precedent in mind, it’s difficult to imagine the Indiana law holding up in court.
But let’s say it does. The Court today is loaded with neanderthals like Justices Scalia and Alito, and it’s difficult to imagine legitimate precedent topping the brute force of their obvious ideological bias. So, anything can happen.
The question remains, however, if a religious objection is based on a business-owner being worried about violating biblical dogma and potentially committing a sin, where’s the chapter and verse pertaining to selling cakes to gay people?
In other words, where’s the part of the Bible in which God or any other character condemns the selling of goods and services to gay people or gay couples as a trespass? Don’t bother trying to find it because it’s not in there. The Bible has a few lines condemning same-sex intercourse, but there aren’t any “activist judges” or lawmakers forcing Christians to engage in gay sex, requiring a series of “religious freedom” laws.
Again, this law is about giving religious people the freedom to refuse to sell goods and services to customers because doing so would violate their religious beliefs. But those beliefs have to be based on biblical teachings, and there aren’t any passages suggesting or even hinting at the idea that selling a pie to a so-called sinner also makes the pie-seller a sinner, too. In order to legally justify a religious objection, shouldn’t a Christian business-owner have to cite biblical evidence for his or her objection? And if they do, what will they cite in this case? “It’s just what I believe” won’t cut it. Or at least it shouldn’t cut it.
Now, where the issue gets sticky is the matter of officiating same-sex marriages. In that case, I’m not sure that same-sex couples would necessarily want to be married by someone who so vocally objects to their marriage. Then again, there are, for example, religious same-sex couples who’d like to be married in a religious service by an officiant from their church. The church could object based on the biblical references forbidding same-sex intercourse, or papal mandates, however marriage isn’t sex and officiating a marriage isn’t a direct endorsement of sex — again, the Bible only forbids a man having sex with other man, not performing a wedding that will likely lead to the participants having sex. In the Catholic Church, the Pope can establish rules that augment what’s in the Bible — the Pope’s words are, in effect, the words of God — and Pope Francis has condemned same-sex marriage. Catholic priests, therefore, could cite a specific ruling, and that’s the ballgame.
All told, this is a huge step backward. Obviously. It’s the return of segregation, not only impacting the LGBT community but all minorities (the Bible was used to justify segregation, slavery, etc). The sooner this makes it to the Supreme Court, the better. Until then, anyone with religious objections better know their Bible because they better be prepared to cite the explicit basis for their objections.