Saturday, 1 March 2014

Business and conscience

Among the many news sources and blog posts concerning rights of businesses and rights of homosexuals I came across Kristen Powers' column.
Similar bills have cropped up in a half-dozen states in an effort to protect anti-gay religious believers against lawsuits. A florist in Washington state, a Colorado baker and a New Mexico photographer have been sued for refusing to serve gay couples getting married. They say to do so would be to "celebrate" nuptials at odds with their Christian faith.
It has a mildly mocking tone. She coauthors another article here. There have been several considered responses to this issue around the web.

The best solution to this issue is to allow any business owner to do business with any person, or not, as he sees fit.

In my own country when legalising marriage was being debated such conscience clauses were requested so a celebrant would not be forced to participate in ceremonies. It was argued exception clauses would not be required as no one would be forced to.

What many fail to see is that the issue is not just about the morality of a specific issue, it is whether it affects our conscience even if we are incorrect. So the arguments are often over whether sodomy is eumoral, or whether what we are required to do is reasonable, rather than freedom of conscience. Powers argues the second case, that baking a cake specifically for a gay wedding is a reasonable requirement for a Christian,
Whether Christians have the legal right to discriminate should be a moot point because Christianity doesn't prohibit serving a gay couple getting married. Jesus calls his followers to be servants to all. Nor does the Bible call service to another an affirmation.
Yet Christ's call to servanthood is for us to yield our desire to live for ourselves and instead submit to him, in doing so we live for others. But this is not a call for others to demand of us what they desire.

Powers gives the false comparison to prison ministry which ironically argues against her point,
Christians serve unrepentant murderers through prison ministry. So why can't they provide a service for a same-sex marriage?
Christians do prison ministry of their own volition and serve prisoners how they perceive what is best and not the prisoners. A Christian who owns a gun shop should be perfectly within his right to refuse to sell a gun to a murderer after he has served his time. To do business with a sinner is not in itself sinful. To engage in business with someone as he is sinning in order to aid him in his sin, can be participating in his sin. The distinction is quite clear: a doctor can treat a homosexual with HIV infection and at the same time refuse to help a lesbian with assisted reproduction.

But Christians need to recognise the bigger issue here, the issue of conscience. If a person thinks a behaviour offends God he should be free to refrain, even if he is wrong about God's opinion. For example, I see no need to force a Jehovah's witness to receive a blood transfusion even though I think he is completely misguided about the interpretation of Leviticus 17. If someone believes that baking a cake or photographing homosexual celebrations is to affirm a behaviour he thinks is sinful then to him it is sinful and he should not be forced to act in such a matter. To make a man act against his conscience is to force him to sin against God (from his perspective). It is an attempt to make him blaspheme. As I have written before, such political policies are draconian.

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