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Free to Discriminate

Written by Stephen Roberts

Remember when the founder of Chick-fil-A, S. Truett Cathy, mentioned in an interview that he believed in the traditional view of marriage? This view and no discriminatory action itself prompted a wave of protests and boycotts by gay rights groups, culminating in a national “kiss-in” at Chick-fil-A restaurants by gay couples.

I both agree with Cathy’s view on marriage and with the response by the activists. Everybody should be free to believe what they want to believe without fear of coercion, and free to protest without fear of coercion. Of course, protesting someone’s views, as opposed to their actions, seems a bit over the top. Nonetheless, at least the activists chose peaceful means to express their own views.

The problem comes when one uses the sanction of the law to stifle speech that they find disagreeable. Currently, the primacy of gay rights is in vogue, and many who believe in traditional marriage are paying with their pocketbooks. If a wedding photographer or cake maker refuses to take part in a homosexual wedding—an act that violates her core beliefs—she may very well be dragged before a kangaroo court that drives her out of business.

The present situation is thick with irony. Individuals who dislike a business owner’s religious views can use the levers of government power to enforce their own religious view and drive the business owner into bankruptcy. Isn’t this the sort of moral legislating that these activists used to oppose? Apparently, it’s only acceptable to enforce a moral code on a minority if you agree with the code.

It is high time that we put an end to this moralizing from the bench. All businesses should be free to act in accordance with their conscience and they should do so knowing that they will face the judgment of the American people, not the American government. Customers can boycott, protest—even engage in civil disobedience, but they cannot call in the tanks.

This is what many people—regardless of belief—need to realize: A government that has permission to punish some individuals or businesses for their beliefs really has a blank check to punish all individuals and businesses for their beliefs. There are no half-measures. Even a partial precedent here allows for an absolute practice in the future. At that point, who will be left to defend the people?

Currently, the freedom from private discrimination trumps the freedom of individuals and private businesses to act in accordance with their beliefs. This exaltation of the former over the latter is not constitutional, nor is it humane. Where is it acceptable to tyrannize the conscience in such a fashion?

Under Sharia Law, there is a moral obligation to use the levers of power to coerce moral beings into conformity with the state and its religion. In the American system, there is a moral obligation to use the levers of power to guard moral beings from coercion and maintain liberty before both the state and religion. Are we prepared to forego this precious birthright under the tyranny of “tolerance?”

Don’t get me wrong—I find a whole host of views out there to be abhorrent. In protecting the racist from encroachments on her liberty, however, I am also protecting the person who is affected by her racism. The business owner cannot take away a man’s liberty and dignity by refusing to conduct a voluntary transfer. The government can put a man in chains.

Not only is it unconscionable to employ government coercion in such cases, but it also avoids the hard and fruitful work of moral suasion. It may take years to convince somebody of the error of their ways, but a free man that chooses a virtuous path is truly being virtuous. In outsourcing this work of moral suasion to the government, we have taken from free people the ability to reason with one another and grow as a result. In seeking tolerance at the end of the gun, we have taught people instead that governmental violence is the answer.


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About the author

Stephen Roberts

Hi! I'm an evangelist and Army Reserve chaplain in the Milwaukee area. Look forward to the exchange and weighing of our collective ideas!