Prominent Republicans are calling for Ariz. Gov. Jan Brewer to veto a controversial bill that would allow businesses to deny service over religious beliefs.

The Arizona Legislature passed a bill last week allowing businesses whose owners cite sincerely held religious beliefs to deny service to gays. It allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination. This legislation has caused a national uproar and voices of opposition have grown each day, with the business community and both Republican U.S. senators calling for a veto.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, enacted July 2, 1964 is a landmark piece of civil rights legislation in the United States that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public. (Also known as “public accommodations”)The Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964 at the White House.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly prohibits public businesses from refusing service to patrons on the basis of race, color, religion, or natural origin. In addition, most courts don’t allow businesses to refuse service to patrons based on the owner’s personal convictions. For example, a man can’t legally be refused service because they enter a business dressed in drag. At the same time, an atheist business owner cannot refuse service to a patron entering the business carrying a Bible.

There a number of legitimate reasons for a business to refuse service, some of which include:
• Patrons who are unreasonably rowdy or causing trouble
• Patrons that may overfill capacity if let in
• Patrons who come in just before closing time or when the kitchen is closed
• Patrons accompanied by large groups of non-customers looking to sit in
• Patrons lacking adequate hygiene (e.g. excess dirt, extreme body odor, etc.)

In most cases, refusal of service is warranted where a customer’s presence detracts from the safety, welfare, and well-being of other patrons and/or the business itself; such as businesses that do not allow guns to be brought onto its premises.

I believe that far too often within the Christian community, we (the Church) have become instrumental in causing disunity where none need to exist. The Bible teaches that we need to show love and unity to a lost and hurting world. In our world of so much intolerance, it is even more important to study the Scripture and seek diligently for what it says. However, we also need to be humble when we are faced with decisions that will affect others around us and to err on the side of love and unity whenever possible without disregarding the clear teaching of God’s word.

Consider the following verses:
Colossians 4:5-6 “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.”
Romans 14:4 “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. “
Ephesians 4:2 “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.”
John 8:7 “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
1 Peter 3:8-11 “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.”

We do not win people to the Lord by condemning them and calling them names or refusing to serve them at our public businesses. This is why God says to speak with wisdom, grace, and love. Instead, we need to let the love of God flow through us so that the world can see what true love is and turn to God instead of fighting against Him.

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Comments
  1. Charlie says:

    If the bill is signed into law the effect will be that those gay couples who want to force a Christian cake maker or photographer to be a part of their wedding will have to decide to use one of the hundreds of other cake makers or photographers in town. (not a big deal)
    If the bill is vetoed the effect will be to have that Christian cake maker decide to do what his/her convictions says God does not want them to do (religious liberty) or to give up their livelihood. (a real big deal)
    A number of years ago I had a friend living in Lincoln in a big house with 3 other guys. They were all students at UNL. One night on the way home from his part time job Todd decided to stop at a bar he had driven by for a beer. He walked in, sat at the bar and ordered a draw from the gal behind the bar. He was sipping it and watching the TV behind the bar when the same gal came back to him and in a polite but matter of fact voice pointed out to him that he was the only man in this bar. He looked around and sure enough there were several people in the bar but he was the only guy. He said he was sorry and didn’t realize ….. the gal behind the bar said it was OK but they would rather be left alone. He quickly finished his beer and left. He did the polite thing to do. He did not demand to be served and accepted. It is too bad that some folks feel such a need to force others to accept their perversion that they cannot show the same kind of politeness that Todd did.

    • It seems to me that there is much intolerance on both side of this issue Charlie. On the one hand, you have gay couples that are being discriminated against, even though they could possibly take their business elsewhere. And on the other hand you have Christians who choose not to serve those who they believe don’t live up to certain values, even though they own a public business and regardless of their values are not allowed to pick and choose who they should or should not serve. I believe that both sides would better be served if the Christian business owners could be less judgmental and show them the love of God. The problem I have with this one sided legislation is that it makes a precedence that will create more problems down the road. Would this legislation later allow Christian plumbers, electricians, etc., to refuse to work on a gay couple’s home?

  2. We probably would send out a much more potent message by agreeing to provide the requested service and then following up with a Spirit-led presentation of the gospel. Speaking the truth in love might involve granting a customer’s request even though it is repulsive to us. As long as they are not asking us to assist them in criminal behavior, we can show them compassion while also letting them know that God has a better way. “I appreciate your business and want you to know that I will be praying for you.”

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