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In Theory: On discrimination based on religious beliefs

February 27, 2014

Although Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has since vetoed it, lawmakers in that state recently approved a measure to allow business owners to refuse service to gays and other groups if it is perceived to violate the practice and observance of the business owner's religion.

Q: Is it discriminatory against religious business owners to demand that they treat everyone equally? If business owners do discriminate based on their religious beliefs, should that discrimination be illegal?

The practice of treating every person with fairness and equity without offending their basic human dignity should be extended to business owners as well as to their patrons. It would be grossly unjust to force a business owner to apply his personal time, tools and skills to an effort that violates his sincere religious or moral principles. We could no longer claim to be a nation of religious freedom if any of us is legally forced to operate his privately owned business in a manner that contradicts his faith.

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The Arizona measure wouldn't have prevented anyone from living the way they freely choose. It would have protected people from being legally forced to contribute to activities and lifestyles that contradict their most deeply held beliefs. In 1 Corinthians 10:29 the Bible teaches that my freedom should not be judged by another's conscience. But chapter 8 of the same book teaches that when the exercise of my freedom directly wounds another person's conscience it is a "sin against Christ." In other words, it's wrong.

Tell me: What kind of a person would go into a business and demand that the owner do something that violates his sincere religious beliefs? Who would force a Jewish baker to make a cake in the shape of a swastika? Wouldn't a "tolerant" person understand that some people might not embrace his personal take on morality and that they should be allowed the dignity of conducting their business the way they choose? Seems to me the answer to our differences is a loving approach — from both sides of any issue.

Pastor Jon Barta
Valley Baptist Church
Burbank

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Like every other sane-minded person in America, I think the bill the lawmakers approved is heinous. Consider this: if the bill were made into law, how exactly would it be enforced? You can't tell someone's gay by looking. The only way that law could ever work is if all homosexuals in the state of Arizona were required to register. Sound familiar?

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