I have combed through the Bible many times, as a Christian youth and later as a gay man looking to reconcile his sexuality with his faith. I have scanned every passage, reviewed every sin, from Genesis to Revelation.
In all that reading over all those years, I have yet to find a commandment forbidding the baking of a cake for a same-sex couple.
Leviticus does not make a sinner of a photographer snapping photos of two men hugging.
I cannot find any red letters in the New Testament speaking of some ban on serving a gay man steak and eggs in a greasy spoon after Sunday church.
Yet every time the need for “religious freedom” laws gets raised, these are the very actions many Christians claim they need the legal freedom to refuse. Through the Bible, they say, God tells them they cannot engage in these activities.
Of course, He has said no such thing.
Performing a service for a same-sex wedding or allowing a gay person to spend the night in your bed & breakfast are not sins. They are not even endorsements of “sins.” Doing a good deed for another person pursuing their own happiness is simply that – doing a good deed. It can take the form of a flower arrangement at a wedding or a cot and a blanket under a dry roof on a frigid night.
On the contrary, over and over throughout the New Testament in particular we learn of the power and importance of generosity, forgiveness, kindness and brotherhood. Jesus did not ask to whom He gave bread, He simply gave to those who needed it. The true Christian photographer, baker or florist lends his services to all who need – and can afford – his services.
Helping someone with your expertise isn’t an endorsement of their “lifestyle.” It’s simply an acknowledgement of their humanity and your ability to contribute to it. Making a wedding cake isn’t putting a stamp of approval on a marriage.
Of course, there are always grey areas that get us stuck in the mud. When a minister officiates the wedding of two people, his signature goes onto the marriage certificate – unlike the passing role of a florist or baker, that minister’s very identity becomes an indelible part of the couple’s marriage. His signature is a legal witnessing – and you could say endorsement – of that relationship. It’s what got Kim Davis in trouble (of course, she was a government employee and as such had forfeited her ability to object with her denial of services).
It is no badge of honor to have the name of an unwilling participant on anyone’s marriage certificate. A priest’s refusal to marry a couple doesn’t bar that couple from the right to marry, as there are many others who would love to be witness to the marriage of any two loving people.
So might there be a couple very specific societal roles that need some protecting on a religious basis? Sure. Is there some appropriately narrow area of compromise? As much as both sides hate the idea, compromise is a deeply American tenet.
Yet every “religious freedom” law that gets put forward is always far too broad and covers far too wide a swath of “religious belief” to be remotely constructive for any of the parties potentially involved.
If we want to make a law protecting people and the doctrine set forth for them by the Bible, Qur’an or other truly holy scripture, let’s talk. Let’s look at what the words really say and figure out a place where we can meet.
Allowing someone to discriminate against other people based on the gender of the person they’re dating? Show me the passage in the Book of Matthew that says baking a cake for that couple is a sin, and I’ll be the first person to donate to that campaign.
Until then, let’s call these “religious freedom” efforts what they are: baseless discrimination cloaked as an expression of religious doctrine.