Indiana’s Governor Mike Pence signed a law this week for “Religious Freedom Restoration”. On the surface, this is presumably to protect people’s religious expression. Of course, there are no instances to be cited where religious expression has been threatened in this country. There are plenty of illustrations of where people are legally being allowed to do things of which particular groups of Christians disapprove.
Same gender marriage, for example.
Indiana’s ban on same gender marriage was overturned by courts in 2014, which means that ‘bible believing christians’ (I’m using lower case letters and quote marks very intentionally here) who operate businesses will be forced to earn money when gay and lesbian customers will want to pay for wedding cakes or flowers.
But it isn’t about gay marriage, proponents of these “religious freedom” laws say.
When was the last time you heard florists or cake bakers complain about making money for weddings of previously divorced people? When was the last time you heard these same conservative Christians defending the religious freedom of Muslims?
As I said.
These laws, in place in 20 states to varying degrees, and under discussion in many others, are nothing more than ‘conservative christian freedom to discriminate against gay people‘ bills.
If churches don’t want to have same gender weddings in their sanctuaries–that would be religious freedom. If people don’t want to attend same gender weddings as guests–welcome to America, land of the free. But if you operate a business in the public sphere, you don’t get a pass to discriminate against people.
A number of people have since announced their plans to boycott the state of Indiana. Charles Barkley has asked the NCAA to pull the Final Four Men’s basketball games from Indianapolis.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, said this:
Angie’s List canceled plans to expand their headquarters in Indiana. A number of companies have said they will not send their employees to Indiana for work and are canceling any projects there.
The Disciples of Christ have threatened to move their next General Assembly to somewhere other than Indiana. And Gen Con has said it will not renew its contracts in Indiana once they expire in 2020.
If George Takei tells us to Boycott Indiana, who am I to question him?
Boycotting this one state, however, seems problematic. 21 states have similar laws on the books. Are we boycotting all of them? I live in a state that has consistently refused to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the human rights codes. Do I have to move?
The denomination I serve recently achieved marriage equality. Christians who are gay and lesbian can now serve the PCUSA in all ordained offices and can be married in congregations that accept same gender marriage (that’s what religious freedom looks like). I am very proud to be Presbyterian at this moment in history.
But there were a number of years before we received ordination and marriage equality where I was conflicted. I was ordained to serve a church that would accept my gifts because I happened to marry a man but would not accept the gifts of my talented and faithful gay and lesbian friends. I love my husband, but he is not my best gift for ministry.
A number of people left the denomination for greener, more equal pastures. Should I have left as well? Would boycotting the church I love have been the more faithful response?
If all of the progressives had left the PCUSA after the General Assembly in 1996 that ushered in more restrictive language in our constitutional documents, who would have been left to work for change? Who would have been there to pastor and nurture the faith of gay and lesbian Presbyterians? I’m glad I didn’t leave. I’m glad I stayed and joined with others who have been working for change for so long.
Boycotting is certainly one way to respond to Indiana’s horrible new law.
How else, though, could we respond? What other witness could we provide? How can we stand with gay and lesbian Hoosiers as they now face state sanctioned discrimination? Certainly we can put our creativity to use in other ways to overturn this law without abandoning people in Indiana (and other states with such laws).
Here’s a good start. Josh Driver started a website to keep a registry of companies who will not discriminate against people. The We Serve Everyone Project has taken off since this bill was signed, signing up organizations across the country who want to be on the side of equality and inclusion. See their website here.
If keeping your money out of Indiana is the best way you can protest legislation like this, then keep at it. I just hope we can find other ways to effect change without having to leave every state that passes bad laws or denomination that has exclusionary practices.
14 thoughts on “Boycott?”
You go, Marci!
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Although I have participated in boycotts over the years re this issue (I still won’t eat Chik-Fil-A, even after Dan Cathy has gone to his eternal reward), I worry that this kind of thing hardens already hard hearts.
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Excellent blog. I confess my first thought was to boycott but you have given me food for thought.
Yeah. I’m a little conflicted myself. I certainly understand why gay and lesbian people would not feel safe going to Indiana (or many other places).
I’m not sure what you mean by “Of course, there are no instances to be cited where religious expression has been threatened in this country.” Actually, there are plenty of instances in which RFRAs have protected the religious expression of all sorts of groups. Here’s one list of ten RFRA cases, very few of which involve Christians or sexual orientation:
I don’t think it’s accurate, either, to say that the Indiana RFRA sanctions discrimination; rather, RFRAs provide a standard to be applied if a discrimination lawsuit is filed: essentially, it says that the court must balance the government’s interest against the individual’s religious views. The link above gives some examples.
Hope all’s well.
The article you shared speaks of religious organizations and people who were practicing their religious faith.
A florist who would be making money by selling floral arrangements to a wedding is a different category. And that is what makes this law different than many of the other RFRAs.
I have yet to see anyone cite how showing hospitality and grace is a violation of deeply held religious beliefs. Jesus welcomed people who society wanted to cast off. Can we really imagine he would tell individual Christians that treating everyone equally in the marketplace is a violation of the Gospel? I fail to see how exclusion of gay and lesbians has become the last stand for Christians?
Thanks for the comment. I do think it is helpful to point out the difference between the federal RFRA and the one in Indiana. That said, I think the constitution has protection enough without such laws.
Thanks for the response, Marci. We seem to have two issues. One is in the realm of law/litigation, the other in the realm of Christian doctrine.
Of course, a textbook case for a company is Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The decision set precedent not just for Christian company owners, but for all companies of their type. A closely held for-profit corporation owned by Muslims who objected to elective abortion thus could not be forced to provide for such in its employee health coverage.
Regarding the doctrinal matter you pose, I think many would respond that there is a line where “showing hospitality and grace” becomes “participating in a sin.” That line is not always clearly defined in the Bible, and so Christians will have differing opinions of where that should be drawn. (You must admit that your views on same-sex marriage are hardly representative of all Christians, nor are mine.) It is never safe for a Christian to go against conscience.
But let me ask this: would it be a good thing if Christians insisted that Halal caterers provide pulled-pork dishes to a church picnic and threatened to sue if they refused? Or would it be better if they just found a different caterer who had no religious objection? The idea of such a ploy/lawsuit offends me. In my opinion, the latter would be far more courteous, civil, Christian and in keeping with the First Amendment. I would hope for the same treatment of Christians, whether or not I agree with all that they teach.
Well, I’m completely opposed to the Hobby Lobby decision, so we may just have to agree to disagree.
I believe, and have written elsewhere, that my religious freedom ends when I start to compel others to follow it. So, to the Hobby Lobby example, the owners of that company should totally and completely have the right NOT to get abortions or take birth controls. When they start compelling their employees to share their beliefs, it ceases to be about the free expression of religion and becomes the use of religion to limit free expression.
I would think the halal caterer is a nonsense illustration. Anyone who has such dietary limitations would not open a business to the public that would require them to violate tenets of their faith in order to do their job.
My point is that there is nothing essential about discriminating against gays and lesbians in Christian doctrine. Even if particular Christians choose to believe it is a sin, there is absolutely nothing in scripture to separate it from all other sins. Gay marriage should never have become the litmus test for showing faith.
In fact, these RFRAs will do more to bring about the kinds of illustrations you have brought up. What’s to now say that a Catholic baker won’t want to make cakes for people who have been divorced, since divorce does not have the approval of the Catholic Church? What’s now to say that a conservative Muslim baker wouldn’t compel any women who entered the bakery to cover their hair?
The article you shared earlier showed people whose religious practices had been threatened. Using peyote in the practice of religion is one thing. Using peyote on your job is another.
I guess I just don’t see why gay marriage is the one issue that some Christians think they need “protection” from?
It’s okay if we just agree to disagree on this. You seem as comfortable in your views on this as I am. Blessings to you this Holy Week.
It’s not really the same thing. A halal (or kosher) caterer does not have pork products on offer. We don’t force used car lots to sell radios, either. In contrast, a cake bakery has cakes on offer. If you go to a halal caterer as a non-Muslim, they still have to sell you food even if you’re an infidel.
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(And a nod to Servetus for noting the flaw in my hypothetical!)
Three quick points:
1. You write, “I believe, and have written elsewhere, that my religious freedom ends when I start to compel others to follow it.” This is, of course, the point of tension in the discussion. Should it not cut both ways? In the example of a same-sex couple that sues a Christian florist for refusing to provide services, is not the couple seeking to compel the florist to conform to their beliefs about homosexuality?
2. Also, you write: “Even if particular Christians choose to believe it is a sin, there is absolutely nothing in scripture to separate it from all other sins.” I think the latter half of this sentence is a very important point. Within Christianity, it is not about the kind of sin, but whether or not one is repentant. (For temporal judgments, the kind of sin matters too: a murder is far more serious than stealing a candy bar.) The one who repents of any sin (no matter the kind) is forgiven, and the one who does not repent is not. The one who persists in sin, by definition, is not repentant. It is the calling of Christians to assure the repentant that they are forgiven, and to advise the unrepentant that they are in need of forgiveness.
(That said, a brief visit to yesterday and my observation that “there is a line where ‘showing hospitality and grace’ becomes ‘participating in a sin'” and brief discussion of conscience. I have indeed encountered those who claim to be Christians and oppose homosexuality simply because they don’t like it. I have little patience for such. But that’s a far different mindset than the one who sincerely believes that homosexuality is a sin and does not want to participate in, or promote the sin, out of concern for the eternal welfare of those involved. The former is acting out of ignorance, the latter out of conscience. It would be a disservice to lump the two together.)
If X is a sin, and someone persists in it, they are by definition not repentant. Replace X with anything: homosexuality, dancing, driving a car, gossip, theft, making cookies. Some of those are sins, some are not. What makes the determination? Traditionally, Christians would say that the Bible declares what is sinful and what is not. If not the Bible, then what makes the determination?
3. Finally, you write, “I guess I just don’t see why gay marriage is the one issue that some Christians think they need ‘protection’ from?” I can’t, of course, speak for the unidentified “some,” but I don’t think it’s an accurate statement: the Hobby Lobby decision, for example, was not about same-sex marriage. However, the issue of same-sex marriage is certainly the current battleground, is it not? What other issue has individuals suing Christian businesses for refusing to provide services? My conclusion is that, like everybody else, Christians respond to the matter at hand.
A blessed Holy Week to you as well.
I stumbled across you on the #boycottindiana. I live in Indiana and I’m absolutely disgusted with the new law, Indiana can be backwards at times. I enjoyed your view on it because it’s what I tell people too when I see people try to use religion in a negative way. Indiana has a lot of growing to do as a state. I sometimes feel uncomfortable here as a minority in small towns in this state especially when I’m with my boyfriend who is white. Anyways I just wanted to say I enjoyed your blog post!
Have a great day,
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Thanks for stopping by!