An essay donated by contributing
editor Susan Humphreys.
Live and Let Live:
The author is expressing her personal opinions in the following essay.
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Judge Gorsuch is now a member of the U.S. Supreme Court. During 2017-APR, the first Religious test case came before the court. Others will likely be coming up during the next term. I have already written one essay addressing some of the legal problems Gorsuch will be facing. “Showdown: God’s Law Versus Secular Law”
The current court case "Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Pauley" is about a Lutheran Church being denied public funds to upgrade their playground. An article on the Religion Dispatches web site contains more information about this case. 1 The basic argument is that denying access to public funds because an organization is religious violates the free exercise clause and equal protection clause of the Constitution.
The outcome of this case will affect other legal decisions. One case I wonder about in particular is the attempt by Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood. I don’t think many people are thinking about the full repercussions of the case, yet! Wouldn’t granting funds to a Religious based group and denying funds to Planned Parenthood (because of a religious doctrinal position — being against abortion) amount to endorsing a Religion? Planned Parenthood may not want to present their case as a religious freedom argument but they may have no choice. The courts may find themselves in the position of having to decide between two differing religious opinions, a decision either way could then be considered a violation of the free exercise clause! Perhaps this is one reason why our founding fathers tried to keep religious doctrines out of public policy decisions.
In this essay I address another issue regarding legal cases.
There have been some comments from members of the LGBT community that people shouldn’t threaten to sue the providers of cakes or flowers or caterers or venues that refuse to serve gay couples. Someone shouldn’t be forced into bankruptcy with legal fees or fines because they refuse to violate their conscience. Instead the gay couple should simply look for another provider. “Live and let live” is what they say.
There is a problem with this idea. “Live and let live” is a version of what Christians call the Golden Rule and what Confucius called the Ethic of Reciprocity. I prefer Confucius' name for the idea, because it stresses that it is a “two way street.” It is a reciprocal arrangement.
It works as a rule for civil behavior ONLY when both parties voluntarily agree to participate fully. I live my life as I see fit and allow you to live your life as you see fit. That is, I don’t interfere in your life. “Live and let live” means that you must also not interfere in my life.
Refusing to serve someone because you disapprove of their life style is NOT fulfilling your part of the bargain. You are interfering in the other person’s life.
How so, one might ask? By showing your public disapproval you are attempting to denigrate the other, ostracize the other, and/or make the other a pariah. You are implying that there is something wrong, deviant with the other -- that they deserve to be discriminated against.
You are implying by your disapproval that “virtuous, God fearing” people won’t provide services for Gay weddings. And you are implying that anyone that does provide such a service, is “non-virtuous, and not God fearing.” In other words the latter are as deviant and dangerous to society as you consider the homosexual couple as being.
That, by the way, is called self-righteousness. Jesus takes a dim view of self-righteousness. In the story about the stoning of the adulteress (John: 8 full passage) Jesus says “let he who has not sinned cast the first stone.” A reminder that none are perfect and should therefore (Matthew 7:1) “judge not that they be not judged”. Both, by the way, are expressions, variations on the Golden Rule/Ethic of Reciprocity.
BUT the service provider says, if I am forced to provide a service to them aren’t they interfering with my right to live my life as I see fit?
Well, to be honest, yes they are, IF it is forced upon you. “Live and Let Live” if it is going to work as an unofficial rule to govern civil behavior must be a voluntary reciprocal arrangement. As a rule to govern civil behavior it ONLY works when both parties accept that it applies to their own personal behavior.
In this case that means that if someone disapproves of homosexuality they shouldn’t be a homosexual. It doesn’t mean they should interfere with another because they are a homosexual.
For “Live and let live” to work there must be a qualifier attached to it, so both parties are absolutely clear. There is no room or excuse for equivocation. There are no loop holes to wiggle out of the agreement. One qualifier has been, “Live and let live, as long as your actions nor my actions interfere with the others right, to life, liberty, equality under the law, and their pursuit of happiness.
BUT the service provider says if I am forced to provide for someone who’s life style I disapprove of it will be interfering with my happiness. There is that word “forced” again.
Live and let live cannot work as a rule to govern civil behavior unless both sides voluntarily agree to behave civilly towards the other. For me, that means treating everyone equally, fairly, and honestly. Just as you want them to treat you-- equally, fairly and honestly. That is another expression of the Golden Rule/Ethic of Reciprocity.
In my fourth paragraph above, I put the words “violate their conscience” in bold type. Part of the argument from service providers is that IF they agree to provide their service, prepare flowers, or a cake or a meal or the venue for a Gay couple’s wedding, then their participation will be construed by others as their approval, acceptance of the wedding. That would violate their conscience.
Unfortunately it seems, civilization progresses only when people are forced either by law or through legal challenges to laws through the courts or through changes in personal circumstances to expand their consciences. Many young people have no problems accepting same sex marriage because they personally have friends with a homosexual or bisexual orientation. Some adults have modified their views on the matter when their own children came “out of the closet” and admitted that they are homosexual or bisexual. They realized that what they had been taught about homosexuals -- that they were bad dangerous people -- simply wasn’t true because their own child wasn’t a bad or dangerous person.
When people refuse to treat others equally, honestly, fairly, respectfully society has no choice but to pass laws that will force them to do so. It would be best all the way around IF people would voluntarily agree to do so.
If society refused to “violate someone’s conscience” blacks would still be slaves, women would still have no legal rights, workers would have no rights and there would be no interracial marriages.
It isn’t a legitimate argument when the opponents of same sex marriage cry. "You can’t compare same sex marriage to interracial marriages. There is no legitimate way to argue from Christianity that marriage cannot exist between people of different races."
Well sorry to burst their bubble BUT there is also no legitimate way to argue from Christianity (or from the Bible) that marriage is ONLY between one man and one woman. There are many articles on this web site about this issue. Including one I wrote in 2012 “Is opposing same sex marriage not hate?” and a new one I have just written “The Problems People Stumble Into, When They Use Biblical References To Justify & Sanctify Their Prejudices or Their Truth.”
Another argument often used against same sex marriage is that it denigrates and makes a mockery of the very idea of marriage—the union of two people. What makes a mockery of marriage is the physical and/or mental abuse of a spouse and/or the children produced by that marriage.
Abuse of a sacred commitment -- to love, honor and cherish -- is what makes a mockery of the commitment.
Another argument for why service providers should not be forced to provide their services to those they disapprove of is that they don’t see such a wedding between same sex couples as legitimate, it isn’t really a wedding at all because it violates God’s law. The marriage won’t really be a marriage.
To be honest the law doesn’t care whether some individual or a group see the marriage as legitimate or not. The law says that it is and that is all that matters. People will just have to expand their conscience or as the more common phrase goes: "Get used to it."
Then there is the fear that some people express that if same sex marriage is allowed in their community, state, or nation, God will bring his wrath down upon them, the way he did to Sodom and Gomorrah.
The story about Sodom and Gomorrah is a story about the sexual abuse of strangers to a community. It is NOT about a community given over to homosexual lust. If folks don’t want to bring God’s wrath down upon them they should welcome the immigrant, the refugee, the stranger to their communities.
I think the real problem some people have with same sex marriage is that its legitimization de-legitimizes their beliefs. If they accept that their belief about homosexuals is wrong they are left wondering what other beliefs they hold might also be wrong.
Many Christians -- I must stress not all Christians -- are what I call Black and White thinkers. Everything is seen in dualistic terms. What they believe is right, true, good, virtuous, moral, and the will of God. What others believe is wrong, a lie, bad, non-virtuous (as in decadent), immoral and the will of the Devil.
To allow others to “live their life as they see fit” is to admit that their belief is wrong. They would have to admit by denying homosexuals their rights and refusing to treat them as equals they were violating the Golden rule which is found throughout the Bible and in other major religions.
Related essays on this web site that you might find interesting:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Sunnivie Brydum, "Innocuous SCOTUS Ruling Opens Door For Discriminatory Religious Institutions to Access Public Funds," Religion Dispatches, 2017-APR-28, at: http://religiondispatches.org/
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Originally posted on: 2017-MAY-01
Author: Contributing Editor Susan Humphreys