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Proposed "License to Discriminate" laws
to give businesses freedom to discriminate

Part 8:
Three factors that are rarely considered
in this type of legislation.

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The acronym LGBT refers to the Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual and Transgender community

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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2014-FEB: "License to Discriminate" bills:

Numerous states had introduced bills in their Legislatures that:

  • Many religious conservative referred to as religious freedom bills to allow companies in the wedding industry, like wedding cake bakers, wedding photographers, etc. to follow their religious beliefs and be able to refuse same-sex customers who are arranging marriages.

  • Many religious liberals and the LGBT community refer to as "license to discriminate" bills.

One such bill made it all the way to the Governor's desk in Arizona where it was vetoed. Others failed at earlier stages.

In the author's opinion, this type of "right to discriminate/religious freedom" bill has at least three factors that are not discussed often enough:

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Factor 1: The conflict between the Ethic of Reciprocity and the freedom to discriminate:

One might ask "WWJD" -- What Would Jesus Do? -- when he dealt with individuals of whose behaviors he did not approve. The Bible records instances where Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ) talked and/or dined with prostitutes, a woman who had lived in common-law relationships with many men, and even individuals from the most despised group in society: tax collectors. The latter were considered the scum of the earth at the time because of their unethical and exploitive practices. He even defended a woman who had been found to have engaged in an adulterous affair for which the normal punishment was execution.

The Ethic of Reciprocity is commonly called "The Golden Rule" in Christianity: "to do onto others as one would want done onto you." It is based on Yeshua's statement in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:12:

"All things, therefore, that you want men [sic] to do to you, you also must likewise do to them."

Note that this is a "must" not a "should." It is not optional.

In a case involving a business being asked to supply goods or services for a same-sex wedding, the owner would presumably like to be served without being discriminated against when they go to the supermarket, restaurant, book store, etc. The Golden Rule teaches that the owner should treat all of their potential customers equally and to try to meet their needs, even they disapprove of the customer's behavior.

All major religions and most secular systems of ethics contain a similar statement.

Applying this principle to, say, a lesbian couple going to a baker and asking them to create a wedding cake topped with two female figures, the baker must treat the potential customers as he or she would wish to be treated. That is, the baker should make a suitable cake, even if she or he disapproved of same-sex marriage.

A bit of innovative thinking might help the baker reach a compromise acceptable to their religious beliefs. They could bake a generic marriage cake without figures on top, sell it to a same-sex couple, point them to a container of male groom and female bride figures, and indicate that the price of the cake includes their selection of any two figures.

The Protect Religious Freedom Initiative takes a position opposite to the Golden Rule. It advocates that the baker be free to discriminate against the couple. Many would regard this as a violation of the Golden Rule, as an anti-Christian act, and as an unethical position to take.

We have collected excerpts from articles in the media which compare and contrast the "license to discriminate" laws and the Golden Rule.

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Factor 2: The human rights legislation in Oregon:

Most U.S. states have human rights laws and human rights tribunals to enforce these laws. They typically list the types of discrimination that are not permitted by "public accommodations." A public accommodation is a company that provides goods and/or services to the general public.

For example, In Oregon, Law 659A.403 states:

1. "... all persons within the jurisdiction of this state are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation, without any distinction, discrimination or restriction on account of [their] race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or age if the individual is 18 years of age or older. ..." [Emphasis by us]

3. "It is an unlawful practice for any person to deny full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation in violation of this section." 1

The reason for human rights legislation is that discrimination by public accommodations is felt to be profoundly disruptive to society. Examples are signs on store windows that say "We do not serve Blacks," "No Jews allowed," or "Irish need not apply."

Unlike Oregon, some states also include gender identity as a protected group. Some more conservative states have neither sexual orientation nor gender identity listed.

The main function of Oregon's Protect Religious Freedom Initiative is to help store owners whose sincere religious beliefs result in a dislike or intolerance of same-sex marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships. The main goal is to give store owners the freedom to refuse to serve a potential customer while being given special immunity from Oregon's existing human rights laws.

"Think Progress," a liberal political group accurately refers to the Council's proposal as a "right to discriminate" initiative. 2

In the words of the Family Council, their move is in response to a growing trend of business owners with conscientious objections being forced to:

"... compromise their individual conscience rights or face harassment, persecution, penalties levied upon them by the state, and the possibility of losing their business for declining to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies." 2

As noted elsewhere, the immunity given to business owners would extend beyond same-sex marriages to include their dislike of ceremonies related to both civil unions and domestic partnerships. However, as currently written, it would not give them immunity if they refuse to provide goods or services to informal same-sex commitment ceremonies which lack any legal significance.

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Factor 3: Driving youths and young adults out of the churches:

Conservative Christian denominations are currently suffering a major loss of membership among older teens and young adults. Some major causes are that members in this age range reject their faith group's teachings on human sexuality and other scientific topics like origins of the Earth and the rest of the universe.

Many former church members feel uncomfortable being affiliated with a faith group that teaches discrimination against women, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, transgender persons, and/or other minorities. If Protect Religious Freedom Initiative succeeds in their goals, one end result may be an accelerated loss of teen and young adult members by fundamentalist and other evangelical, Mormon, Roman Catholic, and other conservative Christian denominations in the state.

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This topic is continued in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Discrimination in place of public accommodation prohibited," Oregon Laws, 2013, at: http://www.oregonlaws.org/
  2. Matthew Brown, "Oregon religious freedom group counters gay marriage ballot proposal," Deseret News, 2013-NOV-27, at: http://www.deseretnews.com/
  3. Zack Ford, "Oregon marriage equality opponents file 'Right to Discriminate' initiative," Think Progress, 2013-NOV-22, at: http://thinkprogress.org/
  4. Christian Gaston, "Two more couples file suit against Oregon's ban on gay marriage," The Oregonian, 2013-DEC-19. at: http://www.oregonlive.com/

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Copyright © 2012 & 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Content was largely copied from an essay on "right to discriminate" laws in Oregon.
Originally posted: 2014-MAR-05
Latest update: 2014-APR-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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