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Religious Tolerance logo

Religious misinformation, disinformation,
lies, darn lies, statistics, etc. on the Internet:

Part 4 of four parts:
2010's: Inaccuracies in the reporting
of stores who refuse to provide goods &
services to same-sex engaged couples.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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Why some store owners refuse to fulfill their customers' orders:

On 2015-JUN-26, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the lawsuit Obergefell v. Hodges. It legalized same-sex marriages across the United States. All U.S. couples can obtain marriage licenses -- no matter if they are of the same sex or opposite sexes -- as long as they both had reached a minimum age and are not too closely related. The only exception is in the territory of American Samoa where the government has not decided whether the Court's ruling applies there. By early 2016, there were a few county clerks in the U.S. mainland who had ceased issuing marriage licenses to any couples. Their reasoning seems to be that if they discriminate against all couples, then they are not discriminating specifically against same-sex couples. Fortunately, for same-sex couples wishing to marry, this causes only a minor inconvenience. They have been able to obtain a license from a clerk at an adjacent county.

As gay marriages became possible, a dozen or so conflicts have arisen between the owners of some stores across the U.S. that provide marriage-related goods and/or services. The owners were typically conservative Christians who baked wedding cakes, took wedding photographs, or who owned venues for weddings and receptions.

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Sponsored link.

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Some of these owners were faced with a difficult decison on whether to supply goods and services for same-sex couples. They often had to balance three conflictlicting demands in their lives:

  • 1. Some states and municipalities have human rights legislation that require retail stores -- called public accommodations -- to serve all of the public and not discriminate against potential customers on the basis of their gender, religion, skin color, race, sexual orientation, etc. If they did choose to discriminate on the basis of one of these protected classes, then the customers that they turned away could file a complaint with a human rights tribunal and the owner(s) could face fines by the state or municipality.

  • 2. Of great importance to many store owners are their religious beliefs. In the case of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and same-sex couples, there are about six passages in the Bible that some have interpreted as condemning all same-gender sexual behavior. These are often called "clobber passages." Unfortunately, the passages appear to be ambiguous. because sincere, thoughtful, and intelligent Christians have interpreted their messages very differently. Some examples are:
    • in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 have been interpreting as condemning all same-gender sexual behavior. Others interpret the passages literally, and have concluded that they only condem two men who engaged in sex, and then only on a forbidden location: a woman's bed. Still others say that the passages refer only to men having sex with male temple prostitutes; that is a rare practice today!

      To complicate the matter further, both passages describe the behavior with the Hebrew word "to'ebah" which many -- if not most -- English versions of the Bible translate as "abomination." To'ebah refers to a Hebrew person who breaks of either a moral or ritual law. Examples would include a Hebrew person having a meal with persons of another religion, or eating lobster, or eating shrimp, or presenting an animal with a blemish for sacrifice at the temple, or a man who remarried his former wife after a divorce if she had had sex with another man in the meantime. There are passages in the New Testament indicating that these laws in the Hebrew Scriptures are no longer binding on Christians,

    • In the Christian Scriptures (New Testament):
      • Romans 1:26-27 is often interpreted as condemning all same-gender sexual behavior. Some even believe that it condemns any feelings of same-gender sexual attraction, which -- of course -- are beyond a persons control. Others note that the passage describes a group of males and females, who were former Christians, with a heterosexual orientation. During the ectasy of a Pagan sexual orgy, they sometimes went against their natural feelings of attraction and engaging in same-gender sexual behavoir. Some interpreters believe that when this passage is applied to a person with a homosexual orientation that it would condemn them if they engaging in opposite-gender sexual behavior for the same reason: it would have been against their basic nature.

      • 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 lists many activities that St. Paul, the author, believes will prohibit people from inheriting the Kingdom of God (heaven) after death. Unfortunately, in describing one of the activities, he used a Greek word "malakoi" which has been translated elsewhere in the Bible as referring to fabric that is soft and fine. It is often interpreted as referring to men who are not manly, lacking in virility, unethical, etc. If he had intended to refer to sexually active homosexuals, then Paul would have used the Greek word "paiderasste." Still, most English Bibles mistranslate Paul's original Greek text as "homosexual"

        Also listed as those who would not go to Heaven were the: "arsenokoitai." This was a word that Paul seems to have created himself and had never defined in his writings. Nobody knows exactly what Paul intended the word to mean. It has been translated in English Bibles as male prostitutes, including men who have sex with women for pay; catamites (boy prostitutes) who were typically sexual slaves; sexual perverts; sexually active homosexuals, etc.

Most conservative Christians interpret these six or so passages as condemning all same-gender sexual behavior by either females or males. Meanwhile, many Liberal Christians often go back to the original Hebrew and Greek biblical text and interpret the passages as referring to other types of behaviors.

  • 3. A third conflict is over the Golden Rule. This is found in many forms in all of the major religions. Within the Bible there are two passages -- at Matthew 7:12, and Luke 6:31 where words attributed to Jesus are quoted. The verse in Luke has been translated:

    "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise."

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In summary, many sincere and conservative Christian owner(s), following their English translation of the Bible, conclude that when a same-sex couple comes to their store seeking marriage goods or services:

  • thumb up imageThe state law or local ordinance reqires them to serve these customers ... or risk a fine.

  • thumb down imageThe Bible condemns the customers' presumed sexual behavior. The store owner(s) will typically feel that they should not be associated with that behavior in any way.

  • thumb up image Jesus says that each person is to treat all others, as the person would like to be treated by others. This presumably includes store owner(s) treating customers.

The decision of the owner(s) then depends upon how they weigh the three conflicting criteria their mind. Some decide to refuse goods and services. Usually, the customer(s) would then simply go away dissapointed, perhaps angry. Occasionally, they might go to a human rights campaign and file a complaint. Only then does the media typically learn and cover the story.

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Inaccuracies by religious information web sites concerning store owners rejection of requests by LGBT customers:

{LGBT refers to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Transsexual community.]

  • Perhaps the highest profile case involved Sweet Cakes by Melissa. It was a bakery in Gresham, Oregon operated by Melissa and Aaron Klein, a conservative Christian couple. They refused a wedding cake order for an engaged lesbian couple. The rejected customer filed a complaint with the local human rights tribunal. The store owners were found guilty and fined the enormous sum of $135,000.

Their case was discussed in many conservative Christian news sources. Perhaps the highest profile group that has commented on this case is the Family Research Council (FRC). The FRC is described as an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. 1 Tony Perkins. President of the FRC, destributed a fund raising email to their mailing list during 2016-MAR that discussed the Klein's situation. It is one of many similar emails that we have received and many reports we have read from conservative Christian agencies recently on this and similar cases.

The emails and reports all describe the $135,000 fine and the financial hardship that this placed on the Kleins. All that we have read leave out one important factor. The Klein's resorted to crowdfunding to cover their fine and raised about $109,000 from the web site GoFundMe. When that site terminated their account, they switched to Continue to Give, and raised a further $352,500 by 2015-JUL. So they, in effect, made a profit of hundreds of thousands of dollars on their decision to discriminate. 2,3

Note that the FRC and all the other conservative religious news sources that we have read on this case did not lie in their reports; they just didn't tell the whole truth.

Many conservative commentators, including Glen Beck on the Sirius XM Patriot channel 5 emphasized that at the time the couple placed the order for a wedding cake, gay marriages had not yet been legalized in Oregon. What they fail to mention is that the engaged couple were planning to take the cake to an adjacent state where the wedding was to take place legally. Still another point raised by Glen Beck and others is that the Kleins had every right to assert their religious freedom to refuse to take part in a same-sex wedding. In reality, the Kleins were only asked to bake the cake; the engaged couple would then have taken it to another state. The Kleins, were probably hundreds of miles away from the wedding and would not have been participating in the ceremony.

  • Another observation that we have made of this and similar news accounts is that the obligation of store owners to follow the Golden Rule is never mentioned by reporters. Yet on other matters regarding how Christians should behave, the Rule is often referred to as an instruction from Jesus to all of his followers.

The lesson that I feel people should gather from this situation is to not rely on either conservative or liberal news sources alone. To obtain a full understanding of important news items, they should follow both, because both will probably "overlook" a critical item, from time to time.

This web site has a section dealing with the "religious freedom to discriminate" that is at the core of many news items similar to the Klein's and many state RFRAs (Religious Freedom Restoration Acts) that are intended to give immunity to individuals and public accommodations who want to discriminate against the LGBT community.

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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. "Tony Perkins," Southern Poverty Law Center, undated, at: https://www.splcenter.org/
  2. "Sweet Cakes by Melissa, snubbed by Gofundme, gets new crowdfund campaign," Washington Times, 2015-MAY-05. at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/
  3. Valerie Richardson, "Sweet Cakes by Melissa crowdfunder breaks record with $352K," Washington Times, 2015-JUL-14, at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/
  4. Nigel Jaquiss, "Sweet Cakes by Melissa Owners Defying Order to Pay $135,000 to Lesbian Couple Who Wanted a Wedding Cake," Wllamette Week, 2015-SEP-29 at: http://www.wweek.com/
  5. Heard on 2016-MAR-23 circa 10:00 AM Eastern Time, on Sirius XM, Channel 125.

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Home > News > Misinformation in the religious media > here

Copyright © 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2016-MAR-16
Latest update: 2016-MAR-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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