Last year in the city of Pocatello (where I live) the city council passed a non-discrimination ordnance, prohibiting businesses from discriminating against members of LGBTQ community. Shortly thereafter, local bigots (excuse me – passionate religionists) were able to collect enough signatures to put the measure up for repeal in 2014. Fortunately, more reasonable minds prevailed and the referendum to repeal the ordinance failed to pass – if only marginally. Unsurprisingly, those who voted for the repeal were upset. Why is it when something like this occurs the religious fundamentalists cry foul, arguing that their rights are being trampled? Does preventing someone from discriminating against others, if said discrimination is dictated by the doctrines of their religion, count as its own form of discrimination?
The short answer is I think not. But I’d be willing to give some ground and consider the perspective of the opposition here. According to Christian theology, homosexual behavior is forbidden, a prohibition leveled in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Fair enough, I suppose. The Bible does say that, and, if you truly believe the Bible provides divine proscriptions concerning moral behavior, you should probably be going out of your way to adhere to its strictures.
But consider the wording of the passages from Leviticus. Depending on the translation, chapter 18, verse 22 reads:
Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
King James Version
Chapter 20, verse 13 expands upon this, arguing:
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
King James Version
No where does it actually prohibit serving homosexual customers or employing homosexual workers, something Luis Granados made note of in his recent article over at the Humanist. It simply directs people – rather stridently – to avoid engaging in those behaviors themselves. Already the notion that non-discrimination ordinances represent an infringement on the rights of the faithful is on shoddy footing. Demanding that they treat their fellow humans with something that might be described as “basic human dignity” is not an affront to their beliefs. Rather, it is simply a plea to not act like an asshole (albeit supplemented by the threat of legal recourse against defectors).
Still, the faithful might argue that even supporting sinful behavior, however indirectly, represents a violation of their god-given morality. Here I would propose a litmus test, whereby faithful adherence to religious canon can be distinguished from outright bigotry. It would be simple enough. Those who refuse service to LGBTQ folks because said lifestyle deviates from that outlined in the BIble should be forced, by law, to demonstrate their strict obedience to Biblical ethics by refusing to serve or employ anyone whose lifestyle exceeds the rather torturous boundaries of Biblical ethics.
Fundamentalists Christians (or fundamentalist members of any Abrahamic sect) would demonstrate the equanimity of their moral selectivity – as opposed to their stubborn bigotry – by refusing service to anyone who violates any law of Leviticus. For instance, they would not only refuse service/employment to members of LGBTQ communities, but to anyone who breaks (or has broken) the Sabbath, sells (or has sold) their land, done or said anything blasphemous, cut their beard or trimmed their hair at the sides, has a tattoo, or wears cotton-polyester blend shirts. A more complete list of behaviors that might render an individual unsuitable for Christian commerce or employment can be found here.
Others might disagree, but I think this is more than fair. It provides a mechanism by which the truly faithful can be distinguished from the unjustifiably bigoted. The Christian right to discriminate against others based on the fidelity with which they follow Christian beliefs is preserved while simultaneously upholding the right of LGBTQ individuals to participate in the economy absent bigotry.