In light of my last 2 posts and some discussion that came up in the comments, the recent hoopla out in Arizona has been much on my mind. I really don’t feel I have enough wisdom to definitively share how this complex problem can be best resolved in our society. But there has got to be some balance between the right of people to not be discriminated against, and the right of people to not have to directly participate in something they find religiously objectionable.

Note my use of the word directly before the word participate. I was a nurse for many years. The hospital I worked at did not routinely perform abortions, but on rare occasion there would be one. Once I cared post-op for a woman who had complications after an abortion and had to be admitted to the floor. I am very pro-life. Did I refuse to care for this woman? Of course not. I would not refuse anyone care, and I indeed cared for many “interesting” people over the years. However, I would have refused to participate in the actual abortion procedure. If I worked in the hospital OR, I would have resigned or been fired before assisting with an actual abortion. I think health care workers should have the right to refuse to participate directly in a procedure they religiously/ethically disagree with. Usually this is not a problem.

I have a point here: When it comes to business, money is made in different ways. Some ways of involvement are more detached, while others are more participatory or intimate and would indicate support of the cause you are doing business with. The difference between assisting with an abortion procedure, and caring for the person after the fact (in a general hospital setting at least, not an abortion clinic). The difference between serving food to people in your restaurant, and catering a specific event for a group. As one post I’ll link to mentions, should a Jewish caterer be forced to cater an anti-Semitic event? Seems they should have the right to decline this business. But, of course, they should not have the right to refuse to serve a meal to anyone (including an anti-Semitic person) who simply walks in to their restaurant for a sandwich.

To the point at hand, it seems a wedding photographer participates in a wedding in a very intimate way, and if a Christian wedding photographer feels highly uncomfortable with this business they should have the right to refuse it, as graciously as possible, perhaps recommending other good photographers who would more comfortably photograph their event.

And why would anyone want a business to perform a service for them if the business is highly uncomfortable with it? Their work might end up sub-par, not on purpose, but because of anxiety. I’d much prefer someone on board and comfortable with my event!  If Richard Dawkins was a caterer, why would I want or seek him to cater my Christian apologetics dinner and lecture? Unless I was just trying to be very difficult, and then I might also be afraid to eat the food. (haha)

The first century Christians had similar struggles on integrating with society. There were the “trade guilds” back then, and while the trade guilds were about business they were also intimately linked with religion. To be part of a trade guild also meant worshiping pagan gods or paying homage to Caesar. What was a Christian business owner to do?

Well, I’ve said more than I intended. My actually point was to share some links. If you are wrestling with this issue, perhaps these links will help you think things through. I appreciated them.

  • This Christian Professor/author has 2 thoughtful posts entitled: You don’t bring me flowers and Raising Arizona. I wish I could come up with such creative blog post titles! Good discussion in the comments too. He is not claiming to know the answer, but presenting thoughts and options from a Christian perspective.
  • Fiedorek: Setting the Record Straight on SB 1062. The article clarifies what the bill in Arizona was actually all about. This bill was grossly distorted. Some of the headlines I saw were ridiculous! “From what you see on TV…you might think every person in Arizona wants to stop serving sandwiches to those who aren’t heterosexual. In truth, this bill would not allow anything so ridiculous.”
  • The Morning After in Arizona. A well-known gay writer/activist Andrew Sullivan responded to the Arizona hoopla in this blog post. He makes some surprising points. He favors maximum liberty for those with religious objections, and he perceives that suing a baker or photographer for refusal of service as not the best approach. “There are plenty of non-homophobic bakers in Arizona. If we decide that our only response to discrimination is a lawsuit, we gays are ratcheting up a culture war we would do better to leave alone. We run the risk of becoming just as intolerant as the anti-gay bigots, if we seek to coerce people into tolerance…You do not conquer intolerance with intolerance.”
  • This post summarizes and links to another article. No Religious Liberty? Then No Economic Freedom, Either.  “Sadly, we seem to have left the world of reason and tolerance. Could our media climate demonstrate that any better? And what lies ahead, if left uncorrected, is illogical and tyrannical. Freedom of religion was the central principle in the moral case of our country. Once that’s gone, how long can the Republic stand? Does anyone even care?”

Again, I’m not tagging or so naming this post to attract attention. I’m not out to argue or alienate, but sharing my honest thoughts and struggles as I wrestle with an issue that affects me very personally.