Out of Lexington, KY we see how civil rights laws or ordinances that include sexual orientation or gender identity can come into conflict with religious liberty. The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that the organizers of Lexington’s annual gay pride parade (the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington) has filed a discrimination complaint with the city’s Human Rights Commission against Hands On Originals, a Christian owned t-shirt company, when they refused to produce apparel for the event. Below is a picture of the graphic that went with the order that was refused.
The owner of Hands On Originals, Blaine Adamson, issued the following statement:
Hands On Originals both employs and conducts business with people of all genders, races, religions, sexual preferences and national origins. However, due to the promotional nature of our products, it is the prerogative of the company to refuse any order that would endorse positions that conflict with the convictions of the ownership.
The story then quotes Raymond Sexton who is the director of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission whose stated mission is to “to safeguard all individuals within Lexington-Fayette County from discrimination because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, familial status and sexual orientation/gender identity in connection with employment, housing and public accommodations.”
His organization will conduct the investigation into Hands On Originals. Sexton made some troubling comments:
If you have other organizations using their services and they’ve made T-shirts for them, and this organization is not allowed and the only difference is sexual orientation, that could be problematic… Religious exemption is a valid defense under the local ordinance, but it’s typically reserved for churches. If you’re Hands On Originals, you’re a business, not a religious organization. You’re into T-shirts.
It seems like his mind is already made up before he even starts an investigation. Sexton pointing out that they are not a church is why I have problems with civil rights language that includes sexual orientation or gender identity at the local, state or federal level. There is no protection of religious liberty for those who are not a church. In most cases Christian owned businesses can (and should) serve all customers, but in this instance it was the matter of the message and not the messenger that is the problem so to speak. It isn’t an individual homosexual ordering t-shirts for a little league team or some other event. Rather this group, and I have to believe this was intentional (I mean they’re the only company in town?), wanted to have this Christian-owned company to produce a t-shirt which violates their convictions.
Consider the reverse, how would this group feel if a homosexual owner of a t-shirt company was asked to produce apparel for say… a “Love Won Out” conference or some other event that spoke out against homosexual behavior? I would suspect they would (and should have the right to) refuse the order.
If religious liberty means anything it that an individual’s, in this case the owner of Hands On Originals, religious conscience is protected. The First Amendment protects freedom of religion, not just freedom of worship, so it includes religious conscience and conduct. A governmental agency should not be allowed to compel a citizen to violate their religious conscience or conviction. But here again we see another instance when religious liberty buts up against homosexual “rights” the First Amendment doesn’t seem to matter.