(Des Moines, IA) Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) last Saturday during his appearance at the Des Moines Register’s Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair spent his entire time on taking questions. He was asked if he believed businesses should be allowed to discriminate against LGBT persons.
I wanted to highlight his response because it stood in stark contrast from what I heard during U.S. Senator Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) Rally for Religious Liberty the night before.
“No, no they should not,” Christie answered. “Listen we have a system of laws in this country. Those laws need to be followed. The fact is that religious organizations should be protected from having to do anything that violates their religious beliefs as a religious organization. That should be protected. But other businesses who want to do business should be able to do business under the laws of our country.”
“When I take an oath of office as Governor I promise to enforce the laws of the state of New Jersey, not the laws I like or the laws that I agree with, but all the laws and if we don’t want to have a country of men and women but a country of laws where everyone is treated equally that’s what we need to do so religious organizations absolutely should be protected. Everyone should be freely able to practice their religion the way they see fit, but businesses should not be allowed to discriminate no,” Christie added.
There are two primary problems with this point of view. First Christie doesn’t appear to grasp the difference between discriminating against a person and objecting to a message or practice. Dick and Betty Odgaard had served homosexuals at Gortz Haus in Grimes, IA on numerous occasions. When they declined to host a same-sex marriage ceremony their problem was not with the person who asked. Their problem was with the ceremony which would require them to participate in an event they felt violated their religious conscience
Similarly Melissa Klein, a baker in Oregon who was given a massive fine because she declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony as it violated her religious beliefs. This was a repeat customer whom she had served before. The problem again in this instance wasn’t the person – she’s served that same customer before, it was the event.
One last example, Blaine Adamson who owns a T-Shirt company. Adamson was asked to make t-shirts for the Lexington, KY gay pride festival. He declined. The problem wasn’t with the customer as he would have made t-shirts for a different event for them. The problem was the message. The complaint against Adamson was later dismissed.
Frankly I don’t think it’s good business practice or loving for Christians business owners to deny goods, services, employment (provided it’s not a religious organization whose mission would be compromised) or housing because of someone’s sexual orientation. That isn’t what we are talking about. If he made that distinction I personally would not have any qualms with that, but the only distinction he made was for religious organizations (by the way, that is not an endorsement of LGBT folks being a protected class).
Should a black-owned t-shirt company be forced to make t-shirts for a KKK rally? Should a Jewish baker be forced to decorate a cake with a swastika? The common sense answer is no.
Second, Christie’s position does not respect true freedom of religion, but what he seems to advocate is a freedom of worship. He said, “people should be able to practice their religion as they see fit,” except if they are a business owner. Granted there are always consequences when people of faith take a stand on marriage, but those should be free market consequences, not government sanctions and fines.
Protecting religious organizations doesn’t go far enough.