12 March 2015

It's just a simple sign right?

A new piece of legislation - HB1371, the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act - has been introduced by Representative Chuck Strom (R-Ok) concerning "any marriage ceremony, celebration, or other related activity" and those persons who might not wish to participate in them.

Representative Emily Virgin (D-Ok) has introduced this proposed legislation that would require
Any person not wanting to participate in any of the activities set forth in subsection A of this section based on sexual orientation, gender identity or race of either party to the marriage shall post notice of such refusal in a manner clearly visible to the public in all places of business, including websites. The notice may refer to the person’s religious beliefs, but shall state specifically which couples the business does not serve by referring to a refusal based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or race.
At first glance, one might think this amendment a step in the right direction because - at least on the surface - it would maintain the right to refuse service requiring the violation of religious beliefs so long as the existence of an objection was publicly stated. This is a further protection of religious freedom, right? It's just a simple sign, right? Not exactly.

Notice that this amendment allows a business to refuse service based even on the "race of either party," which, unless I am mistaken, would be a violation of the federal Civil Rights Act. Representative Virgin's amendment - probably unintentionally - justifies and protects racism, which is morally evil and, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, is "incompatible with God's design" (1935).

The posting of a sign, though, isn't so much about making the lives of same-sex couples easier by saving them time shopping around - the law suits brought against such businesses thus far seem to have purposefully sought out those already known to be opposed - as it is about singling out those who oppose the redefinition of marriage. By publicly singling them out, they will be able to be more easily targeted, intimidated, silenced, and shut down. That is, of course, the end goal, and anyone who says differently isn't paying close enough attention to what is happening.

In fact, it's already very recently happened to Barronelle Stutzman, a florist in the state of Washington, who was labeled a homophobe even though she provided service to people she knew to have a same-sex attraction; she simply would not provide flowers for what she believes is not an actual marriage (and which, in fact, is not, even if the government decides to say it is) and in which it would be immoral for her to participate.

As I consider this proposed requirement to post a sign, I cannot help but think back to Hitler's Germany, in which Jewish businesses were required to post a sign that they were owned and staffed by Jews. It was a simple and public declaration that made it easier for those who did not wish to conduct business with Jews. But it quickly became an easy means to target the Jews and remove them. Do we have any real reason to think the same cannot happen with a requirement that Christians post a sign on their storefronts?

Some will object that the Nazis targeted Jews because they hated Jews and that it did not concern whom they decided to serve. This is true as far as it goes, but to suggest that there are not those in the United States of America who hate Christians not because of whom they chose to serve but simply because they are Christians is to plunge one's head deep into the sand.

Barronelle Stutzman refused to service a same-sex "marriage" because she knew that - as a Christian - she simply could not do so. She knows that her religious beliefs are who she is and that they cannot be separated from what she does. She is not alone in this right conviction, even if most Americans who claim the name of Christian do not understand such an integrity of faith and life stemming from their baptism into Christ Jesus. What is more, those who hate Christians - and their number is not dwindling - know this, too. And they are looking for ways to target them.

I very much hope my fears are unfounded but, if history teaches us anything, they are all too possible.

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