Bruce Baugus is worried about assaults on religious liberty coming at Christian vendors who refuse to provide services for gay weddings. The issue is the old Kuyperian one of how deep down does my religious identity go? Does it involve primarily acts of worship and devotion or does it extend to all of life so that my conscience and religious identity are implicated even in business transactions?
The problem is that Christians look fairly selective on this one. Chances are Christian entrepreneurs have been serving burgers and gas to homosexual clients for a long time. And chances are that the food and fuel consumed by gay-Americans have not always gone to holy ends (as if heterosexuals use such energy for good purposes). So why have Christians become particularly sensitive about serving gay clients now? Duh. The issue is gay marriage, to which Christians object (as do other American citizens) and plans for such nuptials reveal the sexual orientation of clients in ways that pulling up to the drive-thru or pump do not.
I do get it and the libertarian in me says government should not coerce any person to engage in any particular business transaction — the removal of prohibitions about serving minorities does not strike me as the same as forcing a business to engage in certain transactions but I may be off on that since I am neither an attorney nor a Jesuit. But I do think that folks worked up about restrictions on religious liberty need to pay much more attention to what’s at stake in freedom of conscience. According to the confession of my communion:
The liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the gospel consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin, the condemning wrath of God, the curse of the moral law; and, in their being delivered from this present evil world, bondage to Satan, and dominion of sin; from the evil of afflictions, the sting of death, the victory of the grave, and everlasting damnation; as also, in their free access to God, and their yielding obedience unto him, not out of slavish fear, but a childlike love and willing mind. All which were common also to believers under the law. But, under the new testament, the liberty of Christians is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, to which the Jewish church was subjected; and in greater boldness of access to the throne of grace, and in fuller communications of the free Spirit of God, than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of.
Where you find in that a plan for expanding notions of religious freedom from worship to decorating wedding cakes is not altogether clear. Baugus seems to acknowledge something behind this point when he concedes:
. . . providing a good or service is not always the same as participating in the activity for which it is procured. Yet in some cases it may be a way of participating in or endorsing the activity.
Heck, if your conscience is really really sensitive, or if your w-w is turned up high, you’d never leave the house because that would mean endorsing the ways of all the unbelievers with whom you interact in the course of car driving, grocery shopping, and mail sending.