The big news story of last week was certainly the controversy over a bill in Arizona, which would have given businesses the right to refuse services to people based on religious reasons. Of course, many gay and lesbian groups were at the center of this debate because they could have been in a position of being denied services due to the religious beliefs of many people in business. The bill was meant to protect businesses from being protected by lawsuits over the refusal to give services to groups like the gay and lesbian group. The governor of Arizona eventually vetoed the bill.
My thoughts on this story are many. First of all, when someone starts a business or are in a business, they need to realize that their customer base can be potentially very diverse. Excluding a certain group of people due to their sexual orientation or race can be very devastating to your business. Imagine if I started a fancy restaurant in downtown Minneapolis and I posted a sign on the window which said “No gays or lesbians allowed” My restaurant would not survive more than a couple of months. Not only would it offend all gays and lesbians, it would also offend many straight people. Word gets out quickly these days and your reputation as a business is crucial to your success. It would be foolish for most businesses to turn away potential customers and lose valuable revenue.
Having said that though, I don’t believe any private business should be forced to serve anyone. It is their business and resources. How they run their business is entirely up to them. If they want to risk losing many customers, well that is their own problem. If I get turned away from some business because I am a straight white male, I will just take my money and business to some other location that will welcome me with open arms. I would be offended by the business that turned me down due to my straightness, but one businesses’ loss is another one’s gain. Why should the government get involved in determining who and who should not get served at a private business?
I often wonder what the motives are behind the gay and lesbian individuals who sued over being denied business. A gay couple recently sued over a bakers refusal to make them a wedding cake. Was there not another place where this couple could go and buy their cake? It seems like this couple were just being jerks by suing this baker. Suppose that some very religious older couple was running a very successful bakery just outside a city. The business had been thriving for many years. Suddenly one day, a gay couple walks in and wants a wedding cake made for them. The elderly couple refuses because of their deep faith and gets sued. The gay couple wins the suit and the elderly couple are forced to go out of business. That is one of the consequences of what this bill might have protected against. I fully understand the feelings of many gays and lesbians in regards to this bill. They claim discrimination, but what about the rights of the businesses? Is there not a thing called freedom of religion in this country? I believe it is in the first amendment. It is just not about the rights and claims of discrimination against just one group of people. We also have another side also in this debate and I think many people are neglecting that point.
If I run a business that involves working with children and somebody wants to put up an ad for a porn site on my website, I certainly have a right to deny serving them. I think this issue really boils down to what type of service any business is forced to give. Forcing someone to perform a service which is totally against their religious beliefs is totally wrong. Nobody in this country should be forced or bullied into something that is not consistent with their religion. Being denied service at a restaurant for just wanting to enjoy a nice meal with friends is one thing; it is a totally different issue when you try to force your lifestyle against someone else’s beliefs.
I believe this Arizona controversy is just round 1 of many to follow across the United States. The gay community is winning the war because they are the loudest. Many people of faith are afraid of standing up for their convictions. This issue will expand ever further in the near future. I can just see some church or pastor getting sued because they refuse to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony. In the process, the church loses their tax-exempt status and folds. Churches beware! You are next in line. This debate over religious freedoms and protections is far from over. It could get very heated and ugly in the near future. Both sides certainly deserve their rights but where do you draw the line?