The Golden Rule

Last Friday the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, by far the most aggressive legislative step taken to protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination. In essence the act creates a subsection of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (CRA). The CRA already outlaws discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability.” The Equality Act adds (under the heading of sex) “sexual orientation or gender identity.” Despite the fact that this bill has very little chance of passing the Senate, LGBTQ rights advocates consider even its passage in the House to be a victory for this group that continues to be marginalized and discriminated against.

Some conservative religious liberty advocates believe that there are problems with the legislation as it stands now. Included among these advocates are the General Conference and North American Division Leadership, which released a statement raising their concerns. While the statement does not directly state their concerns, if those issues are similar to other organizations, they seem to be twofold. First, there are no explicit protections for religious institutions given in the bill. Second, the bill explicitly states that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) cannot be used against, or provide a defense from, a claim arising under the Equality Act. This means that religious adherents (individuals) cannot use their faith as a justification for discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. While I think the church and other religious liberty advocates are correct as to their first concern, the second concern gives me pause.

To be fair, the Equality Act is silent on the question of how this would affect religious institutions. The assumption could be made that the Equality Act is mostly concerned with editing the CRA and as such whatever religious exemptions apply under the CRA would still be in effect if the Equality Act passed.[1] However, it is important to show a commitment to religious liberty by making it statutorily clear that this law will not rob religious institutions of moral self-determination. It is also possible that such incremental changes are simply a part of the give and take within the process of writing a statute. Similarly, the draft of what eventually became the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act did not include explicit protections for religious speech. Despite the fact that such explicit protections were not necessary, the bill was amended to state that the law was not targeting religious speech protected by the First Amendment. The bill went on to pass with bipartisan support. The same thing could happen here and there is no harm in reinforcing our commitment religious freedom and free exercise, even in this sensitive area.[2]

The discussion regarding RFRA and religious individuals is a little more convoluted. In short, RFRA states that the government can only substantially burden a citizen’s free exercise right when there is a compelling state interest and the legislation is narrowly tailored to address that compelling interest.[3] In bypassing RFRA, the House is essentially stating that they believe discrimination against the LGBTQ community is a compelling state interest such to justify the burden to free exercise on the part of religious adherents who would want to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. Laying aside the issue of constitutionality, I agree with the congressional intent expressed here.[4] I explained that argument before in this space so I don’t want to rehash it, but conversations I’ve had with other attorneys about this issue in the last few days were illuminating.[5] I always frame my objection to the ability of religious adherents to discriminate against the LGBTQ community in thisway – if a shop owner can use their religious beliefs to discriminate against the LGBTQ community why is it that a shop owner cannot use religious beliefs to discriminate against Black people? Or women? Or Muslims? One lawyer said that it just didn’t seem right that religious business owners don’t have protections for their religious convictions. I would agree – except that the CRA already does exactly what seems unfair in the areas of “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability.” If religious adherents had a problem, they should’ve fought against the CRA.[6] The issue that I haven’t seen addressed to any ethical, theological, or legal satisfaction is why the LGBTQ community should not be afforded the same protection as the other groups already covered under the CRA. If we decide that the LGBTQ community is not worthy of such protection, then how does discrimination against them not open the door to discrimination under the categories already listed in the CRA?[7]

And so we find ourselves exactly where we were about this time last year, when the Supreme Court refused to address the primary issue in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. We are still left with what seems to be the intractable question of religious freedom. What do we do when the exercise of our religious freedom impinges upon the rights and freedoms of someone else? As difficult and as intricate as the issues can be, it may be that the answer is indeed quite simple. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”[8]

[1] After all, churches and religious institutions now have the ability to discriminate in terms of membership, employment, and a host of other issues, even when discriminating based on categories listed in the CRA. For example, despite the CRA, the state cannot force the SDA Church to hire women pastors or treat them equally, as is blatantly apparent.

[2] To be clear, as much as I despise discrimination (and think it’s a sin), if the free exercise of religion means anything it has to mean that a church can decide that they don’t want to hire LGBTQ (or Black or women) employees, or have those groups be members of their religion. I even see the merit of allowing religious organizations to put discriminatory exceptions on the use of their resources by the public (I’m specifically thinking of a church publicizing that their building is for rent for weddings or other meetings, but then restricting who can rent only to those who fit their moral criteria). I’m not sure that I agree with that position, but I do see the logic of it.

[3] RFRA was Congress’s attempt to reestablish the legal standard regarding free exercise promulgated in Sherbert v. Verner, a case involving unemployment benefits and an Adventist who was fired for refusing to work on the Sabbath. Justice Scalia overturned that standard in Employment Div. v. Smith, stating that all the government needed to satisfy the First Amendment was a neutral law of general applicability.

[4] While I agree with the intent, I can see how a court might believe that Congress is usurping the court’s role in interpreting the law.

[5] In the piece linked in this sentence I also explain why my beliefs about God also preclude a Christian from discriminating.

[6] In fact, religious adherents did fight against the anti-discrimination provisions of the CRA – and lost. In response they created a new, more palatable socially divisive issue, abortion, and started calling themselves the Religious Right.

[7] Let me take 2 options off the table. One, the idea that the issue in cases like Masterpiece is that the owner doesn’t support the moral choice of same-sex marriage as opposed to LGBTQ status falls flat to me. Moral choice can be used as a distinction in other cases that we already believe are clearly wrong – like miscegenation (i.e., It isn’t that I’m discriminating against the person being Black, it’s the moral choice of marrying a White person.) Two, for a long time there was a lot of debate about whether same-sex attraction was a choice. Besides the fact that the evidence over the last 15-20 has been moving away from that position, even if we posit that it is a choice the argument would still be found wanting. The fact that something is a choice does not automatically mean it is not worthy of protection from discrimination. Under the CRA there is one other category that is clearly a choice – religion.

[8] Matt 7:12

Jason Hines is a former attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at AdventHealth University. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at www.TheHinesight.Blogspot.com.

Previous Spectrum columns by Jason Hines can be found at: https://spectrummagazine.org/author/jason-hines

Image Credit: Unsplash.com

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9641
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The appeal to the golden rule at the end of this essay only underscores the dilemma. The religious person who is inclined to discriminate against an LGBTQ individual, when asked how he/she would want to be treated as an LGBTQ person, might reply that he would prefer for those who know “the right way” to live, to make him/her aware of it (by way of that act of discrimination) rather than to ignore it by exhibiting no discriminatory behavior.

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This only works in about 95 percent of the population whose interests are shared within 2 standard deviations from the mean. There are those outliers who are skilled enough to massage enough votes to get elected as officers of companies and religious organizations who think their 5% is shared by the other 95%. Case in point, some of our church leaders and independent ministries whose hearts are anchored on the LGT/Male Headship doctrine.

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Efcee,

Thanks for reading. I actually think you’re right, but in the wrong way, if that makes any sense. It seems to me that the standard that you present is not the golden rule. The golden rule, as cited above, asks us to do to others only what we would be OK with being done to us. The standard you have laid forth seems to be, “do unto others what you would want done to you, if you were the others.” So the issue is not how would someone who is inclined to discriminate against an LGBTQ individual want to be treated if they were an LGBTQ individual. The Golden Rule asks, "How would you want to be treated if you were the one who needed the service and the LGBTQ individual was withholding it from you because of who you are? Now to be fair (and this is why I think you may still be right despite the fact that I think your construction is wrong), the Christian might say, well those are the breaks and turnabout is fair play. If the LGBTQ shopowner wants to discriminate against me because I’m Christian, I’m willing to put up with that so that I can discriminate as well. There may be Christians who believe that. However I’m skeptical - and I’m skeptical because the largest element of religious liberty in our church is centered around making sure we are afforded the protections granted to us so that we are never in the position of that LGBTQ couple walking into a cakeshop looking for a wedding cake.

Jason

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Maybe I am wrong, but it was my understanding that the cake shop owner was OK
with making a PLAIN wedding cake.

  1. Just allow the recipients to add their own decorations to what he would have done.
  2. Refused to CATER the reception. They could pick up the cake at the shop and
    take it to the “church” themselves.
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I think, better than the Golden Rule, we might ask ourselves, what would Jesus do?!

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Jason,

First, there are no explicit protections for religious institutions given in the bill. Second, the bill explicitly states that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) cannot be used against, or provide a defense from, a claim arising under the Equality Act. This means that religious adherents (individuals) cannot use their faith as a justification for discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. While I think the church and other religious liberty advocates are correct as to their first concern, the second concern gives me pause.<<

Where there is nothing specifically written to not allow relief from the government making laws either respecting an establishment or preventing the free exercise therof there is a problem that allows this bill to TRUMP the rights guaranteed in the 1st amendment. We can no longer depend on good intentions or fair play or the golden rule towards religious liberty in anything related to civil law. It must be written in the law to provide relief from the state!

Two, for a long time there was a lot of debate about whether same-sex attraction was a choice. Besides the fact that the evidence over the last 15-20 has been moving away from that position, even if we posit that it is a choice the argument would still be found wanting. The fact that something is a choice does not automatically mean it is not worthy of protection from discrimination. Under the CRA there is one other category that is clearly a choice – religion.<<

“Long time”…most of history! I consider that “science” that attempts to define behavior as a “must and necessary outcome” to be" soft science" and theory. Genetic chains and brain science studies do not prove behavior outcomes as law…as hard science. I do operate under the assumption there may be/likely genetic propensities. Our environment also informs behavior but ultimately human choices lead to behaviors. It is one thing to say we have science to deal with behavioral problems through study and observation. It is another to claim to have the provable repeatable links of genetics, choice and behavior that all “samples” must follow. That, I suggest is the concern of scripture. Our behaviors being in the process of being reformed by scripture through the HS despite our genetic or environmental background. We are all dead in trespasses and sins after the fall by nature…

if a shop owner can use their religious beliefs to discriminate against the LGBTQ community why is it that a shop owner cannot use religious beliefs to discriminate against Black people? Or women? Or Muslims?<<

The difference James is that the 1st amendment guarantees the “choice”, as you put it and freedom of religion. There is no specific right offered all chosen choices and behaviors. I thought many insisted on the “freedom of the will/free will”. If genetic propensities drive a certain behavior as automatic, how does that apply?
Likewise being a woman or Black is not a behavior and Being a Muslim is under the 1st Amendment.
This shotgun approach needs to be sorted out a little to make sense. There are some Muslim and Blacks and women, I suggest, offended and outraged by being grouped in your illustration.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” <<

So shall we take this to reductio ad absurdum so that if we want to be treated with respect and freedom there are no boundaries acceptable to disagree with or expect civil law against?

Regards,
Pat
PS. Bold is NOT yelling. it is for emphasis!

Well, I think of one sexual behavior example in the woman taken in adultery. They were taking advantage of someone different than themselves, claiming freedom from their own judgment, and wanted to stone her.
First, he pointed out the accusers sins…then he asked her where her accusers were. He then said , go and sin no more. No hall passes to any of us but abundant forgiveness offered.

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Forget the shop owner. forget the “golden rule”. Instead, lets say the LGBTQ wants to be the pastor in your church. You say NO! Have you discriminated him? Let’s say the LGBTQ becomes a LGBTQ after being a pastor i your church for years. Since the practice - “the practice” of homosexuality is a learned experience, and you certainly don’t want such a person teaching your children or your membership, and you want to terminate his position, that will certainly be classed as “discrimination”. Am I wrong?

Except,for a few fundamentalist, close minded, die hard bigots, there is almost universal agreement in the scientific and medical communities that gays and lesbians have zero input / choice / selection in the determination of their same sex attractions.

Their heterosexual siblings and cousins, similarly cannot assign themselves an opposite sex affinity. ——— in short, NO ONE can choose their sexual orientation… whatever they are born with is their fate.

So why is it that gays and lesbians, innocent in the choice of their orientation, are subjected to brutal discrimination in public housing, rental housing and employment in many locations in the USA ?

An equality law, just passed in our lower house of Congress would give LGBT people a legal recourse to combat such unfairness.

This equality law was egregiously opposed by our GC president.

IMHO overt bigotry, in our Christian culture, is fostered and festered by hateful homophobic texts and slurs in our Scriptures.

God had to have known since time immemorial that the gays / lesbians He created, has zero choice in the orientation He assigned them.

So how cruel, callous and sadistic of Him to foster gay bashing, gay bullying and gay mirder with His Biblical slurs.

A case in point is INDIA, subject to British rule from 1848 to 1957.
— a decades long subjugation —
as a result Indian law was based on British jurisprudence.

Thanks to Anglicism ( CHRISTIANITY ) the British laws which criminalized homosexuality, ( even with consenting adults ),
were incorporated into Indian law.

So for over 150 years, homosexuality was a criminal offense in India.

This despite the fact that HINDUISM has no constraints against homosexuality in their basic tenets. Religious liberty did not prevail when another religion imposed its taboos./ restrictions. on people whose own religion had no such constraints.

Generations of LGBT Indians were driven into the shadows, unable to fully embrace their sexual and gender identities. Only in 2018 was this egregious law finally repealed. — decades after India’s Independence from Britain…

Just as the British imposed their religions punishments on people of another faith, so would TW, our GC president, impose his anti gay bigotry ( derived from Scripture ) on people of other faiths and people of no faith.

It is egregious, unconscionable and indefensible that in the guise of a a fake “religious liberty “ our church would adversely affect five per cent of our population, who only desire fairness when it comes to housing, jobs, employment and other basic human rights

Across all ethnicities, races, tribes, religions and cultures, there is a compelling demographic — about five per cent of each population is born gay / lesbian. This includes five per cent of our Adventist offspring.

The latest deplorable, despicable support of discrimination by our church hierarchy should be a red light / wake up call to those LGBT members still in our pews.

This denomination does not have your best imterests at heart when they are prepared to deny you housing, jobs and employment, just because God created you with same sex attractions.

Time to.move on to more just, equitable, loving, inclusive and non discriminating congregations,

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Just curious. At what age and how did you “learn” to practice heterosexuality?

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In reality Robin I think you are right to move on. Perhaps Methodist, PCUSA, AME, or other church that accepts lesbians and gays would offer you more support and fulfill expectations where you are.
That is if you choose as a principle, Christianity.
Not my dog fight. All the best.
Pat

Patrick,
I have already moved on to my splendid
United Methodist Congregation ,
which promotes FULL PARTICIPATION for all
races,
classes,
genders,
abilities,
sexual orientations,
and gender identities.

THIS MANIFESTO
IS PUBLISHED IN EACH WORSHIP BULLETIN
AND ON THEIR WEBSITE.

Furthermore it is presided over by a senior woman pastor whom I adore.

Their local conference president is female as is their Bishop.

The Methodists have been ordaining their clergywomen since 1956!,

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Glad you found a home.

Their right to do…

When the little girl next door played nurse with me. I was convinced.:slight_smile:

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I am just reading Milton Hook’s book on Desmond Ford. Fantastic story, but very disturbing too. The heresy of perfectionism has been one of the major issues in the Church since inception. But in the 1950s until 1980s there was an increase of attacks against the Church. Now operating under a disguised identity (LGT) the same heresy penetrated even in the GC. The President is a LGTarian. So the Church is fried now!

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Did you ask Him this question yet? Any answer to share with us?

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Elmer: That is a mute question. I have been in, was, in medicine for 57 years including my MPH from LLU. the Practice of homosexuality is a learned experience. It taught from one boy to another or one girl to another. And it is not sanctioned Biblically.

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It is obvious that you have no experience or even proper education in Mental Health. To make a judgment as yours and posting statements as if they were in any way valid or true is not ethical - especially when making statements about other human beings’ lives. Careful, statements like you may have some people to become so discouraged that they can even take their own lives. Just irresponsible!
My suggestion to you is, take down your dangerous post.
@elmer_cupino @cincerity @pattigrant

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