I believe that laws reflect the values of a culture. What a society deems as appropriate ultimately becomes codified in laws that put certain parameters on people's behavior. Laws reflect a value system, but laws are not morals. Laws give expression to morals.
Once again, the moral question of homosexuality has come to my attention in the headlines of yesterday's The Lexington Herald-Leader. Some time ago a T-shirt printing company in Lexington, Ky, Hands On Originals, refused service to the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization. The company's managing owner Blaine Adamson, chose to refuse service after learning the order was for promoting the 5th annual gay pride festival. According to the company's attorneys, Adamson rejected the order because he did not want to support the message, "that people should be 'proud' about engaging in homosexual behavior or same-sex relationships."
However, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission has decreed that Hands On Originals had engaged in discrimination and violated the city's Fairness Ordinance (1999) that stipulates that homosexuals are a protected class of people. It's possible now that the discussion may proceed to a public hearing between the groups. What a circus that will be if that happens!
I drove to Louisville yesterday, listening to the Lexington talk radio blowing up with debate concerning this case. I heard people calling in to defend the rights of the store owner to have his own personal convictions about homosexuality; therefore, having the right to refuse service if he wanted. I heard others insist that the "law is the law" and that he had clearly violated the Fairness Ordinance of the city. Back and forth it went all morning.
So, here we are again at the intersection of a Christian's conscience guided by the Bible and law. It is clear that Hands On Originals violated the Fairness Ordinance. If we go by the letter of that law, that conclusion is inescapable to me. (But I'm sure that the lawyers will split hairs that I can't even see) But, there is a much bigger issue here than just the letter of the law.
In regards to homosexuality, the Lexington ordinance is an example of the shifting values of a culture and may be exemplary of the legal future of our country as a whole. By making homosexuals a protected class, Lexington's law makers have given a moral thumbs up to homosexual behavior. Again, behind every law is a value that creates it. And behind that moral value is a source of authority for the value that creates the law. If homosexual behavior is morally acceptable, then it is perfectly proper to create laws to protect homosexuals from discrimination. If homosexuality is wrong, then it seems just as appropriate to create laws to discourage the behavior. This has actually been the case in the past. Many of such laws against homosexual behavior were labeled as "crimes against nature." Most have been repealed since the 1960s, but some are still on the books. Of course, nowhere are such laws actively enforced. Few people stop to ask how those who went before us could have ever created such laws - laws against sexual activity. And the laws were not restricted to homosexuality, but adultery as well. It begs the question of what source of authority were such laws founded on. The obvious answer is the Bible.
Today, the Bible, which has in the past been a primary moral source of authority for giving shape to our laws, has been pushed to the side as antiquated, no longer having the influence it once exerted on the public. Today, sexual behavior has been categorized as a purely personal choice and has become essentially an amoral topic for many. Sexual behavior is an area that is no longer under the scrutiny of God's Word. Sexual behavior is now under the category of "live and let live," a private choice.
So here is the tension. What are Bible-believing, Christian business owners to do? Laws are increasingly forcing them to give consent to behavior that they believe God has clearly said is wrong. For Bible-believing Christians homosexual behavior is not just wrong for them, it's wrong for anyone. This is a position that is becoming increasingly unpopular and one that our laws are going find ways to punish.
The choice may eventually boil down for some between capitulation to the law or breaking the law through civil disobedience. Again, laws are not the same thing as morals. And sometimes in history laws have not been moral. And when this happens people of conviction have defied those laws and endured whatever punishment the governing authorities has levied against them. Many, many examples of this exist. Christians who defied Roman Emperors, Protestants who defied Roman Catholic authorities of church and state, Anabaptists who defied local laws for conscience sake, Germans who broke anti-Semitic laws in Nazi Germany, and African-American civil rights activists who broke segregation laws are just a few examples of when allegiance to a higher authority motivated many to break man's laws.
I believe that we are witnessing in my lifetime a moral shift of enormous scope and significant consequences. I see a country unfettering itself from its biblically informed law system in regards to sexual behavior, and replacing it with laws that essentially punish those who want to adhere to the old understandings. My concern is that God will give this country over to it's own "degrading passions" as described in Romans 1. When God's abandoning wrath comes against a people, then their ruin is certain. Only genuine repentance will lead a people back to a place in which they honor God and worship Him rather than themselves and their idols.
Christians, get ready to stand now. Know what you're standing on. Don't be moved no matter what the cost. And by the way, right now churches are exempt from such fairness laws. But don't count on that remaining the norm.
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