This Pattern Suggests Conservative Christians are Being Targeted

By George Yancey Published on August 30, 2016

I do not tend to pay attention to what people say; I am much more interested in what people do. If a group claims they are not biased, I need to see the evidence for it before I will believe it. Talk is cheap. Actions are what count in my world.

The talk, concerning religious freedom, has been that Christian conservatives are not being targeted by anyone; rather they are being punished for not making public accommodation. If that were the case, then in theory if non-Christians likewise declined to engage in public accommodation they should face the same costs as Christians.

We have seen the financial penalties Christians have paid in cases such as Barronelle Stutzman, the florist, or Sweet Cakes, the bakery. We have seen the social costs brought to Memories Pizza for a statement that they would not cater a same-sex wedding. So in theory those who act in similar ways, but not identifying themselves as conservative Christians, should be punished the same way by advocates of public accommodation.

Thus I decided to do a thought experiment. I tried to find at least ten times where non-Christians declined to engage in public accommodations, and then I looked at whether any of these were penalized as Christians have been. Here are the ten cases I found:

  1. Walmart refuses a request to make a cake featuring the confederate flag, but does make one featuring the ISIS flag.
  2. A church is told that an extension of its lease will be denied because of its pastor’s hateful rhetoric.
  3. A landlord advertises that he will refuse to rent his apartment to Donald Trump supporters.
  4. When Westboro Baptist Church members find their tires slashed, local businesses refuse to fix their tires.
  5. Pharmacists are sent a letter encouraging them to use their freedom of conscience to refuse drugs to be used for the death penalty.
  6. A video shows Muslim bakers telling potential customers that they will not bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.
  7. Jim Henson Company announces that Chick-Fil-A can no longer sell Muppet toys with their meals due to the CEO’s stance on same-sex marriage.
  8. A Colorado baker refuses to bake a cake with a Bible verse that criticizes homosexuality.
  9. Johns Hopkins University refuses to rent rooms for descendants of the Confederate soldiers even though they rent rooms to other organizations.
  10. A hotel in Bermuda ejects the Heritage Forum and disallows two speeches by Ryan Anderson for their “anti-diversity” message.

To be sure, I find some of the people and beliefs represented on this list to be quite repulsive myself. But opinions of that sort supposedly do not matter in the theory of public accommodations. The operating principle, we’ve been told, is that we are not to allow personal tastes or moral beliefs to influence who we will serve in our businesses. It seems to me that a principle like that should apply for both Christians and non-Christians. But that has not been the case.

In each of these ten circumstances the social groups who commonly prosecute or attempt to shame Christians have either been silent or have even encouraged the perpetrators to violate this principle of public accommodation — which makes me suspect that they truly do not care about the principle, but rather about punishing people they do not like.

I sought out ten examples. I am certain there are more. I wanted ten because with only a couple examples it could be easy to find a way to rationalize this kind of inconsistency. With this many, though, I do not see how one can find any secondary principle that differentiates these situations from those where conservative Christians have gotten into trouble for denying public accommodation — unless that principle is that conservative Christians are always guilty and non-Christians are always innocent.

I offer this article’s critics a chance to prove me wrong. I offer them a chance to indicate that I am cherry-picking the news. I have found ten instances where those who did not identify as conservative Christians publicly violated, or said they would violate, the rule of public accommodation and went unpunished by law or society. If I am cherry-picking these events then it should be just as easy to find ten recent instances where Christians representing for-profit or non-profit corporations or sole proprietorships have publicly violated, or have said they would violate, the rule of public accommodation and have gone unpunished.

Any valid counter-example would have to be an easily knowable, public violation, not one that was kept quiet, since it’s very likely Christians might have kept such a thing quiet because of the expectation that it would be met with a negative response.

That’s one way my point here could be shown wrong. Here is another. Can any critic find ten recent instances where non-Christians (again, representing for-profit or non-profit corporations or sole proprietorships) have publicly declined public accommodation for any potential client, and have been punished, or at least shamed, by those who have done so with Christians?

If anyone can produce either of those two lists of recent examples, I will publish an apology at a public venue. “Recent” means no going back 20 years and talking about a society that no longer exists. If those lists cannot be produced, then those who say there’s a principle of public accommodation that overrules religious freedom should admit that for them, there’s an even higher principle overruling that one: public accommodation rules may be freely ignored except when they can be enforced against Christians.

Those who claim to believe the rule of public accommodation stands above all other rules need to know their actions reveal their beliefs more than any words they may say.

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