Religious Exemptions, Public Policy & LGBT

There has been a big court case going on in England regarding a gay couple who sued the owners of Cornish Bed & Breakfast because the gay couple was denied occupancy based on the owners of Cornish B&B’s Christian faith. You can read the story here. The ruling just came down this week that it was unlawful for the owners of the B&B to deny service to the gay couple based on their Christian beliefs. The gay couple, who sued for 5,000 pounds, won 1,800 pounds in damages. If you want to read in extreme detail about the case from a British legal perspective, go here. But what I want to talk about is the scenario if this situation happened in America, in an American context.

So let me set the fictional scenario:

A gay couple takes a trip to a cute little bed and breakfast on Lake Michigan in Geneva, IL. The owners of this B&B, which we’ll call The Inn, are a straight, married Christian couple with conservative Christian values. They have run The Inn for a number of years and still work at The Inn on a daily basis.

In taking the reservation The Inn didn’t realize it was a gay couple, as the reservation was made under just one person’s name. There has been a rule at The Inn for a number of years saying that they have the right to deny service based on their Christian values, and there has never been any issue with that rule. But when the couple showed up to check in, the owners of The Inn, who were working behind the front desk at that moment, saw they were a gay couple, asked them if that was the case, and then denied them service – explaining to them that their faith believes that same-sex couples go against biblical law and thus, cannot stay at The Inn – and all of their money was refunded on the spot.

The gay couple then sues for discrimination based on sexual orientation. The remainder of this post are some of my thoughts regarding a potential scenario like this one…

Within American law there is such a thing as a Religious Exemption. The simplest way to define it is that religious entities are exempt from having to abide by certain federal law when it conflicts with their religious belief system. The best example of such an exemption is that Catholic hospitals are exempt from having to perform abortions, and cannot get in legal trouble for denying abortion requests, even though abortions are legal in the Untied States. 

The separation between Church and State provides for such exemptions to take place. Though there are many twists and turns when it comes to the details of the public policy of ‘religious exemptions’, here is what I see as my thoughts of what is fair to the Church and fair to the State:

Registered churches, charities and NGOs that are legally documented as having a religious affiliation should be able to dictate their own hiring and service practices based on their registered religious beliefs.

Hiring is defined as: Once a person is hired in a full time position, regardless of gender, race, disability or sexual orientation, they are mandatorily given full benefits of insurance, 401k, pension, etc. In essence the registered church, charity or NGO would have the right to hire individuals according to their theological belief system. The same is true for the service practices—e.g. Catholic hospitals have the legal right to not perform abortions.

If you are not a registered church, charity or NGO but rather just a person of faith running a company, organization or institution, those entities’ laws and service requirements must align with the Federal regulations of equal protection and anti-discriminatory practices. Though the owner might be a person of faith, their for-profit entity does not fall under the religious exemption for registered churches, charities or NGOs and thus, must fall under the non-exempt rules and regulations for hiring and service.

Therefore that gay couple would have every legal right to sue for anti-discrimination and win. However, if that B&B was a Christian retreat center that governed their hiring practices and service under the religious exemption as a church, charity or NGO, they would then have every right to deny service under the exemption.

Thoughts?

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • http://www.crestfirst.com,66in360.wordpress.com Zach

    Excellent argument Andrew. I haven’t looked through the British legal documents, but I understand the “religious exemption” law in the US to be as you described it. If a situation like your fictional story occurred stateside, it would probably play out exactly as you described it.

    A possibly bigger question would be, “Why, as a business, align yourself as a ‘Christian business’?” I live in the Carolinas, and there is a outdoor advertising company that puts the Jesus fish on the bottom of all of their billboards. I also know of a lot of local small businesses that have developed reputations as “Christian businesses” that people in my local church always try to support by shopping/receiving services from only Christian businesses when possible. Are we, as Christians, really trying to alienate ourselves ever further?

    • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

      I actually don’t know WHY folks would align/market themselves as a Christian business if their goal is mass market appeal and profit – seems like an intentional limiting of their consumer base. I can SEE why someone would do that, but from a broader business perspective it doesn’t make too much sense. Then again, you know how us Christians turn out and spend when something in the mass market comes out as Christian. If I had a business I would be a Christian guy running it, but trying to make as much as I could from as large of a market share as possible.

  • Bryan

    My understanding of the B&B story is that the Christian couple had long refused to have unmarried couples sharing one room. This would apply whether the couple was straight or gay. And according to their beliefs, gay partnerships are not ‘marriage’ in the Christian understanding of the word. So the gay couple could stay there, but would have to get two rooms.

    Maybe that seems antiquated to some but this is their home that they are renting out essentially. I guess I don’t see the problem if they feel that by renting out a room to unmarried couples, they would be indirectly condoning or facilitating immoral conduct.

    • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

      Bryan – That is very true. They didn’t discriminate between non-married straight or gay couples in the same room. Through my Christian worldview I can totally grasp their moral logic and point of view. And I feel that you are also viewing this situation through a Christian worldview as well.

      I guess the bigger issue is, though, that they have no legal right to deny service based on their Christian worldview because they are not running a Christian entity, regardless if it’s their home or not. If they incorporated their home as a business, then their home is under the federal (secular) regulations just the same. This is not me arguing for one side or the other, it’s that when it comes to legalities and federal regulations, Christian worldview is judged separate from secular policy in business practice.

    • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

      The Christian inn-keepers in question say they refused any unmarried couple, but several former unmarried het guests came forward in the course of this investigation and talked about how they were able to stay at the B&B without problem.

      • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

        Interesting point Jon. I didn’t see that info.

        • http://www.livingitout.com Rachel

          And the gay couple were in a civil partnership – the law over here says that businesses etc must treat those in a civil partnership exactly the same as those in a marriage. As I understand it, this ruling doesn’t change the right to turn away un-civil-partnered same-sex couples if you also turn away un-married mixed-sex couples.

          (I feel a lot more secure now the same-sex couple won! Just imagine being turned away, how grim)

  • http://benlemery.com Ben

    I almost wonder how difficult it would be for a glbt couple to sue if an Inn is forthright on their views of Christian values, etc., or could the Inn counter-sue if there is evidence that they were targeted specifically because their Inn holds to these values. In that case, wouldn’t it also be discriminatory that to prove a point, they were picked so that this issue could exist.
    While you are right that “religious exemptions” exist, we have seen Christian fellowships on college campuses targeted/hijacked by GLBT Christians stating that they could not hold positions of leadership in the group because of the values stated. The courts have, at times, been in favor of the GLBT groups because the organization exists within the confines of a public university.
    If I were getting sued for this, I would counter-sue on the grounds of reverse discrimination and also state that if someone wanted to open an Inn or a campus fellowship that ascribes to those views, you very well have the freedom to do so. Also, based on commerce, a person has the freedom to not go to a certain place of business if they choose. I think cases like this remove the responsibility of one to force it on another, which is ridiculous, especially over moral arguments such as this.

    • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

      Ben – That is the exact reason why no legal action has been ruled upon in the US regarding such a scenario. Years ago I remember it being tried once (can’t find the link for it), but the counter-suit from the Christian folks were exactly what you said, and the cases were dropped. That’s an interesting scenario though. I do wonder how it would play out in our court system with the counter-cuits and all because in essence, they both would be arguing the same point.

      • http://benlemery.com Ben

        It also matters which courtroom you are in. If it happened in California, the likelihood of it being judged towards the GLBT would be more favorable under the 9th circuit as opposed to being judged out of Florida which has a more conservative bench. As we are seeing with the health care bill, these things are being strategically tried in specific regions of the country based on which bench will be judging them.
        Just a thought.

        • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

          Huh. Never thought about that. Sure makes sense. It’s stuff like that, though, that make you realize how wack, un-uniform and round-about our entire legal/political system is.

    • Travis Humphrey

      Your comment doesn’t really make any sense. It doesn’t matter if a business is specifically “targeted” to test a non-discrimination law. This has been a main tactic of the civil rights/social justice movemenst since their beginnings. I don’t see how you would have a counter lawsuit against someone because they are suing you for discriminating against them.

      There is no federal law against discrimination in employment, housing, or public accomodation based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the US. Twenty states and a number of cities and counties provide some level of protections for LGBT people.

  • Ramiro Medrano

    @Zach, this sounds more like branding & allows fellow Christians as a consumer the opportunity to support each other’s businesses. Unfortunately, this allows for closed community or as I like to refer to it: creation of the “bubble”. Those who decide to label themselves as Christians, must then settle on whether this defines the lifestyle of “in the world, but not of the world. This becomes the challenge, who will they evangelize? Since everyone around them is also a believer. Who will Jesus save? Are Christians elitist and discriminatory? Could the faithful couple have used Incarnational Witness & Relational Ministry to reach the gay couple?

    • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

      I love that Ramiro! I don’t know why, but I never thought about the branding of “Christian business” as an extension of the Christian bubble in culture. Fascinating… You’re right, then, in what is the point of ‘being in the world but not of it.’?

  • J.Random

    These anti-discrimination laws were largely established as a means of addressing racist practices. The same legal principle that makes it illicit to hang a “no coloreds” sign and refuse to serve serve black people is what makes it illegal to hang a fish on your door and refuse to serve gay people. I don’t think that’s ridiculous.

    • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

      True. Begs to question how far a service regulation in the religious exemption can go?

  • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

    Let me just say that if my husband and I were traveling and had made arrangements for lodging and then showed up and were told that our lodging bill was doubled due to having to rent two rooms, I’d be pissed. And I’d tell my friends. And I’d probably blab about it on my blog for a while.

    • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

      No doubt. I’m actually shocked nothing like that law suit is yet to happen and make national headlines here in America.

  • Julie

    Does the religious exemption govern both hiring and service? I know it applies to hiring, but I’m less certain how the service part works. This is something I’ve been curious about for a while, before even reading this post.

    In regard to hiring, a church can refuse to hire someone over theological beliefs, but a business (not incorporated as a religious entity) can not. So it’s correct to conclude that the inn keepers could get sued if they refused to HIRE based on age, race, sexual orientation, etc.

    But do they have the right to refuse “service,” or not? I regularly see signs in stores saying “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” I always understood those signs to be primarily a way for them to kick out unruly teenagers from their establishment, but it has broad-reaching implications in cases like your example. Do they really have the right to refuse service to anyone, or do those kind of signs & policies violate discrimination laws?

    Can they refuse service only based on behavior (i.e. unruly teenagers), but not based on protected classes (age, race, gender, sexual orientation)? Or can they really, as their sign indicates, refuse service to anyone for any reason? Anybody know how the law works in this matter?

    • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

      The Salvation Army is reknowned for it’s refusal to serve gay people in certain communities.

      Most recently, there was a homeless shelter in Georgia ironically called House of Mercy that refused to house two women b/c it was assumed that they were lesbians (the women deny that they were actually lesbians) (source: http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/441566/georgia_'house_of_mercy'_homeless_shelter_refuses_to_serve_gay_and_lesbian_people/)

      There have been plenty of case of Catholic and Christian private schools that have kicked out or refused to admit gay & lesbian youth or the children of gay and lesbian couples.

      Religious exemptions are nice in theory, but in practice they make Christians look like a@@-hats.

      • Julie

        Jon, thanks for your quick response. It’s sad to hear that this is going on in Christ’s name.

        As a legal question, I’m interested in knowing how the law applies to organizations that are not registered as religious organizations. I have this suspicion that those “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” policies in businesses might be a violation of discrimination laws, but I’ve never been clear how the law works in those cases. Do you know how that works?

        • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

          The following is as far as I know (and I might be wrong in some of the nuances):

          That “we reserve the right to refuse service” for non-religiously exempt organizations cannot legally refuse service to any of the protected classes (race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc). All they can refuse service for is individual conduct (language, dress code, unruly, etc) and payment/lack-their-of.

        • olterigo

          Dear Julie,

          In majority of the states you can fire someone for being gay, you can refuse to rent them housing, and you can also refuse them service. In the majority of our united states. And Christians regularly use that fact. But Christians also don’t stop there. They also actively campaign against such protections. And when and where they can vote to roll those protections back – for an example look what is happening these days in Montana – the Christian-Republicans are trying to pass the bill that will prohibit protections for LGBTs to be adopted locally. Pretty much just to reverse what the city of Misoula did, the only place in Montana that just passed them.

          Here’s an op-ed from last year from NYTimes: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/opinion/13sun2.html . As you can guess with the Republican majority in the House and with the minimum requirement of 60 votes in the Senate, this law won’t be passed for the next 2 years at least.

          So, that’s the state of those protections. Oh, and Andrew, that Roman Catholic Church you were worried about – it usually opposes those laws too.

      • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

        Jon – I know the Salvation Army gets a hard time for that link that you posted, but I also know for a fact that the Salvation Army employs ‘out’ gay and lesbian people. They can’t be “officers” but they can work for the S.A and recieve benefits. Actually, one of the gay men I know who works for them is in GA. It’s unfortunate that some individual places get represented for the whole entity.

        • Jack Harris

          “They can’t be “officers” but they can work for the S.A and recieve benefits. Actually, one of the gay men I know who works for them is in GA.

          –Gee thats the kind of organization I want to work for…lol. I stopped donating to Salvation Army a LONG time ago. The word regarding their policy is pretty much common knowledge. There are so many other ways to give to charities that do not discriminate. I choose those over “The Salvation Army”.

  • Jake Hogan

    It makes me embarrassed to hear what people do in the name of being Christians. I can remember one particular innkeeper that I learned about as a child that not only let an unmarried couple (see Matthew 1:25) stay in his inn, but went out of the way to find a place for them, even though the woman was PREGNANT OUTSIDE OF WEDLOCK! Thank God there were no Christians around when Jesus was born, lest he not even have a manger in which to sleep.

    • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

      That’s so true.

  • Sam

    As the manager of the business where I was employed a few years ago, I was approached by the sales rep for the “Christian Yellow Pages” (or some similar name?). I asked him why our business would want to advertise in their publication. He replied that some people think that Christian businesses tend to be more honest and tend to do better work. I asked him how the publication was distributed. He said it was made available to churches to give to their congregations.

    I leafed through the then-current edition of their publication, and recognized several businesses with which I was familiar. I was surprised that they had advertised in such a publication. I did not think they were more honest or did better work. Perhaps some of the advertisers were sincere, but I thought advertising in the publication was just a gimmick for some, designed to attract Christian customers.

    • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

      We have to be honest here – most Christians in this world believe that other Christians are more honest and better than anyone who is not a Christian. Sad.

  • Mrs T

    This is supposed to be a free country. A business should have the right to refuse service, but the great thing is that the customer also has the free speech right to tell his friends not to patronize that business! Another person has the freedom to start a competing business. In the long run, it all works to help the public more.

    As for outwardly Christian businesses, I would guess they may be more honest, but they may be poorly run or be fake & not really Christian.
    The consumer has to be careful whatever he does.

  • Nate

    My question is less about whether organizations can “discriminate” in this way, and more about whether they should. What does that say about acceptance to the world? Obviously, a church would want to make sure its pastors follow and believe the principles of that particular church/denomination, but I think it gets stickier in a service organization or NGO/non-profit when the role doesn’t specifically relate to promoting a particular belief. I work for a very large non-profit that only hires Christians. All employees must sign and agree with a broad statement of faith, or the Apostles Creed. The organization is ecumenical so it will hire evangelical protestants, mainline protestants, catholics, etc. In addition to the statement of faith, the organization has a code of conduct that employees are expected to follow. The code of conduct is more specific in outlining what is proper and what is not from a Christian perspective. Some of the stuff is straightforward, but some of the stuff has varying levels of acceptance from different denominations. So is the organization really ecumenical, or have they just in effect created their own denomination? I guess I’m less concerned about the organization only hiring Christians, but more concerned about them having a list of rules that narrowly defines what a Christian is.

  • http://nojam75.blogspot.com Norm!

    Hi Andrew,

    I appreciate your viewpoint; however I think your understanding of US fair housing and employment laws is incorrect. US businesses do not need to claim religious exemption to discriminate against gays and lesbians because US law does not currently prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians in housing or employment. Some states and cities do prohibit discrimination against LGBTs, but I’m not aware of any protection under federal law.

    Unfortunately, if the UK gay experienced the same discrimination in the US, they could not successfully sue under federal law. Hopefully, the US will someday catch-up with the UK and more fair-minded countries.

    • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

      Thanks for linking those two pieces of info. I was under the impression that there was some type of ruling within the majority of the States that have done away with those, but as you pointed out the Federal law is still the same.

      • http://nojam75.blogspot.com Norm!

        I couldn’t find any precedent, but I’m certainly not an attorney or legal expert. You may be right that a legal precedents have been set somewhere in the court system — especially after Lawrence v. Texas. Unfortunately, federal law isn’t explicit, so it seems to me that anti-gay discrimination is still allowed in interstate commerce.

        Fortunately though, I believe and hope that most American business owners believe in fairness and professionalism regardless of their personal convictions.

  • pm

    Andrew wrote in LIAO Chap2_pg37: “The Christian community has only ever known one way to handle same-sex sexual behavior: take a stand and keep a distance. Productive dialogue comes from cognitive insight and can only be accomplished through an incarnational posture of humility and living as a learner.” As this blog demonstrates, we can share our insights and openly participate in a productive dialogue. The ‘fairness’ of our cultural differences can either become a rally-cry of ‘fighting their way out of the corner”, or a starting point to find ourselves, our neighbors and communities in a process of living in the tension to seek, listen and learn from each other. If ‘travelling broadens the mind’ then elevating the conversation is making a systemic difference.

    • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

      Love that conclusion (last sentence) you wrote!

  • Ashley

    I’ve only recently begun to join such conversations, and its almost always with a little bit of emotion, perhaps because I’m still working these issues out for myself.

    First, I struggle with Christians who believe that laying down rules is the best way to be a witness to the rest of the world. If the Innkeepers are denying a gay couple lodging based on their own convictions, it seems unlikely that the couple will leave with a good impression of Christians. Does that mean Christians should bend to every client’s desire? No. But perhaps in loving and accepting people instead of excluding people, Christians would have a better chance of living out their mission as witnesses of Christ. Perhaps…

    Secondly, I disagree with the whole argument that a person or business can and should be able to counter-sue on the grounds of reverse discrimination. The Rosa Parks of our world wouldn’t really get anywhere if they only went where they were wanted. I would think targeting areas of injustice in our society would be a priority for Christians – of course, they would first have to decide whether denying services to a person on moral grounds is unjust.

    Imagine if Jesus had lived by those same standards… if His services of healing and salvation were only for those who live according to His standards of purity. Shoot, if that’s the case, we’re all screwed.

    • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

      Thanks for joining in on the convo Ashley! I had not thought about such direct terms as you put it in your last paragraph, but it is so true – what if Jesus did put qualifications on his engagement… Crazy to think about.

  • http://late-emerger.blogspot.com Andrew Martin

    Speaking as a UK Christian, I was sad about this case – but convinced that the court was right (and probably even just, as well). My own view is that the Bed and Breakfast owners are mistaken in their understanding of the bible – but that is almost incidental.

    More profoundly, I’m sad because it strikes me that one of the central messages of the Sermon on the Mount is that we show the love of God by embracing those we don’t see eye-to-eye with. What does “love your enemies” mean if not offering a bed to people whom you don’t think should share a bed? How are you more likely to win them round to your point of view: by turning them away, or by welcoming them in?

    In the same way, when church members fall out over such issues, wouldn’t a generous spirit, full of grace, be a better picture of God’s love than rushing into court to try to claim the keys of the church building?

    Didn’t a wise man say “If someone sues you for your shirt, give them your coat as well.”? I know it’s easier said than done, but isn’t that our calling?

    • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

      Great name! It’s funny because I get called Andrew MarTin a lot, because people just assume that there should be a T in my last name :)

      I believe, with all my heart, that much of what Jesus said about cultural engagement is even too countercultural for today. So countercultural, indeed, that the majority of Christians can’t even wrap their heads around a tangible application of what such unsatisfying service and reciprocation could look like. You hit it right on the head.

  • Rob

    My guess is that if this was to happen here in the US, the innkeepers would be sued and would lose badly.
    My thoughts on this are that I think if a business owner wants to discriminate they should be allowed to. If we are striving to be a society that is open and respects the beliefs of everyone, then as long as it doesn’t prevent someone from pursuing Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, then we should respect peoples beliefs, even if they are offensive to the mainstream. In a market driven society, mainstream will usually win out in that a business that discriminates in a offensive manner probably won’t continue to receive much business.
    If I decide to open a store selling widgets and wobbles, but clearly state I will only sell to people named “Bob or Betty” that should be my right. I won’t sell very much, but I should have a right to be stupid if I want.
    The LGBT couple should leave politely and gone down the street, there are tons of B&B’s in Geneva.

    • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

      Did the UK B&B owners clearly state their policy? They were in contact with the couple in question at least twice prior to their visit and never brought up that they were only interested in serving married couples.

      How easy is it for a couple or a family to find a B&B on the drop of a hat, especially in a strange community?

    • Ashley

      If you sell the best widgets and wobbles in town, and all my friends named Betty and Bob are telling me how great they are, I will feel disappointed that I can’t buy a great widget or wobble too, just because my name is Ashley and not Betty. I guess the question is when is it discrimination that I can’t have a widget or a wobble? What if you are the only widget/wobble distributor in my area? What if other stores only sell inferior ones? Or if their price is more than I can afford?

      Is anyone else reminded of racial tensions with stores and restaurants being required to serve African Americans as a result of the Civil Rights Movement? From JFK’s Civil Rights address in 1963, “It ought to to be possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public accommodation, such as hotels and restaurants and theaters and retail stores.”

      It seems that a society that allows businesses to discriminate on any basis is a step backward, not forward.

  • Geoff G.

    I’d suggest turning the question on its head.

    Do you think a gay bar ought to be able to kick someone out because he or she is straight? Should a bar that caters to lesbians be allowed to keep men out?

    When I think about the kind of environment that I’d like to enjoy on a Friday or Saturday night from time to time, my own inclination is to say that yes, in order to protect the identity of the business, the owner should indeed be allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender.

    Well, what’s sauce for the goose ought to be sauce for the gander. In the same way that I really don’t like straight women invading my favorite leather-and-bear bar (I do love my hags, but some places really aren’t appropriate for them), I can completely understand the need for certain Christian businesses to protect their own identity as well.

    In reality, this really isn’t too much of a problem. Gay-oriented businesses tend only to advertise within the community and are very transparent about what they are. Presumably for the hypothetical Christian-based B&B under discussion the same would be true–I’m not likely to mistakenly book them while browsing through Orbitz.

    Certainly misunderstandings may very well happen. I would hope that, under the circumstances, the Christian B&B would not just refund any money paid immediately (honesty demands no less), but also assist in finding alternate lodging arrangements with a minimum of muss and fuss (as dictated by charity, not to mention customer service). Under those circumstances, I personally would feel nothing but gratitude towards the Christian proprietors; I have very little desire to spend my own vacation in an overtly Christian B&B that disapproves of my “lifestyle.”

    Obviously when dealing with a larger company, particularly a local monopoly, my attitude would change. If I lived in a small town and the local grocer decided that selling me food really didn’t accord with his Christian beliefs, then we’re dealing with a scenario where I’m being run out of town. Being denied lodging at a B&B or a drink at a bar is one thing. Being denied the means to survive is quite another.

  • Nathalie A.

    my thoughts: the christian couple have a right to their belief and the gay couple should be able to stay at an inn. i respect both sides.

    it seems to me that we need to examine ourselves and distinguish between religious faith belief and personal discomfort/distate

    if the inn keepers view homosexuality a sin or against biblical law, be sure to not also elevate one sin above another. would they deny the inn to someone who lies or steals if you carry this perspective? in one way i can see how lgbt people can be more disicriminated against in comparison to some other sins or identity categories, because people assume appearance. as for the gay couple, i wouldn’t want to stay in a place i am not welcomed.

    i appreciate the legal discussion, but i’d like to hear more of people’s perspectives. do you think the case was right or wrong? what nuances would you want to examine?

    i’d like to hear andrew’s perspective on the case. do you agree with the ruling? do you agree with american law as we understand it? should the legal system change? should individuals be able to adhere to personal beleif or should they be forced to conform/accept/?

    much love and truth to all

  • jjJoniJ

    I believe gays and lesbians should try to stay at gay owned inns as much as possible, and thus avoid the homophobes completely. If I’m spending hard earned money on a trip, I most certainly don’t want to have to deal with straight christian bigotry anywhere on the trip. So I ask around, get the low down on any given town or place, and check in for the gay safe places, and by safe, I mean places that welcome me, celebrate me, and actually want to have me be there. An anti-gay place can be picketed, can be called out on the internet, there’s ways to deal with evil straight people are their horrifying inns, restaurants and “entertainment”– it’s why we create gay neighborhoods worldwide, and why such a large part of gay life is invested in travel companies, B & Bs– there’s even a lesbian cruise line, because cruise ships are horrifying to lesbian couples. Among other things.
    A vacation to me is a vaction from all anti-gay bigotry– I have enough to deal with at work.

  • jjJoniJ

    And, one of the joys of a vacation is meeting other gay couples along the way. My girlfriend and I have been delighted to meet other lesbians all over the world. It’s great, there’s this openness, the places a lesbian world takes you, the friendship, the exchanges… we’ve made many lifelong friends because of chance meetings in different cities. Had we not been in gay friendly places to begin with, these friendships never would have materialized. Would a straight couple ever invite you over to their home in some town? Would you even trust such a situation to begin with? Compared to a lesbian couple inviting you to visit? The safety for women is paramont… I know that I can go to a lesbian bar just about anywhere in the world, or a lesbian bookstore, and be certain that I have no fear of men hiting me, or some man drugging and raping me, which is what happens to straight women on vacations all the time. I think as a lesbian I am far more careful in where I go, because men rape and kill women… women never do this stuff to each other on trips.

  • Debbie Thurman

    I think you all have pretty much covered the reasonable spectrum of perspectives on this. Some insightful responses.

    FWIW, I’ll just add that I’ve never been a fan of “Christian Yellow Pages” or hegemony in business for any group, although I do understand why it is done. I particularly understand why gay bars (and churches) came into existence. I love how Joe Dallas once talked about the lessons churches could learn from gay bars, i.e., unconditional love, support and a nonjudgmental atmosphere. I guess that’s why Andrew and the TMF folks can frequent these establishments without raising an eyebrow these days. Many Christians may be loath to point this out, but the obvious truth can’t be denied. Of course, it applies to some straight bars, too. The Church ought to wise up and realize this.

    Were I the owner of a B&B, restaurant or any other service establishment, I would have to realize that the world is peopled with many sorts, and I could not control who may come walking through my door, especially if I didn’t choose to place a prominent sign somewhere that identiifed it as a “Christian business.” And some would come in just to push that button because they would perceive such a sign as a form of passive discrimination. I would be compelled to show kindness to all comers, and treat them even-handedly, unless they were obviously violent or disturbed. Showing someone kindness is not condoning whatever sins they may be privately or publicly guilty of. Since I am not without sin, I can’t cast that stone.

    It also is an inconvenient truth that some of the vilest cheats in business I have had the displeasure of working with over the years have been so-called Christians. It is true that some (a small percentage, mind you) do use the Christian label as a marketing tool only. Others are just old-fashioned, selfish, lazy hypocrites.

    Many Christians are so fearful that “the gay agenda” is going to sweep away their religious liberties or freedom of conscience or association. We all are entitled to speak out on public policy, vote our consciences and allow the democratic process to play out. But how many have forgotten the significance of their “first love” as Christians? Focusing on that all-important relationship with Christ keeps all in perspective. That is how the Church maintains its proper role in witnessing, right living and discipling those who are capable of being discipled.

  • Kris Smith

    I am just thinking that even if they are a for profit they should be able to set some policies for their business and they should be posted on their web page. If they are a Christian business and want only Christian values to be upheld under their roof they should make it known when a customer is booking the room. You can call it discrimination if you want -but every business has rules… and not all businesses are run the same way; and not all Christians believe the same way.

    I will say that – I recently served breakfast at a bed and breakfast to an unmarried elderly couple who decided not to get married because they liked it that way. There was a twinge in my spirit that thought -this isn’t right…but my mind said…to each his own. It is tricky when the rules of the world almost force people to stay unmarried for financial reasons.

    I was thinking about the earlier comment about Mary and Joseph…Matt 1: 24-25 describes them as being married before the birth of Jesus.

    • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

      The problem is communicating your business’ discriminatory Christian-only policies to potential guests. Going back to the British situation, the gay couple called the B&B after booking their room and said that they were planning on bringing their dog and asked if that’s going to be a problem. What an ideal time for the owners to describe their guest policies, in my mind. But it’s easier to turn them away or send them to two different rooms and charge them for two rooms than to be bold with each and every booking and communicate which potential customers you house and which potential customers you don’t.

  • Kris Smith

    Jon, I am also in favor of compassion. If I were the business owner -I would have tried to offer them 2 separate rooms if they were available.

    • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

      What’s the price differential between the two: single room vs. two rooms?

  • Kris Smith

    They should not be charged extra since the owners did not disclose their terms.

  • jjJoniJ

    The best thing to do is to call the inn or b&b and ask them directly if their place is gay friendly. Always ask, and get them to be honest. Just like Jews had to call and ask if Jews were permitted. There is discrimination everywhere, and we’ve had some really really bad experiences, and still do.
    I’m older now, have less patience, and don’t want to be around bigots. Just don’t and won’t tolerate that on a vacation.

    Also, I really really want to support gay friendly businesses. Nothing like going to a new town and seeing a gay flag outside a curio shop or restaurant–it means I can go in, and ask about local events, get the low down on what’s safe and what’s not, that sort of thing.

    I also don’t want to be overcharged the way straight structures have done to us for eons. You don’t want bigots in your home, right wing idiots fixing your plumbing, you don’t want to financially support any group of people who are politically against the betterment of the gay world, and all it fabulousness. Those of us from a certain generation faced such horrific in your face nastiness, that I won’t ever forget it. Talk to Jews, Blacks and gays of a certain age, and you’ll get the real story of how “{christians” behave…I’m so sick of them.


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