Are Christians discriminating against homosexuals? That is an essence of the lawsuits winding their way through the courts, including the Supreme Court. Much, of course, has been written on both sides of this argument.
Christians have a PR problem. The media persistently report that Christian small business owners want to discriminate against homosexuals. That was in fact the key argument those prosecuting a Christian baker made to the Supreme Court this week in their case against him for choosing to not bake a cake to help celebrate a gay wedding ceremony.
But beyond just a PR problem, there is a fundamental issue at stake. Here is a great summary. Christians are not asking for the right to discriminate. They are asking not to be compelled to participate in religious ceremonies that violate their faith.
At the heart of the confusion is the subtle yet crucial distinction between persons and actions. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is directed against a person. A person’s physical and spiritual nature is such that he or she experiences certain desires. All sides agree that discrimination based on who a person is would be wrong.
What some Christian small business owners object to is participation in actions that they believe to be wrong. Most religiously conservative Christians believe it is wrong to engage in sexual activity outside a one-man-one-woman marriage. For that reason, they believe homosexual marriage ceremonies (as well as, say, heterosexual polygamous ones) celebrate an action that is wrong.
For that reason, they believe it would be wrong to participate in such ceremonies themselves. They are happy to serve homosexuals. They have no interest whatsoever in discriminating against persons. But they also wish to obey their consciences, and this means they may not participate in homosexual wedding ceremonies.