Illinois judge orders Christian inn owners to host same-sex wedding

Religious Liberty
by Bonnie Pritchett
Posted 4/01/16, 11:42 am

An Illinois administrative judge has given the owners of a bed and breakfast one year to provide their facility to a gay couple “for an event celebrating their civil union.” The order, part of a decision handed down March 22 in a discrimination case filed by the two men, also includes an $80,000 fine.

In September, Illinois Human Rights Commission Judge Michael Robinson declared Jim and Beth Walder, owners of Timber Creek Bed and Breakfast near Paxton, Ill., in violation of the state’s Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination in public accommodation based on sexual orientation.

In a 2011 email exchange with Todd Wathen, Jim Walder said because the Bible “contains the highest laws pertinent to man,” his inn would never host a same-sex wedding or civil union. Walder’s attorney, Jason Craddock, said compelling the couple to do what it had refused to do out of Christian conviction is “out of bounds.”

“I was disturbed by the idea that someone practicing their faith could be seen as an outrageous act,” Craddock said.

Craddock will request a stay of the penalties while his clients appeal the case to the full commission. The $80,000 fine includes $15,000 each to Todd and Mark Wathen for emotional distress and $50,000 in legal fees. The American Civil Liberties Union is representing the gay couple.

The decision also requires the Walders to “cease and desist” their continued violation of the non-discrimination statute and begin accommodating weddings and civil unions for same-sex couples. But Walder insisted they wouldn’t comply.

“To be absolutely clear, we cannot host a same-sex wedding, even though fines and penalties have been imposed,” he wrote in a response to the ruling.

The judge’s ruling did not indicate the consequences for non-compliance.

The Wathens filed the discrimination complaint in February 2011 following the email correspondence with Jim Walder. During testimony, Todd Wathen said he and his partner were looking for a venue for the ceremony they were planning once the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act went into effect June 1, 2011.

In his client’s defense, Craddock argued Todd Wathen only made a general inquiry about civil unions hosted at Timber Creek and never requested a reservation. Walder told him the inn only hosted weddings. Wathen wrote back and accused the proprietor of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Walder responded that his convictions were grounded in what the Bible, not human law, says about sexuality and marriage and for that reason the inn could not host same-sex wedding ceremonies.

In a final email, Walder quoted Romans 1:26-27, the apostle Paul’s admonition about homosexuality.

“[God] is loving and kind and is ready to forgive all men their trespasses, including me,” he added.

Robinson judged Walder’s statements and scriptural citations as evidence of discrimination.

“[Mark and Todd Wathen] have provided direct evidence of Walder’s discriminatory animosity towards their sexual orientation, and that such animosity played an operative role in respondent’s refusal to schedule same-sex civil unions at its facility,” he wrote in his decision.

But Craddock insisted his clients were not motivated by hate.

“He simply was following the dictates of his faith,” Craddock told Robinson during a November hearing. “And, actually, although you may find it ironic, was showing love for the Wathens in his communication and in his action.”

Robinson dismissed the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection Act as applicable in the case because, by his analysis, the Walders did not explain how hosting a same-sex civil union ceremony is tantamount to a public endorsement of the event and “a substantial burden on [their] exercise of religion.” 

“Evidently, religious freedom does not exist within the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act or the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act,” Walder wrote after the ruling. “We may be out of step with an increasingly anti-Christian culture, but we are in compliance with God’s design, and that is what ultimately matters.”

Bonnie Pritchett

Bonnie reports on First Amendment freedoms for WORLD Digital.

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  • mp
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    The real issue is whether or not the State can force one to act contrary to one's conscience as informed by God's Law. If it can then no one is safe from being forced to comply with any state order no matter how heinous.

  • Lizzy's picture
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    MiamiDan,Thank you for fleshing out some of what was not clear to me in your previous post.  I agree with you some (many?) within the American Christian church do tend to believe that if you obey or stand for God then the outcome will be the one you are praying for.   I also agree that Romams 8:28 doesn't promise what most American Christians seem to think it does.  (Ditto for Jer 29:11).   I misunderstood what you were trying to say before because the way I took what you wrote was that someone who held firm to their belief in God and acted accordingly still might not end up in heaven - it didn't occur to me that you were talking about getting tangible evidence while taking that stand.  There have been very few times in my life when there was a tangible awareness of God, which I suspect is why we are exhorted over and over that clinging to the promises by faith is necessary and Paul reminds us in 2 Cor 5:7 that we walk by faith not by sight. God is no matter what we think or don't think of Him and no matter how things are going here in the physical world but it requires faith to believe that.It occurs to me that perhaps some of our disagreement on the issue of the cake and the misunderstanding about the tangible presence of God might be due to differences in background and experience.  Living in the northwest where much of the early push to drive Christians out of business has occurred and where the gay community is much larger relatively speaking than in other areas of the country, I see little indication that baking a great cake would be seen as anything other than an endorsement of their sexual behavior being okay with God. We have churches here that proudly proclaim their inclusiveness in having members who are openly practicing homosexuals.  You can find a number of churches where you will never hear a word preached against any kind of sexual sin or for that matter much of a focus on the idea of sin period.  But as I have matured in my walk with the Lord I have come to realize that you can't separate God's love from His holiness and it is only by embracing both that you can hope to begin to appreciate how great the sacrifice was that Christ made on our behalf.  This is why I would maintain that legal or not - participating in the celebration of a gay wedding may seem loving but ultimately is one of the most unloving things you can do. Love untethered from God's holiness will lead no one to salvation.  In the context of where I live baking a wedding cake to celebrate gay marriage will be seen as an endorsement and that is what the activists out here are looking for - either further proof that it is only a minority of bigoted Christians who would be against gay marriage and/or getting those Christians who take their faith and God seriously banned from being able to be open about out beliefs in the public square.  No Christians out here BTW have been unwilling to sell off the shelf cakes or flowers or photographs to gay people, it is strictly about the endorsement of gay behavior as not being sinful that is evidenced by celebrating a gay marriage that is the issue.  The experience in the Episcopal church taught me a lot.  The priest who told me that only love could lead people to God did so because he honestly believed that.  But over time that one dimensional depiction of God proves insufficient to sustain faith. We need to be seeking to know God in His fullness for the truth of Him to really take hold in our hearts.  That is why I still believe that yes we need to show God's love to all people including gays, but we need to show it by also being honest about how costly that love can be.  To turn your hypothetical around (and referencing 1 Cor 10:28-30), couldn't making that custom wedding cake be the stumbling block set in a gay person's path that keeps them from ever truly knowing God?  By uncritically providing that custom cake (which I assume would not be accompanied by any reference to the fact that God calls homosexual relations sinful), wouldn't that be far more likely to reinforce the idea that God is okay with the gay relationship and make it more unlikely that the gay couple would ever seek true salvation?  Wouldn't you be at risk of putting that stumbling block in their path?To return to the main point of the article - you have made an eloquent case for how you think the baker could act Biblically in creating the custom cake and seeing it as a witness.  But, while acknowledging that it is at least equally valid for a Christian to decide the opposite, aren't you in effect saying that only the person whose belief's can be adjusted to fit within the current trend of governmental belief should be allowed freedom to express that belief in the public square?  For the baker with a genuine conscientious objection to baking the custom cake for a SSM ceremony based on his Biblically informed belief, aren't you in effect saying sorry but no freedom of religion for you?  Because you have determined that in your eyes that there is an equally valid belief that makes providing the cake ok doesn't that give support to those who say betray your conscience or be sued out of existence?  And out here we are not just talking about the business being shuttered - personal assets such as retirement accounts are being targeted and cash windfalls being awarded to the suing parties for the pain and suffering of having a custom wedding cake from a particular bakery denied them.  Part of my frustration with allowing the government to decide the approved set of beliefs is the fact that the courts wield a very large club in deciding how much religious liberty we retain and in punishing the dissenters.  The issue of SSM was not decided by the will of the people but by the judiciary and without Christians standing up for the right merely to be allowed to practice what until very recently was a constitutionally protected right, we will lose that right.  

  • MiamiDan's picture
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    You said, "I disgree with your apparent
    belief that the right to have homosexual sex endorsed
    by believers is settled in terms of US law."  I’m not sure what you’re referring to; I
    don’t think I even implied that anywhere. Maybe I worded something poorly? "Constitutionally speaking we
    still have freedom of religion and it is far from a settled question as to
    whether the current interpretation by the Supreme Court overrides the first
    amendment so I would argue that it is premature to surrender at this point."  Not
    sure what you’re referring to here; I don’t think I ever suggested anyone
    surrender anything.
    "Also, there are limits to obeying those
    in authority over you if by doing so you clearly disobey God."  I agree. So where exactly in Scripture does
    it say that baking a cake for homosexuals is clearly disobeying God? I’m pretty
    sure an answer to my question could be that baking a cake for homosexuals is
    endorsing the homosexual lifestyle. If that is your position, then for you and
    me, to bake them a cake would be sin. Not because baking a cake for someone who
    lives a different lifestyle is sin, but because endorsing that lifestyle is
    sin, and because for you and me, to bake them a cake is for you and for me to
    endorse their lifestyle. So, in good conscience before God, I cannot bake the cake. 
    However, the key to what you have
    written, and that you have left out of your explanation is: “...if by doing so
    you ‘clearly’ disobey God.” Well, there is no direct mandate by God about
    baking cakes being endorsements for anyone’s lifestyle. There are many
    Christians who do not have the same reservations as you and I, and who have no
    conviction whatsoever that baking a cake for a homosexual couple is in any way
    endorsing anything at all. In fact, sometimes the case is just the opposite.
    Some Christians would bake a cake out of a desire to express Christ’s love to
    the couple in the hopes that it might plant a seed. What if baking the cake was
    just what one, or both, of them needed to receive that would open their eyes up
    to the love Jesus came to proclaim to them, and they come to believe him
    because of it? What if not baking the cake left such a bitter resentment that
    it only hardened their hearts all the more? After all, we have been commanded
    to love our enemies, go the extra distance, and give the shirts off our backs.
    You see, in either scenario, the
    Christians were right. It would be sin to those who believe baking the cake is endorsing the lifestyle. However, it would be sin for those who believe they
    would be disobeying the clear mandate of God to love others even to the point
    of death if they did not bake the cake. We are commanded by God to love others;
    we are commanded by God to spread his gospel; and we are commanded by God to
    obey the government he has established over us. If the highest court in the
    land commands us to bake a cake, there is nothing in Scripture that permits us
    to disobey the government, regardless of who the cake is for. If the highest court in the land commands us to participate in the lifestyle, then they have
    just violated one of God’s direct commands, and God supersedes everything, thus we obey God's clear command to flee from sexual immorality.Someone might argue, “if they command
    me to bake a cake even though I believe it would be endorsing the lifestyle, and thus is for me a sin, then they would in affect be commanding me to sin
    against God.” No, they wouldn’t. They’d be commanding you to bake a cake. It is
    already understood that by doing so, you’re doing it under protest and that you
    do not endorse the lifestyle of those for whom you are baking it. So, in clear conscience
    before God, you bake the best cake you have ever baked with the love of God in
    your heart, and the desire for God to be glorified however he sees fit to
    glorify himself, and a genuine love for each person receiving the cake.
    "Also in your example about the young
    man.  I agree that false expectations are a problem within some branches
    of the church, although ultimately each of us is responsible for our own
    relationship with Jesus...In the meantime I see prayers such as jpc7581's as an
    acknowledgement of the powerless nature of His people apart from the strength
    He alone can provide.  We may fail God, He will never fail to walk beside
    us through whatever circumstance we are going through in this life.
    Publicly calling on Him is a way of admitting our need for Him and
    reaffirming His sovereignty over the situation however He allows it to play
    out.  And He has promised to redeem every situation for our good and His
    glory - although that may mean bringing Him glory by standing firm in Him as
    our life on earth falls apart...At the end of your first post are you implying
    that a person can be willing to stand for the Lord and not end up in heaven?"
    Do you mean about Stephen? No, of course not.
    While Stephen was being stoned, he saw Jesus at the right hand of the Father.
    What I was saying is how many others who gave their lives for Christ in a
    similar manner did not get that kind of “support” (if you will) from God as
    they were dying? God revealed himself to Stephen as he was being stoned, and
    I’m sure that bolstered his faith, helping to reassure him that he was right.
    How many Christians didn’t get that same reassurance as they were dying in the
    name of Christ? How many died without any kind of reassurance at all, without any sense of God's presence? That would tend to make you feel like you were dying all alone. That was all my point was. I wasn’t necessarily commenting on
    what jpc7581 had written, as much as I was trying to speak to one possible
    implication that could be taken from it. 
    I cannot tell you how many people I
    have come across over the years who have given up on their faith in God because
    they felt betrayed by him, because he didn’t support them in their “ministries”
    for him. We are often taught from the pulpit that if we do this and this, or
    this or that, then God promises this or that, and when that doesn’t happen,
    very often, many of us stop believing in the existence of God. It is a misunderstanding
    of who God is, but it is rampant throughout the Christian community. In fact, I
    would go as far as to say that I believe it is how most Christians live from
    day to day. They share their faith and get beaten down for it, and are angry at
    God because he didn’t defend them; so then, God must not exist.
    People take verses like Romans 8:28
    “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for
    those who are called according to his purpose,” to mean in this life now. But
    it doesn’t say that. We also tend to take it to mean that he will work it
    toward “our” good, and it doesn’t say that either. We may even readily
    acknowledge that we understand that it doesn’t necessarily mean for us in this
    lifetime, but experientially we live as though it does. There are many other similar
    kinds of passages that tend to make us think that God will have our backs in
    times of troubles, and when he is silent and unresponsive, we think he’s either
    not helping us, or else he doesn’t love us, or he’s turned his back on us, or
    else he must not really exist. 
    Jpc’s words, “I can't tell you how
    angry this makes me. God, your people are looking to you. Help,” seem to imply
    an expectation that God respond a certain way, or “have our backs.” My only
    concern was to address a possible implication so as to remind others to
    maintain their faith even when circumstances may make us feel like God has
    betrayed us, or gone back on his promises. Or to put it more simply, I was
    trying to encourage others to remember to stay strong in the faith during those
    times that we feel like God is absent, because he is not. And finally, to put
    it one more way, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them,
    for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake
    you.” Deut 31:6, remembering that death is not the end for us, and that he will
    not abandon our souls to Sheol – 1 Cor 15:42, 52; Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29; 1
    Thes 4:16; Acts 24:15.
    Hope that answers your question and clarifies what I was trying
    to express.

  • Lizzy's picture
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Hans,I appreciate your response.  I am trying to understand where you are coming from but I still have areas of disagreement.Your claim that homosexuals were asking for tolerance in the 80's and 90's but didn't get it depends on your perspective.  From the time of my engagement in the 70's to the present gay people have gone from being sort of in the closet to demanding that society treats a same sex couple as identical to a two sex couple.  My husband's best man at our wedding was gay.  At that time (1979) he was half in half out of the closet because he taught at an exclusive girls' school and his job could have been jeopardized if the wrong people found out.  That would no longer be true and I don't recall over the course of the last 35+ years as the changes occurred any gays being sued for all they had the way gays are now doing to Christians such as the florist in Washington.  If you are going to call it intolerance that there was a push to define marriage as between one man and one woman as it had been since before the founding of the country, we will have to disagree on whether that is intolerant of gays and if it is if it rises to the same level of personal animus that gays are now showing toward Christians. Personally, having known many gay people, I have never net a lesbian who doesn't think like a woman or a gay man who doesn't think like a man.  Sexual preferences aside, men and women are fundamentally different.  The union of a man with a woman unites these two fundamentally different beings into a union with the potential of creating new life.  The union of two people of the same sex not only can't create new life, but at it's deepest level does not unite two fundamentally different beings.  When God uses the concept of marriage in describing the church as the bride of Christ, He uses this image of the union of  two fundamentally different beings, God and man.  It is part of why some of us believe that to call the union between two gay people a marriage is not only going against God by glorifying a sexual relationship God has declared sin, but it is also sacrilegious against the institution of marriage as God ordained it.  Trying to preserve the term marriage to describe the unique relationship when a man and a woman join to be as one would not seem to me to be intolerance.  It is just fighting to continue to call marriage what it always was.  What gay marriage advocates were calling for was a redefinition of the word marriage to cover not only the unique union of a man with a woman but other couplings which didn't include that essential ingredient of uniting two fundamentally different people. As for my slippery slope argument, if practicing authentic Christians are driven from the public square and if the culture continues to shift in the way you seem to believe is preordained, then I see no reason to believe that any sort of religious liberty will be guaranteed.  We are only a Supreme Court Justice or two away from losing any of our liberties.  As it is, I am coming to the conclusion that the founders were right when they said that if we strayed from being a moral people we would be at risk of losing the republic.  At present this nation seems to be running on the fumes from the past - what it will look like in anther decade or so remains to be seen.  The country that we live in now is most assuredly not the one of my childhood, nor is it the one of my young adulthood.  Morally speaking things that are now acceptable would not have been and not just in the arena of sexual license.  Truth and honor and impartial justice all seem to be slipping away as ideals and there will be a price to be paid unless the pendulum starts to swing back and there is no guarantee that will happen.  I remember being told as a much younger person that at any given point we are only one generation away from fundamental change and if we don't pass on the values we believe in we are at risk of losing them.  I personally think we may be at that point where they are lost.  As for your last point, "My point, in sum, is that there is no meaningful legal ground to stand on here, and that Christians ought instead to make use of the ethical framework they already have in place for understanding the difference between complicity in immorality and providing services in the context of morally dubious situations."  I think this is very dicey ground.  Scripturally we are not to partake of meat that has been sacrificed to idols if we are informed of it.  And that is where I have a problem with your hypothetical.  I would have no problem selling an apple to anyone - but if they told me that apple was to be used as a sacrifice to a Hindu god, there I might draw the line.  See 1Cor 10:28-30.  The reasoning Paul uses seems to fall along the lines of not wanting to cause another to believe that because our conscience might be clear it doesn't mean the other person won't be led into sin.  I admit I am not a Biblical scholar so it is still just a question on my part.  But because it is a question I would rather err on the side of being obedient to what I believe we are being asked to do.  An example from my own life is a recent request I had to make a prayer flag for someone.  Right now prayer flags are popular in the art quilt world and most of the makers seem to be unaware that they have a religious significance, but because I didn't want to create a flag that might cause someone to believe that I as a Christian endorsed the use of prayer flags, I declined.  Was I right?  I have no idea, but when it comes to matters of conscience, I would rather error on the side of caution.  So I guess, at the end we will just have to agree to disagree.  I will continue to support the right of Christian business people to not be forced to provide items for a gay wedding that may be seen as endorsement of their sexual union and if the laws and society go as you seem to hope, then I will trust that God will provide for His people to be able to remain faithful to Him until He takes us home.

  • Hans's picture
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Lizzy, thanks for your thoughts. Allow me to answer the second question first. I think that it is important for Christians to change their approach to this issue in significant measure because the battle is already entirely lost, if not legally, at least culturally. I appreciate your desire for a compromise of mutual tolerance, but unfortunately, the concept of tolerance in this culture war has to now only been fostered by the losing side. The LGBT community argued for tolerance in the 80s and 90s when they were the minority; now Christians are arguing for it because they are in the minority. The fact remains that if Christians wanted tolerance they should have made it their whole agenda back when the culture was beginning to shift; instead, they started a losing battle and now are feeling the effects of their own scorched earth policies turned back on them. I want the madness to stop before it goes any further.I think that you misunderstand my point about the first amendment. I agree with you that the first amendment gives us the right to exercise our religion in the public sphere. My point was rather that our first amendment rights are not absolute. That is why the government rightly bans businesses from operating on principles of discrimination against particular races, even if the business owner does so according to his principles of conscience. So also, fundamentalist Mormons are not allowed to practice polygamy regardless of their religious convictions. The law places all sorts of restrictions on religious freedom. In this case, the question is whether a business owner can rightly refuse services to someone because of their sexual orientation (since legally the government recognizes no distinction between a gay marriage and a heterosexual marriage). As I said before, it is not enough merely to say that we should be protected under the first amendment, since our right of conscience is not protected absolutely.To me the legal question is essentially a moot point anyway, given that within a decade or two the culture will have shifted significantly enough that for a business to openly refuse to serve gay couples will sound its death knell anyway. After all, I assume we both agree that the first amendment does not guarantee anyone the right to have their religious views deemed acceptable by society, even if they are protected legally. A racist today has a legal right to say racist things, but if they do so in the public sphere, they will be (rightfully) reviled and shunned. You are bothered by the fact that businesses that take a stand face financial catastrophe, but again, surely we both agree that in a few years, the legal protections will be irrelevant because any business that takes a stand would be instantly blacklisted through mere social pressure.I disagree with your slippery slope argument of "today the bakers; tomorrow the church." The freedom of speech in America has an unbelievably strong precedent, regardless of the rantings and ravings of extremists on both sides who want to have it curtailed. The Supreme Court has upheld the rights of the Westboro Baptist Church to promulgate their rank hatred at the most offensive places on the basis of their right to freedom of speech. They might be the most despised church in America, but their rights to speak and act as they do are well established. So I have little worry that the church will be forced to change its message, or that the church will be forced to perform gay weddings, since there is literally no precedent for the government forcing the church to perform any religious ceremony of any kind for anyone at any time. The government does not force racist pastors to perform mixed-race marriages, but it certainly forces racist church members who own diners to serve all races without discrimination. The businesses in question are not religious organizations; they are places of for-profit business, and as such are subject to a different set of regulations. The fact is that Christians here are facing a losing battle legally. The reason why I am not concerned, going back to my original point, is that Christians have a long history of operating in the public sphere among non-Christians. I can grow and sell an apple to a Hindu who tells me she is going to offer it on the altar of her god without being complicit in her idolatry. I realize that you see a categorical distinction between an exchange of goods and an "artistic endeavor," but surely you see that the law recognizes no such distinction? They are all businesses, and as such, they are all subject to the same regulations concerning non-discrimination. My point, in sum, is that there is no meaningful legal ground to stand on here, and that Christians ought instead to make use of the ethical framework they already have in place for understanding the difference between complicity in immorality and providing services in the context of morally dubious situations. 

  • Lizzy's picture
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Hans, Just curious, but why is it so important to you to try to convince those of us who believe differently that we are mistaken in thinking that there is a culture war currently raging and that if we don' t continue to stand for the right to hold our beliefs then we will lose that right?  In a culture where a co founder of a company can be forced out of that company simply because he is exposed as having donated a small amount to a pro traditional marriage cause and a fire chief can be fired for supporting traditional marriage in his private life how can we help but believe that there is an agenda to make Christian belief politically incorrect to the eventual point of being illegal to publically express?

  • Lizzy's picture
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Hans,I don't know if it's that you are willfully missing the broader context or trying to be naïve about it - but while your post tries to be convincing that there is nothing to see here when it comes to hosting a gay "wedding", the problem is the context.  As someone above in this thread pointed out - no one is going around publicly flaunting their adulterous behavior and trying to make it illegal to take a stand against it.  Gay people are flaunting what many of us believe is immoral behavior and trying to force those of us with that Biblically grounded belief to be unable to legally express it.  This wouldn't have to be an issue - it is the result of that portion of the gay community that wants to force universal public endorsement of their unions and force Christianity out of the public square which they intend to use as a megaphone.  The only way this issue could have been kept from becoming the divisive mess that it is would have been if the gay community had publicly taken a stand assuring their Christian neighbors of a state of mutual tolerance.  I.e. freedom on both sides to live as they believe without being forced to compromise those beliefs which of course is what the first amendment was designed for no matter how it may have been adjudicated in the last century.  There is no way this conflict will have a good resolution on the current trajectory.  As long as gay people insist that they have to have a specific baker or photographer or venue, even though many alternatives are available to them, there will be conflict.  When the gay activists succeed in driving all of the Christian owned wedding services out of the marketplace, will they then turn their attention to the churches?  Will they start suing the churches for not being willing to compromise their beliefs to allow gay weddings to take place within their sanctuaries with the pastors being forced to conduct the ceremonies?  The problem is being framed as those bigoted Christians not being willing to participate in the happy occasion of two people entering into a committed relationship.  The real problem is having to personally participate by providing the floral arrangements or the custom cake can be seen as endorsing the relationship and will make it harder for churches then to continue to stand for the truth according to God.  Personally I think we need to turn it around and reframe the issue because the reality is those in the gay community targeting Christians and trying to do all they can to destroy the ability of Christians to faithfully serve their God in all of their life are the bigoted ones.  You seem to be implying in your post that the first amendment only exists to guarantee freedom of worship - i.e. we are free to believe only in our private lives while we are in our own homes, but the first amendment guarantees freedom of religion which is a far broader concept and extends to our ability to not be forced to betray our beliefs as we go about all the business of our daily lives including as we operate in the public sphere.Your statement "My provision of services do not constitute an endorsement of an immoral relationship. That is why Christian department store owners can sell mattresses to gay couples, Christian airline owners can sell airline tickets to honeymooning gay couples, Christian homeowners can rent a house to a gay couple, and Christian bed and breakfasts owners can host gay weddings."  This is purely your own opinion and completely unconvincing.  There is a vast difference in selling a mattress or an airline ticket or a pretty duvet cover and the personal involvement that comes with providing the artistic services that a custom wedding cake or floral arrangement entail.  If you can't see the difference, okay, but some of us can.  As someone who is an artist in a different medium, I can tell you that when you create something there is a personal element that takes the transaction far beyond just  a transfer of money for a good.  And I personally would not be able to create art celebrating a union that God declares sinful so I can understand how other Christians might feel the same.  In all your justification of why you think Christians shouldn't consider this to be an endorsement of a sinful relationship, can you explain why the gay community should have the right to decide for Christians what does or doesn't constitute an endorsement of their behavior?  And why it is so important to them to financially harm anyone they perceive as not endorsing their behavior?  Because that is currently what this is about - whether you agree or not, there are many Christians who are willing to extend love toward the gays they live among, they just don't want to have to be put in situations where in their heart they feel they are sinning against God.

  • Hans's picture
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    It seems my comment provoked what I see as some helpful discussion here. I'm sorry that some have taken offense.I admit that this is a thorny issue from a legal perspective, because it does seem to pit the first amendment rights of Christians against the rights of gay people not to be refused services on account of their sexual orientation. At the same time, I do not think that the comments here have given sufficient weight to the legal problem with their position. The fact is, we do have first amendment rights; however, the courts have never considered those first amendment rights to be ultimately preeminent. For example, there are some people in this country who think that their Christian religion forbids interracial marriage. While I recognize (as do all of you) that such a position is without biblical merit (unlike the objections to homosexuality), the larger point of comparison remains: the law does not allow that position of conscience (however ill-informed) to allow them to operate a business while refusing service to couples based on race. They are of course legally free to hold to those convictions or to promulgate them in their pulpits or publish them publicly, but the government does not permit them to discriminate. The rights of others not to be discriminated against trump their right to operate their business as they see fit. It is well established in federal law and precedent that it is legally inadequate to argue that there are other businesses whose owners do not hold the same convictions who can provide the services requested. My point, of course, is not that opposing gay marriage is the same thing as opposing miscegenation. It is merely to point out the complexity of the legal argument. Just referring to the first amendment is insufficient. The reason I brought up the adulterous second marriage, as I said in my original comment, was not to accuse these owners of being hypocrites. I have no reason to suspect that they are; I think, rather, that their consciences are probably misinformed by the rhetoric of the culture war. In any case, my example was poorly worded; I meant it as a hypothetical scenario intended to show that we already agree on a distinction between providing services and giving a public endorsement to the relationship. Suppose I were a Christian baker, and when meeting with a heterosexual couple, I ask the innocuous question, "how did you meet?" And in response I hear the story about how she used to be the nanny for his kids, but they found true love and he left his wife for her. I may disapprove of the marriage when I realize that the husband-to-be had abandoned his previous family for his mistress, but I can still bake a cake for the new illicit marriage reception without being morally culpable of celebrating the man's indiscretions. It is not enough merely to say that Christian wedding industry business owners simply operate by a don't ask don't tell policy when it comes to potentially immoral heterosexual unions, while simultaneously being under dire moral constraints to refuse to service any and all gay union ceremonies as inherently immoral. If we truly believe that it is inherently immoral to provide services to people celebrating illicit unions, then we would need to pursue some kind of basic awareness of the moral legitimacy of all those ceremonies we provide services for. The fact is, as we all agree, Christian business owners are under no such obligation, not because they are not morally culpable for celebrating illicit unions out of ignorance, but because they are not morally complicit in the immorality of others merely because they have provided services for them. My provision of services do not constitute an endorsement of an immoral relationship. That is why Christian department store owners can sell mattresses to gay couples, Christian airline owners can sell airline tickets to honeymooning gay couples, Christian homeowners can rent a house to a gay couple, and Christian bed and breakfasts owners can host gay weddings. 

  • GTPman
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    "Hans" certainly is provocative if nothing else, albeit as syrupy and smug as the selected avatar.  Recent history is showing that Illinois' RFRA, as with most other states, does nothing to protect the freedom of business owners to act in accordance with THEIR consciences in the face of aggressive homosexualism.  And we could go on and on about particular scenarios cataloging the sorts of guests applying for an event venue and the sorts of events that might be requested, so what?  I would speculate with as much legitimacy as Hans, that had his scenario actually occurred, the inn owners may very likely have refused to host the event were they to become aware of the circumstances.  However, I would doubt that the immoral couple would have taken legal recourse to force the owners to host the event.  At least at present, parading one’s infidelity is frowned upon, even by the unfaithful.  Further, I suspect that the owners would have not refused accommodations to the two for a simple stay at the inn.  (Hey, speculation is pretty open ended, right?)  But the fact that Hans seems to want to be the one that draws the lines for someone else’s conscience seems a bit out of line, particularly when he seems to have double vision.

  • Lizzy's picture
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    MiamiDan,I disgree with your apparent belief that the right to have homosexual sex endorsed by believers is settled in terms of US law.  Constitutionally speaking we still have freedom of religion and it is far from a settled question as to whether the current interpretation by the Supreme Court overrides the first amendment so I would argue that it is premature to surrender at this point.  Also, there are limits to obeying those in authority over you if by doing so you clearly disobey God.  There is a reason that Christian churches still exist in countries where it is illegal to be a Christian and those believers aren't disobeying God by clinging first and foremost to their faith in Him.Also in your example about the young man.  I agree that false expectations are a problem within some branches of the church, although ultimately each of us is responsible for our own relationship with Jesus. The truth is it is a fallen world and God allows bad things to happen, sometimes for no discernible reason in our eyes.   We are not God and it is presumptuous to act like we can direct God's actions.  We are called to step out in faith to do whatever He is calling us as individuals to do.  Ultimately the only thing we can cling to is Who God is.  Circumstances may not go the way we desire and our prayers may not yield the answers we want but no matter what we can stand on the truth that our holy God is good and when time has reached its fiullfillment He will make all things new.  In the meantime I see prayers such as jpc7581's as an acknowledgement of the powerless nature of His people apart from the strength He alone can provide.  We may fail God, He will never fail to walk beside us through whatever circumstance we are going through in this life.  Publicly calling on Him is a way of admitting our need for Him and reaffirming His sovereignty over the situation however He allows it to play out.  And He has promised to redeem every situation for our good and His glory - although that may mean bringing Him glory by standing firm in Him as our life on earth falls apart.At the end of your first post are you implying that a person can be willing to stand for the Lord and not end up in heaven?  

  • MiamiDan's picture
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Actually, Hans, that's a great point! and one I hadn't considered. I think it's great and that the Walders are brave sticking to their principles because of their faith, even in the face of adversity. How many Christians even think to consider whom they are serving unless it is openly obvious? How many serve certain ones even though it is blatantly obvious that they are steeped in a sin that is considered to be less offensive, but won't others because that, to them, would be crossing the line? We're very careful with who we allow to be in a place of leadership within our churches, but what of those without? Why the double standards?It is right for the Walders, and others of the same opinion as they,  to defend their faith the way they are because that is how they interpret the Scripture about honoring God with everything we have. However, it is wrong for others to do the very same thing because they understand the Scriptural commands for us to obey those that God has placed in leadership over us to be the applicable commandment. The former believe they are obeying God's commands, while the latter think they would be disobeying God's commands. Both are right! However, if each was to do the opposite, that would make them both wrong.In Romans 14:13-23, Paul writes that it is wrong to cause another to sin. He is speaking more specifically about certain foods that some feel are unclean, but the principle behind what he is teaching is about laws and commandments. The Walders feel it would be sin to host a gay marriage, while others feel it is a sin to not; and both are Scripturally supported. Whatever each of us decides that we would do, we should be liberal with our fellow Christians who are of a different opinion in matters such as these.Please do not misinterpret my last statement; I am not saying that we need to be liberals; nor am I saying that we need to be liberal in our theology. I am saying that though both agree that homosexuality is sin, each must proceed to apply the Scriptures according to the conviction of their faith based on Scripture. We can ask no more of ourselves; how can we ask any more of another?

  • MiamiDan's picture
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    I think these people are heroes of the faith. Whether I would do the same thing..., probably not. However, jpc7581, when I read your comment about "God, your people are looking to you. Help." I cannot help but immediately wonder, "and if he doesn't, then what?"I'm not sure how you meant your statement, but it feels to me like something that we Christians do all the time. That is, we expect God to "support us" in our endeavors to publicly stand by our faith in him, and sometimes he doesn't. In those times we feel betrayed by God. "Well God, I did what you said and I got shamed for it. Where were you?"I can remember a fellow who stood by his faith strongly, proclaiming it publicly, that he was going to walk on water. It was all in the news, crowds of people came, and God didn't respond the way this young Christian thought he should, and the last time I talked to him, he was addicted to drugs, still angry at God, and questioning his faith 30 years later.I'm not saying that's what the owners of the bed & breakfast have done, or that that is what your post was intended to mean. But it did feel that way to me, and that made me concerned.What if we stand the way we think God would want us to and we lose everything we have by doing it; our businesses, homes, families, friend, dignity, or respect of those around us, etc. and God never helps, he never once does anything to prevent it, even over 40 or so years? What then?Please don't misunderstand me; I am not suggesting we shouldn't make these kinds of stands for our faiths. I'm only asking if we're doing it with a right heart and a right understanding, remembering that God has called us to suffer for our faith - if necessary. Too often we forget that, and feel betrayed by God when he is silent. Stephen saw Jesus at the right hand of the Father. How many others who gave their lives for Christ did not?

  • Dean from Ohio
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Hans writes, "After all, what kind of business checks to make sure that their clients are upright moral citizens before offering their services?"There! Christians are the most tolerant people anywhere. You said so yourself.For that matter, for all World Magazine knows, its commenters here might be among the most wicked people on earth. That makes them tolerant too.One thing Christians do know, though, is what human beings are...eternal beings created in the image of God. When that image is intentionally and arrogantly defaced by such actions, they object, and rightly so. To deny them this freedom is to force them to deny the truth, and the true God who made it so, and to make them bow down to other gods. That stirs up the true God pretty quickly.Recently in my town, a gun shop owner was publicly praised--called a hero!--for refusing to sell a gun to an angry and mentally ill young man, possibly saving lives. He was praised for his discernment and his wisdom to see beyond the transaction and any "duty" he had to engage in commerce. Why cannot Mr. Craddock take the same approach, and refuse to allow would-be-customers of his wedding establishment to harm themselves and others by defacing the image of God? Choose today whom you, Hans, will serve...but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

  • Dean from Ohio
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Tell Judge Michael Robinson to take a long walk off a short pier. Think of it--his name means, "Who is like God?" By his actions, he is praising the Prince of Demons.

  • JerryM
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    LauraW, as I recall this distinction has previously been raised to Hans:  He does not seem to want to recognise it.As for the Walders, may God give you the grace and strength for whatever lies ahead.

  • Laura W
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Hans, I think the distinction they (and others) are probably making is that of knowingly vs unknowingly supporting sinful behavior. For example, if I was a store clerk and someone came in and wanted to buy antifreeze, I would sell it to them, no questions asked. But if they happened to mention that they intended to feed it to their neighbor's annoying dog, I would in all likelihood refuse to check it out for them. In a same-sex "marriage" scenario, there's usually no escaping what's going on, while it may or may not be obvious if there is sin in other situations.

  • MTJanet
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    The problem is government/courts telling private businesses what to do with anyone/everyone.  It is the business owner who is taking on liability for his/her beliefs - let them decide who to serve and who not to serve.  I have been to many places lately where it is clearly stipulated that the business has the right to refuse service to anyone - hope it's still true!  There is a bed and breakfast that will happily service homosexuals seeking a place to celebrate their "marriage" or "union."  Let them do so.  But let freedom reign!   Tyranny will not stop with targeting Christians - it will spread. And those it goes to next will be sorry that they did not support the Christians in the first place.  

  • Lizzy's picture
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Hans,My guess is you know the answer to your question - you just won't admit it.  This is about forcing universal public endorsement of activity God clearly labels sin - homosexual behavior. These businesses are in many cases targeted because if they can be forced to comply with the agenda or driven out of business it acts as a deterrent to other believers who may be wavering.  And your hypothetical suggestion is a straw man - we have no way of knowing if they would or would not host that wedding of the remarriage.  Believe it or not there are churches that do have an issue with adulterous behavior and would require serious evidence of repentance before allowing membership in the situation you describe, so who knows but what the venue holders would do the same?  In the case of homosexual unions there clearly is no repentance because the whole purpose of the ceremony is to celebrate a union based on the sinful behavior.  The broader point would be given there are many venues available to hold ceremonies that don't have Christian convictions against doing so and many bakers, photographers as well, the fact that the gay couples aren't just going elsewhere reinforces the belief that these businesses are being targeted in an effort to reduce freedom of religion to merely freedom of worship in direct conflict with our Constitution.

  • Christian_Prof
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Hans has a point. But his key line is at the end of his first paragraph: "...what kind of business checks...clients are upright moral citizens.." The difference is that any homosexual "marriage" is inherently sinful. 

  • William Peck 1958's picture
    William Peck 1958
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Hans - give it a break.

  • Hans's picture
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    I always wonder when I read about these cases whether the owners would refuse to host a wedding of a guy who left his wife and kids to marry his mistress. That union would, according to Scripture, be adulterous, and thus all the same objections would apply. After all, the union is inherently immoral. But to this day I have never heard about a wedding venue refusing those guests. Perhaps they just don't know. After all, what kind of business checks to make sure that their clients are upright moral citizens before offering their services? But then, if they don't feel that hosting such events makes them morally complicit, why is hosting a gay wedding different?I don't say that to argue that the owners are hypocrites. Rather, it seems to me that they already recognize a distinction between hosting the event and supporting it. The issue of gay marriage is new, of course, which makes it a tougher pill to swallow, but I think that the same general ethical guidelines would create a similar justification for accepting the business without feeling that you were supporting the substance of the event itself.

  • Christian_Prof
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    I can't tell you how angry this makes me. God, your people are looking to you. Help.