Step Up To The Plate

Posted in Leadership by Benham Brothers | April 7th, 2015


Over the last few weeks, we’ve been encouraging our readers to “get in the game” today. Being a spectator in the stands just doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s the bottom of the ninth, and our nation is getting shut out. America needs some sluggers to step up to the plate – and fast!

Although we see ourselves as job creators and not policy debaters, in the spirit of “getting in the game,” we have to step up to the plate because of what’s happening in Indiana and around the country.

Last week, Gov. Mike Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA. Keep in mind, this was first signed into federal law in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and was introduced by liberal Sens. Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy. It passed in the Senate 97-3. President Obama, who was a state senator at the time, also voted for the Illinois version of it.

In baseball, we call that a grand slam.

Then, in 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal RFRA did not apply to state and local government action. Since then, numerous states passed their own RFRAs.

OK, so why do we need RFRAs anyway?

It’s easier to hit a ball off a tee than a 90 mph fastball, so we’re going to keep this simple. RFRAs act as a shield, not a sword. In other words, they are not offensive weapons to push religion. Rather, they are shields to protect business owners from being forced by state and local governments to engage in business activities (messages, events, etc.) that are against their deeply held beliefs. That was a mouthful.

Here are some relevant examples of what a RFRA could protect if passed in your state:

  • In Oregon, Aaron and Melissa Klein were fined $150,000 by the state for refusal to bake a wedding cake for a “gay” wedding.
  • In New Mexico, Elaine Huguenin, a photographer, was ordered by the state to give a woman $7,000 for declining to take pictures at her lesbian wedding.
  • In Washington, Barronell Stutzman was sued by the attorney general of her state and fined for not providing flowers for a “gay” wedding.

Business owners should never be forced by the state to service “events” or “messages” that are against their deeply held beliefs. A Jewish-owned jewelry store should not be forced to produce anti-Semitic jewelry. In the same way, a gay-owned apparel company should not be forced to print anti-gay themed T-shirts. We could list examples ad nauseam.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act has nothing to do with servicing all “individuals” in the marketplace. It has everything to do with whether or not business owners must service all their “ideas.”

When we were fired by HGTV because it didn’t agree with our faith-based “message,” we didn’t fuss about it. As a matter of fact, we supported its freedom to fire us. Our message didn’t agree with theirs, and they exercised their God-given freedom to part ways.

Yet the mass hysteria surrounding the RFRA passed in Indiana shows that such freedom is a one-way street. How many of those protesting Indiana’s RFRA asserted with equal conviction that HGTV should not have fired us?

Well, critics are using a “spitball” to create a deceptive message and hurling it at Gov. Pence and anyone who would dare support him.

“This denies gays and lesbians civil rights,” they say. Seriously? Let’s think this through.

We know both Barronell Stutzman and Melissa Klein (from the examples above), and each of them told us that they happily serviced LGBT customers for years. Yet when those customers asked them to service their gay weddings (expressive events that are against their beliefs), they declined. This is not rejecting an individual; it’s rejecting an idea – and that is their right.

There were plenty of bakers in Oregon and florists in Washington that would’ve serviced these requests. Yet these couples demanded Barronell and Melissa do it. So by trying to force these women to act against their beliefs – knowing full well others would accommodate their requests – whose rights were actually denied?

As Christians, we try to focus on our responsibilities before demanding our rights, but when we see that our first right (freedom to exercise religion) is being threatened, it becomes our responsibility to “get in the game” and fight.

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