Religious Liberty and the Right to Moral Discrimination

Marty Owen has penned a very important article over at that is worth excerpting at length (though be sure to follow the link below to read the entire article). According to his short bio, Owen “has served in pastoral ministry both in the southern United States and in Europe. He is currently serving as a missionary pastor in southern Spain, where he lives with his wife and daughter.”

In the present cultural and legal climate of the United States, the word “discrimination” has become like the “hot potato” of the popular children´s game–a word that no one wants to be caught holding when the timer set by the ACLU or some other litigious organization happens to go off. It is the fear of being accused of defending discrimination that leads many politicians–even those on the right of the political spectrum–to deny that Christian business owners have any legal right to deny particular services to homosexual couples who request those services. The claim of the left is that, if Christian business owners are allowed to decline from providing services for same-sex weddings, for example, that will institutionalize mistreatment of homosexuals by acknowledging a legal right to discriminate against them.

Many conservatives are failing to respond adequately to the left by refusing to address the real issue at stake here–namely, the constitutionality of anti-discrimination laws that criminalize all acts of discrimination without exception. Such laws fail to take into account the various shades of meaning attached to the English verb “discriminate” and the clear distinction that must be made between various kinds of discriminating acts. Such broadly written laws, by their very nature, undermine the first amendment, for they overlook a very important fact–namely, that the exercise of religious liberty ALWAYS involves the freedom to make morally discriminating decisions based on the dictates of a religiously informed conscience. Therefore, to outlaw all discriminating acts without exception is, in essence, to outlaw the first amendment itself.

Conservatives have failed to make this argument in the courts and in the public square–no doubt because they fear it will fall on deaf ears in our politically correct culture. Nevertheless, sound logic requires that we make this argument, because it is supported by the facts. The exercise of religious liberty requires the freedom to make morally discriminating distinctions between particular acts of service offered, and therefore, the freedom to make such distinctions, must be regarded as a right protected by the first amendment.

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