There’s a restaurant in North Myrtle Beach I have vowed to never patronize.
The very name of the place offends me that much, so much so that I won’t bother to mention it for fear it might give them a bit of free advertising.
But I believe the restaurant has a right to exist and its owner has the right to make money from all the people who are not offended. And I don’t plan any protests to get others to see things the way I do. That’s how I think some civil rights issues are best handled, especially since there are so many other non-offending restaurants in and around North Myrtle Beach.
Should that be how gay rights advocates handle a for-profit chapel in Idaho that is getting a lot of attention on many right-wing Websites and media outlets?
This is how some conservative media outlets are reporting the case: Idaho city tells pastors to perform gay marriages or go to jail
The chapel is owned by two pastors who believe marriage is the union of one man, one woman based on their reading of the Bible, which is why they don’t want to perform same-sex weddings.
They recently filed sued when a town in Idaho said the chapel was not exempt from anti-discrimination laws and would face sanctions if they turned gay couples away.
If this was a church, it would be a no-brainer. Religious freedom must include the idea that churches and other houses of worship should be able to determine who they will marry, and who they won’t, no matter who disagrees with their rationale.
But this is not a church; this concerns an Idaho business that performs weddings.
In this case, both sides have a fairly compelling claim. Ministers who are anti-gay marriage should not be forced to participate in such unions. But civil rights laws are pretty clear that such discrimination is not allowed when it comes to public accommodations.
For me, I’d probably ignore this chapel and rejoice in the fact that marriage equality has found its way to Idaho in the same way I ignore that North Myrtle Beach restaurant. The danger in that is that the more public places we provide exemptions to, the weaker civil rights statutes become.
What’s more interesting, though, is that the people who are defending these Idaho pastors and believe they are facing religious persecution didn’t say much when North Carolina made it illegal for churches to perform same-sex weddings. That was a direct violation of religious freedom that snaked its way inside houses of worship. (It has effectively been ruled unconstitutional since the Supreme Court decided not to over-rule the Fourth Circuit.)
But because it only affected liberal churches, the conservative activists who are outraged by what’s going on in Idaho said nothing.
I wonder why that is if religious freedom is really their priority?