Equality Matters

Liberty Counsel's Barber: Simply Acknowledging LGBT People Exist Promotes A "Repugnant Message"

September 09, 2013 2:14 pm ET - by Luke Brinker & Carlos Maza

Christian business owners should be allowed to deny services to LGBT customers because even acknowledging the lives of LGBT people promotes a "repugnant message," according to the anti-gay Liberty Counsel.

Trying his hand at satire, Liberty Counsel Action Vice President Matt Barber compared an Oregon baker's refusal to bake a cake for a same-sex couple's commitment ceremony to a hypothetical case in which a gay baker refused to bake a cake for the Westboro Baptist Church featuring its trademark "God Hates Fags" slogan.

In a September 6 column for WND, Barber argued it was "equally absurd" to expect the Christian bakers, Aaron and Melissa Klein, to comply with Oregon's Equality Act as it would be to expect a gay baker to promote Westboro's hateful message. Barber began his column by describing this hypothetical scenario:

Bruce Bottoms - a homosexual baker and owner of "Cakes By Cupcakes" - has been charged with anti-Christian discrimination by the Oregon Ministry of Human Rights (OMHR). Mr. Bottoms and his partner, Lance Limpkowski, recently declined to bake a cake for the notoriously anti-"gay" Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). As a result, they've been forced to shut down their business.


Although the "Cakes By Cupcakes" incident didn't actually happen, something quite similar is happening across America. It's a photo negative of the above scenario, but it's equally absurd. Homosexual activists and "progressive" government officials are targeting Christian business owners - true Christians, not hateful Wesboro-types - for real anti-Christian discrimination.

Barber asked why Oregon law prohibits business owners from "refusing to endorse a message or event that Christianity itself finds expressly repugnant":

To be sure, Mr. Klein did not "discriminate" against the lesbian couple because of their "sexual orientation." If that same lesbian couple ordered a birthday cake that didn't require the endorsement of a repugnant message or event, Mr. Klein would, no doubt, be happy to serve.


Christians aren't "discriminating" against you because of your "sexual orientation." We just refuse to endorse sinful lifestyles, behaviors, messages or events. And guess what. It's our constitutional right to do so. The First Amendment trumps your newfangled "sexual orientation non-discrimination laws."

Yet even if it didn't, God's law supersedes man's law.

This is far from the first time Barber has suggested that conservative Christians may need to violate "man's law" in the name of "God's law."

What's problematic about Barber's argument is his insistence that a business is promoting a "repugnant message" by serving LGBT customers. A baker who inscribes a cake with "God Hates Fags" is promoting a clear, intentional message. The only "message" promoted by baking a cake for a same-sex couple's commitment ceremony is that gay people exist and fall in love.

But for anti-gay conservatives like Barber, even acknowledging the existence of homosexuality is political. For someone who still believes people identify as gay because they were molested as children, acknowledging that "gay people are real and live happy lives" is sending a "message" - rather than an obvious, uncontroversial reality.

Consider a bigoted baker who believes that marriage is an exclusively Christian institution. Using Barber's logic, the baker should be allowed to refuse to serve a Muslim couple's wedding ceremony, as the cake would endorse a "message" at odds with the baker's preconceived worldview.

Or consider a bigoted baker who believes women shouldn't be allowed to participate in the workforce. According to Barber, the baker should be allowed to refuse to sell a cake to a woman hoping to celebrate her job promotion.

For someone who's quite fond of slippery-slope arguments, Barber's apparent failure to consider the implications of his standard is surprising.

Barber is correct in suggesting that business owners' have a right to refuse to promote certain messages, like a cake with a "God Hates Fags" slogan. But when the "message" in question is merely "X group exists and is real," a business owner's personal animus isn't enough justification to undermine non-discrimination laws.


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