As I watched #boycottIndiana unfold I felt like the tectonic plates of American culture were shifting right under our feet.
When Governor Mike Pence signed Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, who knew that Miley Cyrus and Ashton Kushner could help unleash a torrent of criticism and threats that eventually brought the government of Indiana to its knees?
In one week we saw suppression of dissent against gay marriage by an unruly mob, the targeting of churches and the spread of propaganda—a three-pronged strategy used widely by those aspiring to political power throughout history.
Midweek an Indiana ABC affiliate news crew went trolling for any businesses that would refuse to service a gay wedding. At Memories Pizzeria, as the camera panned the Jesus wall hangings and their jar for customer’s prayer requests, Crystal O’Connor responded that of course she would serve gays if they came in for pizza, but as a matter of conscience she could not cater a gay wedding.
Within hours of the broadcast the mob of phone calls and social media attacks became so virulent that the shop had to close. The family was forced into hiding.
Then a week ago Sunday the New York Times published a piece by regular columnist Frank Bruni which took dead aim at conservative churches. He began by quoting ethics scholar David Gushee: “Conservative Christian religion is the last bulwark against full acceptance of L.G.B.T. people.”
Bruni continued, “[A gay philanthropist] told me that church leaders must be made “to take homosexuality off the sin list.” His commandment is worthy — and warranted (italics mine).”
Regardless of what you believe about gay marriage I hope that sends a chill up your spine.
(This does not happen overnight. If you do scientific research at a major University that shows that the children of gay marriage may not be “all right” your administration will bring you up on charges and investigate you. [And clear you] If you are a lawyer who defends Prop 8 your law firm will withdraw their support and you will have to leave the firm. If you want to file a friend of the court brief in support of traditional marriage in the upcoming hearing in the Supreme Court you will not do so from one single major law firm in the United States. And [after Dolce and Gabbana criticized gay couples for having children] you will not wear a D&G gown to the Hollywood awards ceremonies because, according to gay advocates, we will have people there and they will be watching.)
As for propaganda, distortions abounded over #boycottIndiana. Many states and businesses said they would cancel all travel to Indiana so that their people “would not be subject to discrimination there.” Does anyone have any recent stories of any business in Indiana or anywhere in America refusing to serve gays “a sandwich at the lunch counter.” Anybody? The difficulty comes when owners are approached to serve a private event.
And again from Bruni, “All of us, no matter our religious traditions, should know better than to tell gay people that they’re an offense. And that’s precisely what the florists and bakers who want to turn them away are saying to them.”
I understand that gays might feel this way. But true empathy is being able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Do you really think that is what they intend to say?
The florists, bakers and pizza shop owners are saying, I will take your portraits here in my studio. I will sell you cut flowers for your wedding. I’ll serve you all the pizza you want at these tables. I am not offended by who you are. Just please don’t ask me to participate in a religious service that violates my conscience.
By the end of the week, under intense pressure from the mob joined by Angie’s List, Apple and other business leaders, Indiana passed a new law that no longer protects the owners of Memories Pizza.
Surely we can better promote pluralism and the common good. Especially when the consequences fall so hard on vulnerable, small-shop owners.
In Washington State Rob Ingersoll had traded with a florist, Baronelle Stutzman, for nine years. She knew he was gay. She had even made arrangements for him to give his lover. When Rob asked Baronelle to make flower arrangements for his wedding, she put her hands on top of his and told him sadly she could not, in good conscience before God, do it.
The gay couple sued her. The state brought charges. The judge fined Baronelle $1000 and ruled that attorneys’ fees, cost and penalties can be collected not only from Baronelle’s business but her personal assets as well. The fines are on hold while she appeals her case.
Baronelle stands to lose her business, her home and her life savings.
When I read the article about Baronelle’s verdict in LGBTQ Nation I was impressed by the response of some quasi-sympathetic gays saying basically, Yeah that’s tough, but it is against the law.
Which is why state Freedom Restoration Acts are needed. So there’s another law to balance the anti-discrimination laws. So there’s a test to define when the State is too harshly squashing the dissent of the “little guys” trying to live according to their faith.
Is this how the GLBT advocates want to prevail in American culture? Do they want to celebrate their increasing court victories and social acceptance by running people like Crystal and Baronelle out of business?
Shout out to Courtney Hoffman. In response to #boycottIndiana she is one of many gays who are pushing back against the mob, speaking up for Crystal, even donating to her online defense fund. Courtney said that if she were asked to set up her kettle corn stand at a pro-traditional marriage rally she would want the freedom to say no.
On last Sunday in First Things Princeton Constitutional Law Prof. Robby George asked, “And so, who if anyone will stand up to the mob? Who will refuse to be bullied into submission or intimidated into silence?
“I'm not asking, which leaders? No, I'm asking what ordinary people will do.”
This is my response.
How do you respond?
Lael Arrington has authored four books, including Amazon bestseller Faith and Culture. She speaks nationally and also blogs at laelarrington.com.