Are Christians Hypocrites for Demanding Service While Refusing to Serve Others?
Once again I find myself struggling to determine what is acceptable as I read a recent headline causing a stir. It seems the lines between “rights” and “discrimination” have become so blurred that it’s hard to decipher anything clearly.
The story making headlines is that of an Office Depot store in Illinois that refused to print the pro-life flyer a woman brought in because, they said, the language used was graphic and offensive.
The flyer in question is one being used to call for prayer for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion business. The flyer shares details from Planned Parenthood’s most recent annual report, includes information about their harvesting body parts, and includes a prayer for the conversion of Planned Parenthood. While I can certainly understand someone not agreeing with the content of the flyer, there is nothing that I can see which would cause anyone to describe this flyer as “graphic” or “offensive.” (Click here to see the flyer.)
Of course many media outlets, organizations, and corporations have supported Planned Parenthood over the years. They have covered up atrocities committed by the abortion giant, refused to report on shocking cases of abuse, rape, sex-trafficking, and abortion related death, and donated money. So maybe Office Depot is simply protecting a friend, an asset.
But let’s put that aside for a moment. Where I am having trouble is in the fact that if a baker should be allowed to refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding, and a florist should be allowed to refuse to provide flowers for a gay wedding, and a clerk should be allowed to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples; shouldn’t Office Depot be allowed to refuse to print this flyer?
To be clear I do believe that any private business should have the right to refuse service to someone. It’s a very simple concept: I own my business, therefore, I should have the right to conduct business based on my beliefs – religious or otherwise. This means if baking a cake for a gay wedding would violate my religious beliefs, I should be free to decline. I also believe religious accommodations should be made for persons such as Kim Davis. If signing a same-sex marriage license would violate my religious convictions then there should be a “backup plan” for such an occasion.
But I also believe that everyone should have this right. If an atheist wants to post a “No Christians allowed” sign at the door to her shop, so be it. If a Jewish owner wants to have a “no Nazi” policy, fine. And if Office Depot wants to refuse to print a pro-life flyer – for whatever reason – I have no problem with it.
I’m concerned that Christians often have a double standard for conduct. They want to be able to refuse to serve someone based on their religious convictions; but when someone else wants to refuse to serve a Christian for being a Christian they cry discrimination. Whether we like it or not, refusing to serve someone will always be viewed as a form of discrimination. So, if Christians want the right to refuse service they need to accept that others will likely exercise that same right.
I like the response of Alan Sears, president of Alliance Defending Freedom, when he was refused service by a photographer. The photographer knew of Sears, and knew the work of ADF, and did not agree with either. So when Sears sought a photographer for his family picture, one he contacted turned him down. What did Sears do? He said, “Ok,” and found another photographer.
When asked about the incident Sears responded:
“We’re talking about human dignity. It violates someone’s dignity to require them to create images that violate their core beliefs. I think I’m a pretty nice guy, and my family are kind folks, but to require this woman to portray me in a loving, family-centered way that is contrary to her views and her conscience, I think it would be an act of violence against her dignity.”
Sears did not gather his legal team, call the media or hold a press conference. He simply respected the right of the photographer to refuse him service based on her core beliefs and went somewhere else.
This seems, to me, to be a proper response of Christians that desire to have their religious convictions respected. If I am going to ask another person to respect my religious convictions and refuse to serve that person, then I must be willing to respect the core convictions of another person by being refused. Our response to being refused may tell as much about us as our freedom to refuse service to others.
Incidentally, it seems Office Depot has backed down and apologized to the woman for refusing to print her flyer. I don’t know if there was an outcry and Office Depot wanted to avoid a PR nightmare, or if they genuinely made a mistake and wanted to correct it. May companies are willing to refuse service as long as nothing is made of it in the public. As soon as a public outcry begins they backtrack for the sake of profits. What prompted Office Depot to apologize is not at the heart of my concern.
You see, I believe in allowing businesses to make the choice to support or reject whatever they choose. If a business chooses to openly support abortion and Planned Parenthood, that is their right. However, that choice comes with consequences. The consequence for that business is that I will not spend one dollar in their store. As a pro-life Christians I believe abortion is a terrible evil and will not support any business or organization that I know supports abortion.
So every business (and business owner) should have the right to refuse service. I don’t want to do business with a place that hates me or my religious convictions just because the government says they have to. I’d rather go across town the place that has no issue with me. And if enough people feel the same and the business ends up closing, perhaps the business wasn’t very good. Or, perhaps the business owner decided to refuse service to a group of people that are a majority in town, and he simply lost any chance of developing a strong customer base. Either way, everyone had the freedom to live and do business according to his or her convictions.
I’m not sure I’ve solved anything with this post, and that wasn’t the intention. My concern is, as I stated previously, that Christians are being seen as hypocrites for wanted the right to refuse service to others while demanding everyone serve us. That’s not a consistent position. If Christians desire the freedom to refuse service we need to be willing to be refused. I’m okay with going somewhere else. Just like Alan Sears noted, I don’t want anyone to be forced to violate their core convictions on my account.