I am a Christian. I read my Bible, and I pray regularly. While I don’t wave my beliefs in anyone’s face, I have occasionally let it be known that I believe that homosexuality is a sin and that the people who engage in such behavior are in danger of eternal damnation and hellfire. At the same time, I have also indicated that I pray for those people’s souls because it bothers me and that I treat everyone with the same standard of respect.
For those of you that I have offended for stating my beliefs at the beginning of this post, I’d like to apologize for absolutely nothing about my beliefs. I have to answer to my own conscience as do you.
As someone who has repeatedly been attacked for those beliefs and even answered serious false allegations about them during law school, I understand just how important free speech is to spreading the Gospel and preserving religious freedom. If one message can be suppressed, all messages can be suppressed, and the Gospel will be the first one suppressed. That’s why I would defend April and Michelle Anderson, a lesbian couple that owns a bakery in Detroit.
How could you, my good Christian friends would ask? Aren’t you defending their sin – an abominable sin that you believe is an abominable sin?
The answer to both questions is no and let me tell you why.
“Homosexual acts are gravely evil. (Catholic Catechism 2357”)
As a lesbian couple, that message was gravely offensive to them, and they refused to design and create the message. Instead, they supplied a cake with no message, but a note expressing their beliefs.
As it turns out, the customer was the employee of a fringe and militant Christian group called the Church Militant. Incidentally, the Church Militant did not back up their employee, and it went out of its way to distance itself from him.
Their situation is identical to Jack Philips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop and the Christian baker who declined to design cakes with messages or art celebrating gay marriage and gender transitions because he believe that they were immoral. Mr. Philips took his cause to the United States Supreme Court when he could not get a fair hearing in Colorado’s administrative agencies or courts, and the high court managed to dodge the First Amendment issues underlying his appeal.
The Andersons and Mr. Philips hold two very different beliefs about LGBTQ behavior. They both demonstrate the need for robust protection for free speech and the free exercise of religion.
I would not defend the Andersons for their beliefs. In fact, I would let them know before they signed the retainer agreement what my beliefs were. However, I would still represent the Andersons all the way to the United States Supreme Court if necessary because I believe that the spread of the Gospel and the preservation of liberty in the United States depends on strong First Amendment protections for free speech and the free exercise of religion against both state and private actors.
In other words, a win for the Andersons would be a win for the Gospel, free speech, and the free exercise of religion.
To quote a phrase that a good friend and colleague often uses, all men have fallen short of the grace of God. The human condition is one of moral depravity, but also one of individual responsibility. God made the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, for every human being, but every person also bears a moral and individual responsibility to repent of their sins and avail themselves of God’s grace.
I have that responsibility just as much as any other person, and I must answer to my conscience as the Andersons and you must do as well. Respecting that individual responsibility, I don’t confront people with my beliefs, but I don’t hide them either. Where I can, I bear witness to what I have concluded is the truth of God.
The First Amendment’s protections for free speech and the free exercise of religion allow me to do that. Asserting those protections for the Andersons, Jack Philips, or myself is really asserting those protections for every person and ultimately for the free spread of the Gospel. Consequently, I would not be defending the Andersons’ sin if I represented them in this case.
I’d be defending the liberty that enables God’s Word to spread to everyone in a free society, and, in the process, I would be respectfully bearing witness to the truth of God’s Word to the Andersons. Who knows? They may respond to God’s conviction.
Even if they didn’t, I would be doing more to ensure the free spread of the Gospel than I would be sitting in my office taking stubborn self-righteous stands.