Letter: Don’t force businesses to go against beliefs

From: J. Stuart Cundiff


Decades ago, when I was in basic training, the drill instructor would scream those immortal words: “OK, PEEP-PULL, listen up!” When we heard those words we knew that we had got something wrong. I feel like screaming those words now: “OK people, listen up!”

It seems that amid all the clamor and confusion, people have lost sight of what the recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act is all about. It is not about discrimination at all. It is about protection. It seeks to protect business owners from recrimination if they choose not to serve some one because of their (the business owner’s) religious beliefs.

Cases in point: Jan. 12, 2012, Ocean Grove, New Jersey. The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association refused to host a same-sex ceremony on its property, saying it violated Methodist doctrine. A judge ruled that because the property was available for public use, the group had violated a state anti-discrimination law. Jan. 17, 2014: Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of the Oregon bakery “Sweet Cakes by Melissa,” refused to bake a cake for a same-sex commitment ceremony. Charges were brought against the couple for discrimination. They face fines of up to $150,000. They closed their business.

This bill was passed in order to protect those business owners who want to stand by the old creed, often seen hanging on the wall of establishments: “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” without fear of having court action taken against them.

Let me give you a crazy example. A Jewish couple has a catering service, catering mostly to Bar Mitzvahs and Jewish weddings. A Christian couple hears about them and how great the food is and wants to engage them to cater their wedding. During the planning the couple requests something not on the menu — chicken livers wrapped in bacon. The caterers decline, saying, “Sorry, that’s against our religious beliefs, we can’t handle bacon.” The Christian couple then sues them for discrimination. Sounds crazy, but it’s the same principle. A business should not be forced to do something that is against the owner’s beliefs. That’s what this new law is all about.

Read it, study it and don’t listen to the clamor of the hordes. Get it right.