What if the tables were turned and it was a bunch of Christians suing a company owned by gays for refusing to print T-shirts with a scripture or statement condemning homosexual behavior? Would they then not agree that a private business owner has a right to refuse to produce goods or perform services that conflict with their moral convictions?
A T-shirt company in Lexington, Kentucky, is facing the wrath of a local homosexual activist contingent after the business politely passed on producing T-shirts for the city’s “gay pride” festival. On March 26, Lexington’s Gay and Lesbian Services Organization(GLSO) filed a discrimination complaint against the family-owned company, Hands On Originals, alleging that the firm had bid on producing the shirts, but when it was selected its owners changed their minds, explaining that their Christian values made them unable to fill the order for the “gay”-themed apparel.
“This wouldn’t be acceptable to do to a black group,” Paul Brown, chairman of Lexington’s Pride Festival, told the community’s local NBC news affiliate. “This wouldn’t be acceptable to do to a Jewish group, and because of the fairness ordinance it’s unacceptable to do it to a gay group.”
The inconvenient point they leave out of this comparison is that homosexuality – unlike color – is a behavior, and behaviors – unlike colors – have moral consequences that people have a right to make moral judgments about whether or not to support or promote, according to their consciences.
The official discrimination complaint filed with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission reads: “On or about March 8, 2012, members of the GLSO were told that our Pride Festival t-shirt printing quote would not be honored due to the fact that the t-shirt company is a Christian organization. We were told that our t-shirts would not be printed. We believe that we have been discriminated against in violation of Local Ordinance 201-99, based on sexual orientation.”
Kent Ostrander (above), executive director of the Family Foundation of Kentucky, explained that the owners of Hands On Originals were not immediately aware that they were bidding on a project that violated their values. What they told the homosexual group “in a very kind way was, ‘This is against our conscience. We don’t want to be a part of the gay-pride parade.’” Ostrander added that the business owners had located another T-shirt business that would honor their low quote, so no one was harmed.
Nonetheless, the homosexual group filed a complaint with the city, and, while the county’s Human Rights Commission typically deals only with discrimination complaints against individuals and not groups or businesses, because Lexington’s human rights ordinance includes no religious exemption for businesses, the owners of Hands On Originals could end up being fined for their moral stand.
“If you have other organizations using their services and they’ve made t-shirts for them, and this organization is not allowed and the only difference is sexual orientation, that could be problematic,” explained Raymond Sexton, director of the county’s Human Rights Commission. He added that “religious exemption is a valid defense under the local ordinance, but it’s typically reserved for churches. If you’re Hands On Originals, you’re a business, not a religious organization. You’re into t-shirts.”
Someone find the the part of the 1st Amendment that says that religious protections are stripped away once a Christian steps outside the church door and starts a business.
Regardless of the outcome of the commission’s investigation, the city’s gay lobby has mounted a full-tilt campaign in an attempt to pressure others in the community to pull their business from the popular and economically priced company. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, the GLSO coaxed some 60 homosexual activists to picket in front of the business on March 30, expressing their anger and encouraging passersby to bypass the business. One of the homosexual group’s officers, Aaron Baker, told the paper that they weren’t sure how far they wanted to go in punishing Hands On Originals for its Christian stand. “Ultimately the owners of Hands On Originals need to recognize that discrimination is not OK and need to make a commitment not to continue that,” he said.
Baker added his hope that locals would help his group ostracize the Christian firm. “Hands on Originals does a lot of business in this town, and people should be aware of the situation, so they can make an informed decision about whether they want to buy from them,” he said.
According to OneNewsNow.com, the Lexington school district has, at least temporarily, stopped purchasing merchandise from Hands On Originals, and both the city of Lexington and the University of Kentucky are said to be considering dropping the company as a vendor. The pro-family news site quoted Lexington Mayor Jim Gray as quipping that “people don’t have patience for this sort of attitude today.”
Ostrander said that “the sad part is that this family, because of this intimidation, bullying factor, might lose their business, or a substantial portion of it, because the University of Kentucky and the public schools side with the gay component. It’s just wrong for government to be involved in this.”
Byron Babione asks, “What if a T-Shirt Maker Refused to Make Shirts Supporting Marriage?”
Imagine a T-shirt print shop run by owners who openly practice homosexual behavior. Let’s call it “Tolerance 101.” They make T-shirts for community events, annual “gay pride” rallies, and sports teams around their city. Now, imagine that a major Christian ministry contacts the company to have them make T-shirts that will be worn at an event supporting marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Tolerance 101 declines to the make the shirts. In short, the managing owner exercises his prerogative as a business owner to refuse to communicate a message in genuine conflict with his beliefs. Tolerance 101 does business all the time with heterosexuals and even has heterosexual employees, so it’s not about discrimination against any person. It’s simply about not wanting to further a message the owners so deeply oppose. Tolerance 101 even goes the extra mile and finds another T-shirt shop willing to do the job at the same price.
This scenario never happened, but if it did, it’s almost certain that the Christian ministry would not be traipsing off to the local human rights commission to file a discrimination complaint. But turn the tables and see what happens.