“Guard with jealous attention the public liberty.
Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel…”
A bill currently pending in the New Hampshire State legislature would allow business owners to turn away customers on the basis of “conscience or religious faith.” Introduced by Rep. Frank Sapareto, HB1264 aims to protect Christian wedding vendors from being forced to provide services for homosexual couples.
The fear that conscience rights may be violated in the Granite State is hardly far-fetched: many U.S. small-business owners have already faced lawsuits for refusing to host or perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. In January, a New Jersey judge ruled against a Christian retreat house that refused to allow a same-sex civil union ceremony to be conducted on its premises, ruling that the Constitution allows “some intrusion into religious freedom to balance other important societal goals.” Last November, Christian cake-baker Victoria Childress of Des Moines was threatened with legal action by a lesbian couple that had hoped to commission her to design their wedding cake. In September, a gay couple filed suit against two Illinois institutions that refused to host their civil union. Christian “Bed and Breakfast” establishments, which are often family-owned businesses, are especially targeted by homosexual rights activists for this type of harassment.
The new bill, which was scheduled to come up for a vote last month but has been pushed back to February, would prevent such suits from coming before New Hampshire courts by ensuring that individuals will be legally permitted to “choose not to provide accommodations, goods, or services for a marriage if doing so would violate his or her conscience or religious faith.” Needless to say, the bill has been roundly attacked by homosexual rights activists and mainstream media networks. New Hampshire Governor John Lynch has promised to veto it.
So, just what’s so repugnant about the idea of allowing business owners to make their own decisions about who they want to work with? Probably this aversion to freedom in the marketplace is due in large part to a common misconception about the nature of the business world. There is a popular myth that permitting private vendors to express opposition to aspects of their society by refusing service to customers will somehow foster attitudes of intolerance and cultivate so-called “haters.”
Proponents of this view, however, have put forward a proposition based on laughably fallacious reasoning. Passing laws that force businesses to perform actions which are prohibited by their convictions doesn’t alter the mindsets of business owners and certainly doesn’t make for a content citizenry. On the contrary, it is counterproductive and wrong to attempt to change the thought patterns of a culture by forcing its people to engage in and endorse activities they believe to be immoral. Additionally, such legislation promotes division and stifles individuality in a population. Unless businesses are engaging in activities that directly harm others, these heavy-handed methods to coerce them are totalitarian and must not be endured by a free and thoughtful people.
Let us illustrate this premise with a simple example: suppose a white business owner in a southern state in the 1920’s decides to refuse service to Ku Klux Klan members. The business owner finds the KKK’s racist beliefs despicable and doesn’t want to associate with its members. Surely most modern people would agree that the business owner has every right to make this decision. After all, his business is his property, and a transaction made with a customer is a form of contract. Can there be a truly free society that forces people to enter into contracts against their will?
What many homosexual rights activists do not seem to understand is that opposition to their lifestyle is, in many cases, at least as strong as any southern business owner’s opposition to the KKK might have been a century ago. While they try to paint their opposition as an insignificant minority, 2011 polls showed that 46% of Americans opposed same-sex marriage, while only 45% favored it. The Bible teaches that homosexual acts are not only a sin but an abomination. In a nation that identifies itself as predominantly Christian, is it any wonder that a significant portion of the population is horrified by the idea of being involved in a same-sex wedding? Is it really fair for government to take sides on an issue that has the nation split into a cultural divide? Does an individual’s right to be served by a private business overrule the property rights of the business owner?
When government doesn’t interfere in the workplace, the free market tends to right itself. If a business begins to annoy potential customers as a result of its discriminatory practices, the boycott system comes into play and the owner begins to lose money. If the convictions held by the business owner are strong enough, he or she will be willing to take the loss. If not, monetary distress will force the owner to alter his or her policies. If no consensus can be established between two opposing camps of ideas, the nation can at least agree to disagree. It’s called free trade, and it’s how civilized adults handle their differences. When government gets involved in such a conflict, it only short-circuits the efficiency and precision of a perfectly functional natural process. It also serves to warn a people that they are not free; that they are, in fact, considered unfit to rule themselves and to do business in the way that seems best to them. Rather, they must do their business in the way that seems best to their leaders.
Lovers of freedom in the great state of New Hampshire: might you take just a few minutes out of your day to give your senators and representatives a call. You are the only ones who can defend liberty in the Granite State.
Live free or die.
Find your New Hampshire state representative