GFU Website Provides Resources For Illegal Discrimination
Reported by Elliot Coulter
On the George Fox University (GFU) website, georgefox.edu, there is a page titled “Religious Liberty Resources.” This page concerns the current problem of same-sex couples being denied service for their wedding ceremonies. The resources linked on this section of the GFU website are for those businesses who do not want to participate in same-sex relationships and marriages. These resources advise them on how to avoid legal trouble based on their opposition to these marriages.
Mark Hall, professor of politics at GFU and the author of this page, said, “Two years ago an attorney and I . . . had a conference on religious liberty here at George Fox and we invited a bunch of Christian ministries from throughout the northwest churches and schools and social service organizations. . . Some organizations like the Christian legal society and ADF [Alliance Defending Freedom] have already put together nice resources … and so we thought it’d be really useful for members of the conference to have easy access to them . . . we thought we’d just put them online and people could go to them and use them as they saw fit.”
In the state of Oregon, it is illegal for a public accommodation business to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. However, it is not illegal federally. According to a CNN article entitled “Here’s Why Some Businesses Can Deny You Service—but Others Can’t,” when federal and state law don’t agree, the courts will defer to federal law, especially in cases where religious rights may be involved. The conflict is that there are laws giving people the right to their religious practices, but there are also laws protecting certain minorities.
When asked if the law should protect sexual and gender minorities against discrimination, Hall said, “In half of the states it’s perfectly legal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and yet how many times do you hear of restaurants turning people away in those states based on sexual orientation? I would suggest almost none. It’s virtually nonexistent so I’m not sure of all the things that Oregon needs to focus on that . . . this should be really high on its agenda.”
However, we must consider the history of homophobia and transphobia in America. The Human Rights Campaign found that 29 people died in 2017 just from being transgender. There is a history of violence against queer people in America and throughout the world. Giving people the right to turn people away based on being queer encourages the idea that queer people are less important or less human than straight, cisgender people. This thinking results in violence and mistreatment.
The law should require businesses to serve any minority whether it is against their religious conviction or not. If people are given the ability to discriminate in the small parts of life, it teaches them to discriminate throughout their life. A child whose parents have denied service to a same-sex couple may begin to see that as normal. Then it becomes a cycle of perpetuated micro-aggressions and violence. The cycle needs to end now.