In light of several recent court cases involving Christian businesses declining their services for same-sex weddings, many believe it’s only a matter of time before Christian retail stores face similar lawsuits.
To help retailers understand their legal rights and responsibilities, CBA presents an industry-wide general session “Religious Liberty: Can You Be a Christian and in Business?” at the International Christian Retail Show on Sunday, June 28. Craig Parshall, a constitutional law and policy consultant to Christian organizations and special counsel to the American Center for Law & Justice, is the keynote speaker. Panelists include Doug Napier, senior counsel, executive VP, and chief alliance officer with Alliance Defending Freedom, and Daniel Blomberg, legal counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. All speakers recently shared some insights with CBA.
Having spent most of the last decade defending the rights of Christians to exercise their faith in the public square, Napier is a veteran of the so-called culture war. While he’s no alarmist, his years with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), representing the cause of religious liberty, have given him a sober view of the state of the union when it comes to the place of belief.
“The irony is that the advocates of ‘tolerance’ are the most intolerant of all, because they don’t tolerate dissent or disagreement or another view,” he says. “Sexual liberty, as they define it, and religious liberty cannot occupy the same space, (so in) in their view religious liberty has got to go. We (people of faith) have been buying into how we just need to go along and get along, but they don’t, and now we are starting to see these overreaches where religious liberties are being taken away to make space for assorted sexual liberties.
“People are starting to wake up and realize that it’s worse than we thought, and if we don’t stand up now we are going to lose the store—figuratively and literally.”
Parshall agrees the legal landscape for Christian retailers is becoming increasingly hostile, citing two areas where Christian businesses face mounting legal risks: the hiring of employees, and whether for-profit, “closely-held” religious companies have religious rights, particularly in cases involving federal regulations on mandated insurance. He says, “Some federal laws, and many state ones, still pose stunning challenges to Christian companies.”
Where does that leave Christians retailers who view their business as a ministry? Is there a balance between serving everyone in the community and showing them the love of Christ and protecting their Christian principles in the business realm?
Parshall says, “The Apostle Paul is a great paradigm to follow. He urges us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). That is a dual command, not a multiple-choice test. Boldness, undergirded by prayer, was his hallmark. I believe it is biblical for Christians to take a stand against the erosion of basic religious liberties by becoming active in the legislative process and in both the courts and the court of public opinion.
“Paul used his rights as a Roman citizen to appeal his case to Caesar in Rome. He both exercised his rights of citizenship and also lovingly shared the Gospel. I believe we can, and should, do both too.”
Blomberg also sees an increasing threat to religious liberty for Christian business owners, saying “Our ever-growing government … has aggressively and unnecessarily tried to push religious communities to the margins. Fortunately, it’s failing. But that’s because religious individuals, ministries, and businesses have respectfully but firmly refused to give up or go away.”
Blomberg believes more challenges are coming, and encourages the faithful to “continue working hard and banding together to protect the fundamental human right to follow God. Quitters will lose. But when we stand, we can win. And we are winning.”