License to Discriminate Laws Could Backfire On Christians

CHICAGO – Truth Wins Out announced the release today of the second video in its “Flipping the Script on Religious Freedom” campaign, to highlight the real-world consequences of laws that purport to protect religious liberty, when in reality they only promote exclusion. In our new video, we show how such laws can open a can of worms and backfire on the “Christian” sponsors of such bills. The video was released on the day the Indiana House voted 63-31 to pass a notorious religious freedom bill that may allow business owners to refuse service to same-sex couples.

“If LGBT people can be discriminated against based on faith, so can Christians,” said Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen. “And there are millions of Americans who are not Christian and may abuse these laws to exclude people based on their Christian beliefs. This, of course, would be wrong, but in our current society today, many people still don’t see this same injustice when it’s done to gay people. They call it ‘religious freedom’. The Flipping the Script videos show it for what it really is, discrimination.”

In our latest ad, a gay man who runs a theater company forbids a Christian from buying tickets to a show after he sees a cross hanging from his neck. Citing the fictitious “Church of Harvey Fierstein,” he directs the Christian to go to a theater that shows “Passion of the Christ.” This is a plausible example of what could occur under such ridiculous bills that allow the gutting of anti-discrimination laws based on declarations of “sincere” faith. The video dramatization was created for Truth Wins Out by Chicago-based writer and performance artist Eric Clements, and filmmaker Ben Nissen.

“We are actually putting judges in the untenable position of deciding whose faith is sincere and whose is not,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “These laws also violate separation of church and state, because courts will be required to decide which religions are real and which are concocted for the sole purpose of discrimination. But doesn’t that unconstitutionally create ‘acceptable’ state sponsored religions, while others are decaled officially unacceptable?”

The first ad in our campaign, “Religious Freedom Café,” takes these “religious freedom” bills to their logical conclusion. It focuses on an African American man who is told to leave a restaurant because serving black people is against the owner’s religious beliefs.

Anti-gay organizations realize that they are on the verge of losing their unholy war against LGBT people. There has been a dramatic change in public opinion, with the majority of Americans supporting marriage equality. It seems that each month, the courts are striking down unconstitutional bans on same-sex marriage. The writing is on the wall so religious extremists are trying to rewrite the rules so they can continue to discriminate without consequence.

These homophobic activists are cynically claiming that their religious liberty is being violated unless they can persecute LGBT people in the workplace and deny them basic services — such as dining at a restaurant or baking a cake for a same-sex wedding.

Although these business owners have opened their doors to the general public, they feel that it violates their conscience if they can’t run their operation like a private country club, picking and choosing whom they work with and serve. They firmly believe their narrow worldview exempts them from obeying civil rights laws that were written to ban discrimination.

However, this radical viewpoint creates a dangerous slippery slope that will tear apart the fabric of society. Once we allow conservative Christians to refuse service to gays – it will only be a matter of time before bigots of all stripes decide their beliefs trump the rights of minorities to receive equal access to public accommodations.

If it is legal to deny baking a cake for a gay wedding based on religious conscience, how could it not also be legal for Christian Identity bakers, who believe God made white people superior, to refuse baking cakes for African American weddings? How could it not be legal for a restaurant to refuse hosting bar mitzvahs because Jews don’t believe in Jesus? Or, maybe service isbigotry refused for unmarried couples that are deemed to be “living in sin.”

“When a business is open to the public it is open to everyone,” said Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen. “Once you violate this core American principle, you are headed in an unfortunate direction.”

Religious Freedom bills have been introduced in Colorado, Hawaii, Indiana, Michigan, Utah, West Virginia, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Texas, and Wyoming.

Truth Wins Out (TWO) is a non-profit organization that works to demolish the very foundation of anti-gay prejudice. Our philosophy is simple: We attack the underpinnings of homophobia by debunking harmful lies, discrediting hateful myths, and countering anti-gay organizations. By chipping away at the underlying ignorance that fuels anti-LGBT attitudes, we can ultimately win our fight for fairness and achieve full equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people worldwide.