Anti-feminist sentiment, misbehaving athletes, racist images, and student safety concerns all manifested themselves in one way or another during the 2014–2015 academic year at the University of Mary Washington. Now that the annus horribilis is over, new challenges present themselves. President Rick Hurley recently announced recommendations, including a series of discussions on civility.
While I happen to think that refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding that isn’t even happening at your own church is a distortion of what it means to follow Jesus, this is more lament than argument. It makes me sad; and our religious freedom tradition, quite rightly, isn’t particularly concerned about my sadness.
What’s far more frustrating than pro-RFRA sentiment itself is the lack of empathy displayed by some who hold it.
It was put forward by a conservative Christian pastor who says that “Faithful American Christians are increasingly under attack across the country by the gay lobby.” And it’s a proposal for Christian-owned small businesses who don’t want to serve people like me: gay people, especially ones who are out, loud, and proud.
So much of the debate over Indiana’s new religious freedom law revolves around the gap between the letter of the law and the politics behind it. Supporters note that the law doesn’t mention gays and lesbians, and that similar laws (though not identical ones) have been on the books in other jurisdictions for years. Opponents point to the fact that the law’s advocates organized support for it with arguments about protecting business owners who object to being vendors for same-sex weddings. They're both right, just about different things.
One interesting element in the debate over laws like Arizona's SB 1062 has been a widespread willingness to simply accept the basic framing—LGBT equality/nondiscrimination vs. religious freedom—as the obvious starting point. But just a few years ago, this wouldn't have been obvious at all. Religious freedom may be the rallying cry of much of the right, but only recently. People used to talk about religious freedom less, and when they did they were often liberals.
I started in the pastorate in my mid-twenties. I was short and good-natured, and I received awkward comments quite a bit. I don’t as much any longer. I got better with reaction time and gained some tools to deflect the comments.