The Gospel Coalition

This weekend Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt stirred up controversy by writing in the Daily Beast that Christians have no biblical basis for claiming that religious belief should allow them to refuse to serve a same-sex wedding:
Before considering legal rights, Christians wrestling with this issue must first resolve the primary issue of whether the Bible calls Christians to deny services to people who are engaging in behavior they believe violates the teachings of Christianity regarding marriage. The answer is, it does not.

Nor does the Bible teach that providing such a service should be construed as participation or affirmation. Yet Christian conservatives continue to claim that it does.

gay-new-blackThis article was published only a few days after Powers and Merritt posted separate articles (here and here) claiming that discrimination based on sexual orientation is akin to discrimination based on race.

Such claims are often repeated but rarely examined. So let's consider whether race and sexual orientation are similar and equally deserving of legal protections.

Form of the Argument

The argument to make this comparison takes the following form:
Major Premise: A sexual orientation is analogous to the category of race.

Minor Premise: Race is a category protected by anti-discrimination laws.

Conclusion: Therefore, sexual orientation should have the same civil-rights protections as those afforded to race.

The question we will examine is whether the major premise is true. Is sexual orientation analogous to race? Before we can answer that question, we we must consider what constitutes a justification for anti-discrimination laws.

What Are Anti-Discrimination Laws?

In an article for Notre Dame Law Review, Richard F. Duncan provides a model for thinking through the issue. As Duncan says, in order to answer the question of whether sexual orientation should be protected by anti-discrimination laws we should first consider the purpose of such laws. "It is important to recognize, however, that civil rights laws codifying this principle are nothing more than exceptions to the general rule of free choice," says Duncan. Employers, landlords, business owners, and so on, have historically retained the moral and legal right to freedom of association, which allows them to choose whom they will or will not do business with. In the latter half of the 20th century, certain exemptions to this general principle became codified in the United States to protect categories such as race and gender.

It is important to remember that these anti-discrimination laws are exemptions to the general rule. Except for the protected classes, business owners, et al., are allowed to discriminate (i.e., refuse to do business) with people for a variety of reasons. For instance, a landlord is not required to rent to a pornographer or a Klansman. In general, sexual orientation (however it was made known to a business owner) has been one of thousands of factors that are unprotected by antidiscrimination laws.

People who claim that legislation to protect sexual orientation is merely seeking to provide the same protections that are afforded to other people are incorrect: they already have the same rights everyone else has, i.e., the right to be protected against discrimination on the basis of their race, gender, and other protected categories. It is necessary that we are clear that seeking to make sexual orientation a protected class are seeking a special exemption that is not afforded to millions of other criteria.

A case could possibly be made that sexual orientation deserves this special exemption if it can be shown to be analogous to the category of race. So let's examine that claim.

What Characteristics Warrant Special Protection?

The three most common reasons for considering race as a protected class is because race is immutable, morally neutral, and that discrimination has a significantly detrimental economic and political impact. The only two that really matter, however, are the last two. Whether a characteristic is immutable (i.e., subject to change) is not all that important, and shouldn't really factor into the question of antidiscrimination laws. As Duncan says,
Suppose, for example, that a drug were invented that would enable human beings to change their race. In other words, blacks could take a safe, inexpensive pill and become Caucasian. Would anyone argue seriously that civil rights laws should not cover blacks who declined the drug and thereby chose to remain black?

The reason race is a category worthy of protection is not because it is immutable, but because it is a morally neutral characteristic that has proven to have a significantly detrimental economic and political impact. And based on these criteria, sexual orientation is not analogous to race.

What Is Sexual Orientation?

Critics of orthodox Christianity often claim that the writers of the Bible had no conception of sexual orientation in the way that we use the term today. I suspect they are right. Some Christians (including me) believe that the phrase "sexual orientation" should be abandoned altogether since it is a harmful social construct.

The phrase itself is rather new. It was almost never used before 1920, and only really entered common usage in the 1970s during the early gay rights movement. Since then, the term has expanded and contracted based largely on the political needs of activists. The typical definition of the term—for instance, the one used by the American Psychological Association—is that a sexual orientation "refers to a person's sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions."

The three broad categories of sexual orientation are heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual, though there are other distinct—and often problematic—orientations as well. A prime example is pedophilia.

We can either say that pedophilia is a distinct sexual orientation, or we can say that it is a paraphilia associated with one of the three main orientations. For the past three decades this latter option has largely been rejected by the LGBTQ community. They insist there is no link between homosexuality and pedophilia. As a 2012 Huffington Post article says, "Quite often, pedophiles never develop a sexual orientation toward other adults." However, if it is true that pedophiles don't develop an orientation to other adults, and hence are neither heterosexual nor homosexual, then pedophilia must be a distinct sexual orientation.

This has been the commonsense view, though it too has been rejected by the LGBTQ activists since it makes the protection of sexual orientation as a generic class not only problematic, but morally reprehensible. If they are being honest, what they want is not a protection for all sexual orientations but only for orientations that can be applied to adult homosexuals. What LGBTQ activists want is a special exemption for a special subset of sexual orientations.

The 'Morally Neutral' Criteria

But let's grant, for the sake of argument, that we are warranted in carving out a special exemption for a particular type of sexual orientation (adult homosexuals). Is homosexual orientation and behavior morally neutral?

The obvious Christian answer is "no." There has never been a time in the history of Christianity—or even of Western Civilization—when sexuality has been considered a morally neutral characteristic of humans. Homosexuality, in particular, has historically been viewed by orthodox Christians as immoral behavior.

How then do LGBTQ supporters make the case that homosexuality is morally neutral and morally uncontroversial? By claiming that it is unreasonable to oppose homosexuality. And how do they do that? By claiming it is a morally neutral trait akin to race.

This argument fails, however, because it relies on a form of the logical fallacy called circular reasoning. Circular reasoning is often of the form: "A is true because B is true; B is true because A is true." The LGBTQ argument is rooted in the idea that "Homosexual orientation is akin to race because it is morally neutral; and it is morally neutral because it is akin to race." The argument needs an extra premise that ties homosexuality to race. The most likely candidate would be a detrimental impact of discrimination.

The Economic and Political Impact Criteria

The most obvious reason why the connection between homosexuality and race fails is because it does not currently lead to a detrimental economic and political impact. I won't belabor the point, since it is so obvious that LGBTQ advocates rarely attempt to claim that being gay is politically and economically harmful.

While individual cases obviously vary, as a class homosexuals have more political and economic power than any other minority group in America. The idea that homosexuals suffer the same detrimental impact as African Americans is so ridiculous that no one even bothers to seriously make such a claim.

What the Issue Is Really About

The main difference between antidiscrimination laws based on race and on sexual orientation is that the former were intended to recognize a morally neutral characteristic, while the latter is an effort to reclassify a non-neutral characteristic as morally good.

In previous decades this point was talked about, but not made obvious. As the LGBTQ journalist and activist Randy Shilts once said, the gay political agenda is "essentially a battle for social legitimacy." Similarly, Frank Kameny, an early leader of the homosexual rights movement, said in 1964:
I take the stand that not only is homosexuality . . . not immoral, but that homosexual acts engaged in by consenting adults are moral, in a positive and real sense, and are right, good, and desirable, both for the individual participants and for the society in which they live.

This is the position of most, if not all, members of the LGBTQ community today. It is also widely shared by many Christians, despite that fact that is wholly and unequivocally incompatible with Christian belief. Christians who support making sexual orientation a protected class are not, as some mistakenly believe, supporting a morally neutral position; they are helping to transform and reframe the idea of sexual orientation—specifically homosexuality—as a moral good.

Should We Be Forced to View Homosexuality as 'Morally Good'?

That is the stated goal of antidiscrimination laws based on sexual orientation: such legislation compels people, by force of law, to recognize that sexual activities are morally good and provides a basis for societal censure for disagreeing with that viewpoint.

As Americans, we have a constitutional right to lobby the government to recognize and promote our favorite types of sin. We should not be surprised, then, to find secular LGBTQ activists promoting their views in the public square, even when their arguments are morally problematic, illogical, and offensive to racial minorities.

What we should not tolerate, however, is the efforts of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to promote laws that promote destructive behavior as morally good. We cannot love our neighbor by encouraging them to engage in actions that invoke God's wrath (Ps. 5:4-5; Rom. 1:18). As Christians we may be required to tolerate ungodly behavior, but the moment we begin to endorse the same then we too have become suppressers of the truth. We cannot love our neighbor and want to see them excluded from the kingdom of Christ (Eph. 5:5).

We must, therefore, challenge our fellow believers who are promoting hate by claiming that discrimination based on sexual behavior is similar to racial bigotry and Jim Crow-style segregation laws. These types of claims that sexual orientation is analogous to race are unbiblical, racially insensitive, and morally repugnant. We must correct such misperceptions in a spirit of gentleness and truth. But we must also do so forcefully and make it clear that we cannot be followers of Christ and promoters of evil.


Simmul Iustus et Peccator

March 8, 2014 at 05:40 PM


A photographer at a GLBQT "wedding" attends a mockery of a worship service and directly witnesses and thereby implicitly endorses it: "Do all who witness these vows pledge to uphold this marriage..."

A cake is a product sold for a party (just like the napkins), not a personal endorsement or participation as a witness of a mockery of "marriage".

Wedding cakes don't carry a message of endorsement from a baker--do they? Where does that kind of understanding of "endorsement" end? Is selling gas to the limo driver who is driving the GLBQT couple in a limo to and from the "wedding" and reception also endorsing sin?

At a certain point it gets absurd, potentially immoral, and not conducive to gospel advancement (and totally impractical). So that's why I'd encourage a total boycott of a "wedding" ceremony and let each person decide their own policy from there (hopefully without government interference and with commonsense prevailing).

As sojourners in a land of 300 million, the vast majority of whom are under judgment for rejecting the Son of God, we have to learn to live as neighbors without compromising the grace and truth of the gospel.

I'm open to hearing how biblical ethics should be worked out. And I'll be curious how the Supreme Court will rule when cases rise to that level. But a church-based campaign to boycott serving GLBQT unbelievers is even problematic and would be less effective than when the SBC boycotted Disney.

What approach advances the gospel of grace AND truth is always a good place to start.


March 7, 2014 at 12:37 AM

I was not referring to slavery in the slightest, for that is man-stealing and the job of any just state to end and punish. I was referring to, for example, a restauranteur being coerced into serving anybody they choose not to. Yes, blacks were systematically discriminated against by private individuals which is sin, but should we allow the state the power force their hand? Do we end nonviolent sin with the violence of the state? I think not. As for your played-out and fallacious comments toward me having a different view because I am not black, there are plenty of black men at my church that are of the same mind as me. Besides, until we get past that type of nonsense and look at the arguments for what they are, why talk at all?


March 7, 2014 at 10:41 AM

Whether or not God requires denying bakery services to a homosexual wedding, IMO, is kinda slippery which makes it a matter of conscience. Now, whether I'm wrong or not is besides the point. Government should not compel somebody to act out of accord with conscience in such a matter. But I find it interesting how easily you defined photographing a wedding as participatory, but making a cake as not participatory. How did you come to that conclusion? Don't get me wrong, I don't have a clear cut answer either on that particular question. For example, would it be okay to make a cake for a bunch of paedophiles, say NAMBLA celebrating their future political conquests, but not to video the event?


March 7, 2014 at 04:17 PM

I can see we mostly agree but I'm still fuzzy as to how you would say that a photographer is participating IN the wedding service, and thus immoral to do so, while the baker who scribed with their own hand in frosting, "Merry Marriage to you, Adam and Steve!" and then delivered the cake is not immoral. To me, it kinda seems like the latter is more endorsing of the affair, and the former is, for the most part, documenting it. FWIW, I'm not endorsing either.

Simmul Iustus et Peccator

March 7, 2014 at 02:46 PM

I agree. and wrote: "it's overboard for the state to force a business to bake a cake."

And I do think it's the baker's decision of conscience, not the pastor's. Pastors should not "require" or instruct members to withhold goods and services to GLBQT for non-religious services. That will not advance the gospel and will backfire. It's an unnecessary boundary marker to require it.

Should a Christian dentist or proctologist or gastroenterologist refuse to serve a gay male who defiles his body?

That hardly pictures Jesus who was pierced for our impurities. It looks more like Phineas who pierced Cozbi for impurity (Num. 25).

As a pastor, I would not encourage participating in GLBQT "wedding" ceremonies. I do see a difference between providing goods and services for a reception (anniversary, birthday, etc.) and a wedding ceremony which directly affirms and participates in a sinful, unholy union.

I don't view a wedding ceremony as a sacrament, but it is historically meant to be a worship service that is a sacred picture of God's covenantal relationship with His Bride. To attend or facilitate a GLBQT "wedding" in any way is to participate with demons who seek to conform humans to satan's self-worshipping image.

But to build the road to the building where a GLBQT "wedding" occurred, or to Fed Ex wedding invitations, or drop off a cake at a reception, is not participation in worship and is not an endorsement of hell-bound sin.

Still, if one's conscience is bothered--don't bake the cake and maybe get out of the wedding reception business.

Perhaps an analogy is the Christian restaurant owner: if you're conscience is concerned to not enable drunkenness don't sell alcohol--or get out of the restaurant business.

Simmul Iustus et Peccator

March 7, 2014 at 01:01 AM

It's overboard for the state to force a business to bake a cake.

It's sneaky that the GLBQT activist lobby tries to legitimize its agenda by hassling Christian businesses into compliance by public shaming.

It's burdensome for Christian teachers to bind the consciences of Christian business owners rather than equip them to decide their own business.

In all this, a distinction gets lost: selling goods or services for a reception is not facilitating or participating in a religious or quasi-religious ceremony.

A wedding cake is not part of a worship service. It's not a means of grace. It's not sacramental. It's not part of a religious ceremony nor does it point to one. It is not innately or directly or integrally connected to marriage or the marriage ceremony.

It’s dessert.

Unlike photographing the wedding ceremony or playing music at the ceremony or performing the ceremony or attending and witnessing and agreeing with the vows, providing goods and services for a reception is a non-religious and non-participatory activity.

A reception feeds a party where (in most cases) no illegal or immoral activity occurs (other than occasional public intoxication and crude dancing). Yes, they are celebrating an unholy union, a sinful rebellion that is under judgment so no state should compel a contract.

But comparing providing goods and services to a GLBQT reception to photographing a wedding or participating in the ceremony is not the same.

I'm for elders fencing communion and membership, but why do pastors put the burden of fencing the market place on business owners?

Are pastors going to tell owners of a wedding limo service to selectively lease?

Will they encourage the butcher to ask for an affidavit guaranteeing a couple is not fornicating or that it isn’t the 5th marriage or a gay marriage before selling wedding meat?

Will a tailor or dressmaker refuse service?
“Can you hem these pants?”
“Sure… These are nice. What’s the occasion?”
“My wedding.”
“Congrats. Who’s the lucky lady?”
“His name is Bill.”
“Sorry. No service.” Is that what God requires?

Is it not more honoring to the Savior who demands repentance to draw the line at not participating in a GLBQT ceremony rather than encouraging Christian businesses to fence the market place?

If business refuse service, where does the fundamentalist-style separation from the world end? In 21st century Phariseeism?


March 5, 2014 at 09:17 AM

Andy, you claim that orientation or predilection to sin is morally neutral because none of us chooses those orientations and predilections. But it is far from clear to me that choice alone pushes sin orientation into moral non-neutrality in the eyes of God. Granted similar debate is longstanding and we are not likely to come to agreement here. For the present I will do little more than cite again (assuming your familiarity) that, "In Adam all die," and "I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (this latter from Ps. 51 I think partially in recollection of Mosaic law regarding "uncleanness" wrt emissions and birthing--with, e.g., pedagogical purpose). And if death and sin orientation is ubiquitous among humans, does that not suggest morally non-neutral causality which is logically prior to choice?

Alien & Stranger

March 3, 2014 at 08:55 AM

Perhaps a better analogy, than the homosexuality versus race approach, is whether a Christian business would be willing to do business knowingly with a customer who has been divorced for reasons other than the Biblical one of adultery, and is remarrying. How many churches have compromised on this issue?
I know of a number of Christians who got divorced for reasons other than adultery, and pastors have performed marriage ceremonies when they have subsequently married someone else. I know one case where the wife, a Christian, left her RC husband (who was heart-broken) for someone else, married him and seems to have no conscience about it - still going to church, etc.
I know another couple who got engaged but then, after studying the Bible on the issue, realised that the woman, who had been divorced after becoming a Christian, should not remarry because she had gotten divorced for reasons other than adultery, so they broke off the engagement. They preferred to obey the Lord than follow their own will.

The GOP and Social Conservatives

February 28, 2014 at 08:44 AM

[…] the Times article) won’t be the last. There are voices vainly, hoarsely, pointing out that the crusade for gay rights is not chapter 2 of the civil rights movement. But my feel is that those voices will continue to be shouted down until they become a whisper. The […]

Joshua Perkins

February 28, 2014 at 08:11 PM

An excellent point, Lori. Thank you.


February 28, 2014 at 07:27 AM

I find it shocking that there are professed Christians who are against this Arizona bill. Evidently they believe that gays getting their feelings hurt and having to drive to a different bakery is a greater evil than a Christian baker being FORCED to act against his conscience and/or getting harassed out of business by the pro-SSM lynch mob, thus losing his very livelihood.

"Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall" (1 Corinthians 8:9-13)

Even if you believe that these Christian bakers are being overly scrupulous by refusing to bake a gay wedding cake, according to Paul it is ALWAYS sin to participate in an act that offends one's conscience. Paul goes as far as to call it a peril against one's very soul to do such a thing. Ye some Christians seem to be more willing to see a baker sin against his own conscience than see a gay person have their feelings hurt by being denied a cake. Of course, I don't think it's really a concern over hurt feelings of gays that is driving some Christians to be against this bill. It's their unwillingness to be counted fools by this world for the sake of Christ. It's that desire for man's applause which drives them to seek peace with this decadent culture at all cost.

If you told me 30 years ago that within 3 decades we'd see evangelical Christians defending laws that would require other Christians to bake cakes to help gay couples celebrate their sodomy, I would have thought you were crazy. Even unbelievers of 30 years ago would have found such predictions ludicrous. Yet here we are.

This culture is circling the drain fast...and sadly it seems that many in the church are going down with it.

Discerning Reader | Brett Allen Harris

February 28, 2014 at 05:37 AM

[…] Is Sexual Orientation Analogous to Race Joe Carter asks and answers the question. […]

Brian Hammonds

February 27, 2014 at 12:38 AM

I think we'd all agree that consent is important, but certainly not the only factor in determining the morality of an action.

[…] the first article, “Is Sexual Orientation Analogous to Race?” Carter formalizes the argument being […]


February 27, 2014 at 08:59 AM

Dwight, please, be a little more charitable here. No one is arguing about just any-old service. These arguments are specifically about participating in sinful actions themselves, not merely serving sinful people (which would be all customers). You must allow for this distinction. To not do so does mean that you would be obligated to photograph an orgy. You must see this correlation. Christians must view a gay wedding and an orgy as the same thing morally, or they are not thinking Christianly.


February 27, 2014 at 08:53 AM

Mark, you’re missing a really key point here. If you are a Christian, then you ARE a bigot. It doesn’t matter how nice you are about it, at the end of the day they don’t care about you serving a cake at their wedding (though I believe doing so is a sinful participation). At the end of the day, they want you to affirm that homosexuality is normal and acceptable before God. And if you won’t do that, you’re a bigot.

Your Christian worldview is going to have to be able to handle being a bigot in this world and still being able to love people and share the Gospel, or you are going to be in a lot of trouble within the next 5 years or so. Mark, you ARE a bigot, just like Jesus. And it’s because of this that you are loving.

In a world where pointing out sin that leads to hell is bigotry, bigots are the people who are loving.


February 27, 2014 at 08:11 AM

I think the legislation being proposed is ridiculous overreach, and we can't legalize discrimination in the public marketplace.

However, I also think that lawsuits against photographers or bakers who decline to contract for services for a gay wedding are also a ridiculous overreach.

I think we can be adults and handle our differences, without lawsuits, in ways that everybody is happy with.

Tony C.

February 27, 2014 at 07:04 AM

Do people accept that qualities other than race are not a legitimite basis for discrimination?

Marital status for example? Disability even? How about religious practice?

This entire posts arguments would certainly permit anyone to discriminate against Christians.

Perhaps that's how Americans like their society but as an Australian we are (mostly) happy to have more anti-discrimination categories than just race, including sexual orientation.


February 27, 2014 at 06:18 PM

Matt, please now. You cannot have it both ways. It is not the pedophile's choice either then, by your logic. You have no basis for thinking heterosexulaity and homosexulaity are "born with" orientations anymore than pedophilia. And if we grant that there are likely biological dispositions to each, what then? What is your point? If homosexuals are born that way, and it is still sin.


February 27, 2014 at 06:12 PM

"But the line is drawn here and that is what Powers and Merritt rightfully challenged. If being involved in a sinful event was the issue, then other weddings besides a same-sex wedding would also be boycotted by a Christian businessperson".


The purpose of the law was to establish that a baker has the right to deny services if by doing so he would violate his religious conscience. All you, Powers and Merritt are arguing is that many Christian bakers are hypocritical in treating gay marriages differently than other unbiblical marriages. Maybe that's true, although you don't know that's true of every Christian baker out there. But even if it were true, whether these bakers are being hypocritical tells us nothing about whether the law itself is just or not. Is hypocrisy what Powers and Merritt really care about? Would they be 100% in favor of the law if Christian bakers said "Ok, starting tomorrow we won't give cakes to second heterosexual marriages either". Would they then be ok with gays being denied cakes? I don't think so. The hypocrisy charge against some of these bakers may be true (although I think when it comes to heterosexual marriages the issues are more nuanced), the hypocrisy factor still has nothing to do with judging whether the law is proper or not.


February 27, 2014 at 06:03 PM

The issue at hand here is not whether or not this is moral, but that it's not their choice to be gay, they are born this way. To compare being a homosexual to a pedophile is ridiculous and the fact that you have even put them in the same statement is offensive. I appreciate the you are trying to build a logical argument, but you avoid the fact they are born like this. It's not a choice and they should be allowed to live like any heterosexual.


February 27, 2014 at 03:09 PM

No one, no one is saying gay people should be denied services. This is about participation in services and practices that religious individuals object to, and there should be room for that. This is very helpful:

[…] levels. Others have written about this as well. (See for instance Joe Carter’s excellent article: […]


February 27, 2014 at 02:18 PM

I find it strange that Joe seems to imply that we would be OK with a Jewish landlord discriminating against a klansman, especially since the author seems to desire that a Christian's behaviour reflect God's character as revealed through his law. Wouldn't a Christian also reject this type of discrimination against the klansman, urging the landlord to "bless those who hate you" as the law of Christ commands?

My point is that there are a thousand behaviours that Christians do not agree with (everything from divorce to military aggression to how we treat the poor to the above example), but that we also do not speak out against (and we also differ on what we don't agree with, but I suppose that's another topic). So the question is: why? Is it because there are too many? Because we often commit them ourselves? Because we know that simply "speaking out against" something may not be the most accurate way to reflect God's character? And why are we so focused on this one issue, to the point where we believe denying gay people services is the only, or the necessary, way of speaking truth? Would the answer to this question change (and I know others have posited similar alternatives above) if we were talking about a business owner, believing that Jesus calls us to radical non-violence, who refused to serve a soldier?

Around the Horn :: 2.27.14 | Treading Grain

February 27, 2014 at 02:16 AM

[…] Is Sexual Orientation Analogous to Race? Such claims are often repeated but rarely examined. So let’s consider whether race and sexual orientation are similar and equally deserving of legal protections. […]

A La Carte (2.27.14) | familylifeatccc

February 27, 2014 at 01:21 PM

[…] Is Sexual Orientation Analogous to Race?: “We must, therefore, challenge our fellow believers who are promoting hate by claiming that discrimination based on sexual behavior is similar to racial bigotry and Jim Crow-style segregation laws. These types of claims that sexual orientation is analogous to race are unbiblical, racially insensitive, and morally repugnant. We must correct such misperceptions in a spirit of gentleness and truth. But we must also do so forcefully and make it clear that we cannot be followers of Christ and promoters of evil.” […]

Christian Vagabond

February 26, 2014 at 12:48 AM

The kind of photographer you described (freelance photographers getting requests for a special assignment) isn't the same as baking a cake, since the freelance photographer works by short-term contracts (i.e. an assignment from the NY Times or NationalGeographic) or for artistic reasons. A freelance photographer does not have an obligation to serve any and all comers.

A portrait photographer (like you see in small) is a more accurate comparison. Portrait photographers cannot turn people down. Their business is open for any and all comers. You don't see families getting turned away from portrait photographers or girls being turned away by those cheesy glamour photographers that dress them up to look like movie stars. They have to serve everyone.


February 26, 2014 at 12:22 AM

Hey Frank: This discussion is not going anywhere and its not really helpful. I am not interested in frustrating or offending you any further so I am going to bow out of the dialogue. All the best to you!

Christian Vagabond

February 26, 2014 at 11:59 AM

The silly hypotheticals are a waste of tim, Frank. I shouldn't need to say this, but a portrait photographer offers a specific set of services, and none of them involve nudity.

A bakery that offers wedding cakes, however, uses the same recipe no matter what wedding the cake is being made for. That's where the discrimination comes in. A wedding cake for a straight wedding looks the same and tastes the sambas a wedding cake for a gay wedding.

Curt Day

February 26, 2014 at 11:27 PM

I agree that race is worthy of protection. The question is whether the gov't should view homosexuality as being morally neutral and thus worthy of protection. When laws that criminalized homosexuality were undone, then, before the state, homosexuality gained a morally neutral status. And thus we would have to prove to the gov't why that shouldn't be the case. Yes, according to the Bible homosexuality is immoral. But we have a society that is based on religious liberty. So I am not sure why you think that the gov't should view homosexuality as not being morally neutral.

Curt Day

February 26, 2014 at 11:21 PM

With some of the legislation being proposed, this is the issue. That is because the legislation being proposed allows businesspeople to discriminate against gays for religious reasons and that pertains to just to services to people and not events.

In addition, I was answering a point made by Mr. Carter.

Curt Day

February 26, 2014 at 11:19 PM

Depends on what we are comparing. If we are comparing the KKK activity with some of the laws being proposed, then they are comparable. That is because these legislations would allow businesses to deny public services to gays and not just to certain events. In addition, I was addressing a point made by Mr. Carter who said services could be refused to those in the KKK. Now he was referring to a landlord so I responded with the above. So what I cited fit what Mr. Carter was saying.

But let's go with Christians abstaining from a sinful event. There is no debate regarding whether Christians should not offer public services for other sinful weddings. This was one of the points that Powers and Merritt made in their article. But the line is drawn here and that is what Powers and Merritt rightfully challenged. If being involved in a sinful event was the issue, then other weddings besides a same-sex wedding would also be boycotted by a Christian businessperson.

So the issue becomes one of discrimination against a group. This is something Christians have been practicing against gays for a long time going back when homosexuality was criminalized.

Big Ben

February 26, 2014 at 11:09 AM

I'm sorry but I still haven't seen the point to all the debate going on about baking for gay weddings.
How can there be such a thing as gay 'marriage' when it can never never
Ever be consummated?
And I don't agree that race is not immutable. It is.
Everything about who I am tells me that I am of a particular race and cultural legacy,
Whether it be the hair color, the skin color, the blood of my ancestors that are flowing in me.
I can never change that. My body and my family tells me my race. No pill, no amount of dye
is ever going to change that. Now, about sexual identity...that's a different story altogether.
My body tells me I am male or female. Yes, that is so immutable. As regards sexual orientation?
Well, there are former homosexuals.... But there is simply no case, discernible hard evidence on which to
Base it, other than mere desire or orientation. So how can this identity be verifiable and established
Enough for it to be discriminated against in the first place?

Tim Mullet

February 26, 2014 at 11:05 AM


Perhaps I am not listening well, but you seem to have changed your position.

First you say, (1)"The claim that homosexuality is not morally neutral has an explicitly religious basis. It's different from crimes like murder, where both the religious and irreligious recognize a moral dimension."

Then you modify it to (2) "Yes. Let me rephrase: "Claims that homosexuality is not morally neutral are either explicitly based in religious belief or are completely arbitrary and likely stem bigoted animus."

Then you say this, (3) "My only point is that to have a moral objection to homosexuality that isn't more-or-less arbitrary it must stem from some sort of faith system. Homosexuality isn't unique in this regard; the same is true of murder, etc."

1 and 2 seem to be arguing the same thing, but 3 seems to be a complete rewrite.

You asked, "How does the atheist justify an objection to homosexuality on moral grounds?"

There was a moral objection that the Russians presented against homosexuality. They allowed homosexuals to come into the country, but they warned them against contact with children. That is clearly a moral concern.

Throughout the history of the world, people have objected to homosexuality on irreligious moral grounds, only very recently has it become a non-moral issue in the west.

Gregory Peterson

February 26, 2014 at 10:39 AM

Both "race" and "homosexuality" are modern-era social constructs.

"The reason race is a category worthy of protection is not because it is immutable, but because it is a morally neutral characteristic that has proven to have a significantly detrimental economic and political impact. And based on these criteria, sexual orientation is not analogous to race."

Why would sexual orientations are not be "morally neutral." Why would you think that "race" was considered to be "morally neutral" in even the recent, within living memory past?

Of course, "race" is only immutable if you claim that the "One Drop Rule" is an eternal truth.

Christian Vagabond

February 26, 2014 at 10:19 PM

Okay, then. You try making a wedding cake. Just to see if you can do it. A real, tiered, fancy wedding cake with all the trimmings.

Christians have provided services to people whose activities or values offend them for most of America's history, and before this none of them pushed for a bill like this one. Florists provide flowers to known adulterers buying flowers for their mistress. Jewelers sell engagement rings to Christians marrying atheists. That's why everyone recognizes that this is all about Christians who feel hatred towards gays wanting legally sanctioned bigotry.

In the case of the pedophile, the law dictates that pedophiles have to keep a distance from kids and can't freely associate with them.


February 26, 2014 at 08:47 AM

Brad, you've been very patient -- I admire the way you've interacted with Frank. You've been winsome and open. I don't know what's up; some of his comments seems quite condescending here.


February 26, 2014 at 08:08 AM

The KKK example would be valid if we were talking about business owners refusing basic, public services to GLBT people. If they told a gay person they couldn't eat in their restaurant, or asked a lesbian to leave their store, they'd be discriminating.

However, that is not what's at issue, at least in the real-life cases. Yes, a business owner cannot refuse service, period, to a Klan member. Let's say I own a fabric store. Can I or should I refuse to sell white fabric that is there and available to everybody to a person who is a Klan member, lest they make a robe out of it? No, I don't think I should refuse, either morally or legally. But, what if they approach me as a self-employed seamstress and want to place an order for Klan robes from me? Should I be legally or morally obligated to fulfill that request? I don't think so.

It's one thing for a paper and copy store to refuse to sell plain posterboard to the Westboro Baptist Church, which I do think would be discriminatory and wrong, and another to decline to take on the job of printing up their new protest signs for them.

There is providing general services to people we think are engaged in great moral wrongs. And then there is providing services that are specifically centered on that wrong. I think we need to be very clear in making that distinction.


February 26, 2014 at 07:34 AM

"This was shown in a case in Georgia where a bakery refused to serve a member of the KKK because of his affiliation with the group. The local chapter of the KKK sued the bakery and won the lawsuit"


That is a false comparison. There is nothing sinful about a birthday party, even if it's for the birthday of a KKK member. So the baker in that KKK case you referred to would not have been participating in a sinful event if he had provided a birthday cake to the clansman. That is not the same thing as providing a cake for a gay wedding where a baker is being asked to be a participant in an event that they believe is an abomination to God. The fact is no gays are being denied birthday cakes by Christian bakers. They are being denied WEDDING cakes. Contrary to the propaganda being spewed by the media, no Christian businesses are denying services to gays. If a gay man's straight mother came in to the bakery to buy a cake for her gay son's wedding, the bakers would have denied her their services too even though she is straight. Because the issue is not HER, it's the EVENT the cake is being purchased for. Likewise, if a gay man went into the bakery to buy a wedding cake for his straight sister's wedding, these bakers would have had no problem serving him either, even though he is gay. Again, because it's not about HIM, it's about the EVENT. In other words, the Christian bakers in all of these cases are not refusing to serve a particular person because of their sexual orientation. They are refusing to participate in a gay wedding. They are denying services related to ACTIONS that they believe are sinful, not PEOPLE. There is a difference between refusing to participate in an event and refusing to serve a person.

If you really want to make a fair comparison, you would need to change the KKK case into a hypothetical case where a black baker was asked to provide not a birthday cake, but a generic cake for a KKK rally where the baker was asked to put some reprehensible phrase such as "Blacks are inferior" on the icing. Should a black baker be forced to do that? Of course he shouldn't. Because at that point he is being asked to help celebrate something evil (a KKK rally) and he is also being asked to participate in the message that rally is trying to convey by creating a cake that helps celebrate the message. If you want a fair comparison to what Christian bakers are being forced to do in the case of gay marriage, it's that scenario not the real birthday cake scenario you referred to.

Jeff S

February 26, 2014 at 07:23 AM

Blaming it on propaganda is the easiest way to ignore the problem and any responsibility we might have. It's far easier to sleep at night when we can assume that those who are hurting are doing so because they are the problem, not us.

Frank Turk

February 26, 2014 at 07:13 AM

Andy - you started so well. You're saying that because we are all sinners (an entirely true statement), we should condone (and in this case: help celebrate) all manner of sin.

Why should we celebrate the things which condemn us to eternal punishment?

Frank Turk

February 26, 2014 at 07:09 AM

It's a shame that history, biology, law, and common practice are now all "nonsense." Those used to be useful pursuits. However, since religion has also been tossed out as a way to reason through this, I think it's obvious what we are left with: what seems right in our own eyes.

We all know how that turns out -- at least those of us who have seen it before through the study of history, biology, common practice and religion.

Frank Turk

February 26, 2014 at 06:49 AM

Christian: you're saying that a portrait photographer who gets approached to do a nude photo shoot must accept the work?

I think you're about to expose the weakness (and missing facts) of your argument.

Frank Turk

February 26, 2014 at 06:46 AM

Just to make sure it gets said, it was unhelpful from the moment you stopped listening to those who disagree with you -- which was immediately after you made your first comment.

Good luck to you.

Charles Haas

February 26, 2014 at 06:43 PM

Yes, but our legal system also can't be made tell Christians how to observe their religious beliefs. That would be the first amendment of the Bill of Rights. You would have people's religious beliefs denied in favor of someone's sexual beliefs. Don't remember where in the Bill of Rights, where someone's sexual beliefs trumps another persons religious beliefs.

You might recall Daniel actually defied Nebuchadnezzar in the food he ate, and along with his associates, of who he would bow down to. You will also recall that in the end, partly by Daniel's example, Nebuchadnezzar submitted his soul to God (mostly God's doing though). Daniel did not do this by supporting evil or morally corrupt activities. This is not a minor issue. God and the Bible do not support slavery, as the Eqyptians could truely atest too. If you want to know what God cares about, look at his actions. Sodom and Gomorrah are pretty straight-forward examples of how God views homosexuality.

[…] Is Sexual Orientation Analogous to Race? (The Gospel Coalition) […]

Charles Haas

February 26, 2014 at 06:25 PM

Yes, but homosexuals can go to other stores that support their cause, or can in fact start business that cater specifically to their cause.Forcing someone to support a cause that is not MORALLY accepted causes them to do work not considered acceptable in the eyes of God. Denying such a service like making a wedding cake is hardly a hardship as people can actually make cakes themselves. Should cake makers be forced to make cakes for the party a pedophile is preparing for children? I think not.

Links I Like |

February 26, 2014 at 03:18 PM

[…] Joe Carter on Is sexual orientation analogous to race? […]

Christian Vagabond

February 26, 2014 at 01:26 AM

I think Joe's making a relativistic argument. It sounds like he believes that a just society should not allow gays the same rights and privileges that heterosexuals enjoy. Therefore, he looks at history and sees no "discrimination," just gays being treated as they should be. It also seems as though he's arguing that discrimination is a desirable trait in a just society (given his Jewish landlord example).

As I see it, the common theme in his argument (and those who agree with him) is that society should reinforce desirable traits and values by ostracizing this who exhibit different values.(I.e. make gays so miserable that they want to go back in the closet), and a society that treats people with different values with respect reinforces those values, thereby undermining the effort to recreate a self-policing society with a miserable minority .

Christian Vagabond

February 26, 2014 at 01:04 AM

Plenty of businesses and public buildings have unisex restrooms, so that argument doesn't work.

The point is that freedom of private choices (deciding to join the KKK or only date white women) is different than personal convictions applied to others (forbidding your neighbor from marrying someone you deem inappropriate) or commerce-related choices (not hiring blacks because of you KKK beliefs, or women because you're a complementation) Your gambits are nonsensical.

BTW, I forgot to ask you: what did you mean earlier that the point of male and females is "continuation of the race"?


February 25, 2014 at 12:32 PM

Yes. Let me rephrase: "Claims that homosexuality is not morally neutral are either explicitly based in religious belief or are completely arbitrary and likely stem bigoted animus."

People without faith certainly recognize a moral dimension to things, but their moral understanding is usually based on a vague formulation of the golden rule. Unlike murder, rape, etc., all of which are usually viewed as "wrong" even by those who don't recognize a spiritual reality, homosexuality isn't because it lacks a direct victim. Most folks in this camp don't view things like premarital sex (between consenting adults) as "wrong" for the same reason.

In the case of Russia, if you take Putin's public remarks as representative, he appeals not to morality per se but to "tradition" and "culture". Putin: "the Russian people have their own cultural code, their own tradition. We don't interfere, don't stick our noses in their life and we ask that our traditions and culture are treated with the same respect." There's also a pragmatic angle. Putin again: "This year in Russia, the number of newborns has exceeded the number of deceased for the first time. [...] we want the Russian people and other peoples of the Russian Federation to develop and to have historical prospects. And we should clean up everything that impedes us here. But we should do this in a timely and humane manner without offending anybody and without including anybody in a group of secondary people."


February 25, 2014 at 12:31 PM

For many reasons, some of which were mentioned, we cannot say "Gay is the new black." But even if we could, it would not follow that the government should have a say in who sells who what. As much as I appreciated the article, it seems that Mr. Carter wants to hold on to the cherished, but false, notion that the government has moral authority to compel you to serve somebody when you don't want to, even if denial of service is for sinful bigoted reasons. Christians need to lay the ax to the root when it comes to a false political philosophy. Is one defrauded, stolen from, had their contractual rights broken, or had an act of violence committed against them when one says, I don't want to serve you?" No, thus it should not be the government's business at all. The logical result is the mess we are in today when the government has the legal right to pick winners and losers of their game.


February 25, 2014 at 12:18 PM

A. Marriage has been, since the dawn of the human race, about the joining of mating pairs of human beings for the sake of procreation.

This is simply not true. If it were true, you'd be fine with saying those who cannot procreate cannot get married. But I feel confident you would say (for example) it is good/proper/right for two heterosexual septuagenarians to get married.

Marriage is clearly about more than just procreation. Indeed, for lots and of couples procreation is irrelevant. Yet those couples are still married.

For more, see this (try bringing your argument up there, and see what happens):

Jeff S

February 25, 2014 at 11:26 AM

"The idea that homosexuals suffer the same detrimental impact as African Americans is so ridiculous that no one even bothers to seriously make such a claim."

You limited your scope to economic/political, but there are large numbers of suicides related to homosexuals struggling with their acceptance. However we addresses this issue, we have to have compassion and recognize that our beliefs and the way we express them are the source of much pain in the lives of homosexuals and those who love them. To limit "detrimental impact" in such a way as to ignore clear detrimental impact makes the arguments seem out of touch at best, and manipulative at worst.

I believe the Bible condemns homosexual behavior. I'm also one of those that doesn't expect the culture to live according to scripture (though I expect my church to). I don't see that as endorsing or promoting their behavior. I think of it as giving them room to not be perfect and find the truth as God leads, not as I restrict.

My concern is far more with the church than with politics, though. I think we evangelicals treat homosexuals horribly and that they reject our message not only because of their own sin, but also how we carry the message. We have to do better- I'm not sure what that looks like, but ignoring the real pain they are in is not it.

Christian Vagabond

February 25, 2014 at 11:25 AM

If the premise is true that sexual orientation does not currently fall under anti-discrimination laws, then there is no need for additional legislation. Therefore, states like Arizona which (according to your argument) currently allow discrimination against sexual orientation by businesses are wasting their time by proposing religious exception laws.

Tim Mullet

February 25, 2014 at 11:17 AM

You know that the Russian secular state is against homosexuality correct?

Christian Vagabond

February 25, 2014 at 11:11 AM

Pets aren't allowed in restaurants for sanitary purposes. As for no shoes and shirts, the difference between that and homosexuals is that the same customers can return and get service if they put shoes and a shirt on. A gay couple cannot do the same.

Christian Vagabond

February 25, 2014 at 10:57 AM

If anything, Frank's argument is favorable to gay marriage. Any individual can refuse to marry someone on racist grounds. They cannot prevent people of other races to marry each other. Gender discrimination is as illegal as racial discrimination; any job application lists race and gender as factors they are prohibited from considering when they hire. hiring.

Therefore, if sexuality and race are objective facts of humanity, then Frank must conclude that prohibiting races from intermarrying is the same as prohibiting people from marrying based on sexual orientation.

Mark Pertuit

February 25, 2014 at 10:45 AM

Exactly! In all the discussions I've read about these matters in past weeks, I've discovered very few Christians who think like you do, Dwight.

A lot of people seem to think solely in terms of their own asset-protection. Not that that's irrelevant! But, it's as if Jesus hadn't taught us to deeply relate to/ love/ befriend/ bless those who are different, those who are trapped and lost in sin. (How powerful would it be to gay folks, or Muslims, if we just went out of our way to bless them -- just because God loves them, and because we want to demonstrate that? That sure does get people's attention, more than reciting verses at them. Love them, genuinely, and they'll be much more open to the verses later.)

If we can't do those things (or if we aren't even willing to learn to do those things), then we may intellectually grasp the theology of the gospel. But the heart of the gospel has been lost; all we have left is a dusty, dry facsimile of gospel reality.

Truth without love is harsh, more interested in being correct and in winning an argument than in the person at hand (one for whom Jesus died). It's an attempted surgery without anesthesia.

Christian Vagabond

February 25, 2014 at 10:41 AM

Frank, regarding your first hypothetical: Pro photographers are legally governed by modeling waivers. The photographer writes up a waiver (usually stating that the photographer will only use the photos for X, Y, and Z, and the model must sign and agree to it. Without that, the photographer is vulnerable for a lawsuit if the model decides her image has been used in a manner she disapproves of.)

Since there is no set guidelines for what conditions a photographer can make for his waiver, your hypothetical photographer could simply make the couple go away by writing up an unreasonable waiver (such as stating the models agree to allow the photographer to post the photos on social media with their real names and addresses.)

Regarding the second hypothetical: suicide is a crime, and and in many states attempted suicides face mandatory hospitalization and treatment. Photographing a suicide falls under aiding and abetting a crime, particularly if the it can be proven that the photographer knew in advance what the cult planned to do and directly interacted with them during the course of their suicide.


February 25, 2014 at 10:30 AM

Hal, yes, I see that, as is clear from what's written above. My point is that the people doing the bullying aren't our enemies; they're the lost. So we need to think a lot about how we deal with those lost folks.

Frank Turk

February 25, 2014 at 10:28 AM

Brad -- it's a shame you really don't understand my argument. However, I'm a patient guy. Do you really think that it's my point that we should assume that all people are so sinful that we cannot ever interact with them? If not, then what do you think my point is, in 25 words or less?

Frank Turk

February 25, 2014 at 10:15 AM

Phil -- what I am saying is that it has always been based on heterosexuality. It has always been based on mating pairs of human beings. The syllogism, if you cannot work it out, looks like this:

A. Marriage has been, since the dawn of the human race, about the joining of mating pairs of human beings for the sake of procreation.
B. In humans, biologically, the only mating pairs consist of one male and one female.
C. Therefore, Marriage has been, since the dawn of the human race, about the joining of one male and one female for the sake of procreation.

It's a shame that this foundational piece of evolutionary logic is lost on so many people. There's not one verse of Scripture needed to endorse this. Yet: here you are somehow not aware of this piece of scientific data.

Mere Links 02.25.14 - Mere Comments

February 25, 2014 at 10:00 AM

[…] Is Sexual Orientation Analogous to Race? Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition […]

Curt Day

February 25, 2014 at 09:46 PM

There are several problems with the argument Carter advances here. First, a business can't discriminate against groups like the KKK. This was shown in a case in Georgia where a bakery refused to serve a member of the KKK because of his affiliation with the group. The local chapter of the KKK sued the bakery and won the lawsuit (see

Second, we are assuming that because Christians rightfully call homosexual behavior immoral, that the state must regard it as immoral as well and thus must not feel compelled to protect the rights of the homosexuals. The problem here is that the basis for our calling homosexual behavior immoral is religious and for the state to use our categorizing the morality of homosexuality, the court must accept the religious basis. This would violate the religious beliefs of homosexuals. Thus, in the eyes of the state, homosexuality is a morally neutral behavior.

But the logic behind saying that sexual orientation is not always comparable with race has validity. So let's use another comparison. One's religion or faith is a matter of choice. And what some religions allow their adherents to do others would forbid because they would call it immoral. For example, some religions, even some more liberal variations of Christianity would have no moral problems against people committing premarital or extra-marital sex. Could a business then discriminate against the believers in such a religion because of morality?

The real issue here is equality. Do homosexuals have right to be treated and regarded as equals in society. We should note that if one business can discriminate against homosexuals or same-sex weddings because of religious scruples, it allows for the possible of either all businesses doing the same or enough businesses doing the same such that access to the public services provided by that business becomes impossible. At the least, this grants heterosexuals advantages or privileges over homosexuals and thus destroying the equal status between them. That is at the least. At the most, we begin to see the relegation of homosexuals to a 2nd class citizenry. That is we a Jim Crow effect on homosexuals. It matters not that the Jim Crow homosexuals would suffer from is comparable in degree to either of the Jim Crows from which Blacks of suffered. It doesn't matter because what homosexuals would be suffering from is comparable in principle to what Blacks suffered or still suffer from either instance of Jim Crow.

The problem with the argument here is that once a Christian decides to run a business that offers services to the public, they are bound to provide services to all, provided that their services are not being used to commit a crime. They can't discriminate which is illustrated by discrimination case won by the KKK which was previously mentioned. Why? Because if one business can deny public services to a specific in an economy where such services are solely provided by the private sector, then all business could deny services to the same group making it impossible for the members of that group to use those services some of which sustain life.

Frank Turk

February 25, 2014 at 09:38 PM


Claiming that you can invent an example which does not conform to the way marriage has worked since the beginning of human society does not somehow defeat the purpose of marriage from the beginning of human society.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Frank Turk

February 25, 2014 at 09:36 PM

Brad: So you do think that my point is that all sin should cause us to abhor people?

Where did I say that? I'll bet you can't find it here (or anywhere).

I Just Want To Reiterate… |

February 25, 2014 at 09:36 AM

[…] 2/25 – today I saw a new, well written article from Joe Carter addressing the very issue I have been writing about the last few months. This is the conversation […]

Tim Mullet

February 25, 2014 at 09:04 PM

Phil, he's arguing from the secular realm and evolutionary logic.


February 25, 2014 at 08:52 AM

Good analysis. Two quibbles, though:

1. The claim that homosexuality is not morally neutral has an explicitly religious basis. It's different from crimes like murder, where both the religious and irreligious recognize a moral dimension. It's not inconsistent, then, for the irreligious person who sees homosexuality as morally neutral to support adding it to the list of protected classes w.r.t. civil rights laws.

2. I don't grant that there's no negative economic impact to being openly homosexual. In New York City? Probably not. In Birmingham, Alabama or Amarillo, Texas? Probably. And I'm not talking about bakers not wanting to make cakes for your wedding. Rather, not getting hired because you're gay. Or being fired when your employer finds out. Or having landlords refuse to rent to you. Etc. Its not as severe as what blacks faced in the Jim Crow days, but it's not "nothing" either.


February 25, 2014 at 08:45 PM


This response here is basically nonsense/non-sequiturs and it seems you don't even know it.
It also seems clear any response on my part would be a waste of time.


February 25, 2014 at 08:24 AM

Many years ago, a college student came to me for counseling about same-sex attraction. Other counselors encouraged him to accept his attraction as normal, as they way God made him. But he told me that he couldn’t accept it no matter how hard he tried. He also admitted that no matter how many laws or people supported homosexuality; it wouldn’t diminish his inner turmoil.

I'd be curious--if I were you--to know where he is now. Not that such anecdotal evidence is an argument for anything, but it might be helpful for you, and it might either 1) strengthen your convictions or 2) challenge your convictions.

Michael Hansen

February 25, 2014 at 08:06 AM

Really great stuff here!

I thought this line, especially, brought it all together:

"The main difference between antidiscrimination laws based on race and on sexual orientation is that the former were intended to recognize a morally neutral characteristic, while the latter is an effort to reclassify a non-neutral characteristic as morally good."

We, as Christians, really need to stop agreeing with the secular propaganda that a morally neutral field of discourse actually exists. There is no neutrality. The Bible makes this perfectly clear.

Thanks again for the post!

Michael Hansen

Twitter: _Michael_Hansen



February 25, 2014 at 08:00 PM

You're reasoning is mistaken. The inability of any (heterosexual) couple to procreate doesn't mean that procreation is not a natural part of what marriage was intended to be. It just means that in their case, they cannot do part of what marriage was intended to do.

Frank's premise was that marriage is the joining of mating pairs for the sake of procreation. If a heterosexual couple cannot procreate, that is they "cannot do [an essential] part of what marriage was intended to do," why do we consider them married? Again, Frank (and you, I presume) believe that 70-year olds can enter into real marriages.

Or are you maintaining that the ability to procreate is not an essential part of a marriage?

[…] The Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter (Senior Editor for the Acton Institute) does some speculating on whether or not “gay is the new black.” That is, can we equate sexual behavior and race when we are discussing questions about equality, […]

Jason Delgado (@jXd1689)

February 25, 2014 at 07:31 AM

Gay Is Not The New Black by Voddie Baucham:

Andy milligan

February 25, 2014 at 05:59 PM

Unfortunately, Joe misses the mark when he lumps orientation with action as being not morally neutral. In truth, every human being is born with an orientation to sin. My orientation may be to lie, cheat, lust, murder, debauchery, etc. Your orientation to do wrong things is separate and morally different than actually doing those things. None of us chose our race, none of us chose our predilection to do all kinds of wrong things: they are therefore morally neutral. Do you require a behavioral analysis to do business? If the answer is no then why would you apply that requirement to a specific behavior that is no worse than your own [insert list of whatever you do wrong and dismiss because it comes naturally]? The distinction is real and important.

[…] Is Sexual Orientation Analogous to Race? Another good article that addresses the ongoing discussion between Christianity and the culture around the issue of sexual orientation and the Christian response. Joe Carter responds to the assertion that discrimination based on sexual orientation is the same as discrimination based on race by examining whether race and sexual orientation are equally deserving of legal protections. […]


February 25, 2014 at 05:25 PM

And if one rejects the very notion of "natural law"? Also, you're merely asserting that "unnatural" equals "wrong". Why? You're also asserting that homosexuality is "unnatural" without demonstrating that's the case. See examples of homosexual behavior among animals, etc.


February 25, 2014 at 05:23 PM

Hey Frank! I am sorry I don't totally understand your argument, but I am not sure I should feel ashamed about it. I am not trying to pick a fight with you or anything but it would be cool if you could help me understand what is going on in this discussion. So here is my best shot at what I think your point is, in 25 words or less: Because homosexuality is a sin, Christians should not serve or love them in ways that would possibly affirm their sin. That's my best and honest interpretation of what you are saying! I am eager to hear your response! And I would also love to hear your wisdom about my question: Would it be ok for me to rent my house to a lesbian couple with a child? A related question is this: Would it be ok to invite my homosexual neighbors and their partners over for dinner? I live in an area of town where a lot of homosexuals live and we have tried to error on the side of loving them and treating them like people. For us this has meant being ok with homosexuals living next to us and even inviting them into our home for a meal. We have also had child molestors and homeless people and drug addicts into our home. But this discussion has made me wonder whether or not this is wise. It would be helpful for me to hear how you relate to the homosexuals, homeless, and drug addicts in your life. Blessings!


February 25, 2014 at 05:23 PM

Wait, how did we get get onto the topic of the holocaust and cannibalism?

My only point is that to have a moral objection to homosexuality that isn't more-or-less arbitrary it must stem from some sort of faith system. Homosexuality isn't unique in this regard; the same is true of murder, etc.

How does the atheist justify an objection to homosexuality on moral grounds?

Links I like

February 25, 2014 at 04:01 AM

[…] Is Sexual Orientation Analogous to Race? […]

Frank Turk

February 25, 2014 at 03:51 PM

Christian: it pleases me that you have tipped your hand to show that you see marriage as "a job" -- which is to say, a mere contract.

What pleases me more, though, is how you must proceed with this argument of objective differences. In the real world where people live every day, no one thinks that the difference between a Black person and an Asian person are material differences -- and those who do (those who maximize those differences, make them as big as possible) are called "racists." That is: they make nothing into something necessary and inviolable in order to turn people against each other.

But everyone thinks the differences between men and women are of another class. I can prove it simply by pointing at the rest rooms in your building. It would be vile to have a "whites only" restroom, but it is, frankly, common courtesy to have a "women's only" restroom, and a "men's only" restroom. There is a difference between the sexes which really *is* inviolable.

However: your argument depends on one of two gambits -- depending on what kind of snake oil salesman you are.

Gambit #1: Pretend that Racism is not maximizing meaningless differences, and expound the racist screed as reasonable in order to incriminate those who point out that you really can tell the difference between men and women biologically.

Gambit #2: Minimize the differences between the sexes, and ignore biology, in order to say we reject racism for being about meaningless differences, and look: there are only meaningless differences between men and women. A person is just a jobber who can do any job.

They are two sides of the same counterfeit coin, and it doesn't matter how you toss it: it always gives the wrong answer.

That you have chosen the first gambit is telling -- because it means you know that you can't overlook that men and women are necessarily genetically different -- and you want us to hate the science behind that statement because (you think) it looks like the pseudoscience behind eugenics and all other forms of racism.

Good luck with that.


February 25, 2014 at 03:44 PM

I think this is more complicated than either side makes it sound. On the one hand, I don't think it's as simple as "businesses should have the right to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, period" or as some have said in the comments, businesses should be able to discriminate for any reason they want. I especially don't like the idea that Christians, if they had that right, should exercise it. I would see nothing moral about a Christian gas station owner refusing to sell gas to a gay couple or a Christian ice cream store owner refusing to make cones for the children of a lesbian couple.

But, that isn't what's at issue. I haven't seen any cases where a person is claiming that, due to their sexual orientation, they were refused service at a restaurant, told to leave a store, or asked to sit at the back of the bus. These are the sorts of things that were at issue in racial segregation. If the discrimination against blacks had simply been a matter of a handful of photographers refusing to take pictures at interracial weddings, I doubt we would have had a civil rights movement. Instead, we were dealing with entrenched discrimination that affect people's everyday interactions like shopping or taking public transportation. I would say that if gay people were routinely being refused service at stores and restaurants, there might be a good case for changing laws, because I don't think you can have a civil society where people are just blatantly discriminating.

However, we're talking specifically about people providing personal, creative services--like photography, catering, or baking--to same-sex weddings. That's it. In that context, I just think we do need to make room for conscience, and we can resolve these issues without lawsuits and new legislation. I mean, if you were a lesbian couple planning a wedding, why would you *want* a person who felt taking pictures at the ceremony was violating their conscience to do it? There are plenty of photographers, in every state and county, who would be thrilled to photograph a same-sex wedding. So why would you want or need to force a reluctant photographer to do so, or sue them if they won't? When we're talking about not simply standard business transactions, like buying a cookie from a baker or a meal at a restaurant, but contracting for personalized services, I think it's fair to allow a good deal more leeway on both sides. If the relationship isn't going to be a good fit, for any number of reasons, I think politely declining and referring to a more appropriate person would be the best course of action.

I'm just thinking, what if a Catholic couple went to a photographer to hire them to take pictures of their baby's baptism, and it turns out that photographer is a credo-baptist evangelical who both disagrees with the Catholic view of baptism and thinks baptizing babies is wrong. Wouldn't it be better for everybody involved for that photographer to be upfront but polite about their beliefs and decline the job? Does the Catholic couple want a photographer who thinks what is going on is a travesty to just try to suck it up and take the best pictures they can, or would they rather find another photographer--which they absolutely could do--who will feel positive about the event?

I know that I'd rather have somebody photographing or cooking for or making invitations for what is going to be one of the most important days in my memory to feel positive about what they were doing. I'd rather see people deal with these issues as mature adults who don't need to resort to litigation or legislation, but can politely discuss things and come up with alternatives that work for everybody involved.

Frank Turk

February 25, 2014 at 03:33 PM

Phil: I'm continued to be troubled by your lack of information about the real world. It is bad enough that you do not know that there are no cultures in the history of the world in which infertility was not a cause for divorce. It is far worse that you think the American middle-class standard of marriage is somehow indicative of the biological basis of the marriage pact.

Frank Turk

February 25, 2014 at 03:31 PM

Christian -- you have made my point exactly: it is not immoral for a photographer to reject doing work on a project he finds immoral.

John Carpenter

February 25, 2014 at 03:00 PM

I believe it is pure propaganda to blame disapproval of homosexuality for the high rates of suicides of homosexuals. It's much more likely that homosexuality, being a psychological problem, positively correlates (either as a cause or another expression of the same cause) with high levels of depression and other psychological problems common among homosexuals. The propensity to blame those who disapproval of homosexuality for their problems is yet another expression of the hostility to the truth that is at the spiritual root of the problem.

Tim Mullet

February 25, 2014 at 02:39 PM


1) Putin's remarks also had to do with pedophilia.

2) Do you think that you rephrase can be squared with... history? I can't believe that you would be so narrow and bigoted standing in judgment on virtually the entire human race that has come before you. I can't believe how intolerant you are.

3) You know that there was a society who, at least in terms of those in power, thought it was fine to exterminate Jews? You are aware of how much genocide goes on in the world correct? Cannibalistic societies exist.

If we are going by majority rule, which society? What time in history? Or is it wiser to go by majority rule throughout societies in history? Or if doing the right thing is ever unpopular and man is sinful, do we ever go with the minority view?

John Carpenter

February 25, 2014 at 02:38 PM

I disagree with your first point. The unnaturalness (and thus immorality) of homosexuality is observable from nature. One does not need a religious instruction to know that homosexuality is wrong. It is a violation of natural law, not merely a violation of revealed law.

This is Paul's point in Romans 1:25ff: homosexuality is so plainly wrong that people should know it is wrong just from nature and their conscience. The presence of homosexuality in a culture, then, is evidence of human depravity, of people "suppressing the truth". They should know better, even if they've never heard of the Bible. But they suppress that truth because they are depraved.

Hence, the Bible tells us that we don't need the Bible to know that homosexuality is wrong.

John Carpenter

February 25, 2014 at 02:33 PM

You're reasoning is mistaken. The inability of any (heterosexual) couple to procreate doesn't mean that procreation is not a natural part of what marriage was intended to be. It just means that in their case, they cannot do part of what marriage was intended to do. Second, one doesn't define what marriage is by what some people choose to make it. Some people abuse all kinds of things.

John Carpenter

February 25, 2014 at 02:29 PM

Even the head-line misses the point -- in an otherwise excellent article -- that it isn't sexual orientation that is being discriminated against at all but rather the choice by some to succumb to the weakness of their troubled "sexual orientation." The analogy is not to race but to a propensity to violence. There are people who have an orientation to violence, due to high levels of testosterone, bad up-bringing or whatever. If they choose to succumb to that weakness, they will suffer "discrimination": such as prison time. If they are able to over-come it, they suffer none. It should be the same with homosexuality. Sure, some people are burdened with an "orientation" to do what is unnatural. If they choose to work to over-come it, they should suffer no discrimination. If they choose to succumb to it, they shouldn't have the right to compel a Christian to help them celebrate their bad choice.

John Carpenter

February 25, 2014 at 02:24 PM

If you were black you'd probably see things differently. There was systematic discrimination against people because of their race which was not going to go away simply by asking. Indeed, the South wouldn't have let the slaves go free if not by force.


February 25, 2014 at 02:23 PM


Indeed, I can show you definitively that your argument is mistaken. (Not that I think it will stop you from using the argument, but I can merely show you why. If you still keep using it, then I can only assume you either 1) don't understand or are 2) willfully ignorant):

You state this (as your first premise): Marriage is (now and always has been) about the joining of mating pairs of human beings for the sake of procreation.

I respond thus:

This union here (holds up example of two septuagenarians getting married) is NOT a joining of a mating pair of human beings for the sake of procreation, as there is no procreation possible from this union. Therefore this union is NOT a marriage, according to your first premise.

But I am SURE that you believe the union of two (heterosexual) septuagenarians is a real marriage. Thus your first premise is wrong.


February 25, 2014 at 01:40 AM

I agree with the author that you cannot equate sexual orientation with race and that homosexuality is a sin.

However, I do believe that we need to remember what we share in common with those who practice homosexuality...that we were all born depraved, dead to God, and in desparate need of His love and grace to regenerate our hearts. Therefore, those of us who have been saved, who are born again, who understand The Lordship of Christ, we need to walk as Jesus walked and love those who are still bound to darkness. Yes, love includes exposing homosexuality as sin, but love also includes serving those who God brings into our lives in the hopes that they may hear and see Christ.

This leads me to my next thought, that we cannot draw lines to whom we serve based on the degree to which they follow God's commands. Why? 1) because we have all broken God's commands and apart from Christ, deserve his just and rightous wrath. Who are we to stand in place of God and say homosexuality is a worse sin than jealousy, greed, pride or heterosexual lust and thus refuse service to them? 2) Because Jesus did not! He came to serve and served those in society who were the worst of sinners. Jesus astonished the religious community of his time by doing the very thing they least expected - serving sinners. That's what makes Christianity different from all the other religions - that we can love others not based on their own merits, but because Jesus forgave us despite our one depravity. Therefore, why should we deny acts of service when Jesus did not? Doing so emptys the power of the Gospel and in practice would show the world that we are no different than those who would like to discriminate against Christians in the workplace (ie acedemics, politics, etc).
Finally, when Christian business owners draw up lines of exclusion, when will the list of exclusions stop? At first it'll be the Christian bakers who will stop baking wedding cakes for homosexuals, then it'll be the Christian banker who refuses to open a bank account for an athiest, followed by a Christian physician who refuses to accept patient's who is a Muslim. Really? Think about where this leads to -abusrdity, irrelevance, and intolerance.
People should man up and start serving non-Christians, because by doing so you will quickly realize what it must have been like for Jesus to serve you. This will humble and make you more like Christ than someone who has a sign on their front door that says: we have the right to refuse sinners (ie homosexuals, coveters, liars, etc).

Bill Hickman

February 25, 2014 at 01:29 AM

"No, I don't think it is clear at all. It most areas of employment, housing, market, etc., a person's sexual orientation never comes up. To be discriminated against a person would have to first make it clear what their sexual orientation was."

I think you're missing some important history here:


"Second, what makes the discrimination unjust?"

Discrimination is unjust when it's intended to spite, degrade, embarrass, or humiliate another person. I'd submit that a huge portion - probably most - of the historical discrimination against LGBTQers falls into this category. Over the last 100 years, how many of the employers who fired or landlords who ejected gay people were acting based on nuanced, well thought-out Christian ethics? Those cases are the exception, not the rule. Many people mistreat gays simply because they're different. Once we acknowledge the injustice, we can acknowledge the need for a legal remedy.

"But I'm also concerned about the normalization of homosexual behavior."

In light of widespread, unjust discrimination against gays over the years, I don't think you're offering an ethical reason to oppose anti-discrimination laws. You're essentially saying the injustices done to LGBTQers are a net positive because remedying them with anti-discrimination laws might suggest to people that homosexuality isn't wrong. You seem to suggest that there's a contradiction between anti-discrimination laws and Christian teaching. But I don't think there's any contradiction. Christians can oppose the maltreatment of LGBTQers at the same time we clearly teach biblical doctrine about sex. Our witness would be the better for it.

Hal Hall

February 24, 2014 at 12:54 PM

Yes, the term sexual orientation ought to be abandoned altogether. Absolutely correct. Why thinking followers of Christ lower themselves to the pop psychology and pop cultural terms we come up with in contemporary America is beyond me! We have to learn to scale the language barriers, define terms, etc. or all this conversation is rather meaningless and unfruitful.


February 24, 2014 at 12:48 PM

A fair assessment of the issue, though it seems to me that the main premise is not so much that same-sex attraction is morally neutral (though that is one argument), but that reciprocal eros is morally good, and not only morally good, but in fact the highest moral virtue.

This is what makes it different from the civil rights movement. That movement called for true tolerance and equality, based on not considering race/ethnicity as a grounds for judgment or treatment. As MLK said, "judged by the content of character, not by color of skin." But the present movement is part of a larger cultural/social development decades in the making that demands not so much indifference to differences of sexual attraction, but affirmation, acceptance, enshrining of sexual relationships.

[…] The Discussion of Sexual Orientation as Analogous to Race […]

Steve Cornelll

February 24, 2014 at 09:54 PM

Mark, It's advisable to be careful about reaching firm conclusions about the source of angst felt by homosexuals (deep emotional wounds from mockery/ridicule/exclusion).

Many years ago, a college student came to me for counseling about same-sex attraction. Other counselors encouraged him to accept his attraction as normal, as they way God made him. But he told me that he couldn’t accept it no matter how hard he tried. He also admitted that no matter how many laws or people supported homosexuality; it wouldn’t diminish his inner turmoil. I refused to be one more cruel voice sending him off into hopelessness because I knew that when we live contrary to the way God made and planned for us to live, it's actually a good thing for us to feel outside of that plan.

I recommended a compassionate alternative by encouraging this young man to come along side fellow strugglers who battle temptations in a context of grace and truth. I invited him to join others in discovering the freedom that can be found in living by Gods grace through His Spirit. Although my struggles are not the ones he experienced, I assured him that I also battle temptations because we all do.

Our Churches must work harder to become these kinds of communities of redemption and restoration and the gospel is “the power of God” (Romans 1:16) that will shape us into them.

Of course, at the end of the day, people are free (in every State of this nation) to pursue a homosexual lifestyle and to reject the validity of communities that believe in and encourage transformation from homosexual living.


February 24, 2014 at 09:00 PM

"writing this way may successfully gather the approbation of some other Christians, but it will simultaneously to repel those who need the...gospel". It should be obvious he's writing this way because the world is buying into a fallacy (perverted sexual orientation//race) and he is exposing it.

John Carpenter

February 24, 2014 at 07:28 PM

One cannot understand the gospel without understanding the Law.


February 24, 2014 at 07:23 PM


Sure, heterosexuality exists. So does homosexuality.

You are merely saying marriage should be based on heterosexuality. That is an assertion, not an argument.

John Carpenter

February 24, 2014 at 07:09 PM

Mr. Carter,

Very well-reasoned and incisive, well-written too. Thank you for it.

I hope this is useful to persuade confused Christian to think clearly and take a stand.

It seems to me there's another couple of dimensions too: (1) "sexual orientation" is an impulse to do certain things whereas being white or black or Asian, etc., does not lead one to do anything; (2) the entire concept of "sexual orientation" is dubious as biologically (anatomically) every person is oriented for sex with the opposite sex; hence the very claim of "sexual orientation" is the triumph of the subjective (the claim of feelings) over the objective (the facts of anatomy.)

Mark Pertuit

February 24, 2014 at 07:02 PM

Revising something I just wrote: I'm quite shocked to read what you write here in paragraph 2 of your response -- you don't think it's clear that LBGTQ people have been discriminated against? AND you don't see what's unjust about it? Where's the gospel in that? Or the law, for that matter? What about partiality, as inJames 2:1ff? Isn't the point that partiality is a sin (for or against, the latter being the case here) -- not partiality in terms of SES?

Think of the British code-cracker, Alan Turing. After all he did for Britain/Allies/civilization, he was thrown under the bus for having a gay relationship. That's horrible. We don't need to approve the behavior -- but he was fired and chemically castrated! Doesn't that trouble you? And of course there are multitudes of examples (of lesser intensity, but others of equal or greater -- think Uganda, happening as we speak). For Alan Turing, see:

The matter of one's homosexuality doesn't have to "come up," as in a explicit verbal discussion about the person's homosexuality, for discrimination to take place. These folks have been mocked, ridiculed, ignored, overlooked, like, forever. Granted, nowadays they're increasingly likely to be honored for their gayness. But that doesn't erase history, nor does it erase what still happens in many places.

In ministry contexts I've spoken with tons of gay people, and they almost always have deep emotional wounds from mockery/ridicule/exclusion.


February 24, 2014 at 06:15 PM

This issue is also being discussed by other evangelicals, with
different reasoning:
Readers might like to mull them all over.


February 24, 2014 at 06:14 PM

Awesome points, Frank! Thanks for the response! I don't think gay marriage is morally neutral, but I am having a tough time determining what my principles should be when it comes to doing business with "sinners." A personal example: Would it be wrong for me to rent my house to a lesbian couple who has a child? What would be your principle for when we choose to discriminate against sinners?


February 24, 2014 at 05:50 PM

While not directly related to this blog post, I am hearing more and more about people with homosexual orientations marrying those with heterosexual orientations, often without being honest about their true desires. While it would be great if people could easily change their desires, my understanding is that this rarely happens, and these "mixed orientation marriages" can have tragic consequences, especially when entered into without honesty.

Joe Carter

February 24, 2014 at 05:25 PM

It's pretty clear (isn't it?) that LGBTQ people have historically been subjected to unjust discrimination in employment, housing, the marketplace, etc.

No, I don't think it is clear at all. It most areas of employment, housing, market, etc., a person's sexual orientation never comes up. To be discriminated against a person would have to first make it clear what their sexual orientation was.

Second, what makes the discrimination unjust? Would it be unjust for a Jewish person to discriminate against a Klansmen? Who determines when what discrimination is allowed against a person holding morally problematic views or engaging in morally problematic behavior?

But you ignore this and apparently oppose all such laws because they are *all* "really about" forcing society to adopt a certain view of sexuality.

What else could they be about? There has never been a proven need for such legislation based on a pattern of discriminatory behavior. That was the standard used in the past to justify anti-discrimination laws, but it has been abandoned in this case because no such pattern exists.

Since you're into calling out logical fallacies, aren't you committing the genetic fallacy here?

No, I don't think so. Notice that I wrote, "As Americans, we have a constitutional right to lobby the government to recognize and promote our favorite types of sin." I'm not saying they don't have a right to lobby for such legislation because of the origination of their motives. I'm merely saying that Christians should reject such laws because they are against the common good.

Do you think that's an accurate characterization of your view?

Partially, yes. But I'm also concerned about the normalization of homosexual behavior. It's one of the most physically, emotionally, and spiritually destructive forms of behavior. Yet already to point out the harm that it causes gets people so upset that they assume you are a "bigot." It is only going to be harder in the future to convince people to leave that destructive pattern of sin.

Frank Turk

February 24, 2014 at 04:55 PM

I wonder what we would say if some number of people wanted to pay a photographer to do a photo essay on their planned orgy, and he refused on moral grounds? If that discrimination, or good taste?

Too crude? Let me say it another way: what if some group of people wanted to pay some photographer to do a photo essay of their mass suicide, and he refused? is that discrimination, or is that good taste?

What if a publisher refuses to print something he knows to be a lie - discrimination, or good taste?

I think we should reason this out if we are seriously considering that gay marriage is morally neutral -- because it is not.


February 24, 2014 at 04:48 PM

"As Christians (and especially most of those who read and/or write for the Gospel Coalition), we know that Scripture teaches that we're all born with a bent toward sin."

Romans 5:18-19

What you wrote made a lot of sense and it really made me think differently about being innately born with homosexual desires or having the choice to become homosexual. And there is biblical scripture to back that up.

Thank you for that.

Frank Turk

February 24, 2014 at 04:48 PM

Joe -- I really appreciate your clear view of the secular issues you cover for TGC, and I appreciate this essay on the social/legal issues of this matter. I wonder if we're too busy trying to win the politics here and missing the forest for the trees?

The slogan is that gay Rights are the Civil Rights issue of our generation - "Gay is the New Black," they say. I have an easy test for that.

When I was a single man, I completely admit that my standards were not so low that I would have married just any woman. Frankly, I hope that is true of every man. But what I would never have done was to say, "I won't think about marrying her because she is [race/ethnicity]." Disqualifying a whole race of women because of their race is ... well, it's racist, right? Saying one race is somehow either superior or inferior is moral trash.

But as a single man, if I were to say, "I would never marry that person because he is a man," there's nothing like racism involved there. It's not hateful to admit that humans are not generic persons sexually but are in fact male and female -- and that the point of having males and females is (in the secular realm) the continuation of the race and our civilization.

That's the reason it's bogus to say that somehow marriage is between generic persons and to say otherwise is like racism: human sexuality is an objective fact of the race. We should never be afraid to say so.

Mark Pertuit

February 24, 2014 at 04:26 PM

well said, and good, honest questions.

Mark Pertuit

February 24, 2014 at 04:24 PM

I agree that there are lots of possibilities we could imagine (which also actually happen to some folks) where it seems right to say "no" to the business deal.

In recent writings, I just think that there's such a concern for property/ownership/rights on Christians' part to the exclusion of concern for lost persons. I could probably hear arguments about protecting a Christian's right to protect his/her business with a more generous ear if I also felt that there was equivalent or greater concern for the persons being refused, in term of their salvation and being enfolded in community. Maybe there is that concern (I don't see people's hearts, obviously), but it doesn't always come through in certain posts.

So it troubles me that someone would give the public lots of arguments to help defend against certain kinds of requests without the kind of balance that (to me) seems to be demanded by a loving, pursuing, "prodigal" God.

Mark Pertuit

February 24, 2014 at 04:17 PM


Tim Mullet

February 24, 2014 at 04:00 PM

Joe thank you for this. I appreciate your conviction and clear thinking on this issue.

Mark Pertuit

February 24, 2014 at 03:48 PM

I fully endorse biblical morality. I agree with you on sexual ethics, probably entirely so. Law and gospel are distinct; law doesn't save. Law does good, and also brings condemnation. And on a GC website, I'd have thought that the gospel of the King who loves and serves would at least be relevant to what you're writing. I don't say you make no headway; I just don't like that you seem more concerned with the businesses of Christians than people who are lost.

I don't know what you mean by speaking the harsh truth in love. It sounds like saying "your behavior is detestable" while smiling and talking about the cross. But I doubt that that's likely to convince any gay people of your love.

Going to gay wedding isn't the question I was dealing with, whatever position one takes. I'm talking about baking a cake for this wedding, not going to said wedding. I never saw a baker at a wedding. If you won't bake, they'll automatically see you as a bigot, and that matters. Even if you say it as nice as you can, they'll still associate Christianity with bigotry, and that matters. If we care about the gospel, then we'll care about how people interpret our behavior, and not only whether or not we spoke the truth.

And if I'm not actually worshiping false gods (as in 1 Cor 8), then I can bake the cake to the glory of God and show that I love and am happy to serve them. You can love and serve people even if you don't like their actions.

As to truth-speaking: the question is, do we ALSO speak the truth that God loves them, is in pursuit of them, came in the flesh to die for them? If we only speak the truth of the law, no wonder they're not interested in what we're taking about. i'm not either, if it's just the law! I need the gospel!


February 24, 2014 at 03:32 PM

More specifically, with regard to my earlier comment--

"The Morally Neutral Criteria"

In asserting that homosexual behavior is NOT morally neutral, the only argument put forward is "because homosexual behavior has never been viewed (historically) as morally neutral." Joe Carter then (ironically) points out that LGBTQ supporters commit the logical fallacy of circular reasoning, even though he has just committed the fallacy of appealing to tradition to justify the rightness of his own conclusion (that homosexual behavior is not morally neutral).

To the extent he is asserting that Christians (as Christians) view homosexual behavior as NOT morally neutral, our legal system (where discrimination laws exist) cannot be based on any explicit Christian precepts.

"The Economic and Political Impact Criteria"

The most obvious reason why the connection between homosexuality and race fails is because it does not currently lead to a detrimental economic and political impact. I won't belabor the point, since it is so obvious that LGBTQ advocates rarely attempt to claim that being gay is politically and economically harmful.

Well, in most states, they cannot get married and receive the (economic and political) benefits that entails. That seems like a good place to start to look for a "detrimental economic and political impact."


February 24, 2014 at 03:32 PM

I can see how race is morally neutral but homosexuality is not.

However, I do see the point of Merrick and Power's article that we do selective apply the Scriptures to some groups and not others. To me this is the bigger question. How should business owners determine which type of sinners to discriminate against when offering a service? I am tending to buy the argument that business owners should serve the public regardless of how much a sinner a person is. Any thoughts?


February 24, 2014 at 03:31 PM

Consent is a legal construct, and age of consent particularly so. It is very dangerous to base our morality on that. Are we going to argue that, if you are in New Jersey, a 21 year old who has sex with a 16 year old is acting morally, but if he goes to New York and does the same thing, he has committed a serious crime and gross moral wrong?

This is OT, but consent and pedophilia are not really related topics. Pedophilia is an attraction to pre-pubescent children, or young teens going through puberty. However, many people are fully pubescent by 14, and nearly all are by 15/16. In many states, a man in his late teens or early 20s who has a sexual relationship with a 15 year old is committing a very serious felony, even though he is not a pedophile by any meaningful definition. And, we know that throughout history such relationships would have been seen as both morally and legally acceptable, and in many places around the world--including many developed nations, where the age of consent is 14 or 15--that is still the case.

So we are going to find ourselves forced to declare perhaps most men throughout human history as dangerous, immoral pedophiles if we take current definitions of age of consent as the basis for our sexual morality and ethics. We are also going to be forced to condone a number of immoral, exploitative relationships that are between "two consenting adults."

I think it is extremely problematic that, today, a 19 year old young man who makes the (unwise and immoral, no doubt) choice to engage in a sexual relationship with a willing, eager 15 year old girlfriend, who perhaps even initiated the sexual activity, will be charged with an extremely serious felony, may spend time in prison, and will very likely spend decades or life on a sex offender registry, while the 60 year old pornographer who offers a vulnerable, addicted, troubled 18 year old lots of money to have sex on camera is doing nothing at all wrong or illegal.

mark smyth

February 24, 2014 at 03:23 PM

I do not agree with the author of this article. I am a Christian and behaviour is morally wrong. However,

I don't believe it's the State's business to determine what is morally right in regards to consensual acts between individuals.

There are many people who don't agree with us, yet we must all live together.

The government's central role is to protect it's citizens.

marriages are defined by the people in the marriage not by the government or society.

Therefore I support the rights of homosexuals including marriage. I my not agree with them but that's not a reason to deny them full and equal rights.


February 24, 2014 at 03:21 PM

While I completely understand your point, and would respond the same way if I were a caterer and somebody wanted me to cater their same-sex wedding, I do think conscience can play a role here. Let's say somebody came in asking me to cater a pornographer's convention they were holding. I don't think that love would require me to cater their convention with a smile.

Now, if I owned a restaurant and a group of porn producers and stars wanted to come in to eat, I think I absolutely should seat them, serve them graciously, and make them the best meal I could, the way I would for anybody else who came in. Because serving them that meal isn't violating my conscience in the way catering their convention would, because I'm not participating in or facilitating an event I feel is immoral in any way. I'm simply serving food to the public. So I'm not saying--and I don't think anybody here is saying, although I might be wrong--that I think a baker should be able to tell a gay couple who comes in that they cannot buy cookies for their children there. This is about taking on contracts that involve facilitating or participating in events. And, I do think there is a role for conscience in that, and that refusing to participate in an event you feel is immoral is not necessarily wrong or unloving at all.


February 24, 2014 at 03:17 PM

How so? Homosexuals do not suffer economic discrimination. In fact, they tend to have significantly higher annual incomes -- $61,500 compared with the national median of $50,054. They also have far more political power in 2014 than African Americans did when Civil Rights legislation was implemented in the mid-1960s.

This is true of "the Jews" as well. So it is ok not to have anti-discrimination laws for them?

Bill Hickman

February 24, 2014 at 03:06 PM

Joe -

I hold biblical views on sex, but I strongly disagree with the move you made in your last 8 or so paras.

It's pretty clear (isn't it?) that LGBTQ people have historically been subjected to unjust discrimination in employment, housing, the marketplace, etc. To the extent a law prohibits this unjust discrimination, it rights a wrong and, therefore, is a clear moral improvement over the status quo.

But you ignore this and apparently oppose all such laws because they are *all* "really about" forcing society to adopt a certain view of sexuality. Since you're into calling out logical fallacies, aren't you committing the genetic fallacy here?

Frankly, it seems like you oppose anti-discrimination laws because you think they will make it harder for you to convince others that homosexuality is wrong in the future. Do you think that's an accurate characterization of your view? If so, I don't think that's an ethical way to approach the problem. Christians shouldn't tolerate unjust discrimination against LGBTQers because we think the resulting social stigma against LGBTQers somehow makes our view of sexuality more palatable.


February 24, 2014 at 03:05 PM

I'm just wondering how non-discrimination when it comes to religion--which is foundational in U.S. society even though religion is not necessarily either morally neutral or a detriment in economics and politics--fits into this.

Brian Hammonds

February 24, 2014 at 03:00 PM

That is, of course, not intended to mean that consent SHOULD be done away with...only that consent ALONE is not enough to determine the morality or immorality of an action. If someone consents to an action that is immoral, it doesn't then make the action become moral.

Joe Carter

February 24, 2014 at 02:55 PM

How so? Homosexuals do not suffer economic discrimination. In fact, they tend to have significantly higher annual incomes -- $61,500 compared with the national median of $50,054. They also have far more political power in 2014 than African Americans did when Civil Rights legislation was implemented in the mid-1960s.

Steve Cornelll

February 24, 2014 at 02:54 PM

Thanks, Joe, for taking the time to put this together. There is a great need for more in-depth thinking on this issue. I assume that you (like me) have absolutely no fear, hate or bigotry toward those who choose a homosexual lifestyle but you'll likely be maligned with such motives.

We're getting to the point where there is no longer a public safe zone for disagreeing with gay marriage. This has all been constructed on the premise that being gay is equal with one’s race. But we need to be more honest about this comparison and where it is leading us.

If we make the sexual choices of individuals civil-rights comparable to race and gender, we will open a social and legal Pandora’s box. Citizens will not be permitted to morally oppose homosexual behavior without risking accusations of discrimination and racism. Federal law will be used against the freedoms of Americans to believe and teach a different view of marriage and sexuality.

I wrote a post recently titled, "Sexual preference or Sexual orientation?" Homosexuals also use to say, “All we want is to be left alone to live the way we desire.” This was partly due to ways that gays were wrongly mistreated for choosing different sexual lifestyles. We must oppose mistreatment and violence against others. Since same sex behavior between consenting adults is legal in every state, those who target gays for abuse or violence should expect to be punished for criminal behavior.

But somewhere along the way, the effort moved from seeking protection to demanding normalization. A strategic change of terms from preference to orientation came as part of that move. And the change has been largely based on an effort to promote the misleading and manipulative argument that equates race and gender with the kind of sex people want.

We must expose the race comparison as manipulative and a threat to civility and liberty. It also runs the risk of creating a counter group who could claim discrimination against their freedoms to believe and teach their own morality.
Where will this path lead us as a nation? Where is it leading us now?

Sexuality is necessarily connected with volition. As long as we make laws that regulate sexual behaviors, we are implying that sexuality is not the same as race or gender and that it belongs to a category of morality and choice.

Deceitful word games are not new. They’ve been used in similar ways when “fetus” was substituted for “baby” to push a pro-abortion agenda. The plan has been to use the terms often enough to change the way people think. Yet neither change (for same-sex preference or for abortion) was based on scientific evidence that required different terms. The changes are based on specific agendas to re-engineer culture around the morality of those using the new terms. (see:

Joe Carter

February 24, 2014 at 02:51 PM

I think it was meant to be posted on The Law Coalition's website.

There is nothing so tiresome as Christians claim that the Law is opposed to the Gospel.

Yet Jesus says they'll know us by our love. Truth and love need to go together.

Indeed, they do. If someone wants to love their neighbor by telling them the truth about homosexual behavior (that God considers it "detestable") then we should say that in a loving way. But if we were to attend a same-sex wedding and not make that clear then we would not be loving.

But will discrimination of the sort YOU are endorsing reveal Jesus? Or will it obscure Him?

It can reveal Jesus if we take the time to explain why we cannot endorse sinful behavior.

Like dragging out pedophilia; I see the point you're making about sexual orientation, but trying to draw a connection between that and homosexuality is anything but winsome, to put it nicely.

I brought up pedophilia precisely because it undermines the claims of LGBTQ supporters to be in favor of protections of "sexual orientation." I tend to agree with them that pedophilia is not inherently heterosexual or homosexual. But they often refuse to follow the logic an admit that it is a distinct sexual orientation.

Where's the love here?

What exactly do you think love is? Love is letting people know that you care enough about them to speak a harsh truth -- that they are engaging in sin that leads to death and destruction. Too many Christians, though, seem to think love means not offending anyone or saying anything that might turn them away. Jesus was the most loving person in history and yet people turned away from him every day of his earthly ministry because they wanted him to affirm them rather than tell them the truth -- they were sinners in need of a Savior.

Brian Hammonds

February 24, 2014 at 02:48 PM

I think we need to be careful about "consent" as the only distinction between moral and immoral actions. In fact, the age of marriage and sexual activity has varied greatly throughout history and in different cultures. If young teens were married in a different country or in a different era, then the "consent" argument becomes completely subjective and therefore can be done away with entirely. There are other issues at play in this discussion that we must consider. The most important factors in this discussion seem to be (in my opinion) are the nature of morality, the existence or non-existence of absolute truth, and epistemology.

paul cummings

February 24, 2014 at 02:45 PM

Yessir, no doubt.
God bless,

Joe Carter

February 24, 2014 at 02:41 PM

However it is not acceptable because of the matter of consent.

While I completely agree with you, I think Christians need to be proactive an not base our opposition to pedophilia solely on the issue of consent. At least since the 1970s there has been a push to claim that children as young as seven years old can consent to sexually activity with adults.

It might seem absurd to think that such a view would ever gain popularity. But in the 1800s the idea of same-sex marriage would have been absurd too. Just as the idea that marriage required a man and a woman was quickly undermined, so too can the idea of the impossibility of children giving consent to sexual activity be discarded in the future.

Mark Pertuit

February 24, 2014 at 02:40 PM

I think there's a mistake here. I believe that this article is on the wrong website. I think it was meant to be posted on The Law Coalition's website. I.e., I don't see tons of "gospel" here, or actually, any gospel at all. That should be one criterion for posts on TGC -- at least that's what I'd think if I were your editor. Oops, you are an editor at TGC.

You write: "As Christians we may be required to tolerate ungodly behavior, but the moment we begin to endorse the same then we too have become suppressers of the truth. We cannot love our neighbor and want to see them excluded from the kingdom of Christ (Eph. 5:5)." No, we shouldn't explicitly approve of anything the Bible names a sin. But Jesus ate with sinners of all sorts, and that was typically seen as endorsement. And He thought loving people superseded the moral-purity issue. He loved them. And *thus* they were open to the truth. He didn't repel them. The Christian baker who refuses service may well avoid the sin of calling evil good. But (s)he may well be very guilty of the sin of not caring to witness to the love by which we're meant to be known. He or she may be guilty of the sin of caring about his/her own record of sin and guilt and not even thinking about how toxic the refusal will seem to be (or, just be) to the couple at hand. They may well be guilty of not noticing that they've just connected Jesus with bigotry in the minds of the couple. Yet Jesus says they'll know us by our love. Truth and love need to go together.

And the Christian baker who decides to bake a cake for a gay couple doesn't need to go to the wedding, be anywhere near it while it's going on, worship any other god, or clap their hands and approve. They need only mix flour, sugar, eggs, etc., bake, frost and deliver. Hardly an approval of sin! Imagine, conflating baking and frosting with idol worship! It's called service! And by serving and caring, one can love without endorsing.

If you care about people with SSA (same-sex attractions), and/or people who self-identify as gay, I think that this is probably not the way to go about pursuing them with the gospel -- i.e., showing why we should be able to legally discriminate. Same-sex unions are now legal, but that doesn't make them morally good. So too with discrimination. It may be, as you argue, legal. But will discrimination of the sort YOU are endorsing reveal Jesus? Or will it obscure Him?

Shall we "tolerate" and "endorse" the "ungodly behavior" of using truth without love -- hammering away with truth alone, rather than bring gospel medicine of truth and love?

Certainly you make some good points. But the way you do it in places here is bothersome. (Like dragging out pedophilia; I see the point you're making about sexual orientation, but trying to draw a connection between that and homosexuality is anything but winsome, to put it nicely.)

So, my question is, Where's the love here? If they're going to know us by our love, then writing this way may successfully gather the approbation of some other Christians, but it will simultaneously to repel those who need the...gospel.

Again, I certainly see that you make relevant points re: the legal situation. Fine. But shouldn't you also be interested in wooing those who are apart from Christ? That's my problem with the whole discussion that's sprung up w/ Christian bakers and other businesspeople. So many Christians are having a case of the vapors about their rights, and have totally forgotten the people involved. We've also forgotten that God's law and God's gospel are not identical. We can't just bring down law. Law is needed, AND gospel. But who's going to wait around to hear the gospel if we just hammer away w/ the law?!?

You're making the case that business owners should be able to refuse the business of others. But if you want to say that, you should go farther and also make the case that if we think in those terms (if that's the extent of our concern), then we're missing the forest for the trees. You should then make the more important case that we shouldn't want to turn away anyone's business, and esp. those who already are convinced that Christians hate them.

So you have now empowered a whole bunch of folks with arguments about why they should be able to refuse the business of some people, i.e., gay folks. (Or union-seeking gay couples, if that's your point.) But shouldn't you be coaching them to humbly love the same people?

If I were the baker in question, I might or might not mention that I'm not a proponent of same-sex marriage. But *if* I'm going to mention that I'm a Christian to them at all, I'm going to tell them that God loves them, and that Jesus died for them, that I see myself as being as sinful as anyone else, and that I'm going to make them the best wedding cake I can! I will serve them, like Daniel served weird/idolatrous/evil Nebuchadnezzar, without being precious about my moral purity. I'm going to honor them *as persons*, focusing attention on who they are before God (image-bearers being pursued by a loving God), not focusing on what they're not doing right. Then, if I'm relational, the matter of sin can arise organically at some point, and they'll actually be more open to what I say because I've shown that I love them. I'll have authority to speak difficult truths because I'll have first spent time loving, serving, and honoring them as persons.


February 24, 2014 at 02:38 PM

The reason race is a category worthy of protection is not because it is immutable, but because it is a morally neutral characteristic that has proven to have a significantly detrimental economic and political impact. And based on these criteria, sexual orientation is not analogous to race.

I don't understand the last sentence. It seems to me that, based on these criteria, sexual orientation IS analogous to race. At least I don't think the author of this piece has shown otherwise.


February 24, 2014 at 02:35 PM

It is not a sin to be _______ (fill in the race). It is a sin to practice homosexuality, according to the Bible.

Collin Hansen

February 24, 2014 at 02:23 PM

But of course it's not "Christians" who poorly handled the civil-rights issue. Rather, some Christians are at fault. Other Christians led that same movement.


February 24, 2014 at 02:00 PM

I believe this is a significant issue for the church to be vocal about. By equating human sexuality with race you degrade them both.

1)You degrade race as purely a genetic trait, whereas it's so much more a reflection of the beauty of a creative Creator.

2)You degrade sexuality to an impulse (I can't help it, I'm gay and I have to act on that) instead of a gift, when in the bonds of heterosexual marriage, is a beautiful symbol of two becoming one and the covenant relationship it represents between the two individuals and before a holy God, let alone the necessity via the biblical mandate to populate the earth. Sexuality to the Christian is only found within the constraints of marriage, with that one person. It's not impulsive, it's a disciplined commitment to remain pure and devoted.


February 24, 2014 at 01:58 PM

There is one argument presented that I always have a problem with:

"if it is true that pedophiles don't develop an orientation to other adults, and hence are neither heterosexual nor homosexual, then pedophilia must be a distinct sexual orientation"

I can agree with calling pedophilia a sexual orientation. However it is not acceptable because of the matter of consent. A child is not developed enough to consent to such a relationship. Two adults being together is a much different argument.

Allan R. Lee

February 24, 2014 at 01:54 PM

So, these signs that appear on restaurant doors "No shoes, no shirts, no service" are illegal! What about: "No pets allowed." Where is the line to be drawn? Where do we have a right to apply our standards or beliefs? Are you implying that Christians would be able to say "No homosexuals" if they DON't claim its a religious conviction????

paul cummings

February 24, 2014 at 01:51 PM

For Christians, because we so poorly handled the racial civil rights issues of the past, we are now doomed to live under those past failures as other "oppressed" groups say "Me too" even though it's not the same issue.


February 24, 2014 at 01:12 PM

I agree with pretty much all of the column with the exception of wanting to do away with the term "sexual orientation". We can reject the popular thinking that if one's sexual choice is an in born characteristic then we must accept, affirm, and normalize it everywhere in the culture.

As Christians (and especially most of those who read and/or write for the Gospel Coalition), we know that Scripture teaches that we're all born with a bent toward sin. We also know, from both Scripture and experience, that not all are plagued with the temptation to sin all sins equally. We need to properly define "orientation" as having a bent toward one direction or another. It is no more a sin for a man to be tempted to have sexual relations with another man than it is for a man to be tempted to have sexual relations with a woman who is not his wife. The sin comes in the action (whether the action involves dwelling on lust or engaging in the physical act).

Thankfully, there are a number of evangelicals who continue to struggle against this particular thorn in their flesh who have written to help us understand that sin is sin...and needs to be fought with the help of the entire community of faith.

Take this mindset to the debate over potential laws that some see as protecting private property rights and others see as a license to discriminate.


February 24, 2014 at 01:03 PM

Speaking as a Black person I agree 100%, they are comparing apples to oranges and it is insulting. I am a person that believes people are free to do whatever they desire which includes homosexuals marrying but do not try to use *our* plight for their agenda.