Commentary: Faith, freedom and law, amen


By John Krull

INDIANAPOLIS – Faith can be a tricky thing in public life.

In just the past few days we’ve seen an attempt by social conservatives to graft what they initially called a “religious liberty” bill – and what opponents called an attempt to make discriminating against gay citizens legal – into Arizona law.

John Krull, publisher,

John Krull, publisher,

Under intense pressure from business, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, vetoed the measure, which would have allowed people to refuse to do business with others if they thought doing so violated their faith. Primarily, it was designed to allow social conservatives to say they didn’t want to sell their products or services to gay people, but similar arguments also have been advanced in regard to allowing pharmacists to refuse to offer birth control measures if they believed it went against their belief system.

Commentary button in JPG - no shadowThe squabbling wasn’t confined to Arizona. A host of other states, including Indiana, have considered similar measures.

Just a few days ago, Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, tried to amend similar language into another bill before the Indiana House of Representatives. An outcry arose, and the language was stripped out.

But the reasoning that giving social conservatives the legal right to refuse to do business with or work with gays, lesbians or others whose lives offended them was an issue of faith-based freedom was a subtext in the state’s most divisive argument, the one over same-sex marriages. Several speakers for conservative organizations claimed in testimony before legislative committees this year that people of faith were being “persecuted” because they weren’t being allowed to discriminate against gay people.

The problem and the question here are the same: Which people of faith?

One of the most interesting developments over the past 40 years has been the almost universal linkage in the American mind of religion with conservatism.

It wasn’t always that way. Martin Luther King Jr., of course, read the same Bible that religious conservatives do, came to different conclusions and led a movement that focused on challenging repression rather than institutionalizing it.

But, like social conservatives, King sought to change the law so it accorded with his principles.

Nor was he alone.

I did my graduate work at St. Louis University, a school that also was a seminary for Jesuit priests. I was there as a kind of renegade Protestant at the height of the church’s liberation theology period, when the passionate seminarians who shared classes with me expressed an unstinting opposition to conservative and repressive regimes in Latin America – and President Ronald Reagan’s support for such regimes.

The seminarians also condemned what they perceived was Reagan’s “war” on the poor and support for the death penalty as violations of moral principle. At least a few of them didn’t understand why the Bible shouldn’t dictate public policy.

“Who started this separation of church and state nonsense?” one seminarian exclaimed during a particularly impassioned discussion about Reagan and welfare. “It just keeps us from doing the right thing.”

Doubtless, many religious conservatives today agree with him – even if few of them would be brave enough to argue publicly that the Founders’ decision not to create an established American church was a bad idea.

But they wouldn’t agree with that young seminarian about what their faith charged them to do. They might find common ground in regard to birth control and abortion, but likely not on the death penalty, anti-poverty measures and, given the pope’s latest pronouncements, compassion and tolerance for their gay brothers and sisters.

That’s the problem.

People have looked at the Bible – and other religious texts – for millennia and found evidence for different messages, different imperatives and different codes of conduct. In this country alone, Americans looked to the Bible and found justifications both for supporting slavery and for challenging it, for oppressing women and for liberating them, for opposing war and for going to fight.

Who’s right?

No one on this earth knows for sure.

But that’s why we’ll continue arguing about issues of faith as long as human beings worship and pray.

And that’s also why we always will need to be careful about crafting religious principles into earthly law.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.


    • Given his, progressives and liberals line of thought. They will make it illegal for you to refuse a guy demanding you have sex with him.

        • Not really. If your going to make it a law that refusing to sell some one a cake based on the fact the buy-ees have a life style you find objectionable and not in accordance with your religion/faith, then you have to extend the same level of logic to other areas. After all that logic extension is used by liberals and progressives all the time.

          I can just imagine the support a Muslin would get if walking into a restaurant and being served pork. Oh wait a minute;

          So if we are going to afford that level of concern then in all fairness you have to extend the same towards homo cakes.

          I think perhaps you should rethink my “idiotic” comment. But you won’t.

          • There was a cartoon floating around last week with a couple of KKK members trying to buy a birthday cake from a black baker. As disgusting as that sounds given the activist nature of some judges the poor guy would probably have to sell it to them. What do you lefties think of a law that would force a black business owner to make a cake for the Ku Klux Klan? Shouldn’t the business owner be allowed to tell those effers to get the hell out of his place of business?

          • I’m ok with discriminating against something you have a choice on like being a KKK member, but not race or sexual orientation. There’s a big difference, so bad analogy.

            • Ahh, but the poor Klan members never had a chance. They were raised by gun toting, noose making, stars and bars flying rednecks from birth and had no choice but to follow their degenerate parents into grand dragondom. Isn’t this the same argument that keeps getting made for the inner city youth who turn to gangs for family support. Is the KKK not the same as the crips and bloods? They are all violent racists criminal haters so why not treat them the same?

          • @Ghost, but discriminating against religious convictions is acceptable?

            How does a right to a wedding cake trump our constitutional freedom of religion? Do we have freedom of religious expression when one can be coerced by the government under a penalty by the courts to go against one’s religious convictions?

  1. Realistically, I don’t believe many people would choose to spend their money at a business owned by someone who considers them to be “less” as human beings. There are probably a few who would, trying to “prove a point”, but those are very few. Most people want their weddings to be a time of pure joy.
    Those who do not wish to deal with people whose “moral code” is not the same as theirs should likely not choose careers that force them to deal with the public-at-large. We have a choice about careers, we have none about sexual preferences, afterall.
    We do have more of this debate to look forward to, folks. Oregon is looking at a similar bill that is more narrowly worded.

    • You are completely wrong to assume “them” to be less as human beings. It isn’t the person some of these company owners object to, its the “life style” chosen, you should be able to cogitate the difference.

      The founding principles of this country are built on morals but it is clear you object to such character in a person.

      • I absolutely do not object to such “morals”, although I consider it to be bigotry. I simply think that if a person wishes to subscribe to such “morality” they should not place themselves in the position of being expected to do business with peoplewhose “lifestyles” they do not approve of.

    • “RealisticallY?” in “reality” what I said would happen is already happening. But what’s your solution? Force people to not practice professions and careers they enjoy because their values do not align with your values. One again you favor a freedom of religion behind a fence of secularism.

  2. The main idea of this column is that the bible can be interpreted in many ways. Some folks on this site and others see homosexuals as living in sin or being rejected by the bible. Others in different Christian religions and churches accept gays with no problem and recognize that being gay is not a “choice” or a “lifestyle”. It is who they are just like having blue eyes or being a certain height is who they are. Personally I do not know why anyone would want to not deal on a business level with a gay person or couple because it is a business relationship, not a personal one and the business would have nothing to do with religion. And I would also state that there are several churches that do not reject gays in the manner in which they are being discussed here. In a business relationship one can and should be kind, professional, and trustworthy. As long as the clients are treated well and they respond in kind, what is the problem? We are all human beings and deserve no less.

    • The leading thinkers in Christianity while not accepting homosexuality as a God honoring lifestyle do not view the attraction as a choice either.

      I like Mark Driscoll’s response to the question of homosexuality.

      The problem I have with Krull is that he confuses the issue by making it one about religion rather than a question of the government coercing religious people, Christians in-particular, to go against their convictions under the threat of financial ruin for non essential amenities.

      I find it interesting that the Colorado baker lost his suit when Colorado constitutionally defines marriage as one man and one woman.

  3. If you hold yourself out to the general public you have to serve everybody, period. To do otherwise just opens up a thousands legal cans of worms.

    Lawmakers can’t be and shouldn’t be mind readers.

    The odds of KKK members seeking to do business with Black business owners is virtually zero and LGBT people aren’t going to seek out haters for wedding vendors unless they’re the only shop in town. In that case the two parties should use some common sense. Gay money is just as green and spends just as well as hetero money and why would you want a hater at your wedding anyway?

    But if it has to go to court, then the business owner has to serve the objectionable patron. End of story.

    • What we have here is a few people who want to have it both ways. They wish to have “open to the public” businesses, but impose their own “moral codes” on their customers. If their “morals” are so dear to them, they need to quit business. There should be no problem with changing careers to avoid losing “salvation”, but they want to whine and cry, instead of happily being martyrs to their cause. They need to pick one and move on.

      • No, what we have here is a government coercing businesses to violate their convictions despite having constitutional protection.

        Should St Mary’s be forced to provide abortions?

      • LKB: Customers have the right to take their business elsewhere if they don’t agree with the stipulations of the business.

        Please don’t try to pass judgment on people with morals. You have no right to tell them to change careers.As we have all seen from your posts, your moral values are in question, because your values are controlled by a leftist, worthless valueless agenda.

    • The legal can of worms was opened when we began writing laws based on emotions to favor one class of people over others rather than sound reasoning and principles.

      I said this problem would be the natural outcome of writing laws in this manner, but as always the supports just yelled “bigot.”

      Essential needs like housing and employment deserve protection. however, A right to wedding cakes should not trump our constitutional religious freedom.

      End of story.

    • BB: You cannot force someone to do work that is against their morals. You can try and rationalize it all you want, and you get a + for trying to act like you are solving the problem. But you loose all cred when you state that the LGBT aren’t going to want to do business with them. That is the whole point of their agenda, to try and force their way of life onto the rest of us. They want the drama and the press and the recognition. The more they scream and cry and claim they have been violated, they think they get more power that way. Typical victimology.

    • Oh give it a rest My Morals Only BB. The site might be satire, my bad, but the point is still valid.

        • No Ghost, It exposes me as fooled once not a fool.

          My mistake does expose just how pathetic you guys are in that you have to jump on my bad as if it disproves everything I said and makes you guys intelligent.

          The point still stands. Should a baker be coerced by the government to provide services to the KKK despite his ideological feelings against them?

    • Good one, BB! The Onion is the best at the satire, but this is a pretty good one, too.

        • How about you “My Morals only BB?” Bakers vs KKK? Care to tell us all how we should think?

          BTW, “HOOK, LINE, and SINKER” from an Obama voter carries no weight.

      • Yeah, you would never fall for something like the report you gave concerning Santa Monica Nativity scene would you? Of course you quit using that example when i showed that it was not the same issue as the crosses and actually worked in favor of religious displays on public property.

        So may I mark you down as one who supports a baker being coerced to provided services for the KKK?

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