Religion Does Not Justify Discrimination

As a straight African-American minister who has lived in North Carolina for a significant portion of my life, I know my home state to be full of loving people. Serving as pastor of a multiracial congregation, it’s my obligation to ensure and promote a place where everyone feels welcome. I preach that there is a place for everybody at God’s table, no matter who you are or how you identify – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or straight. That’s why I recently joined nearly 1,300 other clergy in a friend-of-the-court brief to the Supreme Court in a key case regarding LGBTQ rights that is being heard this week.

Here in North Carolina, our LGBTQ brothers, sisters, neighbors and fellow parishioners have already carried a tremendous burden at the hands of legislators. When the now-notorious HB2 passed last year – which I opposed – it was a slap in the face to North Carolina’s LGBTQ community. It was also a stain on our state’s reputation, leading to aboycott of businesses and investors, resulting in millions of dollars in lost revenue. Most important, it put many hardworking North Carolinians and their families at risk of great danger in public places. This year, the legislature put forward a half-hearted “compromise” to fix the law, but the new version still permits discrimination.

As we grapple with this tremendous threat to basic dignity locally, a new danger has appeared on the horizon at the national level: This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case pushed by anti-LGBTQ activists arguing that freedom of religion requires individuals and businesses to be allowed to discriminate. In this case, a Denver business owner refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple for their wedding.

As a faith leader and a believer in the beloved community, it’s incomprehensible to me how anyone, much less the owner of a business that serves the public, could refuse to treat someone the same way as they’d treat anyone else. That attitude directly contradicts the Sermon on the Mount, which underlines the importance of loving people and emphasizes that we are the light of the world and that we show in public what the love of God looks like – even in a bakery. We represent and practice unconditional love.

When opponents of LGBTQ equality claim that there is a conflict between freedom of conscience for Christians and following the law, particularly nondiscrimination laws, fair-minded Americans should search their hearts and reject this myth. Indee