Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Is Bruce Springsteen's Boycott of North Carolina the Same Thing as a Baker Refusing Service to Gay Couples?

No, but a lot of people seem to think so.
A petition on has garnered nearly 500 signatures in support of Bruce Springsteen’s decision to cancel an April 10 concert in Greensboro, NC. 
“Bruce Springsteen has a right to his deeply held beliefs. He has a right to control his business and refuse to do business with those he disagrees with,” the petition reads. 
Additionally, the petition author Dennis Burgard argues that like Springsteen, “every business person” is entitled to the right to deny services where and when it violates their beliefs.
Get it?

OK, so here's the difference between Bruce and that Christian baker, florist, whatever: 

If North Carolinians come to a Bruce concert in any other state, they won't be refused at the door while everybody else is let in. And in North Carolina, he's not refusing to play for any specific portion of the population  while playing others — he's withdrawing his services entirely within the state. The differences are clear, unless one wants to be ostentatiously ignorant of them.

Listen: I'm torn on the whole idea of whether Christian florists and bakers should be required to provide services. As a lapsed Mennonite — one who has a number of Christian conservative friends — I'm a big fan of conscientious objection, and that probably has to remain true even if I don't appreciate what's being conscientiously objected.* Then again, there's an argument that if you're going to provide services to the public, you provide your services to the public, end of story. My preference? Would be for everybody to avoid a confrontation on the issue. But I don't get that preference, and I do think there are competing claims to be weighed.

*Theologically, were I still a practicing Christian, I'd probably heed these verses:

27"But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
29If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.
30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

...but I think the actual Gospel tends to involve a lot more turning the other cheek than actual Christians do.

That said, the implicit comparison between Bruce and the baker here is silly. If a Christian baker wants the same freedom Bruce has, they too can stop providing services altogether in an entire state whose policies they they find objectionable.

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