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No Gays Allowed: Religious Hypocrisy and the Refusal of Services

Those who refuse service to the LGBT community claim their religious beliefs are being attacked. What they are really doing is showing ignorance of their own religion.

Note: Throughout this article, LGBT individuals are frequently referred to as “sinners.” Such references do not reflect the beliefs of the writer or PopMatters.

Kim Davis is not unlike a lot of women here in Kentucky; a rather plain woman with deep Christian beliefs who has a modest job that she enjoys doing. Well, used to enjoy doing. As county clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, her job duties include, according to the official website for the office, “issuing and registering, recording and keeping various legal records, registering and purging voter rolls, and conducting election duties and tax duties.” While not specifically stated, among that list is the issuing of marriage licenses, and Davis is happy to provide all of her office’s services “in a friendly, professional and efficient manner” — except for that marriage license thing.

Consequently, Davis wasn’t doing her job this summer, as she refused to issue any licenses for marriage in protest of the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing gay marriage. Her Christian conscience wouldn’t let her. She also hasn’t been doing her job because she’s spending so much of her time in court and jail, at rallies, giving interviews, chilling with the Pope, and accepting awards and praise from like-minded Christians. There’s no doubt that she is a deeply-religious woman, and no one has the right to criticize her for that, but she is also a hypocrite, as are the others who refuse service to LGBT individuals on religious grounds.

Over the summer, Facebook blew up with posts about Davis (along with posts about Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, although cute kittens and puppies still reign). Many of these posts call her out as a hypocrite due to her checkered past. For those who haven’t gotten the scorecard, Davis has been married to three men, in a sordid roundabout that goes like this. For convenience’s sake only, we will call these men Groucho, Harpo, and Chico.

Davis was married to Groucho when she got pregnant by Chico. She and Groucho divorced, and she married Harpo, who adopted the twins fathered by Chico. Eventually, she and Harpo got divorced, and she finally wound up married to Chico, her twin’s biological father, although the twins were now legally parented by Harpo. The marriage to Chico didn’t last, and after her third divorce, she remarried Harpo, to whom she is still married.

How could a woman with a past like that have to gall to refuse anyone a marriage license? This question is bandied about frequently, but it reveals a basic lack of understanding about the Christian faith. Upon accepting Christ as her Savior, Davis was washed clean of her past sins and indiscretions, and she started life tabula rosa. Thus, according to many Christians, it is only from the moment of her rebirth that we can judge her actions as a Christian woman; what she did in the past is gone, because the woman who committed those acts no longer exists.

Accepting this principle of Christian doctrine, Davis can easily look at herself and fail to see the hypocrite that others have accused her of being, and it isn’t on this point that I hold her to be a hypocrite. It’s because she is a “pick and choose” Christian: she picks which parts of the Bible she wants to adhere to and ignores those parts that don’t fit in with her world view. The bottom line is that Davis has never refused anyone a marriage license before, at least on religious grounds, despite the Bible’s clear teachings about marriage.

For the unfamiliar, the Bible gives several clear dictates about who can marry whom. Take these passages, for example:

1 Corinthians 7:10 – 11 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.

Luke 16:18 Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Timothy 5:9 Let no woman be numbered among the widows who is under sixty years old, and only if she has been the wife of one man.

1 Corinthians 6:9 Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind (in some versions of the Bible, this last phrase reads “nor homosexuals”).

Some have argued that one can’t know who is divorced, but it’s easy to identify a gay couple. However, as county clerk and keeper of all court records, the information on whether someone is widowed before the age of 60 or divorced is only a couple of mouse clicks away. Davis can’t be bothered to verify whether she is helping a couple to commit adultery, but by gosh, she won’t condone the gay lifestyle. One could assume, then, that she does condone adultery?

Of course, it’s not just Davis who has engaged in such “pick and choose” behavior. Take, for example, Jeff Amyx, Southern Baptist minister and owner of Amyx Hardware and Roofing Supplies in Washburn, Tennessee. Jeff made the national news recently after posting a “No Gays Allowed” sign in the window of his store; however, he soon changed the sign to read “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone who would violate our rights of freedom of speech & freedom of religion”.

Although the sign is more general, the fact that he began selling hats and bumper stickers reading “No Gays Allowed” and “Choose God or Gays” signs makes it pretty clear to whom his new sign refers. There are no “No Pedophiles Allowed” or similar ball caps about adulterers, fornicators, or infidels.

Amyx told the local TV station, “I just don’t agree with their lifestyle. I don’t want any part of it, I don’t want it around me and I’ll never agree with it.”

Does this mean that he agrees with the lifestyles of those who didn’t warrant bumper stickers and banishment from his store? Probably not, since he is a Southern Baptist minister; it just means that Amyx isn’t going to pry into your business regarding your sinful lifestyle while he sells you hammers and roofing tar unless you come swishing into his store on a cloud of pixie dust while singing Madonna’s greatest hits.

If Amyx followed the teachings of Romans, which tells us “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23) and “None is righteous, no, not one” (3:10), he wouldn’t be selling to anyone, because we are all equally guilty of sin. It doesn’t matter what the sin, as James 2:10 points out (” For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it”), for all are equal in the eyes of the Lord. Thus, the blasphemer is as culpable as the homosexual.

Such selective enforcement of Biblical teachings doesn’t lead to the assumption that the enforcer is a man or woman of deep religious faith; it leads to the assumption that he or she is homophobic. Whether the person in question is issuing licenses, selling nails, or making wedding cakes, the targeting of a certain demographic of sinners says more about the individual than his or her religion.

And in many parts of the United States and the world, it’s perfectly legal to do this. So-called “religious freedom” laws allow merchants to be selective about the customers they serve based on a personal interpretation of who is the mightiest sinner.

The cultural upshot of this is greater divide, as some seek to portray a choice: you are either a Christian or a lover of sinful gays. However, that doesn’t seem to sync with the fact that nearly half (48 percent) of all LGBT individuals report that they are Christians (Pew Research, 2012). Considering that 70 perent of Americans are Christian and a recent AP-GFK survey found that 56 percent of Americans feel that clerks like Davis should be required to issue licenses to all, regardless of religious belief, the choice isn’t as simplistic as some would argue.

Supporters of Davis and business owners who refuse to serve LGBT individuals argue that those forcing them to be non-discriminatory are attacking Christianity. Yet, there’s a difference between telling someone what to believe — which none have done — and expecting people to treat others with respect. In Davis’ case, and other county clerks who have refused to issue licenses on the same grounds as her, the irony is that she placed her hand on a Bible and swore to uphold all the duties of her office. Isn’t breaking an oath made on the Bible some kind of sin?

Still, geography plays a big part in acceptance. In the more conservative South, arguments about what is acceptable are more divisive than in more liberal states, as is true for conservative and liberal countries worldwide. Consider the following two scenes from the ABC show What Would You Do?, in which the reactions of customers in two businesses were filmed after the business refused services to gay and lesbian customers. The first clip takes place in Mississippi, the second in New Jersey, and while both homosexual couples encounter opposition, the one in New Jersey finds a higher level of acceptance:


New Jersey

In both situations, emotions run high, and those who are supportive and are offended by the gay couples are adamant in their beliefs. (In all honesty, I would have struggled with the male couple to some degree, simply because I’m not a fan of overt PDA, whether it is gay or straight, but would easily have come to their defense.) As long as individuals feel threatened — either by the denial of their rights to love whom they choose or by the perception of a threat to their religious beliefs — it’s unlikely that there will much effort by either side to seek a common ground.

Kim Davis, Jeff Amyx, and all other homophobic individuals have the right to interpret the Bible, or any other religious artifact, in any way they choose. That said, for those who hold up their Bible and proselytize “This is the law that governs my life”, they might want to make sure that they’re familiar with all the laws in the Bible and uphold them all equally. Even the ones about being judgmental and casting stones.