In Vermont, a country inn declined to provide a wedding reception for a same-sex marriage. In Hawaii, the owner of a bed and breakfast refused a double room to a lesbian couple. Both said providing service would violate their religious faith.
More recently, a federal appeals court judge ruled that the evangelical owners of the Hobby Lobby arts-and-crafts chain may have the right, based on their religious beliefs, to refuse to include contraceptive coverage as part of employees’ health insurance plans. For some time now, pharmacists have asserted — and in many states won — the right to refuse to provide contraception based on religious grounds.
Refusal to serve — and using religion to discriminate — isn’t new. In the mid-1960s, Lester Maddox claimed biblical justification for his refusal to serve blacks at his Atlanta restaurant, which he famously defended with ax handles in his campaign to become Georgia’s governor. Throughout the 19th century, women were refused entry to taverns, professions, and, really, to anything a proprietor decided to exclude them from. The second-class status of women was often, if not always, justified by biblical text.
What do these examples have in common? They all involve the entanglement, or disentanglement, of religion and commerce.
After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a new benchmark was set for business behavior. Once you hung out your shingle, you could not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or sex, regardless of your religious justification or personal belief. Ironically, the re-emergence of attempts to claim constitutional protection for discriminators over those discriminated against is a measure of the success of the expanded vision of the women’s rights and gay rights movements.
Written By: Nancy K. Kaufmancontinue to source article at washingtonpost.com