An anti-gay marriage proposal that roiled Kansas politics is dead, the chairman of a state Senate committee assigned to review it said Tuesday.

But the declaration from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff King didn’t appear likely to end the debate over providing legal protections for people and organizations refusing for religious reasons to provide goods and services to gay and lesbian couples. King, an Independence Republican, said he’ll still have hearings on whether Kansas needs to enact religious liberty protections in case the federal courts strike down the state’s gay-marriage ban…

Supporters said their intent was to prevent florists, bakers and photographers from being punished for refusing to participate in same-sex weddings, keep churches from having to provide space or clergy for such ceremonies and keep religiously affiliated adoption agencies from being forced to place children with gay couples. Critics said the bill was much broader than advertised and would encourage discrimination against gays and lesbians.

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Christians backing this bill are essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws.

Evangelical pastor Andy Stanley leads North Point Ministries, the second largest church in the U.S. He told me he finds it “offensive that Christians would leverage faith to support the Kansas law.” He said, “Serving people we don’t see eye to eye with is the essence of Christianity. Jesus died for a world with which he didn’t see eye to eye. If a bakery doesn’t want to sell its products to a gay couple, it’s their business. Literally. But leave Jesus out of it.”

Christians serve unrepentant murderers through prison ministry. So why can’t they provide a service for a same-sex marriage?

Some claim it’s because marriage is so sacred. But double standards abound. Christian bakers don’t interrogate wedding clients to make sure their behavior comports with the Bible. If they did, they’d be out of business. Stanley said, “Jesus taught that if a person is divorced and gets remarried, it’s adultery. So if (Christians) don’t have a problem doing business with people getting remarried, why refuse to do business with gays and lesbians.”

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In New Mexico, a photographer’s business ran afoul of the law for not wanting to take the pictures at a gay wedding ceremony. In most of these cases, the defendants made clear they’d gladly provide goods and services to gay individuals and gay couples. But because of their Christian faith, they did not think in good conscience they should provide goods and services for a gay marriage.

Andy Stanley says, “If a bakery doesn’t want to sell its products to a gay couple, it’s their business.” Actually, gay rights activists have made it the state’s business. They cannot refuse to cooperate without losing their businesses. Is Andy Stanley so out of touch with the world that he does not realize this is happening? Or does he think it is okay that Christians can, in violation of their conscious, provide goods and services to a ceremony they think is sinful?

And do Christians not have the right to petition their government to stop this?…

By the way, Jesus would most certainly turn water to wine for a gay person or a straight person if it led them toward salvation. But Jesus would not provide goods and services for a gay marriage and if you think so, you’re a rather silly person.

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[T]he Kansas bill and similar bills that protect liberty are about preventing the kind of coercion that happened under Jim Crow. They protect what should be already protected: basic civil liberties such as freedom of association, freedom of contract, and freedom of religion.

Jim Crow and segregation did the exact opposite. Those wicked regimes legally coerced people to keep them separated, to prevent them from associating or contracting. Yet today, we see liberals of various stripes saying the law should coerce people into associating and contracting…

If a central argument of the LGBT movement has been the freedom to live how one chooses sexually, shouldn’t government respect the freedom of citizens to live how they choose in the marketplace? Indeed, respecting religious liberty for all those in the marketplace is particularly important. After all, as first lady Michelle Obama put it: “Our faith journey isn’t just about showing up on Sunday for a good sermon and good music and a good meal. It’s about what we do Monday through Saturday as well.”…

[B]eing a wedding photographer is not simply being “a vendor,” but utilizing God-given talents to tell the story of a particular couple and their relationship. Likewise, many of these professionals understand their obligation to witness to the truth differently – celebrating a same-sex relationship as a marriage affirms that relationship. It is understandable why some religious believers would not want the government coercing them into doing that. The government shouldn’t enshrine Powers’s theology into law and then coerce those who have a different understanding of what their faith requires…

Protecting religious liberty and the rights of conscience does not infringe on anyone’s sexual freedoms. Americans are free to live and love how they choose, but they should not use government to penalize those who think and act differently.

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It seems pretty clear to me: [under Kansas’s bill,] any individual could refuse to provide employment to someone related to any living arrangement they disapprove of. That’s a massive category that could easily mean de facto publicly legislated discrimination against the tiny gay minority. That Anderson does not even consider the concerns of those of us worried by this vague, open-ended law or is in any way interested in the dignity or equality of gay citizens in Kansas (citizens who are currently denied any protection from discrimination in employment, and denied the right to any stable, lawful relationship as well) reveals the blind spot that so many on the far right have.

And he doesn’t explain why such a law should not also include marriages or relationships that are not gay and which nonetheless violate some aspect of religious conscience – like marriages that involved previously divorced people or those that violate some religious strictures against inter-faith marriage. If you’re really defending religious liberty and not just attacking gays, you’d think the law would be a lot broader in its targets.

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The key point, I think, is that whether the state should compel someone to violate his conscience or protect him in his exercise of it cannot turn on the contents of that conscience. As I argued recently in NR, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act seems to me to get this right. It doesn’t make the protection of conscience an absolute principle. It allows the individual conscience to be overridden when it’s the least restrictive means of serving a compelling governmental interest. The inquiry can’t turn, though, on the government’s judgment of a theological question. In the case of the HHS mandate, for example — where, as it happens, Powers has done a fine job of making the case for religious liberty — the argument for coercing the Little Sisters of the Poor can’t be that their theological scruples about contraception are simply incorrect understandings of Christianity. Plenty of Christians believe that they are incorrect. But it’s not the place of the government to make and enforce that call. In my view, a conscientious Christian could certainly take Powers’s view about what florists and caterers should do. But that doesn’t mean that a conscientious Christian who reaches a different conclusion should be forced to act contrary to it.

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