Willing to Take, But Not to Give

Over the past few years, we’ve heard numerous stories of evangelical Christians and businesses opposing various practices that they feel clash with their religious views. Take for example the infamous case of the bakery that refused to make a cake for an LGBTQ wedding, or the photography company that refused to memorialize a same-sex wedding.

It’s important not to confuse these cases of private citizens acting in a discriminatory manner with examples of government officials, such as Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who acted in a similar manner. In the case of government employees who’ve acted in a discriminatory manner, they were neglecting to carry out their official duties, whereas private businesses were instead violating anti-discrimination statutes. But the reasoning behind their objections, either to doing their duty as a public official or to catering to the public as all businesses of public accommodation are supposed to, centers equally around compelled speech and forced association.

The crux of this argument is that private business owners or government officials should not be compelled to support the LGBTQ community and that by providing a cake, issuing a license, or taking wedding photos, businesses and government officials are essentially speaking in favor of the institution of same-sex marriage.

This opposition to compelled speech or forced association was seen again this week when the Christian Educators Association International (CEAI) lost a case at the Supreme Court regarding collective bargaining.

The case focused on objection that the CEAI had to paying union dues, even when the teachers who associate with CEAI didn’t actually belong to the union that was advocating on their behalf. The CEAI’s objection to the union derives not from the union’s policies on education, such as teacher pay or student performance, but due to the fact that the union has taken stands on social issues such as LGBTQ rights and abortion rights.

What these and some other evangelical Christians fail to understand is that no one in society gets everything they want, and that being a member of any society requires one to tacitly support policies which may conflict with their own views.

For example, many Americans oppose the foreign policy of the American government, but still pay taxes to the government knowing full well that some of that money will go to the Defense Department to pay for the very wars they oppose. They pay these taxes because they recognize that living in a society is a give and take relationship; citizens receive benefits from the government, such as security, public infrastructure, and education, and must pay taxes to help fund these endeavors.

Does this mean that Americans then support every decision of the government that represents them? Of course not. But as responsible adults they recognize that the way to get what they want is through participation in the political process, and not by having a temper tantrum and refusing to do their duty either as a government official or owner of a business of public accommodation.

While the union involved in the court case isn’t exactly the federal government, they work in a similar manner to protect the rights and interests of all teachers, regardless of whether or not the teachers support the union itself. That means fighting for higher teacher salaries, better retirement plans, smaller classroom sizes, and numerous other policies that would strengthen the education system and improve student performance. But in order to effectively lobby and campaign on these topics, the teachers union requires assistance from the very teachers they seek to assist, just as a government requires taxes from the citizens it seeks to protect and serve.

And just like with the government, teachers who don’t support the current agenda of the union have the ability to change that agenda through participation in union elections. What they must not have the option to do is to stop financially supporting the union and remove themselves from the entire system in protest of certain policies.

Unfortunately, it seems as though the religious right needs a crash course in the social contract and the importance of compromise. Right now, these groups and individuals are willing to enjoy the benefits of society, but they are unwilling to contribute to that same society if doing so violates ANY of their religious beliefs. Not only is this selfish and childish behavior, it’s a serious threat to the wellbeing of society and the people who are a part of it.

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