When a Christian pastor in Canada wrote a commentary on the Bible’s perspective on homosexuality, a government commission ordered him to renounce his faith and apologize. When a family-owned photography studio in New Mexico refused, on religious grounds, to take pictures at a same-sex ceremony, the fine for such “discrimination” was $6,600. Now the experts say Colorado is joining in the repression of the practice of Christianity.
“Getting beyond the bathroom and locker room issue, the biggest danger this law poses is to the religious or moral consciences of small business owners who may object to doing business with people whose lifestyle they do not want to promote,” Bruce Hausknecht, a spokesman with Focus on the Family, told WND about Colorado’s new law, SB200.
WND reported earlier when the chief of Focus on the Family, James Dobson, criticized Gov. Bill Ritter for signing the law because of its dangerous implications for anyone who provides a “public accommodation” because they no longer will be able to discriminate based on sexual orientation or even “perception.”
“Who would have believed that the Colorado state legislature and its governor would have made it fully legal for men to enter and use women’s restrooms and locker-room facilities without notice or explanation?” Dobson said at the time.
“Henceforth, every woman and little girl will have to fear that a predator, bisexual, cross-dresser or even a homosexual or heterosexual male might walk in and relieve himself in their presence,” Dobson said.
The governor’s office has declined to respond to WND requests for comment on the issue, which also is creating controversy in Montgomery County, Md., where a public vote is scheduled this fall on an administrative plan to open restrooms and locker rooms to those who perceive themselves to be that particular sex.
Hausknecht said there are a number of concerns generated by the law, but he believes the most significant is the same issue that already has played out in New Mexico, resulting in a fine of $6,600 for a family owned small business.
In that case, the state’s Human Rights Commission ordered the fine imposed against Elane Photography LLC, run by owners Jon and Elaine Huguenin.
They had declined, on religious grounds, to take photographs at a same-sex ceremony, and one of the people involved in that stunt, Vanessa Willock, then filed a complaint with the state.
Lawyers working on behalf of the photography studio were appalled.
“The Constitution prohibits the state from forcing unwilling people to promote a message they disagree with and thereby violate their conscience,” said Jordan Lorence, senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, which is working on an appeal.
“The commission’s decision shows stunning disregard for our client’s First Amendment rights,” he said.
“SB200 creates the same legal scenario that we saw in New Mexico this year, where a Christian couple operating a small photographer studio were dragged before the NM Human Rights Commission and fined $6,600 for refusing, on religious grounds, to photograph as same-sex commitment ceremony,” Hausknecht told WND. “SB200’s definition of ‘public accommodations’ is broad enough to include any and all businesses, and we fear that we will be seeing these types of cases fairly soon here in Colorado.
“The fiscal note attached to SB200 indicated that the legislature was anticipating 30 complaints and three court cases per year. I predict that small business run by religious owners will see the brunt of those complaints and cases as this bill pans out,” he said.
There are groups who fear the law will do far more than that.
“American RTL [Right to Life] Action is a political 527 group headquartered a half-block from the Colorado capitol, and we’re not going to hire someone cohabitating outside of marriage, let alone a homosexual,” said Steve Curtis, the group’s president and former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. “SB200 also makes it a crime for us to publish biblical teaching on immorality, so we are prepared to violate this anti-Christian government censorship. The liberals always said what homosexuals do in private could never affect anyone else; of course that was always a lie; they’re trying to criminalize traditional Christianity. The fight is on.”
Hausknecht said such a dire view of a ban on even publishing biblical teachings may not be supported clearly by the law, although its provisions regarding “discrimination” against same-sex behavior still have yet to be tested.
He said the law is divided into sections, and the definition for public accommodations is not the same throughout the law. Publishing houses such as Focus, the nearby International Bible Society and even the Navpress publishing empire located a few miles away, probably would not be covered under a “public accommodations” section defining those as “any inn, tavern, or hotel, … for the benefit, use, or accommodation of those seeking health, recreation, or rest, and any restaurant, eating house, public conveyance on land or water, bathhouse, barber shop, theater, and music hall.”
There is some small risk to publishers under another section, he said, but, “by far the greater risk under that ‘publishing’ section would be the advertising or promotion of an event at a facility that would indicate or imply that it was not inclusive of all sexual orientations.”
Others, however, fear the worst already has arrived in Colorado.
Pastor Bob Enyart, a Denver-area activist on Christian issues, said he fears significant levels of censorship are coming to churches, and soon.
“There are free speech rights to condemn cohabitation, homosexuality, state that homosexuals should not marry, should not adopt children,” Enyart said. “It’s now illegal in Colorado for anyone involved in a facility or business of public accommodation to give any communication that would advocate discrimination based on marital status or sexual orientation.”
He said he expects the law to be only “lightly” enforced until “it just becomes an entrenched part of our legal framework.”
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