Dr. Bill Leonard is the founding dean and professor of Church History at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He holds the B.A. from Texas Wesleyan College (1968), the Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1971), and the PhD from Boston University (1975). He served as pastor of First Community Church, Southboro, Massachusetts, 1971-1975.
As a result of these credentials, his opinions carry some weight. I was sent a link to Leonard’s article “Reserving the Right.”
Dr. Bill Leonard begins with a story of how he grew up in Texas and remembered a sign that was posted in “a hole-in-the-wall diner called Shorty’s Stop. . . . Behind the cash register . . . that read, ‘We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.’”
Dr. Bill Leonard is equating racial discrimination with refusing service to someone because of their beliefs or behavior. They are not the same thing, and sometimes I think that confusing the two is done on purpose because a case can’t be made either morally or legally for forcing people to provide service when that service promotes certain objectionable points of view. A black person who owns a print shop would be within his rights to refuse to print “White Power” shirts or “Bring Back the KKK” placards.
Here’s some of what Dr. Leonard wrote:
“First, which biblical mandates regarding marriage are non-negotiable? If Scripture and conscience compel a refusal to serve persons in the LBGT community, wouldn’t that require a similar response to the divorced and remarried, since Jesus (silent on homosexuality) says rather clearly that ‘whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery’ (Matt. 5:32 KJV)? Is such a union adultery or marriage? And what of couples who have already cohabitated before marriage? Can their weddings be facilitated for conscience sake? Sorting out one biblical mandate from another has spiritual and economic implications for Christian enterprises.”
Keep in mind that Dr. Leonard is a seminary professor with a PhD. He asks, “which biblical mandates regarding marriage are non-negotiable?” The place to start is with a biblical definition of marriage which he does not give. This allows him great opportunity to confuse the issue and muddy the moral waters.
We must begin at the beginning: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). The Bible couldn’t be any clearer. Adam’s created mate is a woman. He’s not given an option to choose a woman or a man. Men and woman were anatomically designed to go together no matter what color or ethnic background they are.
Dr. Leonard also off handedly throws in that Jesus was “silent on homosexuality.” Given this form of biblical exegesis, I guess we can say tripping the blind and cursing the deaf (Lev. 19:14), removing our neighbor’s boundary markers (Deut. 19:14), and having sex with animals (Ex. 22:19; Lev. 18:23; Lev. 20:15, 16; Deut. 27:21) are also permissible because Jesus was silent on these as well.
Jesus didn’t have to repeat these prohibitions or ones regarding same-sex sex (homosexuality) since “all Scripture is God breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). These specific sexual prohibitions come under laws forbidding “fornication” (Matt. 15:19). That’s why Paul could condemn same-sex sexuality (Rom. 1:24-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:8-11) as well as rebuke the Corinthians for tolerating “immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife” (1 Cor. 5:1).
Again, Jesus did not have to repeat what had been made clear. To cover all the bases regarding marriage, Jesus quoted the biblical definition of marriage, and in doing so eliminated all counterfeits (Matt. 19:5; Mark 10:7-8; 1 Cor. 6:16; Eph 5:31), of which same-sex marriage would not have been a consideration.
Dr. Leonard then brings up divorce. When all the passages are put together, divorce is permissible under certain conditions. If not, then why would Jesus mention the biblical law regarding permission to divorce in the form of “A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE” (Deut. 24:1-4; Matt 5:31; 19:7-9)?
There are some churches that will not marry a divorced couple even if both of them are innocent in the divorce because of desertion, abuse (a form of desertion), or adultery. In fact, many churches will not marry a couple unless both of them are committed Christians and one of them is a member. In many cases, an engaged couple has to go through a series of classes before a minister will marry them.
There are all types of conditions put on marriages by churches. If a couple doesn’t like these mandates, they don’t sue anybody; they go elsewhere. Since marriage is a creation ordinance (one man/one woman), a minister is not required for a marriage to be valid.
Let’s tackle the bakery and photographer issue since at least two bakeries and one photographer have been sued for not servicing a same-sex wedding. Dr. Leonard should take a look at this article: “Four Businesses Whose Owners Were Penalized for Their Religious Beliefs”: Elane Photography, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, Masterpiece Cakeshop, and Arlene’s Flowers.
I believe it’s morally, constitutionally, and legally right for any business to refuse to offer a service when the people asking for that service are engaged in behaviors that are unacceptable to the business, especially when religious or moral convictions come into play. Such a stance protects everybody and affects everybody (positively or negatively) equally. Everybody has the right.
In most cases, business owners don’t know the circumstances of their clients. But when two men or two women want to marry, there is moral clarity. The Bible makes no provision for such a marriage, and the State should not force compliance.