Acton Institute Powerblog

Family Farmers Fined for Following Their Conscience

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140819_BarnWedding (1)First it was bakers, florists, and photographers. Now you can add farmers to the list of occupations that people are compelled by law to serve ends they deem unethical and in violation of their consciences. New York State has fined Cynthia and Robert Gifford $13,000 for acting on their belief that marriage is the union of a man and woman and thus declining to rent out their family farm for a same-sex wedding celebration.

As Leslie Ford and Ryan Anderson explain,

Unfortunately, New York’s Human Right’s law (Executive Law, art. 15) creates special privileges based on sexual orientation that trump the rights of business owners. Because the Giffords’ family farm is open to the public for business, New York classifies it as a “public accommodation” and then mandates that it not “discriminate” on the basis of sexual orientation.

Of course the Giffords were not engaging in any insidious discrimination—they were acting on their belief about the nature of marriage. They do not object to gay or lesbian customers attending the fall festivals, or going berry picking, or doing any of the other activities that the farm facilitates. The Giffords’ only objection is to being forced to abide by the government’s views on sexuality and host a same-sex wedding. The Human Rights Commission has now declared this historic belief about marriage to be “discrimination.”

The Giffords must pay a $1,500 mental anguish fine to each of the women and pay $10,000 in civil damages penalty to New York State. If they can’t pay in 60 days, a nine percent interest rate will be added to that total. Like Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Giffords must also institute anti-discriminationre-education classes and procedures for their staff.

What does it say about a government that believes not getting your choice of wedding causes “mental anguish” but following your religious beliefs is a finable offense?

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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