Over the last several years, the topic of religious freedom in the workplace has become a controversial issue after several high-profile cases of Christians being penalized for turning down customers who wanted to employ their services for same-sex nuptials, citing core beliefs and values.
The state of Oregon even drove one Christian bakery out of business after the government handed down a $135,000 fine to Aaron and Melissa Klein of “Sweet Cakes by Melissa” for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding.
Now, some municipalities are passing laws requiring creative professionals to provide services for events that run counter to their personal beliefs. One such law is currently being litigated in Madison, Wisconsin, after a blogger and photographer sued the city over a new ordinance that would force her to promote gay marriage or abortion if she promotes pro-life messages and traditional marriage, according to the Alliance for Defending Freedom.
To understand what college students have to say about the issue, the ADF visited the University of Wisconsin-Madison last week to get the students’ thoughts — and boy, were they surprised at what they heard.
When students were asked if they believe a fashion designer has the right to opt out of designing dresses for first lady Melania Trump or if a Muslim singer has the right to opt out of singing at a Christian church on Easter, they were unified in their thinking and affirmed those rights.
“You should be able to control your business in that regard, yeah,” one student said.
“Yeah, you have the right to opt out of whatever you want,” another student said.
“I mean if that goes against your religious views then, yeah, gotta turn that down,” said another.
Afterward, the ADF representative quizzing the students informed them about the Madison city ordinance, which they agreed was “probably not” a good law.
“I feel like that goes against people’s rights,” said one student of the ordinance.
But when the roles were changed and the students were asked if a Christian photographer should be able to opt out of taking photographs for a same-sex wedding, the students’ answers became remarkably different.
“Probably not because that would bring up some legal issues,” one student said.
“I think it’s very difficult to determine what reason it is that you’d make that decision unless you’re very steadfast in your religion, in which case you’re a jerk for doing that,” another student said.
“If it was switched to Christian views, then they shouldn’t be able to do that,” a different student said. “I just think it should be … fair.”
“That’s such a sticky issue,” another student added.