For several weeks, the Arkansas state legislature has been debating HB 1228, otherwise known as the “Conscience Protection Act.” On its face, the bill purports to protect business owners and others who make decision based on their religious beliefs. However, many (including myself) feel this bill is far too broad and has the potential to allow legally protected discrimination on a widespread level. Among the many who have spoken out publically against this bill are chefs and restaurant owners in Little Rock, and 10 of those chefs took the time to talk about their opposition on today’s special podcast. Here are a few of their quotes:
“The LGBT community is my friends, my family, my co-workers…I don’t see a part of my life that’s not touched by that community. So if I put myself in their shoes, I could never in good conscience support this bill.” –Matt Bell, chef/owner of South on Main
“Please veto this. This is ridiculous, it’s putting Arkansas back so far. We’re past this, I feel like we should be past this…it seems absurd that we’re even having this conversation. Unfortunately…there are groups in Arkansas that think this is ok, and we need to stop this and nip this in the bud.” –Kelli Marks, owner of Sweet Love Bakeshop
“This is supposed to be hospitable state where people are genuine and sincere and friendly, and this sends a message out to people that we don’t want some folks to come in, and I just think that’s a horrible message, an awful image. We’ve come so far in Arkansas through other issues, and this would be just 10, 20, 100 steps backwards.” –Capi Peck, chef/owner of Trio’s
“This law saddens and concerns me. Arkansas might lose many hard-working, creative, and valuable residents. I can’t understand why anyone would want to pass a law or promote legislation that discriminates against a group of people. This archaic thinking is counterproductive to the image of Arkansas that I would like, and I’m sure it will sway many businesses and tourists from coming to the state.” – Alexis Jones, chef/owner of Natchez Restaurant (not on podcast)
Also on the podcast, I explain my reasons for breaking my silence and speaking out against HB 1228. Part of it came down to a conversation I had with Keith Crawford about his excellent blog post detailing why his Christianity has led him to oppose this bill. It’s the same stance I take. As a Christian myself, I firmly believe that this bill runs against what the Bible teaches about love, faith and the way we should treat everybody we meet. My full explanation is at the end of the podcast.
If you want to take action, there are a few things you can do. The Arkansas Times has compiled a list of a number of public protests you can attend. You can sign the online petition for Gov. Hutchinson to veto this bill if it passes the House. You can contact your state representative by phone or by email. And you can also send a message directly to the governor’s office. UPDATE: The bill has passed the house and is now with Gov. Hutchinson.
UPDATE: After posting this story, Alan Bubbus, owner of David’s Burgers, emailed me with a statement on his position on HB 1228. In addition to being a successful business owner, Bubbus is a devout Christian, and his take adds more perspective than I could.
“Some are fearful of this law being used to discriminate against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation. As people of faith, we need to love and accept people who disagree with our faith. Instead of rejecting them and not providing a service for them, we must do an even better job! We need to go above and beyond, so that our faith is evident and given greater credibility. My job as a Christian business owner is to love people, and it’s God’s job to judge.
“If some are trying to use this as a mechanism to force homosexuals to conform to our faith, that is exactly the opposite of what God has intended. God has given us free will, and we should not attempt to force our faith on others. God did not say ‘I will love and serve you if you follow you my laws.’ God said that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. My goal is to demonstrate this love to all, not try to force my faith on others through legislation.
“At the same time, this issue should not be taken to extremes to force business owners to advocate against their faith. We should be free to worship, practice and choose our faith. We are free to choose our careers and businesses in which we work. We should be free to work without promoting ideals that we do not agree with.
“I want to encourage other Christian business owners to stand firm in their faith and not compromise their beliefs, while always remembering that we must show love and model repentance. Christ did not come to condemn the world but to save it! We should be known by our love. My prayer is that our business will love everyone who comes through our door and try to meet their needs in a personal way. Hopefully, we can make their day a little better! I hope that I can use my work as a platform to impact eternity by loving my staff and my customers. This is my spiritual act of worship!”
I’ll add my own “amen” to that.
The full podcast is available to stream below or on iTunes.
Photo above is by Anne Haley.